Chapter 16 Write More Efficient and Elegant Code with SPSS Syntax Techniques

Many SPSS users rarely (or never) use SPSS Syntax. Others remember when Syntax was the only way to interact with SPSS. Back in the ’90s, not everyone embraced the graphical user interface (GUI) at the same time or to the same extent. The GUI definitely leapt forward around the time of Windows 95. It is easy to forget that SPSS was already in its fourth decade at that time, first written in 1968! Now, few SPSS users ignore the GUI completely. However, the reverse, predictably, has occurred—many SPSS users don’t learn about Syntax. If you are among them, why learn now? If you are rusty, what is the latest news regarding Syntax? If you are expert, are there any commands that you might be missing out on?

When I (Keith) was first faced with SPSS in college (late ’80s), my project advisor dropped a very big and very heavy tome on the desk. It was the programming manual for SPSS-X, an older version of SPSS that would have forced me to learn SPSS Syntax in earnest. I was studying computer science so I wasn’t particularly reluctant about using code, but having to worry about statistics theory, the specifics of the project, deadlines, and learning a new programming grammar all at the same time was daunting. Fortunately, I had just won a research grant. It was a small grant, but it allowed me to purchase my own copy of the much newer version of SPSS with a graphical user interface. It reduced the amount left ...

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