Building Tables

You select the variables and summary measures that will appear in your tables on the Table tab in the table builder.

Variable list. The variables in the data file are displayed in the top left pane of the window. Custom Tables distinguishes between two different measurement levels for variables and handles them differently depending on the measurement level:

Categorical. Data with a limited number of distinct values or categories (for example, gender or religion). Categorical variables can be string (alphanumeric) or numeric variables that use numeric codes to represent categories (for example, 0 = male and 1 = female). Also referred to as qualitative data. Categorical variables can be either nominal or ordinal

  • Nominal. A variable can be treated as nominal when its values represent categories with no intrinsic ranking (for example, the department of the company in which an employee works). Examples of nominal variables include region, postal code, and religious affiliation.
  • Ordinal. A variable can be treated as ordinal when its values represent categories with some intrinsic ranking (for example, levels of service satisfaction from highly dissatisfied to highly satisfied). Examples of ordinal variables include attitude scores representing degree of satisfaction or confidence and preference rating scores.

Scale. Data measured on an interval or ratio scale, where the data values indicate both the order of values and the distance between values. For example, a salary of $72,195 is higher than a salary of $52,398, and the distance between the two values is $19,797. Also referred to as quantitative or continuous data.

Categorical variables define categories (row, columns, and layers) in the table, and the default summary statistic is the count (number of cases in each category). For example, a default table of a categorical gender variable would simply display the number of males and the number of females.

Scale variables are typically summarized within categories of categorical variables, and the default summary statistic is the mean. For example, a default table of income within gender categories would display the mean income for males and the mean income for females.

You can also summarize scale variables by themselves, without using a categorical variable to define groups. This is primarily useful for stacking summaries of multiple scale variables. See the topic Stacking Variables for more information.

Multiple Response Sets

Custom Tables also supports a special kind of "variable" called a multiple response set. Multiple response sets are not really variables in the normal sense. You cannot see them in the Data Editor, and other procedures do not recognize them. Multiple response sets use multiple variables to record responses to questions where the respondent can give more than one answer. Multiple response sets are treated like categorical variables, and most of the things you can do with categorical variables, you can also do with multiple response sets. See the topic Multiple Response Sets for more information.

An icon next to each variable in the variable list identifies the variable type.

Table 1. Measurement level icons
  Numeric String Date Time
Scale (Continuous)
Scale icon
Scale Date icon
Scale Time icon
Ordinal icon
Ordinal String icon
Ordinal Date icon
Ordinal Time icon
Nominal icon
Nominal String icon
Nominal Date icon
Nominal Time icon
Table 2. Multiple response set icons
Multiple response set type Icon
Multiple response set, multiple categories
Multiple response set, multiple categories icon
Multiple response set, multiple dichotomies
Multiple response set, multiple dichotomies icon

You can change the measurement level of a variable in the table builder by right-clicking the variable in the variable list and selecting Categorical or Scale from the pop-up menu. You can permanently change a variable's measurement level in the Variable View of the Data Editor. Variables defined as nominal or ordinal are treated as categorical by Custom Tables. See the topic Variable measurement level for more information.

Categories. When you select a categorical variable in the variable list, the defined categories for the variable are displayed in the Categories list. These categories will also be displayed on the canvas pane when you use the variable in a table. If the variable has no defined categories, the Categories list and the canvas pane will display two placeholder categories: Category 1 and Category 2.

The defined categories displayed in the table builder are based on value labels, descriptive labels assigned to different data values (for example, numeric values of 0 and 1, with value labels of male and female). You can define value labels in Variable View of the Data Editor or with Define Variable Properties on the Data menu in the Data Editor window.

Canvas pane. You build a table by dragging and dropping variables onto the rows and columns of the canvas pane. The canvas pane displays a preview of the table that will be created. The canvas pane does not show actual data values in the cells, but it should provide a fairly accurate view of the layout of the final table. For categorical variables, the actual table may contain more categories than the preview if the data file contains unique values for which no value labels have been defined.

  • Normal view displays all of the rows and columns that will be included in the table, including rows and/or columns for summary statistics and categories of categorical variables.
  • Compact view shows only the variables that will be in the table, without a preview of the rows and columns that the table will contain.

Basic Rules and Limitations for Building a Table

  • For categorical variables, summary statistics are based on the innermost variable in the statistics source dimension.
  • The default statistics source dimension (row or column) for categorical variables is based on the order in which you drag and drop variables into the canvas pane. For example, if you drag a variable to the rows tray first, the row dimension is the default statistics source dimension.
  • Scale variables can be summarized only within categories of the innermost variable in either the row or column dimension. (You can position the scale variable at any level of the table, but it is summarized at the innermost level.)
  • Scale variables cannot be summarized within other scale variables. You can stack summaries of multiple scale variables or summarize scale variables within categories of categorical variables. You cannot nest one scale variable within another or put one scale variable in the row dimension and another scale variable in the column dimension.
  • If any variable in the active dataset contains more than 12,000 defined value labels, you cannot use the table builder to create tables. See the topic Defining variable sets for more information. If you don't need to include variables that exceed this limitation in your tables, you can define and apply variable sets that exclude those variables. If you need to include any variables with more than 12,000 defined values labels, you can use CTABLES command syntax to generate the tables.

The Table tab in the table builder provides a great deal of control over the layout and contents of your tables, including: