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Kimmo Vehkalahti
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Survo is a general computing environment for data analysis: managing and processing of data, using methods of statistical analysis, visualizing data by statistical graphics as well as working with many types of computations and calculations. In addition to managing numerical data, it includes efficient tools for writing and editing textual information. Whatever you do, Survo provides you with flexible ways of planning, managing, organizing, completing and documenting your jobs.

Getting started with Survo requires some practising. This short guide helps you to get started. After that, you will easily learn more from other sources of information, such as the web version of the Survo book.

As the basic ideas and principles are similar in all versions of Survo, we will most often use the general name "Survo". However, the name of this guide refers to "Survo R", the open-source version of Survo, which is freely available as an R package. Indeed, as this guide is meant to be more focused on Survo R,  we will use that name at least when referring to Survo R specific topics.

Survo editor

All the functions of Survo are tied together by a special text editor. Although there are a few menus available in Survo R, the actual interface of Survo is based on using that text editor. The idea is that operations or commands, their specifications and comments are written very freely in the edit field that is a wide and open space in the editor.

As soon as an operation is activated, it will typically write its results back in the same edit field. This means that the way of working is highly interactive all the time, and any output might serve as the input for the next operation. What is essential and important here is that the whole working process will be more or less automatically documented and repeatable. It is the key to an extremely efficient way of working, called editorial approach.

We will look at the Survo editor and the way of working with it later.

Some bits of history

Survo has been the lifework of professor Seppo Mustonen since the early 1960s. During the decades, numerous versions of Survo (like SURVO 66, SURVO 76 and SURVO 84C) have existed on different computer platforms. The current versions are SURVO MM (the standalone Windows version) and SURVO R (the open-source version build as a package for R). Survo R was originally suggested in 2009 by Reijo Sund. From 2009 to 2013 the project was called "Muste". For historical details, there is a catalog of publications related to Survo on the Survo website, linking to a number of documents available in PDF form.

There are many original ideas and innovations inside Survo. The most important innovation has been the editorial approach, that has its origin in Mustonen's need of printing musical notes (!) in 1979. This invention changed the interface of Survo completely in the beginning of the 1980s. Since then, all versions of Survo have been based on the editorial approach. A GIF demo on the Survo website tells more about this exciting bit of history.

(KV 2013-06-19)