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

Prof Brian Ripley ripley at stats.ox.ac.uk
Fri Apr 6 08:38:13 CEST 2007

On Thu, 5 Apr 2007, Michael Conklin wrote:

> Not being the developer I cannot answer definitively but, as a frequent 
> user of SPSS files I can give you my experience.
> 1) The unrecognized coding is perhaps due to the locale of the SPSS 
> installation. I have had success reading in files from version 15 but 
> often encounter that error when the file was created with data that 
> included some foreign language. I often receive survey files that were 
> administered in a non-English language and that is when I usually see 
> the error.

That is what is surmised in this recent R-devel thread:


although it may also happen in an English locale (since after all Windows 
uses codepage 1252, not ASCII, for American 'English').

The next release of package foreign will give a warning (rather than an 
error) with an unrecognized encoding and recognize a few more.

> 2) My experience with the "Warning - unrecognized record type" message 
> is that it has no effect whatsoever on the data file.
> 3) Others on the list have noted that you are safer exporting POR files 
> instead of SAV files from SPSS. Both are read by the read.spss function.

The R Data Import/Export manual recommends an open format such as .csv.
(Look like John Kane has yet to read it ....)  R does have quite extensive 
facilities for dealing with encodings in text files.

> Hope that helps.
> Michael Conklin
> Chief Methodologist - Advanced Analytics
> MarketTools, Inc.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: r-help-bounces at stat.math.ethz.ch [mailto:r-help-bounces at stat.math.ethz.ch] On Behalf Of John Kane
> Sent: Thursday, April 05, 2007 7:45 PM
> To: RINNER Heinrich; r-help at stat.math.ethz.ch
> Subject: Re: [R] read.spss (package foreign) and SPSS 15.0 files
> --- RINNER Heinrich <HEINRICH.RINNER at tirol.gv.at>
> wrote:
>> Hello,
>> does anyone have experience with reading SPSS
>> Version 15.0 files into R (version 2.4.1, WinXP)?
>> I have long been sucessfully reading SPSS files with
>> read.spss from the wonderful foreign package, but
>> somehow after upgrading from SPSS14 to SPSS15 I seem
>> to have problems.
>> Trying a simple example, where test.sav is a SPSS
>> 15.0 data file consisting of x1=c(1,2,3) and
>> x2=c("a","b","c"), I get this:
>>> read.spss(file = "C:\\temp\\test.sav")
>> Fehler in read.spss(file = "C:\\temp\\test.sav") :
>>         error reading system-file header
>> Zusätzlich: Warning message:
>> C:\temp\test.sav: File-indicated character
>> representation code (Unknown) is not ASCII
>> version infos:
>> R version 2.4.1 (under WinXP)
>> foreign version 0.8-18
>> Has anyone experienced the same, and can give a
>> solution here (possibly other than "downgrade to
>> SPSS14.0" ;-))?
>> Regards,
>> Heinrich.
> 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
> I have taken to exporting the file to a delimited
> format and reading it into R since I cannot trust the
> R import.

Brian D. Ripley,                  ripley at stats.ox.ac.uk
Professor of Applied Statistics,  http://www.stats.ox.ac.uk/~ripley/
University of Oxford,             Tel:  +44 1865 272861 (self)
1 South Parks Road,                     +44 1865 272866 (PA)
Oxford OX1 3TG, UK                Fax:  +44 1865 272595

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