Introduction to Using Minitab

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A Quick Introduction to Minitab Statistical Software

minitab logoThis introduction to Minitab is intended to provide you with enough information to get you started using the basic functionality of Minitab. Of course, you will learn more about Minitab and its capabilities as you proceed through the course you are taking.

Obtaining a Copy of Minitab

The Minitab software is available through a number of vendors as well as at  You can get a license for 6 or 12 months.

Penn State WebApps logoMinitab can also be accessed through Penn State's WebApps service although there are limitations to how it may be used in the web-based environment.  Students are STRONGLY advised to have access to a local copy installed.  Please contact your instructor to see if using Minitab remotely will present problems for what you need to learn.

Three Types of Windows

When you open Minitab, you will typically see something that looks like this:

Minitab Windows

The top window — called the "Session" window — is where Minitab will output the results of your requested statistical analyses. The bottom window — called the "Worksheet" window — is where you will copy and paste the data. The third type of window — called a "Graphics" window — only appears when you've asked Minitab to plot something. Here is one example of a graphics window:

minitab scatterplot

The active window is the window whose top bar appears as a darker blue. To make an inactive window active, simply click your mouse anywhere in the window. Convince yourself that you understand this behavior by clicking back and forth between the Session window and the Worksheet window — you should see the top bars of the two windows change back and forth from a lighter to a darker blue.

Copying and Pasting Data into a Minitab Worksheet

All of the data that you analyze in this course will be posted on the course web site. You will just have to copy and paste the data into a worksheet. Let's try it out on the idealwt.txt data set. Once the data are in your browser's window, the easiest way of copying the data is to Select all and then right-click and Copy. To paste the data into the Minitab worksheet, put your cursor in the first (unnumbered) row of the first column, and then click on Edit >> Paste cells (or click on the standard clipboard icon used to denote pasting).

Penn State WebApps logo(Please Note: Users accessing Minitab via Penn State's RemoteApps or WebApps will not be able to use this copy and paste technique.  Instead all files must be uploaded into your PASS space and open these files in Minitab from this location in PASS.  See WebFiles for more information.) 

Your worksheet should look like this:

Minitab worksheet

Note that the first (unnumbered) row is reserved for variable names. This is one thing about which you will have to be careful. If you accidentally place your cursor instead in the row numbered 1, Minitab will then treat the data as if they are text:

Minitab worksheet

Note that Minitab has added a "-T" to the column names C1 and C2 to denote that the content of the two columns is text. Another indication that the content of the columns is treated as text is that the textual content is left-justified whereas numbers are always right-justified. Minitab cannot summarize data, such as calculating means and standard deviations, when they are treated as text. If you accidentally make this mistake, just open a new worksheet (Select File >> New... >> Minitab Worksheet >> OK) and paste the data properly.

Analyzing Data

Once you've pasted or uploaded data into a Minitab worksheet, you no doubt will want to analyze it. The commands to do so all appear in one of the Minitab menus:

Minitab commands

More often than not, we will use the "Stat" and "Graph" menus in this course. The menus are generally self-explanatory, but we will provide you with Minitab help throughout the course.

To create a scatter plot of the data, just select Graph >> Histogram... >> Simple. A standard Minitab dialog box will appear. In general, the dialog box means that you have to provide Minitab with more information before it can complete your request. For the scatter plot dialog box:

Minitab dialog box

you need to tell Minitab that "actual" is variable of interest. To do this you can either 1) click on the variable name ("actual") once and then click on "Select" or just 2) double-click on the variable name. The name should appear in the box labeled "Graph variables." Then, once you select "OK," a new graph window containing the scatter plot should appear:

Minitab histogram

To do have Minitab display basic descriptive statistics, select Stat >> Basic Statistics >> Display Descriptive Statistics .... The following Minitab dialog box will appear:

Minitab dialog box

You need to tell Minitab that in this case "actual" is the variable of interest. You can either 1) click on the variable name ("actual") once and then click on "Select" or just 2) double-click on the variable name. The name should appear in the box labeled "Variables." Do the same thing to tell Minitab which variable you would like to group the statistics by. In this case we will click in the box labeled "By variables" and then either 1) click on the variable name ("sex") once and then click on "Select" or just 2) double-click on the variable name.Once you select "OK," the standard descriptive statistics output should appear in the "Session" window:

Descriptive Statistics for actual weight

All Minitab graph and analysis commands function similarly to the examples illustrated above. Throughout the course, help will be provided for the various Minitab commands we will encounter.

In the next lesson page we will use a Viewlet to walk you through another example of how Minitab works.

Copying Minitab Output and Graphs into Word

To copy output appearing in the Session window, select the desired output using your mouse. To copy a graph window, make the graph window active by clicking anywhere in it, and the select Edit >> Copy Graph.

To paste either output or a graph, select Edit >> Paste (or use the standard clipboard icon used to denote pasting).

Penn State WebApps logoRemoteApps and WebApps users should select the Send Graph to Microsoft Word option and a Word Document with this graph in it will be created and can be saved in your PASS space.

Saving Your Work

While you can save your work in bits and pieces — the graphs separately from the worksheet —more often than not, it is best to save your entire Minitab "project." A Minitab project includes all of the work created in one session, including multiple worksheets, the Session window, and multiple graph windows. Basically, if you save your work as a Minitab project, you can resume your work right where you left off.

To save your work as a Minitab project, select File >> Save Project As..., and provide an appropriate filename in the dialog box. Minitab projects are given a ".MPJ" extension. For the purpose of this course, you may consider creating one project for each lesson, and thereby naming the projects lesson1.MPJ, lesson2.MPJ, and so on.

Penn State WebApps logoRemoteApps and WebApps users's work will be saved in the user's PASS space.  It can be download to the user's local computer from there.

Printing Your Work

Of course, you can print your Minitab work as well. To do so, activate the window that you want to print by clicking your mouse anywhere on the window. Then, select File >> Print Worksheet or File >> Print Session Window or File >> Print Graph depending on what it is that you want to print.

Minitab Help

There are various ways that you can get Minitab help.

  1. If you would like more tutorial help, you can try the Tutorials option provided under the Help pull-down menu in the Minitab Application shown below:
  2. Minitab Tutorials

  3. You can look for help in the Minitab Help on-line manual also listed in the pull-down menu pictured above.
  4. You can use the various sets of Minitab instructions provided to you throughout the course. You will probably find links to these from the Homework Problems and Lab Activities in each lesson.
  5. Finally, you can post a question to a discussion in Canvas. Other students or your instructor can provide ideas and feedback.

Support From Minitab

Minitab offers several resources that are helpful for you. Minitab 17 Support - Getting Started is a concise guide designed to quickly get you familiar with using Minitab Statistical Software.

In addition to Minitab 17 - Getting Started, the following tools are available:

Help: A complete Help file is incorporated in Minitab, which provides you with instructions, examples with interpretations, overviews and detailed explanations, troubleshooting tips, formulas, references, and a glossary. Open Help by choosing Help >> Help or by clicking on the Help button on every dialog box in the software.

StatGuide: The StatGuide provides statistical guidance after you run a procedure in Minitab. Open the StatGuide by right-clicking on your output in the Session window, then choosing StatGuide.

Tutorials: Step-by-step tutorials help new users learn how to use Minitab. You can open these by choosing Help > Tutorials while using Minitab.

Minitab News: Every month Minitab also publishes a newsletter delivered to your email box that provides you with customer stories, highlights of new product capabilities and tips on how to get the most out of using our products. To sign up for Minitab News, simply create an account under My Account. Or feel free to look at some of the past issues.

The Minitab website is full of powerful articles and information including why Minitab is used by over 4,000 colleges and universities worldwide.  You will find:

Minitab also offers free web events – both live and recorded.

Last, but not least, remember that Minitab provides free access to their support team, staffed by professionals with expertise in the software, statistics, quality improvement, and computer systems. Visit the support web site or call +1-814-231-2682 to speak with Minitab's technical support specialists.