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Date:         Mon, 14 Feb 2005 10:14:03 -0000
Reply-To:     Allan Reese AFH CEFAS <r.a.reese@cefas.co.uk>
Sender:       "SPSSX(r) Discussion" <SPSSX-L@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
From:         Allan Reese AFH CEFAS <r.a.reese@cefas.co.uk>
Subject:      Supporting Dale Glaser's comment on documentation
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"

Dale Glaser wrote, Sat, 12 Feb 2005 11:18:54 -0800 > ... in the "good old days" the SPSS manuals actually were fairly illuminating in the > mathematical/statistical details in the output? I actually found them, alongside other texts, > to be very educational. Nowadays, the manuals are just on the CD and even then , they are nothing > more than details on point-and-click.

I agree and have made this point for some time, that the GUI interface is *NOT* a good medium for teaching except for trivial prescribed tasks (eg, buying an airline ticket). Contrary to popular belief and commercial propaganda, the GUI interface is slower for most tasks, complex to document, and painful to learn (since it replies upon visual memory and recognition of minor features. One effect, implied by Dale, is that it takes a whole page to show the screen and indicate which boxes to complete or click. This compares with a couple of lines of syntax. As a result, the illustrative examples and alternative uses have been squeezed out. The advice I have heard many times, and never contradicted, is that anyone serious about SPSS should be able to use syntax, even if you use the menus to generate a skeleton command.

Trivial example: you can use menus to copy all your variable names and run frequencies tables. Or you can paste the syntax for one variable, then edit to make "FREQ VAR=ALL."

Less trivial example of tramlining. Many menus show you only the numeric or numeric&short-text variables, as the procedure requires such variables. Hence you might overlook a factor coded as a long text. However, it's simple to put together AUTORECODE and a procedure.

Final pain-in-the-butt example. Using menus the select a subset of cases for analysis creates a complex syntax creating a filter variable. The menus have shielded from you the much easier TEMPORARY command to make transformations apply to the one procedure only.

Allan Reese

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