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Past is a comprehensive data analysis tool

18 May 2016, Mike Williams

PastRead its official description, and Past doesn’t sound like it has much general appeal.

“Paleontological Statistics Software” covering “univariate and multivariate statistics, ecological analysis, time series and spatial analysis, morphometrics and stratigraphy”. Really? Gulp.

But even though it’s aimed squarely at data analysis experts, Past has some features which could be useful for just about anyone.

Past is entirely free, no adware, no registration or other hassles, it doesn’t even need installing– simply unzip and go.

A simple spreadsheet interface provides an easy way to enter data. You can also copy information from the clipboard, or import a few file types (XLS, plain text, more).

Enter data in a spreadsheet, and graph them in a few clicksThe Summary Statistics report gives some basic details that even the math-phobic might find handy: min, max, sum, mean, standard error, standard deviation and so on.

The Plot menu provides access to a host of chart types, including XY, Histogram, Bar, Pie, Stacked, Percentiles, Bubble, 3D scatter, Matrix and Surface.

These are all very straightforward to use. Select any data in your spreadsheet, choose the chart type and it’s immediately displayed.

Most charts also have a good range of customisation options, and they can be saved as JPG, GIF, PNG, even SVG for the best possible quality.

You get a few accessible extras, including a Google Maps feature (Windows only) which plots columns of latitude and longitude with the coordinates presented as points, filled polygons or multi-segment lines.

And of course, if you’re a maths whiz and really need Past’s high-end stats tools, there’s a lot to explore.

We don’t have the space to begin to cover them here, but as an example, even the Univariate menu crams in all these options: Summary, One-Sample tests, Two-Sample tests, F and t tests, Two-sample paired tests, ANOVA etc, One-way ANCOVA, Correlation, Intraclass correlation, Normality tests, Contingency table, Mantel-Cochran-Haenszel test, Risk/ odds, Single proportion test, Multiple proportion CIs, Survival analysis, Combine errors.

Past is a freeware application for Windows 7 and later and OS X.

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