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The list provided here gives just a few of the software packages available for statistical processing. The software is what enables the various computers to interact with us, the users, and to carry out the commands that we formulate, in accordance with the design of the particular software, to perform data acquisition, transformation, analysis, and presentation.


Minitab is a popular program for statistical processing. Minitab has been available on the PC for decades and its power and functionality have continued to grow. It is quite popular in educational settings. There is a version, Minitab Express, which is available on both the PC and the Mac. At the time this was written, both versions were available for a free 30 day trail, but after that each user must purchase a license. The licenses will cost about $30 for 6 months, or $50 for 12 months.


SPSS, statistical package for the social sciences, has been a mainstay of statistical processing. It has been available on many different computer systems from mainframes to personal computers. The cost of a license for the software is significant, although there are some Student versions that one can get for $36 and up (depending on the required sophistication) for a 6 month lease. For the record, WCC has been using SPSS for administrative statistical processing for over 20 years.


SAS is another major commercial player in the industry. SAS has been available and has been used extensively for decades. As was the case with Minitab, besides its namesake product, SAS has a smaller though powerful companion product, JMP, which runs on both PC's and Mac's.


Excel was developed as a spreadsheet program. As it grew the designers added certain statistical functions to Excel. It is possible to do a great deal of statistical work within this program. Of course, Excel runs on both PC's and Mac's. Although it is not at all free, there is no extra cost to obtaining and using its basic statistical features.


Midas is included in this list because it was so popular around here for so many years. Midas was developed at the University of Michigan and it ran on the UM's academic mainframe computer. The commands for the system were fairly easy to learn. It was used throughout the academic community for teaching and for research. Sadly, it is with us no longer.


S is a computer language designed to help the user perform statistical computations. S was originally developed at Bell Laboratories starting around 1976 by John Chambers and others. The language developed and spread. It is survived by the S-PLUS language, a software package, which was commercially available, designed specifically for statistical analysis and presentation.


R started as a free alternative to S. It was designed to do just what S did. From that start, R has developed into a full featured, powerful language for data manipulation, analysis, and presentation. R remains free and is available on PC's, Mac's, and Unix machines. R is an open source system. As such it continues to be developed and augmented by thousands of people around the world. It has become quite popular, both for its cost ($0) and for its extensive and powerful libraries. As a measure of that popularity you might notice that many of the packages listed in the Wikipedia page on statistical packages have implemented links or access to R commands.

One of the appealing features of R is that it is possible to use the language to not only analyze data but to record and document every step in the process of taking data from its raw form through to the end of analysis and presentation. This is most helpful in the scientific environment where research methodology is essential to understanding and verifying research results.

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©Roger M. Palay     Saline, MI 48176     September, 2015