Lesson 1: SPSS Windows and Files


  1. Launch SPSS for Windows.
  2. Examine SPSS windows and file types.


In a typical SPSS session, you are likely to work with two or more SPSS windows and to save the contents of one or more windows to separate files. The window containing your data is the SPSS Data Editor. If you plan to use the data file again, you may click on File, Save from within the Data Editor and give the file a descriptive name. SPSS will supply the .sav extension, indicating that the saved information is in the form of a data file. An SPSS data file includes both the data records and their structure. The window containing the results of the SPSS procedures you have performed is the SPSS Viewer. You may find it convenient to save this as an output file. It is okay to use the same name you used for your data because SPSS will supply the .spo extension to indicate that the saved file is an output file. As you run various procedures, you may also choose to show the SPSS syntax for these commands in a syntax window, and save the syntax in a separate .sps file. It is possible to run SPSS commands directly from syntax, though in this series of tutorials we will focus our attention on SPSS data and output files and use the point-and-click method to enter the necessary commands.

Launching SPSS

SPSS for Windows is launched from the Windows desktop. There are several ways to access the program, and the one you use will be based on the way your particular computer is configured. There may be an SPSS for Windows shortcut on the desktop or in your Start menu. Or you may have to click Start, All Programs to find the SPSS for Windows folder. In that folder, you will find the SPSS for Windows program icon.

Once you have located it, click on the SPSS for Windows icon with the left mouse button to launch SPSS. When you start the program, you will be given a blank dataset and a set of options for running the SPSS tutorial, typing in data, running queries, creating queries, or opening existing data sources (see Figure 1-1). For now, just click on Cancel to reveal the blank dataset in the Data Editor screen.

Figure 1-1 SPSS opening screen

The SPSS Data Editor

Examine the SPSS Data Editor's Data View shown in Figure 1-2 below. You will learn in Lesson 2 how create an effective data structure within the Variable View and how to enter and manipulate data using the Data Editor. As indicated above, if you click File, Save while in the Data Editor view, you can save the data along with their structure as a separate file with the .sav extension. The Data Editor provides the Data View as shown below, and also a separate Variable View. You can switch between these views by clicking on the tabs at the bottom of the worksheet-like interface.

Figure 1-2 SPSS Data Editor (Data View)

The SPSS Viewer

The SPSS Viewer is opened automatically to show the output when you run SPSS commands. Assume for example that you wanted to find the average age of 20 students in a class. We will examine the commands needed to calculate descriptive statistics in Lesson 3, but for now, simply examine the SPSS Viewer window (see Figure 1-3). When you click File, Save in this view, you can save the output to a file with the .spo extension.

Figure 1-3 SPSS Viewer

Syntax Editor Window

Finally, you can view and save SPSS syntax commands from the Syntax Editor window. When you are selecting commands, you will see a Paste button. Clicking that button pastes the syntax for the commands you have chosen into the Syntax Editor. For example, the syntax to calculate the mean age shown above is shown in Figure 1-4:

Figure 1-4 SPSS Syntax Editor

Though we will not address SPSS syntax except in passing in these tutorials, you should note that you can run commands directly from the Syntax Editor and save your syntax (.sps) files for future reference. Unlike earlier versions of SPSS, version 15, the version illustrated in these tutorials, automatically presents in the SPSS Viewer the syntax version of the commands you give it when you point and click in the Data Editor or the SPSS Viewer (examine Figure 1-3 for an example).

Now that you know the kinds of windows and files involved in an SPSS session, you are ready to learn how to enter, structure, and manipulate data. Those are the subjects of Lesson 2.

Return to the Top of This Page

Return to Menu Page

Proceed to Lesson 2