Current Version: 4.04 (PAST 3.18 reviewed)
Listing updated: 12/2017 (program updated steadily into 2021)
Not signed by Apple (you may see a warning)
New URL in 2021 —https://www.nhm.uio.no/english/research/infrastructure/past/
The project page notes that “Past is free software for scientific data analysis, with functions for data manipulation, plotting, univariate and multivariate statistics, ecological analysis, time series and spatial analysis, morphometrics and stratigraphy.”
Dennis Helsel added, “While its name shows its origin (Paleontology), it is a full-fledged stat package which includes multivariate and permutation tests, with a nice interface.”
When Dennis says “full-fledged,” he isn’t kidding — the range of this software is stunning. Here’s a downsized screen shot of the menus (there are a wide range of tests and options for each):
There was a complete rewrite back in 2013, but it’s still being developed, and new features continue to be added with “hundredth-point” releases that, in many programs, would be considered tenth-point or full-point updates. For example, 3.17—a .0x update—brought:
Graphics can be sent to PDF. The program allows scripting, to save time, and can easily open Excel files.
Since it’s mainly for Windows, there are some minor GUI oddities, and keyboard shortcuts require the control key rather than the command key. It’s a bit clumsier to do speedy work in our survey file than in JASP, partly because of the “select the columns” method of picking variables. Copying output worked well, though the results could be a bit less than ideal:
Do you agree? Tenure
Mean: 3.2752 Mean: 1.9409
Median: 4 Median: 2
Mean difference: 1.3344 95% conf.: (1.2583 1.4104)
t : 34.45 p (same mean): 4.8739E-171
Exact test not executed (N>22)
r : 712 p (same median): 2.0079E-106
Wilcoxon test :
W : 3.2838E05
Normal appr. z : 23.641 p (same median): 1.4571E-123
Monte Carlo (n=99999): p (same median): 1E-05
Exact test not executed (N>22)
Our test file imported in less than a second. Summary statistics came in a fraction of a second on a laptop. Linear correlations were instant; Kendall’s tau took a while. If you use a really, really large file, it can choke the software, because it doesn’t seem to take advantage of multiple processors, and there’s no apparent way to stop an ongoing process, so save often if you have a massive amount of data. Our survey file never caused more than a slight pause; our huge random file did.
It's a little hard to get started because of how few formats can be imported. Not SPSS (SAV or POR), not Excel, etc. Nexus files can be brought in. The instructions suggest copying and pasting from Excel, or importing tab-delimited text (I was unable to figure out what file extension it wanted). Copy-pasting large datasets can take quite a while.
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.
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.