You Don't Have to Be a Statistician
Statgraphics Plus V. 5
by Manugistics Inc.
Pentium; 32 MB RAM; and Windows 95, 98, 2000, ME, or NT 3.5 or higher.
Price: Standard edition: $749. Quality and Design: $999. Professional: $1,649.
2115 E. Jefferson St.
Rockville, MD 20852
Phone: (800) 592-0050
Statgraphics Plus V. 5
by Felix Grant
etermining the best product in any market sector will always be a matter of determining the best application for a particular need. Software distributors recognize this and
supply a wide range of overlapping products fitted for different users and usage requirements. The particular strength of StatGraphics Plus Version 5 is its ease of use,
which supports the quality professional (not primarily a statistician) through a maze of powerful techniques and around many potential pitfalls.
The product comes in three main configurations (Standard, Quality and Design, and Professional). Although the Standard version offers a solid range of facilities
for routine business use, Quality Digest readers will want the more advanced Quality and Design version. Although some might require the extra facilities
offered by the Professional version, the middle-priced Quality and Design variant should be sufficient for most users.
Approaching matters from a technical graphics perspective, Release 5 is a strong contender for the title of "easiest to learn heavyweight package." An intuitive
interface is backed up by a systematic collection of unobtrusive but informative instruction and support tools, so that using it is easy, quick and hassle-free. There
is a flexible multipane workbook system, modeled on Macintosh modes of working, and an environment (now fully 32-bit) that offers generally "enabling" usability.
The areas of particular interest are on the Special menu, under the headings Quality Control and Experimental Design. The
Quality Control submenu offers main choices, from Pareto, process capability, gage R&R, and linearity/acceptance and acceptance sampling, in addition to
charts and plots (X-bar vs. R; S and S-squared; p, np, u and c; various moving average and cusum; toolwear and acceptance; and fishbone diagrams). There is
little, in terms of content, to surprise a quality professional here, but the implementation is both effective and ergonomic. Analyses are assembled step by step from user data and requirements.
The Experimental Design menu and associated help, usually murky areas in most generic statistics products, are particularly well-implemented. Nothing can make
this work a no-brainer, but the program takes a pretty good stab at it. Although users need to have some understanding of what they are doing, the program
offers good mnemonic prompts (to the basic principles, to design classes and to design creation, for instance), and the progressive dialogue makes implementation
as painless as possible. Users are led through the creation, modification, optimization, augmentation and analysis of their designs in a fairly unbreakable
way. The available tools successfully cover screening; response surfaces; mixtures; multilevel factorials; inner/outer arrays; single or multifactor categorical,
hierarchical variance components; and multiple-response optimization.
Support kicks in at program start-up with StatWizard. It uses intelligent
data-driven dialogue to guide users toward appropriate actions, selections, transforms and analyses. This optional setting is invaluable for less confident users.
StatAdvisor interprets results and explains the statistical output.
Similarly named StatFolio is a library system allowing analyses to be banked and
reused. StatGallery is a multipane, multipage combination of different text, numeric and graphics outputs in a grid display. StatReporter helps to produce and
publish reports from within on-screen results. It can be configured to generate HTML, PNG or JPG graphics and Java applet support for Web publishing.
Updates to a local or networked directory, or by FTP, automatically reflect changes. In designing such turnkey dissemination systems, there are trade-offs in
the areas of simplicity, appearance and speed. SGV5 has plumped for WYSIWYG reproduction of its on-screen appearance from a few mouse clicks,
with graphic rendering, which leads to relatively large files.
StatLink is a successful addition of particular interest to industrial users. It allows
interactive setup of user-specified periodic data polling. The source can be an SGV5 data sheet, the clipboard or any file for which there is an ODBC driver installed.
For quick routine work, SGV5 has also acquired SnapStats, a version of the instant-access summaries that has become increasingly popular in such packages.
It's a well-thought-out implementation, smoother and more flexible than many.
Control of graphics options is automatically initialized and adjusted from a single
multitabbed dialogue. It took me a while to figure out how to adjust X-axis labeling, but in general, everything is smooth and effortless. Few packages
provide such an instant and instinctive feedback exploration loop.
All in all, SGV5 is an excellent choice for settings in which statistics are a means,
not an end--which describes most quality settings. It provides highly efficient and effective support for overstretched expertise in meeting its objectives within
schedule or budget, and you can't ask for much more than that.
About the author
Felix Grant is a lecturer and consultant in the United Kingdom. E-mail him at email@example.com .