SPSS On-Line Training Workshop

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Carl Lee
Felix Famoye

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Chart Editor Window Output Window  Overview of Data Analysis Manipulation of Data
Analysis of Data Projects & Data Sets Integrate R into SPSS  

Link to Table of Contents

In this Tutorial: 

SPSS Windows

Pull-Down Menus

Tool Bars

Status Bars

Dialog Boxes


This is an overview of the SPSS program. In this clip we will discuss how to open an SPSS program, what items are in the SPSS menu bar, what you can do with the Data editor toolbar buttons and how to exit SPSS. The version for this online workshop is based on SPSS 16.0. 

To open SPSS, double click on the SPSS icon on the desktop (if there is one) or go to the start menu, programs, SPSS and click on SPSS 16.0.When you first log into SPSS this is the dialog box that opens up. You have several options; you can run the tutorial guide, get a blank data window and type in your own data, open the database wizard to import an excel file, open an existing SPSS file, or any other file such as the journal file. In this case we will open an existing file. Here, the rows are cases and the columns are the variables.

Click on the following movie clip to see  Overview of SPSS:
(when you are done, hit the back button to return to this screen)

camera.gif (1166 bytes)MOVIE: Overview of SPSScamera.gif (1166 bytes)


There are a number of different types of windows in SPSS.   The window in which you are currently working is called the active window.   Some of the frequently used windows are:

bulletData Editor Window:  It displays the contents of the data file.   This is the window that opens automatically when you start an SPSS session.  In this window, you can create new data files or modify existing ones. When you open more than one data file, each data file has a separate Data Editor Window. The Data Editor Window provides two view of the data:
bulletData View: It displays the data values. Each variable is a column. Each row is a case.
bulletVariable View: It displays a table consisting of variable names and their attributes. You can modify the properties of each variable or add new variables or delete existing variables in the Variable View Window.
bulletViewer Window:  It displays statistical results, tables, and charts.  This window opens automatically the first time you run a procedure that generates output.
bulletPivot Table Editor: It displays the results in pivot tables. To open this window, right click on the table, go to edit content and select “In separate window”. Alternatively, left click on the table and go to Edit Menu. Select edit content and then in separate window. You will be able to modify the table.
bulletChart Editor Window:  This window is used to edit high-resolution charts and plots.
bulletText Output Editor Window: This is used to modify text output that is not displayed in pivot tables. To open the window, right click on the text output, go to edit content and select “In separate window”. You will be able to modify the text output.
bulletSyntax Editor Window:  It displays the choices made in the dialog box in the form of command syntax.  These commands can be edited and run to get some output.  You can also copy an old SPSS program here and run it.



Many tasks in SPSS are performed by selecting appropriate "pull-down" menus.  Each window in SPSS has its own menu bar with appropriate menu selections and toolbars.  The Analyze and Graphs menus are available in all windows.  Here are some  Data Editor window menus and their uses:

bulletFile Menu: From the file menu you can open several different existing files or a database file such as an excel file or read in a text file. You can also save any changes to the current file.
bulletEdit Menu: from the Edit menu,  you can cut, copy, paste, insert variables, insert cases, or use find in the Data Editor window.
bulletData Menu: The data menu allows you to define variable properties, sort cases, merge files, split files, select cases and use a variable to weight cases.
bulletTransform Menu: The transform menu is where you will find the options to do some computations on variables, to create new variables from existing ones or recode old variables.
bulletAnalyze Menu: The analyze menu is where all statistical analysis takes place. From descriptive statistics to regression analysis to nonparametric tests.
bulletGraphs Menu: The graph menu is where you can create high resolution plots and graphs to be edited in the chart editor window or you can create interactive graphs.
bulletUtilities Menu: The utilities menu is used to display information on the contents of SPSS data files or to run scripts.

Add-Ons Menu: From the add-ons menu you can run other packages like conjoint, classification trees, or Neural Networks. Also there are programmability extensions that allow you to integrate programs like R and Python into SPSS. But you should keep in mind that if you want to run any of the add-ons listed here you will have to purchase them separately.

bulletWindow: From the window menu you can change the active window. The window with a check mark is the active one. In this case it is the data editor window.
bulletHelp: The help menu allows you to get help on topics in SPSS or to ask the statistics coach some basic questions.


Each window in SPSS has its own toolbars that provides access to common tasks. Some windows have more than one. When you put the mouse pointer on a tool, there is a brief description of what the tool does. You can show, move or hide a toolbar.


The status bar is at the bottom of each SPSS window and provides the following information:


Command Status: gives information about a procedure that is running.


Filter Status: Filter On shows when a subset of cases in the data is used for analysis.


Weight Status: Weight On indicates that a weight variable is being used in the analysis.


Split File Status: Split File On indicates that the file has been split into separate groups for analysis.



Many menu selections will open dialog boxes.   In these dialog boxes, you select variables and options for analysis. The main dialog box in any statistical procedure has the following parts:


Source variable list: A list of variable types (allowed by the procedure) from the working data file.


Target variable lists: One or more lists of variables needed for the analysis.


Command push buttons: Buttons that can be used to run the procedure by opening a subdialog box to make additional specifications. Some of the push buttons are:


OK : Click this button to run the procedure.


Paste: Click this button to generate command syntax from your selections. The command syntax is pasted into a syntax window, where it can be modified for future analysis. This creates the code regularly known as SPSS programs.


Reset: Deselects any selections, and resets all specifications in the dialog box and any subdialog boxes to the default status.


Cancel: Cancels any change in the dialog box settings since the last time it was opened. This will close the dialog box.


Help: Provides help about the current dialog box.

In a dialog box with source variables, the graphic symbols below represents the type of data measurement. In the symbols, character variables are indicated by letter a. Both interval and ratio measurements are represented by Scale.  Note that the variable Gender in the above dialog box is nominal with 'alphanumeric' data values.

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©This online SPSS Training Workshop is developed by Dr Carl Lee, Dr Felix Famoye and student assistants Barbara Shelden and Albert Brown , Department of Mathematics, Central Michigan  University. All rights reserved.