SPSS Data Editor Window

SPSS Data Editor window is SPSS’ main window. This is the only window that’s always open whenever we run SPSS. It’s recognized by a red icon SPSS Data Editor Window Icon in its left top corner.

SPSS Data Editor Title Bar

The Data Editor has two tabs in the left bottom corner: we can click Data View for inspecting our data values. Alternatively, Variable View shows information regarding the meaning of our data, collectively known as the dictionary.

SPSS Data View versus Variable View

SPSS Data Editor Anatomy

We’ll now take a close look at how the Data Editor Window is organized. We recommend following along by downloading employees.sav. If you have SPSS installed, you can open this file by simply double-clicking it. After doing so, you’ll see something like the screenshot below (make sure Data View is selected). We’ll walk you through its components.

SPSS Data View

SPSS Data Editor - Data View

 SPSS toolbars contain some handy tools. Some of their limtations can be circumvented by building your own toolbars and toolbar tools. Doings so is utterly simple and speeds up a lot of work.
 Columns of cells are called variables. Variable names (“gender”) are shown in the column headers.
 Rows of cells are called cases. Note that in SPSS, “cases” refers to nothing more than rows of cells which may -or may not- correspond to people or objects.
 Data cell contents are called values.
 You can drag the three dots SPSS Freeze Columns Icon in the right margin leftwards in order to split the windowhorizontally. In a similar vein, split the window vertically by dragging SPSS Freeze Rows Icon in the lower margin upwards. Split windows allow for viewing distant cases or variables simultaneously.
 You can toggle between Data View and Variable View by clicking the tabs in the left lower corner. A faster option is the Ctrl + t shortkey.
 The status bar may provide useful information on the data such as whether a WEIGHTFILTERSPLIT FILE or Unicode mode is in effect.

These are the main elements under Data View. We now switch to Variable View. After doing so, the data editor window should look somewhat like the screenshot below.

SPSS Variable View

SPSS Data Editor - Variable View

 After selecting Variable Viewvariables are shown as rows instead of columns. We’re now seeing information about our variables and values instead of the data values themselves.
 Columns now represent variable properties such as label, name and type.
 Cells contain property values. For example, the width of the fourth variable last_name is 8.

Variable View – Value Labels

Note that some of the information in Variable View is hidden. For instance, under Values we find the value labels: descriptions of what our data values represent. Clicking it for education_typedisplays all value labels for this variable.Value Labels for “education_type”

These value labels tell us that a person with a value of 1 on education_type indicates somebody who studied “Law”. In a similar vein, “Economy” is represented by a value of 2, and so on. We’ll now switch back to data view for taking a closer look at this.

Value Labels in Data View

Note that the first case in our data was born in 1950 and has a value of 1 on education_type. On inspecting this case, you’ll probably see something similar to the next screenshot.

SPSS Data View ValuesNow click the value labels icon  (or  for older SPSS versions) in the toolbar area. You’ll now see value labels instead of values as shown below.SPSS Data View Values


In this tutorial, we inspected the two tabs of the Data Editor window. Under Data View we saw our data values (cells), arranged as variables (columns) and cases (rows). We then inspected the Variable View which shows dictionary information such as the meanings of variables and the values they contain. These are the two main components of what we call “data”
Whenever we save the contents of the Data Editor window, we always save both main components as a single file. The result of doing so is an SPSS data file or .sav file after its file name extension.
The SPSS Data Editor window is the first of SPSS’ three main windows. The next tutorial will discuss the second one, the SPSS syntax window.