Introduction to MINITAB in the Saint Mary's Microcomputer Lab

0.General information

Minitab is a general-use statistics packeage particularly aimed at students, though it is in commercial use by several companies (including some Fortune 500 companies) as well. At Saint Mary's we are currently running version 10.5 on the MacIntosh platform and version 13.1 for Windows on the Windows machines. The use of the program is much the same in both - differences will be noted where they occur.
This page contains background information on the types of windows that appear, the types of files used and saved by Minitab, and the use of Minitab commands.

The Windows

The on-screen environment puts most of the work in two windows (with additional windows for graphs):
a Session window which displays the results of calculations and other commands (in version 10.5, it also shows the program commands that were executed) and
a Worksheet window (made up of columns divided into individual cells) which displays the data on which the calculations are based. To carry out your work, you select commands from a set of menus and enter the details in windows which are opened by the commands. The results (except for the small number of data manipulation commands we will use) appear in the Session window. You can have more than one Worksheet open at a time - but it's not a good idea, for this course.
Certain graphing commands also create Graph windows separate from the session window.

Any of these can be printed when it is the active window, using the File>Print ... command [which appears as Print Session or Print Worksheet or Print Graph depending on what window is the active window]. The active window is the one which has a filled-in border and active scroll bars (only one window is active at a time); to make a window active, select it in the Window menu or click on it. You need to know the types because they are saved with different file types.

Types of Files

Minitab saves and recognizes three types of files, Minitab worksheets (marked with .MTW after the filename) - which correspond to the Data window, session files (marked with .LIS after the filename) - which correspond to the Session window, and graphs (marked with ;MGF after the filename)- which correspond to the Graph windows.

Minitab worksheets (.MTW files) are data files saved in Minitab's special format. You save your data in a worksheet with the File>Save Worksheet As.. command [Note this is not the same as Save Project As..] (for details see III. Saving and retrieveing data). You can open a previously saved worksheet with the File>Open Worksheet command [Not the same as Open Project] (for details see III. Saving and retrieveing data). You can print a Worksheet, but it is usually not desirable, since you usually want only one or two variables (columns) printed. To print a worksheet, you must have the worksheet open and either click on the Data window (to make it the active window) and use the File>Print Worksheet command to print the window . To print a copy of one or more columns with your work, use the File>Display Data command (discussed in V. Description ) to put the desired columns in your Session window. For details, see VI. Saving and printing your work .

Session files (.LIS files) are records of the results of Minitab work sessions. They contain the results of the commands, but do not contain the data (unless it has been displayed in the session window) or graphs (except Character Graphs). You save your work from the current session as a Session file using the File>Save Session Window As.. command while the Session window is active. You cannot open and read a previously saved Session file from Minitab, though you can print it. (for details see VI. Saving and printing your work ). You can print the current Session window with the File>Print Session Window command (session window must be the active window). If you save a session file, you can later open it with a word processor (Word, WordPerfect, etc.) to edit and print the results (see VI. Saving and printing your work )

Graph files (.MGF files) are graphic files (pictures) containing graphs that appear in individual windows (not the Session window). They are saved separately from the Session file because they are not plain text [they contain code for recreating the graph]. You save a graph using the File>Save Graph command while the graph widow is the active window. Previously saved Graph files can be re-opened from within Minitab, using the File>Open Graph command. You can print graphs with the File>Print Graph command. Graphs can be copied and pasted into word processor documents using the Edit>Copy Graph command that appears when a graph window is active. More details in VI. Saving and printing your work .

Using Minitab Commands

When you select a command from a menu, this will open a window with various fields to be filled in and options to be selected. You will always have to say what column or columns (what variables) the command is to work on. To select the columns to use, place the blinking cursor in the "Variables" pane of the window, highlight (using the mouse) the columns you want in the list of variables at the left of the window, and click "Select" (below the panel). If you get the wrong columns, or too many columns, you can highlight the unwanted columns in the "Variables" pane and use the Delete/Backspace key to remove them. Some commands either allow/require you to select options by clicking on buttons or check boxes with the mouse. If you have not made enough selections for the command to execute, you will get an error message and the opportunity to make a correction.

The option for typing commands directly into the Session window is disabled in the Minitab version running on the on the Windows machines (v. 13.1), but can be made active. The menus generally provide the most convenient interface for all commands.


Last update 3/14/05

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