Turning R into SPSS?

I have written about several free alternatives to SPSS, including PSPP, Jamovi, and JASP. Bob Munchen has reviewed a few more options: Deducer, RKWard, Rattle, and the good old R Commander (in the screenshot on the left). We also find a review of Blue Sky Statistics. Blue Sky Statistics is another option for those seeking SPSS “simplicity” with R power underneath.

Blue Sky Statistics is available for Windows, and is open source. They make money from paid support. I note that it comes with a polished interface and this data editor that reminds us of Excel. I was very happy to see that Blue Sky Statistics offers many options for data handling, like recoding, merging, computing variables, or subsetting — that’s much better than what say jamovi offers at the moment.

The dialogs are quite intuitive if you are familiar with SPSS, and they can also produce R code. This is a feature we know from the R Commander, and ostensibly the aim is to allow users to wean from the graphical interface and move to the console. Nice as the idea is, it is defeated by custom commands like BSkyOpenNewDataset() that we don’t normally use.

The models offered by Blue Sky Statistics are fine for many uses — for those not living on the cutting edge. A nice touch are the interactive tables in the output, where you can customize to some degree.

Exciting as Blue Sky Statistics and other GUI are at first sight, I’m gradually becoming less excited about GUI for R. Probably the biggest challenge is the “hey, this is all text!” shock when you first open R (or typically Rstudio these days). Once you realize that the biggest challenge is to make the right choices and then interpret your results, you become less hung up about the “right” software. Once you realize that you’ll have to remember either way — where to click, or what to type — copying and pasting code fragments becomes less daunting. If you restrict yourself to a few basic commands like lm(), plot(), and summary(), R isn’t that difficult. Sure, when you come across idiosyncrasies because different developers use different naming conventions, R can be hard. But then, there are also the moments where you realize that there are so many ready-made solutions (i.e. packages) available and that with R you really are in control of your analysis. And the day you learn about replication and knitr, there’s hardly a way back.

One reason I kept looking for GUI was my MA students. I’m excited to see more and more of them choosing Rstudio over SPSS (they are given the choice, we’re currently use both in parallel)… so I there might be simply no need for turning R into SPSS.


LaTeX to Word

Ever needed to convert a LaTeX document to Word, like to submit it to a social sciences journal insisting on MS Word format? There are several options out there, including using Adobe Reader to save the PDF as a Word document. In my experience, the best results can be obtained when using MS Word to open the PDF document (yes, MS word can open PDF documents!). Obviously you’ll have to check everything carefully, but recent version of Word even seem to handle most equations right.

Alternatively, write in Pandoc Markdown to start with (or Sciflow if you need online collaborative writing), and you can create beautiful PDF as well as Word document, whatever you need.

Yoshikoder won’t start on Ubuntu

Two days ago my Yoshikoder refused to start on the Ubuntu (GNU/Linux) machine. So I tried in the console java -jar Yoshikoder-0.6.4.jar and was informed that “Error: Assistive Technology not found: org.GNOME.Accessibility.AtkWrapper”. A quick on the web look turned out that the solution is simple. In the console, I opened the following file:

sudo leafpad /etc/java-11-openjdk/accessibility.properties

and commented out the line causing problems (in my case it was the last line), so that it reads:



How to Add References in Footnotes in SciFlow

SciFlow is an exciting platform for collaborative academic writing. Perhaps similar to Authorea, SciFlow comes with no restrictions. One limitation I faced was that it seemed impossible to add reference in footnotes. If you enter a footnote, and add a reference there, the reference is added after the footnote. That’s not what we want. Let’s walk through the workaround:

You can add references in footnotes, though, if you copy the text (with the reference) into a footnote. To do so, write the text of the footnote on a new line, select the entire paragraph, and click on the “footnote” symbol (or cut and paste).

It turns out, there is a bug in the way references in footnotes are displayed (which the developers expect to iron out very soon), which made me believe that you cannot add references in footnotes. You get a “NO RENDERER SUPPLIED” error instead of the reference field.

Here’s your reference:


And this is what it looks like when you export the document:

updated on 1 September to reflect bug fix!