Background: Our objective was to systematically assess the differences in features, results, and usability of currently available meta-analysis programs.
Methods: Systematic review of software. We did an extensive search on the internet (Google, Yahoo, Altavista, and MSN) for specialized meta-analysis software. We included six programs in our review: Comprehensive Meta-analysis (CMA), MetAnalysis, MetaWin, MIX, RevMan, and WEasyMA. Two investigators compared the features of the software and their results. Thirty independent researchers evaluated the programs on their usability while analyzing one data set.
Results: The programs differed substantially in features, ease-of-use, and price. Although most results from the programs were identical, we did find some minor numerical inconsistencies. CMA and MIX scored highest on usability and these programs also have the most complete set of analytical features.
Conclusion: In consideration of differences in numerical results, we believe the user community would benefit from openly available and systematically updated information about the procedures and results of each program's validation. The most suitable program for a meta-analysis will depend on the user's needs and preferences and this report provides an overview that should be helpful in making a substantiated choice.