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A Review of Some Best Free to Use Alternatives to SPSS, SAS and STATA Software

Updated on August 1, 2012

Statistical Packges

In subjects like Economics, Econometrics, Statistics and Social Sciences, many universities and colleges at higher levels of study train their students and researchers with computing tools such as SPSS (IBM), SAS and STATA. Many teachers unduly force their students learn these proprietary software while taking examinations and preparing assignments. While, it is beyond any doubt that these programs are robust and they do perform the tasks of computing in a desirable manner, they are quite expensive and individual students after passing out from the institutions find it difficult to keep them updated in these software unless they have institutional support. This is more so in case of freelance researchers from third world who after finishing their courses find these software too expensive to purchase licenses of these programs for their personal use. A most affordable individual license for single user SPSS package may cost around US $ 2250 for a user Initial Fixed Term License (plus SW Subscription & Support for 12 Months) Similarly, packages like STATA costs US $ 592 for a single user perpetual license with limited options available. Packages like SAS costs even more.

Students may not afford to have a single user proprietary Software

Notwithstanding the fact that students and researchers from specific streams of knowledge do use these software on a regular basis and derive utility from these programs, it is also true that there are a lot of other free alternatives to these software. PSPP, Gretl and R are only a few best alternatives to these programs that can handle most of the tasks that these paid programs handle. All these paid software are primarily used for carrying out activities in descriptive statistics, bi-variate statistics, linear regression and prediction for identifying groups such as factor analysis, cluster analysis etc., that can be easily handled by the free alternatives like PSPP, R and Gretl. In the present hub, an attempt is made to introduce these free alternatives and I wish to discuss these programs in detail in some other hub.


GRETL or Gnu Regression, Econometrics and Time-series Library, is a free package primarily used for Econometric analysis of data. This wonderful package can operate on multiple operating systems including windows and can import data from multiple platforms including excel, csv and so on. It has a graphical user interface as well as a command line interface. In addition, it can also output models as LaTex files. Like many other open source packages, it can support multiple languages like Chinese, Basque, Czech, German, French, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Turkish. One can download GRETL package freely from


In the process of learning statistical packages like SPSS many get acquainted with the lay-out and the process. Therefore, it becomes difficult for them to learn new statistical packages. For them, PSPP which only looks like SPSS works as a free alternative to SPSS. Although many believe that SPSS is more powerful than PSPP, most of the functions one can do in SPSS is also manageable in PSPP. More than that, its completely free and can be used on windows also. Obtain your copy of PSPP from here


R is a powerful open source programming language and platform for statistical computing and graphics. The R language can be used for both data analysis as well as writing programs. The name of the package R drawn from the first letter of the names of its creators Ross Ihaka and Robert Gentleman is a successor of 'S" Statistical language developed by John Chambers who later led the "R" teamof programmers. It is a cross platform package that can do may functions and is commonly believed as the most powerful package related to statistics, programming and data analysis.One may obtain a copy of R freely from the website of the R Project or Click Here <> for Windows and other operating System. <>

These three software packages are not comprehensive. There are many others who can be used as alternatives to the proprietary software for Statistics and Social Sciences. I shall be writing some instruction materials on all these three packages although their respective sites are very useful and provide a lot of information, free textbooks and so on. If you believe that there are certain functions in SPSS, SAS or STATA that can not be performed by these free alternatives, please inform me through your comments. I shall update this hub based on your comments.


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