Let’s say you’re a market researcher, you have an extra $1000 lying around, and you’re looking for an easier way to improve the look, feel and efficiency of your cross-tabs. What do you buy? If you’re me, you buy the the Tables add-on for SPSS. While the text below certainly isn’t a detailed tutorial on how to use SPSS Tables, it should give you an idea of the features it makes available to help you decide whether it is worth the money.
I’ll be the first to admit — I didn’t start using SPSS until version 11.5 so I’ve always had the menu-based, visual interface to work with. I can do some reptitive tasks in SPSS syntax, but most of what I do isn’t repetitive and the menus are much faster.
My objective for SPSS: clean up the data, weight it, and spit out attractive tables broken down by a variety of different market segments.
SPSS Tables makes it easy to do just that. Provided you have your variables set up properly, it is very easy to drag-and-drop all sorts of different crosstab scenarios, and just as easy to create a “banner” with multiple variables (some of the banners I’ve created have 12-15 different variables going across the top with over 50 columns).
The SPSS Tables Editor
The layout of the SPSS Tables editor is fairly straightforward. In the upper left corner is a list of all of your variables with little icons indicating whether they are nominal, ordinal, or scale. This is, in fact, one of the special places in SPSS where it actually makes a difference whether or not you take the trouble to identify each variable type. No worries though — if you want to produce results that are really only appropriate for nominal variables but your variable is set as “scale” you can right click on the variable and temporarily change it.
The lower left panel of the SPSS Tables dialog box (blank in the image shown above) shows you a preview of all of the different values of your categorical variables. You can’t do very much with them other than see them — which is why I tend to hide the “categories” area and use the entire space on the left side to list my variables (all you have to do is click on the space between the “variables” list and the “categories” list and drag down).
On the right is the main work panel, where you can see I’ve already dragged a couple of variables (level of education on top and geographic region on the left). Adding variables is as easy as grabbing them from the list over on the left and dropping them into the “Rows” bar or the “Columns” bar in the work area.
Now while this might sound very Microsoft Excel Pivot Table-like, SPSS Tables has a few extra tricks up its sleeve. For example, let’s say I want to add another variable. In Excel — and in SPSS Tables — I could do something like this:
Notice how I added “Gender” over on the left, and I now will be able to see all of the data for each level of education broken out by gender. I can also do this:
This time the variable is above the geographic indicator. Admittedly, these are both things that you could do in a pivot table. What makes SPSS Tables somewhat special is the ability to do the following:
In the example above, notice how I put the “Gender” variable next to the geographic indicator — in effect creating a banner. This can be very useful when you want, for example, want to quickly see a variable broken down by a variety of different market segments. And because SPSS Tables allows you to select and drag all of your column headers from the left side at once, building such tables go very quickly.
You aren’t limited to one variable going one way or another. You can also create relatively complicated tables to meet your needs. Consider the following:
In the example above, I have two variables on the left. I have the geographic indicator on top, but I now have the gender columns broken down by whether they are retired or not retired. Let’s see you do that in Microsoft Excel!
SPSS Tables also has something called a “compact” view to keep your work space from getting to confusing (it is also useful if you have a lot of boxes displayed, which can really slow down your computer).
Incidentally, if you want you can filter in a way equivalent to the “Page” capabilities in the Excel Pivot table by pushing the “Layers” button in the upper right corner of the screen. This will allow you to show (for example) on the results of female respondents in your table. Tables created this way are dynamic — you can switch between the different “layers” in the output screen.
Once you’ve set up your rows and columns, you have several options regarding the types of statistics you want shown. Using the “Summary Statistics” button you can show counts, unweighted counts, row percentages, column percentages, whole table-based percentages, etc, etc. You can display only one statistic per row/column combo or you can display multiple statistics (you might want to show both the count and the column percentage). You can also do the same thing for the totals and subtotals.
This display of categories and subcategories — as well as variables values that you would like to exclude — can be controlled from the “Categories and Totals” page. Here you can also tell SPSS Tables what order to put the variables.
SPSS Tables can also do statistical testing: it can test for independence (Chi-square); compare column means (t-tests); aond compare column proportions (z-test). Results are displayed in relevant tables below your main table. SPSS Tables also has options which allow you to income what should be done with cells that contain missing values.
You have a lot of control over the look and feel of the output using TableLooks. SPSS Tables uses the TableLook you select in the SPSS Options dialog box. Shown above is the TableLook called “CompactAcademic Times Roman” which is my personal favorite. But you do have more than a dozen different formats to choose from.
Tables created by SPSS Tables can be copied and pasted right into Powerpoint or Excel. Tables pasted into Powerpoint appear as graphics, while tables pasted into Excel enter as data fields (without formatting, which can be very helpful).
Incidentally, if you’re one of those people who do like to have syntax for everything you do, you can use the “Paste” button to paste the code needed to generate your table into the SPSS Syntax Editor.
I use SPSS Tables a lot — it is, as I mentioned above, my favorite SPSS add-on module and definitely the one I use the most. But alas — such great functionality comes with a price. SPSS Tables is available for purchase (Windows, Mac or Linux) for $949 on top of the $1,699 that you’ll already have to pay for SPSS Base 16.0 (because SPSS Tables is an add-on you will only be able to use it if you have SPSS Base). Maintenance will cost you an additional $237 a year. It appears that some web sites offer it for as little as $510 for students.
But it is extremely useful, and it will save you a lot of time. If you don’t have SPSS Base, you might want to consider SPSS Desktop Reporter, which contains many of the same features (although I have to admit, Desktop Reporter can be extremely difficult and frustrating to use if you don’t have SPSS Base to edit your data).