Command Syntax Reference

A Great (and Free) Resource for SPSS Syntax: the Command Syntax Reference

October 22nd, 2009 by

I find SPSS manuals, as a rule, marginally useful. Sure they may tell you which options are available when doing Statistic X, but not what they mean or when to use them.

I still use them, of course, but only when I have no other options.

There is one exception, though, and that is the Command Syntax Reference. This is the manual that explains all the SPSS Syntax commands.

SPSS started as a syntax-only program. I first learned SPSS before Windows existed. I don’t think you could even get it for a PC back then. We had to use the College’s VAX mainframe computer. This was back in the days where you had to go pick up your printouts down the hall in the computing center. But no cards. I’m not THAT old.

Anyway, I think in those days SPSS must have put a lot of resources into really good manual writing. So the Command Syntax Reference, which was the entire manual, rocked. It still does, since for the most part, the syntax doesn’t change that much with new versions.

The great thing about it is now it’s available right in SPSS. When you click on help, instead of Search, choose Command Syntax Reference. It includes every possible option, explains when and how to use it, and what it means. It’s an extremely handy resource, comes free with SPSS, and you don’t have to spend hours searching the internet for an answer.

The only hard part about it is it is organized by the command, and they’re not always intuitive. So if you don’t know that the Univariate GLM menu equivalent syntax command is  “UNIANOVA,” you’ll have a hard time using it.

This is another good time to use the Paste button. Just use the menus to create some semblance of the analysis you want to do and hit Paste. You’ll get the basic command, which you can now look up and refine.

Want to learn more? If you’re just getting started with data analysis in SPSS, or would like a thorough refresher, please join us in our online workshop Introduction to Data Analysis in SPSS.