STATISTICA V. 6
StatSoft’s release of
STATISTICA 6 last year had been a long time coming, but
it was well worth the wait. Version 6 has been thoroughly
rebuilt from the ground up, preserving all of STATISTICA’s
strengths and adding new ones. The interface is fully in
line with current Windows conventions and has adopted a
new Excel-like persona. The traditional programming-languages
double act has been replaced by a single and powerful STATISTICA
dialect of Visual Basic (SVB).
The menu system displayed grayed-out options for which
the specialized extension products were not yet available,
including quality control charts, data mining and neural
networks. QC charts appeared some time back, and I’ve
had them doing their paces for months now. The other two
arrived more recently, just as I was about to start a major
investigation into fault origination for a client using
QC charts access STATISTICA’s capabilities for dynamic
transfer and update of data, giving a real-time view of
data stream behavior, and can feed back the processed results
to external events (e.g., alarms, settings or adjustments,
process augmentation, scaling notifications, decision support).
There must be limits to the density and variability of data
flow, but I’ve not yet discovered them—despite
some very demanding work that would make most software packages
cry. The back end of this lot is almost completely user-definable
but straightforward to use, and its public face is blessedly
free of clutter or complication.
STATISTICA’s, Data Miner is the best tool I’ve
seen yet for actually applying what you learn at the sharp
end of industry. Once Data Miner is installed, STATISTICA
loads it in the foreground by default when started (but,
like almost everything else, this can be altered; STATISTICA
remains one of the most customizable environments around).
If you’ve used drag-and-connect nodal interfaces before,
you’ll be right at home. If not, you’ll soon
get the idea—this is also the easiest to use data
mining control I’ve encountered, although the basic
approach is widespread. Start with your data, end with a
result; decide what is to be done between, and in what sequence,
laying out the steps on a background; then drag arrows from
one thing to the next to “join up the dots.”
The dots can be almost any tool you care to employ. They
can even, in principle, lie outside STATISTICA’s own
tool set, as a client/server setup allows programmed access
to both data and capabilities in other programs. In practice,
though, they’re most likely to represent one or more
exploratory analytic routines in which STATISTICA is so
In the particular case of my client, the concern was with
apparently random recurring fault clusters. These clusters
survived unscathed through all the company’s best
efforts to control and certify every process stage. They
also defied several extensive—and expensive—internal
attempts to identify common factors. So, one of the most
important dots to be joined up in my Data Miner window was
the brand-new STATISTICA Neural Networks module.
I’m well-known for feeling uncomfortable around
neural nets. I’m an old-fashioned statistician, used
to knowing what’s going on. I’ll never become
entirely easy with these wee-little beasties that disappear
off inside their black box and emerge with an answer but
can’t tell you how they got it. However, that’s
my problem, not theirs; experience has taught me that, properly
employed, the beasties do come up with the goods and get
it right. This task, where a linkage is suspected between
undesirable effect and unknown causes, buried in terabytes
of data beyond human envisioning, was tailor-made for them.
As with data mining, there are a lot of excellent tools
out there. They vary tremendously in every way, and each
is best for some set of requirements. Overall though, SNN
has for some time tended to lead the field on points, with
particular strengths for unfamiliar users and those with
reporting or team working priorities. This generalization
becomes even stronger with the move up from v. 4 to release
6 (there was no 5; SNN climbed through a rapid series of
upgrades to release 4 during the life of STATISTICA 5.X
and has now aligned with the rest of StatSoft’s stable).
Symbiosis with the base product is now much tighter than
it used to be, providing an added advantage: Only one other
product I know of can provide such complete integration
with a larger and more general analytic environment, and
arguably nothing can combine both with this degree of process
control and response.
These new additions to the STATISTICA 6 product range
take traditional quality further, make it more accessible,
and introduce a new level of integration that yield considerable
synergy payoffs. If you have unsolved analytical problems,
try STATISTICA 6.
Felix Grant is a lecturer and consultant in the United
Kingdom. Letters to the editor regarding this article can
be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Requirements: Runs on Windows 95, 98,
2000, NT, ME or XP. 32 MB RAM. Mac OS—base version
only, or any Windows version using Virtual PC (included).
Price: $795+. For data mining, neural
networks and QC tool add-ons, contact StatSoft.
Contact: StatSoft Inc.
2300 East 14th St.
Tulsa, OK 74104
Phone: (918) 749-1119
Fax: (918) 749-2217