GNU PSPP- The Open Source SPSS

If you are SPSS user (for statistics/ not data mining) you can also try 0ut GNU PSPP- which is the open source equivalent and quite eerily impressive in performance. It is available at or and you can also read more at

PSPP is a program for statistical analysis of sampled data. It is a Free replacement for the proprietary program SPSS, and appears very similar to it with a few exceptions.

[ Image of Variable Sheet ]The most important of these exceptions are, that there are no “time bombs”; your copy of PSPP will not “expire” or deliberately stop working in the future. Neither are there any artificial limits on the number of cases or variables which you can use. There are no additional packages to purchase in order to get “advanced” functions; all functionality that PSPP currently supports is in the core package.

PSPP can perform descriptive statistics, T-tests, linear regression and non-parametric tests. Its backend is designed to perform its analyses as fast as possible, regardless of the size of the input data. You can use PSPP with its graphical interface or the more traditional syntax commands.

A brief list of some of the features of PSPP follows:

  • Supports over 1 billion cases.
  • Supports over 1 billion variables.
  • Syntax and data files are compatible with SPSS.
  • Choice of terminal or graphical user interface.
  • Choice of text, postscript or html output formats.
  • Inter-operates with GnumericOpenOffice.Org and other free software.
  • Easy data import from spreadsheets, text files and database sources.
  • Fast statistical procedures, even on very large data sets.
  • No license fees.
  • No expiration period.
  • No unethical “end user license agreements”.
  • Fully indexed user manual.
  • Free Software; licensed under GPLv3 or later.
  • Cross platform; Runs on many different computers and many different operating systems.

PSPP is particularly aimed at statisticians, social scientists and students requiring fast convenient analysis of sampled data.



This software provides a basic set of capabilities: frequencies, cross-tabs comparison of means (T-tests and one-way ANOVA); linear regression, reliability (Cronbach’s Alpha, not failure or Weibull), and re-ordering data, non-parametric tests, factor analysis and more.

At the user’s choice, statistical output and graphics are done in asciipdfpostscript or html formats. A limited range of statistical graphs can be produced, such as histogramspie-charts and np-charts.

PSPP can import GnumericOpenDocument and Excel spreadsheetsPostgres databasescomma-separated values– and ASCII-files. It can export files in the SPSS ‘portable’ and ‘system’ file formats and to ASCII files. Some of the libraries used by PSPP can be accessed programmatically; PSPP-Perl provides an interface to the libraries used by PSPP.


The PSPP project (originally called “Fiasco”) is a free, open-source alternative to the proprietary statistics package SPSS. SPSS is closed-source and includes a restrictive licence anddigital rights management. The author of PSPP considered this ethically unacceptable, and decided to write a program which might with time become functionally identical to SPSS, except that there would be no licence expiry, and everyone would be permitted to copy, modify and share the program.

Release history

  • 0.7.5 June 2010
  • 0.6.2 October 2009
  • 0.6.1 October 2008
  • 0.6.0 June 2008
  • August 2007
  • 0.4.0 August 2005
  • 0.3.0 April 2004
  • 0.2.4 January 2000
  • 0.1.0 August 1998

Third Party Reviews

In the book “SPSS For Dummies“, the author discusses PSPP under the heading of “Ten Useful Things You Can Find on the Internet” [1]. In 2006, the South African Statistical Association presented a conference which included an analysis of how PSPP can be used as a free replacement to SPSS [2].


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Open Source and Software Strategy

Curt Monash at Monash Research pointed out some ongoing open source GPL issues for WordPress and the Thesis issue (Also see and

As a user of both going upwards of 2 years- I believe open source and GPL license enforcement are general parts of software strategy of most software companies nowadays. Some thoughts on  open source and software strategy-Thesis remains a very very popular theme and has earned upwards of 100,000 $ for its creator (estimate based on 20k plus installs and 60$ avg price)

  • Little guys like to give away code to get some satisfaction/ recognition, big guys give away free code only when its necessary or when they are not making money in that product segment anyway.
  • As Ethan Hunt said, ” Every Hero needs a Villian”. Every software (market share) war between players needs One Big Company Holding more market share and Open Source Strategy between other player who is not able to create in house code, so effectively out sources by creating open source project. But same open source propent rarely gives away the secret to its own money making project.
    • Examples- Google creates open source Android, but wont reveal its secret algorithm for search which drives its main profits,
    • Google again puts a paper for MapReduce but it’s Yahoo that champions Hadoop,
    • Apple creates open source projects ( but wont give away its Operating Source codes (why?) which help people buys its more expensive hardware,
    • IBM who helped kickstart the whole proprietary code thing (remember MS DOS) is the new champion of open source ( and
    • Microsoft continues to spark open source debate but read and  also
    • SAS gives away a lot of open source code (Read Jim Davis , CMO SAS here , but will stick to Base SAS code (even though it seems to be making more money by verticals focus and data mining).
    • SPSS was the first big analytics company that helps supports R (open source stats software) but will cling to its own code on its softwares.
    • gives away its software (and I like Akismet just as well as blogging) for open source, but hey as anyone who is on knows how locked in you can get by its (pricy) platform.
    • Vendor Lock-in (wink wink price escalation) is the elephant in the room for Big Software Proprietary Companies.
    • SLA Quality, Maintenance and IP safety is the uh-oh for going in for open source software mostly.
  • Lack of IP protection for revenue models for open source code is the big bottleneck  for a lot of companies- as very few software users know what to do with source code if you give it to them anyways.
    • If companies were confident that they would still be earning same revenue and there would be less leakage or theft, they would gladly give away the source code.
    • Derivative softwares or extensions help popularize the original softwares.
      • Half Way Steps like Facebook Applications  the original big company to create a platform for third party creators),
      • IPhone Apps and Android Applications show success of creating APIs to help protect IP and software control while still giving some freedom to developers or alternate
      • User Interfaces to R in both SAS/IML and JMP is a similar example
  • Basically open source is mostly done by under dog while top dog mostly rakes in money ( and envy)
  • There is yet to a big commercial success in open source software, though they are very good open source softwares. Just as Google’s success helped establish advertising as an alternate ( and now dominant) revenue source for online companies , Open Source needs a big example of a company that made billions while giving source code away and still retaining control and direction of software strategy.
  • Open source people love to hate proprietary packages, yet there are more shades of grey (than black and white) and hypocrisy (read lies) within  the open source software movement than the regulated world of big software. People will be still people. Software is just a piece of code.  😉

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