The Four Ways to see and use SPSS

More than one way exists for you to command SPSS to do your bidding. You can use any of four approaches to perform any of the SPSS functions, but the one you should choose depends not only on which interface you prefer, but also (to an extent) on the task you want performed. The available interfaces are as follows:

  • GUI (graphic user interface): SPSS has a windowing interface; you can issue commands by using the mouse to make menu selections that cause dialog boxes to appear. This is a fill-in-the-blanks approach to statistical analysis that guides you through the process of making choices and selecting values. The advantage of the GUI approach is that, at each step, SPSS makes sure you enter everything necessary before you can proceed to the next step.
  • Syntax: This is the internal language used to command actions from SPSS. It is the command syntax of SPSS, hence its name. It’s often referred to as the command language.
  • Python: This is a general-purpose language that has a collection of SPSS modules written for it; you can use it to write programs that work inside SPSS. You can also run Python with the Syntax language to command SPSS to perform statistical functions. One advantage of using Python is that it’s a modern language, complete with the power and convenience that come with such languages, including the capability of constructing a more readable program.
  • Scripts: The items that SPSS calls scripts are actually programs written in BASIC. This language is simple and many people are familiar with it. Also, a BASIC program can be written as an autoscript — a script that executes automatically whenever SPSS produces certain output. Both BASIC and Python are scripting languages, but where the SPSS documentation talks about a script, it is referring to a BASIC program.

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