I’m a big fan of R, and it will be my primary tool for a long time, but I wanted to add another tool to my toolbox and decided on Stata. Stata 13 was just released (June 2013), and I have to say that it’s a very nice package.
Why would anyone pick Stata over R? R has many advantages, but here are some reasons that you might pick Stata:
- You’re in a field or organization where Stata is widely used.
- You want a GUI. (Stata is excellent because it has a command line and a GUI, and it will show you the command line equivalents of your GUI choices so that you can learn the commands gradually or you can store and reuse the commands to automate tasks. The command line is considerably faster than any GUI could be.)
- You want to give commands, with the possibility of some automation, but aren’t really comfortable in a full-blown programming environment.
- You’ve been using Excel, and want a tool that reads Excel files and holds its data in a row/column structure, like a spreadsheet. (Like any real statistics program, it’s different from Excel, but it makes the leap as small as possible.)
- You want tons of documentation, and commercial support.
- You are using certain techniques where Stata is more advanced than R. (I believe I’ve read that Stata has some panel data capabilities that go beyond what R and its current packages can do, but can’t find the quote right now.)
Stata is much more consistent and seamless than SAS, SPSS, et al, and it’s reasonably priced with good options — especially if you’re a student. (Currently, they’re on a release schedule where they have a new version every other summer, with minor (free) updates in between. If you get a perpetual license, you can use that version and its updates forever.)
If you want something Stata-like that’s free, you can check out the gretl project, but Stata is superior to gretl in my opinion. Especially if you’re a student, I really think the perpetual license for $200 (Stata 13/IC) is a great deal: you can use the version you purchase throughout school and beyond. (You’ll be stuck with that version when the next version comes out, but if you buy now (summer 2013), that’s two years away.)