A quick SPSS tip: Using vertical selection in Notepad++ to edit printed MACRO statements

The version of the SPSS syntax editor is really nice and I use it for most of daily analysis. Sometimes though I utlize the text editor Notepadd++ for various tasks that are difficult to accomplish in the SPSS editor. Here I will highlight one instance which I have found Notepad++ to be really helpful, editing printed MACRO statements by using vertical selection.

To start off with a brief example, I have created a very simple MACRO that has an obvious error in it.

**************************************************.
data list free / V1 (F2.0) V2 (F2.0) V3 (A4).
begin data
1 2 aaaa
3 4 bbbb
5 6 cccc
end data.
dataset name input.

DEFINE !example ().
compute X = V1 + V3.
!ENDDEFINE.

set mprint on.

!example.
**************************************************.

When expanded, the printed statement in the output viewer appears like this;

  56  0 M>   
  57  0 M>  . 
  58  0 M>  compute X = V1 + V3 
  59  0 M>  .

Now this is a trivial problem to fix, but what if you have 100’s of line of code and want to edit out all of the beginning text before the commands (e.g. the 59 0 M> part)? It is useful to debug the expanded code because when debugging you can step through the expanded code but not the MACRO code. To edit out the intial lines in Notepad++ is not very hard though because of the ability to utilize vertical selection. If you copy and paste the expanded macro statements into Notepadd++, then press Alt and Shift simultaneously (this is for Windows, I’m not sure about other operating systems), one can vertically select the first 13 columns of text and delete them in one swoop. See picture below to see what I am talking about with vertical selection.

I’ve found having another text editor at my disposal is useful for other tasks as well, so it is something to keep in mind when doing alot of text editing in SPSS anyway. For instance any time I need to find and replace I have much better experience doing it in Notepad++ (and SPSS doesn’t have wildcard find/replace which is obviously helpful in many situations). SPSS syntax files, .sps, are plain text so you can actually just edit those files directly in any text editor you want as well.

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