SPSS is Bad. Really Bad

Usability anyone? Seeing as it’s the most popular statistics program amongst academics you think they should have thought more about the usability of the program. Basic copy-paste facilities from clipboard? User interface responsiveness that doesn’t feel like swimming in honey? How about the ability to compute variables with more than three parameters to a given function?

And it’s not that the Mac version that I’m using (v. 16) is any worse than the Windows version either. I’ve tried both – and the Mac version seems to be running under some kind of X emulation, resulting in the UI sluggishness. This is after they claim version 16 has native Intel support on Macs Next on my wishlist – do a cocoa port!

Other than the UI, the underlying statistical feature set is huge, something that I don’t think has been matched elsewhere. It’s a shame they haven’t hired a usability expert.

For now, I have to grit my teeth and use workarounds to do things that should be recognised as being important, and implemented already. Let’s get this paper finished, somehow…

Rant over.

Edit: SPSS Inc. are looking for a UI designer. I guess they’ve noticed too!

10 replies on “SPSS is Bad. Really Bad”

Even as an SPSS trainer/loyalist I have my share of concerns. Afterall, you use a piece of software everyday, and you get a pet peave or two.

But I don’t understand two of your complaints. Cut and paste operations are generally intuitive like cut and pasting data into excel, or output into word, or charts into powerpoint, or from one part of spss to another. I have had some software compatibility problems over the years, I guess.

The three parameter one really puzzles me. There is no limit to parameters that I am aware of – certainly you can have dozens. What am I missing?

Regarding the honey – no software is ever fast enough for me – so I won’t argue there.

I have no doubt that one could find UI features to critique – I am just puzzled by this particular list.

Cheers, Keith

I’ve been finding real problems with cutting and pasting, and if you have solutions, please share them.

I cannot copy lines of text from an excel file and paste them into spss without significant problems. One line may work, multiple lines seem to append themselves onto the one line.

I just tried to copy within the variable view. In the past, I could copy the column width from one cell to multiple ones. It won’t let me paste more than one cell. This is a significant problem. What have they done?

I have version 16 and cannot get a simple Frequencies stat with one variable to work. It just says Processing and seems to go on forever. A prof of mine said for me to check my license and to look at the expat.bat file to update my license. I only bought the software two months ago. Any ideas?

Version 17 is out the door and early feedback is very positive. Upgrade if you can! Or at least make sure you’re patched to 16.0.2.


I’m having a real problem finding SPSS info on the net and especially an SPSS blog, so I hope this one works!

I am trying to do stepwise multiple linear regression analysis with SPSS, and I want to check the collinearity diagnostics, particularly Tolerance. However, I cannot find any way of setting the tolerance criterion as suggested everywhere on the net (its probably something simple then). Can anyone also confirm if SPSS automatically sets a tolerance criterion of 0.0001?

Many Thanks

I have used SPSS versions 12, 15, 16, 17 and I personally think considering all the functions that I use, v15 works best for me. I had a 1GB RAM on my computer earlier and v16 and 17 would continuously hang. Running a code of 2000 lines meant taking a break of a few hours, because if you touched anything else, the system would hang. I upgraded to a 2GB RAM, and the versions worked marginally better. I do like v17 though for its user friendly interface.

@Mike Bryant – I too think the problem is with your license. Customer care at SPSS is quite good, try talking to them

I discovered your blog site on google and checked out a few of your earlier posts. Continue to keep up the work. I just added your RSS feed to my MSN News Reader. looking forward to reading more from you later on!

If you paste onto a text editor first then copy that and paste it into SPSS that sometimes works…

..but yes, its stupid.

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