[R] read.spss (package foreign) and SPSS 15.0 files

Thomas Lumley tlumley at u.washington.edu
Fri Apr 6 18:03:10 CEST 2007

On Thu, 5 Apr 2007, John Kane wrote:
> Heck. I'd be happy to get an answer to what is
> happening here:
>> mac <- spss.get("H:/ONTH/Raw.data/Follow.sav")
> Warning message:
> H:/ONTH/Raw.data/Follow.sav: Unrecognized record type
> 7, subtype 16 encountered in system file

It means that your file had a record of type 7, subtype 16 in it, and 
read.spss doesn't know how to handle these.

You would have to ask SPSS what record type 7 and subtype 16 represent -- 
their software put them there, and it's their terminology.

People's experience with unrecognised record types is that they usually 
don't matter, which would make sense from a backwards-compatibility point 
of view, but in the absence of documentation or psychic powers it is hard 
to be sure.  Avoiding read.spss is a perfectly reasonable strategy, and is 
in fact what we have always recommended in the Data Import-Export manual.

AFAIK the only commercial statistical software vendor that does provide 
complete, public documentation of their file formats is Stata, and this 
is one reason why there are fewer complaints about read.dta and write.dta. 
It also probably helps that the code was written by someone who uses Stata 
-- there hasn't been much contribution of code or patches for the 
foreign package from SPSS users.


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