In attempting to download some data from the UK Data Service, I ended up having to use a file created by the statistics package SPSS. I don't have SPSS, nor have I ever used it, and these .sav files don't seem to open up sensibly in a text editor.
Fortunately, R has come to my rescue! What follows are the steps I took in Debian linux to get a comma separated values (CSV) file out, which can be opened by Excel, text editors and lots of other programs.
To install R, you do:
sudo apt-get install r-base
Then you open up R by typing "R". Once you're in, install and start the "foreign" package for handling SPSS files:
Then you can read in the data set as a data frame:
dataset1 = read.spss('/path/to/file.sav', to.data.frame=TRUE)
Then all that remains is to output the CSV file. I saved mine in /home/beth: