[R] A comment about R:

Thomas Lumley tlumley at u.washington.edu
Tue Jan 3 16:35:28 CET 2006

On Mon, 2 Jan 2006, Philippe Grosjean wrote:
> That said, I think one should interpret Mitchell's paper in a different
> way. Obviously, he is an unconditional and happy Stata user (he even
> wrote a book about graphs programming in Stata). His claim in favor of
> Stata (versus SAS and SPSS, and also, indirectly, versus R) is to be
> interpreted the same way as unconditional lovers of Macintoshes or PCs
> would argue against the other clan. Both architectures are good and have
> strengths and weaknesses. Real arguments are more sentimental, and could
> resume in: "The more I use it, the more I like it,... and the aliens are
> bad, ugly and stupid!" Would this apply to Stata versus R? I don't know
> Stata at all, but I imagine it could be the case from what I read in
> Mitchell's paper...

I think there are good reasons why Stata is becoming much more popular in 
epidemiology and biostatistics [and I'm not particularly prejudiced 
against R]. In my experience people who like R also like Stata, though 
clearly the reverse is not necessarily true.

Stata, like R, is readily programmable.  Users can -- and do -- write 
and distribute programs that look just like the built-in routines.  There 
is an active and helpful mailing list. However, Stata programming is very 
different from R programming, since it is macro-based (think Tcl/Tk) 
rather than function-based.

Stata is also easier to learn: it has a very consistent syntax and even 
better documentation than R.  We use Stata for all our service course 
teaching, and despite the fact that it is command-line based rather than 
GUI the students were no more unhappy than when SPSS was used for the 
lowest-level courses and Egret for the higher-level service courses. 
[Stata now has a GUI but it is awful and quite a lot of students prefer 
the command-line]


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