Macintosh statistical software

JASP: promising free statistics software for Macs

JASP was created as “a low fat alternative to SPSS, a delicious alternative to R,” and comes out of the University of Amsterdam. It is, in essence, a graphical user interface for the free, but hard to use, R statistics program.

Updated 4/9/21 David Zatz

JASP is a Linux native, but runs well on Macs using XQuartz windows. It uses the native Mac open/save dialogue box, once you click on the menu icon, then Open, then Computer, then Browse; and it’s easy to install, unlike, say, PSPP.

The software looks and feels something like SPSS, and feels more native than SPSS itself (which is native). Calculations and screen drawing are far, far, far faster than in “real SPSS” — when you select the tests, they might actually be pumped out before your finger is fully off the mouse. When you make changes, they occur instantly—so if you need a record of what you’re doing, be careful!

We loaded our big test file quickly, and ran descriptives instantly. When it could not finish one process in a reasonable time, we ran others, indicating it’s well multi-threaded. The survey file also loaded in a fraction of a second; frequencies for all 40 five-point variables came in the blink of an eye. Opening very large SPSS-format files can take a little more time, but if you save them in JASP’s own format, the open nearly instantly.


There are some strange aspects of JASP for users of other software. First, the program has a “three column”  setup; it starts out just showing the data view. When you do an analysis, first it shows you the options; then, once you start selecting variables and such, the actual analysis is done in real time on the right side of the screen. If you make changes, they are instantly applied to the analysis. Once you start doing analyses, though, to get back to the data, you have to drag a vertical bar on the left side of the screen over. Then you can show all three columns.

For t-tests, when Levene’s test is significant, SPSS and PSPP use the "unequal variances" formula for Student's test; JASP and Jamovi want you to switch to Welch’s test, which makes fewer assumptions. They don’t actually tell you that, they just have a footnote saying you’ve violated the equal variance assumption, though Student’s t-test actually does have a formula for groups with different variances.

Survey researchers will be happy to know they can assign value labels — and unhappy to know they must be done variable by variable, without syntax. The labels are retroactively applied to whatever is in the output window, very rapidly. Missing values are a whole ’nother story—more on that later.

There is a copy function for either individual charts or whole analyses. Copying worked just fine for graphics, and there’s also an easy graphics export.

jasp t-tests

What’s missing in JASP? The biggest user-interface gaps from “actual SPSS” are in the lack of syntax or macros, and the lack of customizability for charts. There do not seem to be plans for syntax. There's also no way to change data in the spreadsheet view, but this may not be a big problem; and, while you can use long variable names (with spaces), you can't do variable labels.

Recoding is rather clunky, but it does work, and has improved since past versions.

The main problem with JASP is the inability to assign missing values to individual variables, a massive oversight. It’s been resolved in the similar program Jamovi, but Jamovi won’t do stepwise regression, doesn’t shade the output nicely as JASP does, and sometimes has problems importing SPSS files, due to the same code that allows it to assign missing values to individual variables. (How does JASP handle missing values, you may ask? You assign them to the entire database at once. If that sounds crazy to you, well...the workaround is to recode each variable, in JASP or in a spreadsheet, so they all have the same missing values.)

Thanks to Prof. Kim-Oliver Tietze for pointing us to JASP.

JASP project/download pageOther free Mac statistics packagesPASTJamovi

Unsigned software

The developers do not pay Apple $99 per year for an account, so they are not “signed” by Apple. You can’t open this software by double-clicking; instead, right-click (on one-button mice, hold down the control button while clicking), and select Open from the contextual menu. You will get the scary dialogue box; fill it out if you want to run the software. The system should remember your choice and should not ask you again unless you update the software, and you can double-click to run from here on.

override unsigned software

If you don’t even get that far, go to your System Preferences, click on Security & Privacy (first row, looks like a house), go to the General tab, unlock the preference (click on the lock, bottom left), and then select “Allow apps downloaded from App Store and identified developers.” This, again, only has to be done once.

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