Using the Custom Dialog Builder in IBM SPSS Statistics to Create Custom UIs that Produce Specialized Output
The Custom Dialog Builder (a.k.a. “CDB”) feature in IBM SPSS Statistics has long existed as a means to produce custom user interfaces that generate syntax that drives user-defined backend extensions. This is a valuable capability that enables educators, administrators, and others to tailor the software with their own procedures: See the online Extensions topic for more information.
In this posting I will demonstrate two less well-known capabilities of the CDB that also work in Compatibility Mode: The ability to customize existing procedures to make the creation UI simpler and to consolidate output from more than one procedure. As the creator and implementer of the original CDB back in the early 2000s, it is my pleasure to return to this tool in this blog posting to revisit some of the cool features there.
When using the Custom Dialog Builder, custom dialog UIs can be created that are independent of custom backend extensions. This enables us to take existing procedures and present them in new ways for specific purposes. For example professors may wish to tailor their students’ dialog UIs to adhere more closely to lessons; senior analysts want to roll out standard analyses for their teams to use; etc.
What we are Producing
For this example we will create a custom dialog UI that consolidates features from the Descriptives and the Frequencies procedures. In it we will simplify the user interface needed to generate both DESCRIPTIVES and FREQUENCIES syntax, and we will also hide and rename selected output items to produce a simple and targeted output document. Full disclosure: I am not a data scientist and thus cannot speak to the statistical value of this specific example as it is being described here for demonstrative purposes only. The techniques used however, apply generally to any procedure or output and should thus prove useful for a variety of user scenarios.
We will start with the broadband_1.sav sample data file that comes with the Statistics application. That dataset contains a number of columns representing specific segments of the market at particular month/year points. In this example we wish to leverage the feature in Descriptives in which the variable output table ordered by descending means. That capability is not present in the Frequencies procedure, which itself supports a Histogram with a normal curve that is not supported in Descriptives. In this posting we will be combining those two features using a single creation dialog and presenting output in a simple and unified display.
Step 1: Launch the CDB Authoring Tool
So let’s begin. First we will open the Custom Dialog Builder in Compatibility mode in order to able to work with Statistics versions prior to version 24. This is accomplished by selecting the “Extensions -> Utilities -> Custom Dialog Builder (Compatibility mode)” main menu item: