13 Best Free Meta-Analysis Software To Use

There is a range of software and programs available to use when performing meta-analyses. Frustratingly, not all of them are free to use and some have more features than others. Below I have created a comprehensive list of freely available software, or add-ons, to use when performing meta-analyses.

Note that the list is in no particular order and I have only included those which are completely free (those offering free trials are not included). As well as the ability to create a forest plot, some of these programs have standout features which I have included. Finally, of course, you will find that all important download link.

I hope this list is useful! Be sure to leave your thoughts below and recommend any further programs that I may have missed.

Example forest plot using RevMan. Taken from Bradburn, et al. 2018.

Review Manager (RevMan) is a personal favourite of mine and one of the most common programs for those who are new to the world of meta-analysis. It was developed by the Cochrane Collaboration as a stand-alone program to conduct systematic reviews and meta-analysis. Creating a forest plot is relatively easy, with a guided wizard to help you through the process.

Stand out features:

  • Great for beginners
  • Plenty of support available
  • Risk of bias assessment tool
Download
Example forest plot created using Metafor in R. Image taken from Viechtbauer, 2010.

Metafor is one of the many R packages available to conduct meta-analyses and contains the most comprehensive analysis tools. Their website contains some very useful analysis and plot examples with the corresponding code. However, since the package requires the use of the R environment, it may be difficult for those who have never used R before to become accustomed to the package so quickly. If so – have a look at JASP or Jamovi below.

Program paper reference
Viechtbauer, W. (2010). Conducting Meta-Analyses in R with the metafor Package. Journal of Statistical Software, 36(3). http://doi.org/10.18637/jss.v036.i03

Stand out features:

  • Perform meta-regression
  • Excellent support and learning material
  • Capable of creating numerous figures, which can be further customised
Download
Preview of the JASP meta-analysis module. Image adapted from the JASP blog.

JASP is a free, open-source program used to perform statistical analysis tests by using R packages. It is a user-friendly way of conducting stats without having to deal with the R code itself. The meta-analysis function of JASP is based on the aforementioned Metafor R package. To conduct a meta-analysis in JASP, be sure to check our their guide. However, at the moment the effect sizes have to be entered into the software beforehand – JASP cannot calculate this for you. But, it is on their to-do list for future releases.

Stand out features:

  • Very easy to use – no exposure to R code!
  • Can do meta-regression
Download
Preview of Jamovi interface in the meta-analysis module. Image is taken from YouTube.

Jamovi is very similar to JASP – in fact, it shares some of the original creators. Like JASP, Jamovi uses the Metafor package in R but does all of the hard work for you. A nice aspect Jamovi is the R syntax mode, enabling the ability to see the R code which is used. Which is useful for those who understand the R language.

Stand out features:

  • Very easy to use – no exposure to R code (if you don’t want to)!
  • Can do meta-regression
Download
Example of a forest plot produced using Meta-Essentials. Image is taken from Suurmond, et al. 2017.

Meta-Essentials is unique in that is it simply a Microsoft Excel workbook containing example data. Simply replace the example data with your own and the formulas within the workbook will perform a meta-analysis for you. Once more, it has a detailed guide to help you through the process.

Program paper reference
Suurmond, R., van Rhee, H., & Hak, T. (2017). Introduction, comparison, and validation of Meta‐Essentials: A free and simple tool for meta‐analysis. Research Synthesis Methods, 8(4), 537–553. http://doi.org/10.1002/jrsm.1260

Stand out features:

  • No need to install additional programs
  • Example data included and excellent manual
Download
Example of a forest plot created using MetaXL. Image is taken from Hieu, et al. 2012.

MetaXL is an Excel add-on which adds the ability to perform meta-analytical statistics within Excel. It was originally developed by Dr Barendregt, who has since passed away, but the software is still maintained.

Stand out features:

  • Works within Excel
  • Ability to produce doi plots – an alternative to a funnel plot when investigating publication bias
Download
An overview of the MetaEasy interface in Microsoft Excel. Image adapted from the MetaEasy website.

MetaEasy is anther Excel add-on which provides the ability to perform a simple meta-analysis. Unfortunately, the add-on is quite restricted in terms of functionality. For example, there are no means of creating a funnel plot to investigate publication bias.

Program paper reference
Kontopantelis, E. And Reeves, D. (2009). MetaEasy: A Meta-Analysis Add-In for Microsoft Excel. Journal of Statistical Software, 30(7). http://doi.org/10.18637/jss.v030.i07

Stand out features:

  • Works within Excel
Download
An example forest plot created using OpenMEE. Image adapted from Wallace, et al. 2016.

OpenMEE is a standalone meta-analysis program, particularly focussed on the ecology and evolutionary field, which runs through R. It looks and feels very similar to OpenMeta[Analyst] (see below).

Program paper reference
Wallace, B.C., Lajeunesse, M.J., Dietz, G., Dahabreh, I.J., Trikalinos, T.A., Schmid, C.H. and Gurevitch, J. (2017) OpenMEE: Intuitive, open-source software for meta analysis in ecology and evolutionary biology. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 8, 941-947. doi/10.1111/2041-210X.12708/full

Stand out features:

  • Can do meta-regression
Download
OpenMeta[Analyst] for meta-analysis. Image taken from the OpenMeta[Analyst] website.
OpenMeta[Analyst] is an independent program that can be downloaded. However, it hasn’t been maintained for some years (the last update was in 2014). It also has a dedicated help section on their website to guide you through the software.

Stand out features:

  • Perform meta-regression
  • Simple interface
Download

MetaStat is a DOS-based meta-analysis program that has been around since the 90’s. Although it may not be the prettiest of interfaces, it does the job.

Stand out features:

  • Effect size calculator
Download

Meta-Analysis is another DOS-based program which was developed by Ralf Schwarzer. It is quite old and hasn’t been updated in over two decades – but still, it is free!

Download
An example of a forest plot created using MetaGenyo.

MetaGenyo is an online interface used to perform meta-analyses on genetic association studies. The interface is very easy to use. It only takes a few minutes to go from entering study data to forest plots. Certainly worth a look if genetic association studies are the focus of the analysis.

Program paper reference
Martorell-Marugan, J., Toro-Dominguez, D., Alarcon-Riquelme, M. E., & Carmona-Saez, P. (2017). MetaGenyo: a web tool for meta-analysis of genetic association studies. BMC Bioinformatics, 18, 563. http://doi.org/10.1186/s12859-017-1990-4

Stand out features:

  • Is an online interface – no need to install anything
  • Simple and user-friendly
  • Can handle separate genetic models (dominant, recessive)
Download

13Other R packages

There are loads of packages in R associated with meta-analysis. For those interested in using R, it may be worth looking at the Review of Meta-Analysis Packages in R by Polanin and colleagues, who have done an excellent job in collating all of these packages.

 

Let me know in the comment section below what meta-analysis software you are using. If I have missed any, I will be sure to update this list.

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