go to Trig home page   Guide to GAUSS Programming - a basic introduction



This text is intended to be supplementary to the official GAUSS manuals and my own Introduction to GAUSS for Economists (forthcoming). Although the early parts of the guide contain similar materials to the manuals (and some other online courses), my aim here is to expound some principles of programming rather than explaining all GAUSS' myriad features.

The reasoning behind this is simple. GAUSS is a complex language with a large number of specialised functions for dealing with matrices. There are also a lot of add-on packages which expand GAUSS's capabilities further. Attempting to cover all of these in detail in a single work would be a mammoth undertaking. Moreover, it would be of limited value: it would have to largely replicate the Reference Manuals, and it would not serve to deepen understanding of GAUSS.

The rationale for this work is that a good grounding in programming methods makes a detailed course on advanced features unnecessary. A competent user of GAUSS will find little difficulty in interpreting the information in the manual on eigenvector calculations, for example; by contrast, a user taught only how to use these functions may well be defeated by the task of incorporating these functions in a useful program.

Hence, although this guide goes through the most fundamental parts of GAUSS in detail, more advanced features get a relatively sketchy treatment. On the other hand, an increasing amount of time is spent detailing approaches to programming. The emphasis in this coursebook is on acquiring familiarity with the fundamentals of GAUSS and programming competence, rather than becoming a GAUSS guru.

The first six sections of this guide (up to "Procedures") contain the core of GAUSS and should be worked through. The last few ("Code refinements" onwards) are directed towards making code more efficient, more readable, more easily maintained and more reliable. They can be safely omitted but are recommended: a structured approach to coding is a transferable skill...

The functions referred to are introduced in connection with this knowledge-based approach. New GAUSS users should be aware that there is a large body of routines available which are outwith the scope of this guide.

My Introduction to GAUSS for Economists contains more specific examples, exercise sets, short video films illustrating aspects of the interface, and a few worked examples of solving economic and econometric problems. The book aims to improve your technical competency in GAUSS through practice, and hence is complementary to this guide which is rather more theoretical.

Please note that this guide assumes some familiarity with elementary concepts in matrix algebra; that is, readers should know the difference between scalars, matrices, and vectors, and understand the basic mathematical operations.

The web pages are designed for screen sizes of 800x600 and above, and popular browsers that are relatively standards-compliant; specifically, Internet Explorer 5.5, Netscape Communicator 6.1 and Opera 6.0, and more recent versions. In some older browsers (particularly Netscape Navigator 4.7, which is common among Unix/Linux users) the text remains readable but most of the font and colour information is lost. If you do find something unreadable please let me know.

I hope you find this work useful. Please email comments to felixritchie@trigconsulting.co.uk, particularly if you find any errors or glaring omissions.


This manual was originally prepared in February 1994 for the seminars on Introductory GAUSS Programming held in Stirling, Bristol and Glasgow, organised under the auspices of the CTI Centre for Computing in Economics. A minor revision followed in 1995.

In April 1997 it was revised again and placed on the web as Word/WordPerfect documents with PDF versions of the chapters. I also placed some code and programs on the web. Those of you who visited the site at that point will no doubt have been astonished by my design skills. In my defence, I will say that at this time I was writing one of the earliest academic websites in the country; the only information about writing web pages was to be found on the CERN site itself. For those wanting some light relief feel free to check out the
web archive.

The gauss website http://scottie.stir.ac.uk/~fri01/gauss/ then stayed unchanged for the next five years, as I moved between various jobs, eventually leaving academic economics for the commercial sector. However, following my move to Trig Consulting in 2001, my involvement in econometric issues has increased again. Hence I decided to review the guide and republish it, particularly as in 2002 I started teaching GAUSS again.

The guide has now been redesigned entirely for the web, making it rather more user-friendly. Unfortunately, I do not intend to produce a single document available for downloads. I have also been working on a more practical physical manual, so the exercise sets will not reappear here.

The pages are still undergoing checking for GAUSS 4.0 and 5.0. Please check the news page for progress. You will also find there details of ongoing changes. Although the physical manual only gets changes at long intervals, I intend to maintain and update the on-line manual much more regularly.

Apart from the layout, those who have downloaded the guide over the last five years will find the content little changed. This is because GAUSS itself has changed relatively little, concentrating on its core strength of providing an interface to a remarkably efficient matrix manipulation engine. Most development work has gone into the window interfaces, add-ons, and the development of additional tools such as the Enterprise Edition and the GAUSS Engine.


The training seminars were initiated under the auspices of the Centre for Computing in Economics at Bristol University and the ESRC.

I would like to thank Elizabeth Roberts of the Department of Economics at the University of Stirling who since 1990 has been a stalwart of econometric research there. She provided advice and comments on the original version of the manual and assisted in the Stirling classes.

I would also like to thank Prof. David Bell, also of the Stirling Economics Department, who was my co-lecturer on the courses and devised the original set of exercises.

In the UK GAUSS training courses are organised by
Timberlake Consultants, along with the distribution of GAUSS. We are investigating the development of on-line training. To be kept up to date on this, please contact me.

Finally, GAUSS is a trademark of Aptech Corporation.

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