Transferring Data from Another Program into SPSS

By Keith McCormick, Jesus Salcedo, Aaron Poh

You can get your data into SPSS from a file created by another program, but it isn’t always easy. SPSS knows how to read some file formats, but if you’re not careful, you’ll find your data stored in an odd file format. Deciphering some file formats can be as confusing as Klingon trigonometry. SPSS can read only from file formats it knows.

SPSS recognizes the file formats of several applications. Here’s a complete list:

  • IBM SPSS Statistics (.sav): IBM SPSS Statistics data, and also the format used by the DOS program SPSS/PC+

  • dBase (.dbf): An interactive database system

  • Microsoft Excel (.xls): A spreadsheet for performing calculations on numbers in a grid

  • Portable (.por): A portable format read and written by other versions of SPSS, including other operating systems

  • Lotus (.w): A spreadsheet for performing calculations with numbers in agrid

  • SAS (.sas7bdat, .sdy, .sd2, .ssd, and .xpt): Statistical analysis software

  • Stata (.dta): Statistical analysis and graphics software

  • Sylk (.slk): A symbolic link file format for transporting data from one application to another

  • Systat (.syd and .sys): Software that produces statistical and graphical results

Although SPSS knows how to read any of these formats, you may still need to make a decision from time to time about how SPSS should import your dataset. But you have some advantages:

  • You know exactly what you want — the form of data appearing in SPSS is simple, and what you see is what you get.

  • SPSS has some reasonable defaults and makes some good guesses along the way.

  • You can always fiddle with things after you’ve loaded them.

You’re only reading from the data file, so you can’t hurt it. Besides, you have everything safely backed up, don’t you? Just go for it. If the process gets hopelessly balled up, you can always call it quits and start over. Think of it as a learning process.