tips & techniques

12月 202017

Running SAS programs in batchWhile SAS program development is usually done in an interactive SAS environment (SAS Enterprise Guide, SAS Display Manager, SAS Studio, etc.), when it comes to running SAS programs in a production or operations environment, it is routinely done in batch mode.

Why run SAS programs in batch mode?

First and foremost, this is done for automation, as the batch process does not require human participation at the time of run. It can be scheduled to run (using Operating System scheduler or other scheduling software) while we sleep, at any time of the day or at any time interval between two consecutive runs.

Running SAS programs in batch mode allows streamlining SAS processing by eliminating the possibility of human error, submitting multiple SAS jobs (programs) all at once or in a sequence securing programs and/or data dependencies.

SAS batch processing also takes care of self-documenting, as it automatically generates and stores SAS logs and outputs.

Imagine the following scenario. Every night, a SAS batch process “wakes up” at 3 a.m. and runs an ETL process on a SAS Application server that extracts multiple tables from a database, transforms, combines, and loads them into a SAS datamart; then moves some data tables across the network and loads them into SAS LASR server, so when you are back to work in the morning your SAS Visual Analytics application has all its data refreshed and ready to roll. Of course, the process schedule can be custom-tailored to your particular needs; your batch jobs may run every 15 minutes, once a week, every first Friday of the month – you name it.

What is a batch script file?

To submit a single SAS program in batch mode manually, you could submit an OS command that looks something like the following:


sas /sas/code/proj1/ -log /sas/code/proj1/job1.log


"C:\Program Files\SASHome\SASFoundation\9.4\Sas.exe" -SYSIN c:\proj1\ -NOSPLASH -ICON -LOG c:\proj1\job1.log

However, submitting an OS command manually has too many drawbacks: it’s too much typing, it only submits one SAS program at a time, and most importantly – it is manual, which means it is prone to human error.

Usually, these OS commands are packaged into so called batch files (shell scripts in Unix) that allow for sequential, parallel, as well as conditional execution of multiple OS line commands. They can be run either manually, or automatically – on schedule, or called by other batch scripts.

In a Windows/DOS Operating System, these script files are called batch files and have .bat filename extensions. In Unix-like operating systems, such as Linux, these script files are called shell scripts and have .sh filename extensions.

Since Windows batch files are similar, but slightly different from the Unix (and its open source cousin Linux) shell scripts, in the below examples we are going to use Unix/Linux shell scripts only, in order to avoid any confusion. And we are going to use terms Unix and Linux interchangeably.

Here is the typical content of a Linux shell script file to run a single SAS program:

dtstamp=$(date +%Y.%m.%d_%H.%M.%S)
/sas/SASHome/SASFoundation/9.4/sas $pgmname -log $logname

Note, that the shell script syntax allows for some basic programming features like current datetime function, formatting, and variables. It also provides some conditional processing similar to “if-then-else” logic. For detailed information on the shell scripting language you may refer to the following BASH shell script tutorial or any other source of many dialects or flavors of the shell scripting (C Shell, Korn Shell, etc.)

Let’s save the above shell script as the following file:

How to submit a SAS program via Unix script

In order to run this shell script we would submit the following Linux command:

Or, if we navigate to the directory first:
cd /sas/code/project1

then we can submit an abbreviated Linux command
When run, this shell script not only executes a SAS program (, but for every run it also creates and saves a uniquely named SAS Log file. You may create the SAS log file in the same directory where the SAS code is stored, as specified in the script shell above, or specify another directory of your choice.

For example, it creates the following SAS log file:

The file name uniqueness is achieved by adding a date/time stamp suffix between the SAS program name and .log file name extension, in this particular case indicating that this SAS log file was created on December 6, 2017, at 09:15:20 (hours:minutes:seconds).

Unix script for submitting multiple SAS programs

Unix scripts may contain not only OS commands, but also other Unix script calls. You can mix-and-match OS commands and other script calls.

When scripts are created for each individual SAS program that you intend to run in a batch, you can easily combine them into a program flow by creating a flow script containing those single program scripts. For example, let’s create a script file /sas/code/project1/ with the following contents:


When submitted as


it will sequentially execute three scripts -,, and, each of which will execute the corresponding SAS program -,, and, and produce three SAS logs - program1.log, program2.log, and program3.log.

Unix script file permissions

In order to be executable, UNIX script files must have certain permissions. If you create the script file and want to execute it yourself only, the file permissions can be as follows:

-rwxr-----, or 740 in octal representation.

This means that you (the Owner of the script file) have Read (r), Write (w) and Execute (x) permission as indicated by the green highlighting; Group owning the script file has only Read (r) permission as indicated by yellow highlighting;  Others have no permissions to the script file at all as indicated by red highlighting.

If you want to give yourself (Owner) and Group execution permissions then your script file permissions can be as:

-rwxr-x---, or 750 in octal representation.

In this case, your group has Read (r) and Execute (x) permissions as highlighted in yellow.

In Unix, file permissions are assigned using the chmod Unix command.

Note, that in both examples above we do not give Others any permissions at all. Remember that file permissions are a security feature, and you should assign them at the minimum level necessary.

Conditional execution of scripts and SAS programs

Here is an example of a Unix script file that allows running multiple SAS programs and OS commands at different times.


#1 extract data from a database

>#2 copy data to the Visual Analytics autoload directory
scp -B userid@sasAPPservername:/sas/data/*.sas7bdat userid@sasVAservername:/sas/config/.../AutoLoad

#3 run weekly, every Monday
dow=$(date +%w)
if [ $dow -eq 1 ]

#4 run monthly, first Friday of every month
dom=$(date +%d)
if [ $dow -eq 5 -a $dom -le 7 ]

In this script, the following logical operators are used: -eq (equal), -le (less or equal), -a (logical and).

As you can see, the script logic takes care of branching to execute different SAS programs when certain timing conditions are met. With such an approach, you would need to schedule only this single script to run at a specified time/interval, say daily at 3 a.m.

In this case, the script will “wake up” every morning at 3 a.m. and execute its component scripts either unconditionally, or conditionally.

If one of the included programs needs to run at a different, lesser frequency (e.g. every Monday, or monthly on first Friday of every month) the script logic will trigger those executions at the appropriate times.

In the above script example steps #1 and #2 will execute every time (unconditionally) the script runs (daily). Step #1 runs ETL program to extract data from a database, step #2 copies the extracted data across the network from SAS Application server to the SAS LASR Analytic server’s drop zone from where they are automatically loaded (autoloaded) into the LASR.

Step #3 will run conditionally every Monday ( $dow -eq 1). Step #4 will run conditionally every first Friday of a month ($dow -eq 5 -a $dom -le 7).

For more information on how to format date for use in shell scripts please refer to this post.

Do you run your SAS programs in batch?

Please share your batch experiences in the comment section below. I am sure the rest of us will really appreciate it!

Running SAS programs in batch under Unix/Linux was published on SAS Users.

11月 072017

SAS Tips and TricksThere is certainly no shortage of terrific tips and tricks in various SAS blogs from some of our most distinguished SAS in-house experts. But, there's another group of equally qualified experts who don't often get to share their expertise on this channel: our customers. So, I went on a quest to get the inside scoop from various SAS users, polling Friends of SAS members to get their feedback on their favorite SAS tips.

We asked a few of these Friends of SAS members who are regular SAS users to share with us their top SAS tips and tricks for improving performance or something they wished they had known earlier in their SAS career. Based on that, we got a wide range of tips and tricks from a number of different SAS users – ranging from novice to expert and across various industries and product users. Check out some of them below:


Functions are either built into SAS itself or you can write your own customized code that act in the same manner, all of which help in analyzing and processing data. There are a variety of function categories that include mathematical, date and time, character, truncation, and miscellaneous. Using functions makes us more efficient, and we don’t have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to figure something out. With this being said, some of our regular SAS users have a thing or two to say about dealing with functions that may help you out:

“Before you program any complex code, look for a SAS function that will do the task for you.”
     - John Ladds, Past President, OASUS

“Insert a line break in a concatenated string, such as: manylines = catx('0a'x,a,b,c);”
     - Aroop Ghosh, Principal Consultant, Webtalk Communications

“Use the lag function to create time related variables, for example, in time punch data”
     - Yolanda, Analyst, TD

“A good trick that I have recently learnt [sic]which can make the code less wordier is using the functions IFN and IFC as an alternative to IF THEN ELSE statements in conditional processing.”
     - Sunny Giroti, Master of Business Analytics Candidate, Schulich School of Business

“IFN can be used in place of IF THEN ELSE to shorten code”
     - Neil Menezes, Senior Business Anlyst, CTFS

“Ron Cody’s link from SAS.COM. It has many SAS function examples.”
     - John Lam, CIBC


You know what they say: time is money. So for a SAS programmer, finding shortcuts and ways to work more efficiently and faster are important to get a job done quicker. Here are a few ways SAS users think can make your life easy while working with SAS:

“Use missover to ensure no records are skipped when reading in a file”
     - Scott Bellefeuille, IT Solutions Developer (Merchant Services), TD Bank

“Pressing keys 'Ctrl'+'/' to comment out a line of code.”
     - Bunce Leung, Execution Manager, RBC

“Variable Lists - being able to refer to variables using double dashes to indicate all variables between first and last in a dataset is super useful for many procs. The later versions of being able to use the prefix and colon to indicate all datasets with a prefix is a great shortcut as well.”
     - Fareeza Khurshed, Manager (Statistical Services), Alberta Treasury Board and Finance

“I like to use PERL in SAS for finding stuff in character variables.”
     - Peter Timusk, Statistics Officer, Statistics Canada

“Title "SAS can give you an Inheritance". Have an ODBC driver on your local PC but not on a remote server? No problem. Use rsubmit with the inheritlib option. Your remote server will now inherit the ODBC driver and be able to access a database you thought you could only reach with your PC.”
     - Horst Wolter, Manager, TD Bank

“If you want to speed the processing of your program. Run your join statements on the "work" library. It is must faster.”
     - Estela Tavares, Economist, Statistics Canada

“When dealing with probability, can logistic be used in all cases? Trick Q - as A is N0. What about the times, probability is 0 and 1. What if the data is heavily distributed on 1s and 0s.”
     - Mukul Pandey, Student Business Analytics, Schulich School of Business

“Proc tabulate can perform descriptive statistics better than proc freq and proc means.”
     - Taha Azizi, Senior Business Insight Analyst, TD

Your turn

Were any of these tips and tricks useful? Do you use them already? What are some of your top SAS tips and tricks? Please be sure to share in the comments below!

Looking for more tips and tricks? Check out this video featuring six Canadian SAS programmers, including a few Friends of SAS members, who share some of their favourite SAS programming tips.

About Friends of SAS

If you’re not familiar with Friends of SAS, it is an exclusive online community available only to our Canadian SAS customers and partners to recognize and show our appreciation for their affinity to SAS. Members complete activities called 'challenges' and earn points that can be redeemed for rewards. There are opportunities to build powerful connections, gain privileged access to SAS resources and events, and boost your learning and development of SAS all in a fun environment.

Interested in learning more about Friends of SAS? Feel free to email myself at or with any questions or more details.

SAS tips and tricks: Users-tell-all edition was published on SAS Users.

11月 022017

The purpose of this blog post is to demonstrate a SAS coding technique that allows for calculations with multiple variables across a SAS dataset, whether or not their values belong to the same or different observations.

calculations across observations of a SAS data table

What do we want?

As illustrated in the picture on the right, we want to be able to hop, or jump, back and forth, up and down across observations of a data table in order to implement calculations not just on different variables, but with their values from different observations of a data table.

In essence, we want to access SAS dataset variable values similar to accessing elements of a matrix (aij), where rows represent dataset observations, and columns represent dataset variables.

Combine and Conquer

In the spirit of my earlier post Combine and Conquer with SAS, this technique combines the functionality of the LAG function, which allows us to retrieve the variable value of a previous observation from a queue, with an imaginary, non-existent in SAS, LEAD function that reads a subsequent observation in a data set while processing the current observation during the same iteration of the DATA step.

LAG function

LAG<n> function in SAS is not your usual, ordinary function. While it provides a mechanism of retrieving previous observations in a data table, it does not work “on demand” to arbitrarily read a variable value from a previous observation n steps back. If you want to use it conditionally in some observations of a data step, you still need to call it in every iteration of that data step. That is because it retrieves values from a queue that is built sequentially for each invocation of the LAG<n> function. In essence, in order to use the LAG function even just once in a data step, you need to call it every time in each data step iteration until that single use.

Moreover, if you need to use each of the LAG1, LAG2, . . . LAGn functions just once, in order to build these queues, you have to call each of them in every data step iteration even if you are going to use them in some subsequent iterations.

LEAD function

The LEAD function is implemented in Oracle SQL and it returns data from the next or subsequent row of a data table. It allows you to query more than one row in a table at a time without having to join the table to itself.

There is no such function in SAS. However, the POINT= option of the SET statement in a SAS data step allows retrieving any observation by its number from a data set using random (direct) access to read a SAS data set. This will allow us to simulate a LEAD function in SAS.

HOP function

But why do we need two separate functions like LAG and LEAD in order to retrieve non-current observations. In essence, these two functions do the same thing, just in opposite directions. Why can’t we get by with just one function that does both backwards and forwards “hopping?”

Let’s combine and conquer.

Ideally, we would like to construct a new single function - let’s call it HOP(x, j) - that combines the best qualities of both LAG and LEAD functions. The two arguments of the HOP function would be as follows:

x – SAS variable name (numeric or character) the value of we are retrieving;

j – hop distance (numeric) – an offset from the current observation; negative values being lagging (hopping back), positive values being leading (hopping forward), and a zero-value meaning staying within the current observation.

The sign of the second argument defines whether we lag (minus) or lead (plus). The absolute value of this second argument defines how far from the current observation we hop.

Alternatively, we could have the first argument as a column number, and the second argument as a row/observation number, if we wanted this function to deal with the data table more like with a matrix. But relatively speaking, the method doesn’t really matter as long as we can unambiguously identify a data element or a cell. To stay within the data step paradigm, we will stick with the variable name and offset from the current observation (_n_) as arguments.

Let’s say we have a data table SAMPLE, where for each event FAIL_FLAG=1 we want to calculate DELTA as the difference between DATE_OUT, one observation after the event, and DATE_IN, two observations before the event:

Calculations across observations of a SAS data table

That is, we want to calculate DELTA in the observation where FAIL_FLAG = 1 as

26MAR2017 18JAN2017 = 67 (as shown in light-blue highlighting in the above figure).

With the HOP() function, that calculation in the data step would look like this:

data SAMPLE;
   set SAMPLE;
   if FAIL_FLAG then DELTA = hop(DATE_OUT,1) - hop(DATE_IN,-2);

It would be reasonable to suggest that the hop() function should return a missing value when the second argument produces an observation number outside of the dataset boundary, that is when

_n_ + j < 0 or _n_ + j > num, where _n_ is the current observation number of the data step iteration; num is the number of observations in the dataset; j is the offset argument value.

Do you see anything wrong with this solution? I don’t. Except that the HOP function exists only in my imagination. Hopefully, it will be implemented soon if enough SAS users ask for it. But until then, we can use its surrogate in the form of a %HOP macro.

%HOP macro

The HOP macro grabs the value of a specified variable in an offset observation relative to the current observation and assigns it to another variable. It is used within a SAS data step, but it cannot be used in an expression; each invocation of the HOP macro can only grab one value of a variable across observations and assign it to another variable within the current observation.

If you need to build an expression to do calculations with several variables from various observations, you would need to first retrieve all those values by invoking the %hop macro as many times as the number of the values involved in the expression.

Here is the syntax of the %HOP macro, which has four required parameters:


d – input data table name;

x – source variable name;

y – target variable name;

j – integer offset relative to the current observation. As before, a negative value means a previous observation, a positive value means a subsequent observation, and zero means the current observation.

Using this %HOP macro we can rewrite our code for calculating DELTA as follows:

 data SAMPLE (drop=TEMP1 TEMP2);
   set SAMPLE;
   if FAIL_FLAG then
      %hop(SAMPLE,DATE_OUT,TEMP1, 1)
      %hop(SAMPLE,DATE_IN, TEMP2,-2)
      DELTA = TEMP1 - TEMP2;

Note that we should not have temporary variables TEMP1 and TEMP2 listed in a RETAIN statement, as this could mess up our calculations if the j-offset throws an observation number out of the dataset boundary.

Also, the input data table name (d parameter value) is the one that is specified in the SET statement, which may or may not be the same as the name specified in the DATA statement.

In case you are wondering where you can download the %HOP macro from, here it is in its entirety:

%macro hop(d,x,y,j);
   _p_ = _n_ + &j;
   if (1 le _p_ le _o_) then set &d(keep=&x rename=(&x=&y)) point=_p_ nobs=_o_;
%mend hop;

Of course, it is “free of charge” and “as is” for your unlimited use.

Your turn

Please provide your feedback and share possible use cases for the HOP function/macro in the Comment section below. This is your chance for your voice to be heard!

Hopping for the best - calculations across SAS dataset observations was published on SAS Users.

9月 152017

Whether you are a SAS code creator, a blogger, a technical writer, an editor-in-chief, an executive, a secretary, a developer or programmer in any programming language or simply someone who uses computer or hand-held device for writing, you need to read this blog post – your life is about to change forever!

Did you know that you can use a web browser as a SAS code editor? I’m not talking about browser-based SAS programming interfaces like SAS University Edition or SAS Studio; these are full-blown applications. I’m talking about converting a regular web browser into a “notepad” where you can type, display, and save your SAS code. Or non-SAS code. Or practically anything. And you don’t even have to be connected to the Internet to use this browser functionality.

Converting a web browser into a notepad

This trick works with most modern browsers:

  • Chrome
  • Firefox
  • Opera
  • Safari

It will not work on Internet Explorer 11.

Try this: open your web browser (I am using Firefox in the examples below) or a new tab in your browser and type the following in the URL field (case insensitive):

data:text/html,<html contentEditable>

Hit Enter. Then click anywhere in the browser body.

Your browser has just turned into a Notepad. You can now type anything in it, including SAS code:

Using web browser as SAS code editor

In order to save your SAS code in Firefox, click on File ⇒ Save Page As… and save it as type Text Files (*.txt;*.text):

Saving SAS code in a browser as text file

This functionality is possible thanks to HTML5’s contentEditable attribute and the browsers’ ability to handle data URL.

I don’t know about you, but I find this browser-notepad feature very cool and handy. Not only does it allow you to type SAS code in your browser, but it also gives you the capability to take notes and copy & paste excerpts or code snippets from other web pages on non-web applications. If you use WebEx or Skype or Lync to present one of the SAS web browser-based products such as SAS Visual Analytics, SAS Visual Statistics, etc., you can share your browser to your audience and make one of the tabs a typeable area. Then during your presentation you may switch between browser tabs depending on whether you are presenting SAS VA/VS or your own on-the-fly typing.

Bookmark notepad in a browser

If you like this Notepad browser feature, you can easily bookmark it by placing it on the Bookmarks toolbar. In this case, I suggest typing the following line in the URL filed:

data:text/html,<html contentEditable><title>Notepad</title>

and then dragging the image in front of this URL string and dropping it to the Bookmarks toolbar to create a button. Then, every time you need a Notepad it is at your fingertips; you just need to click the button:

Bookmark SAS code editor in a browser

Styling your new SAS editor in a browser

By default, your browser editor does not look pretty. However, you can apply CSS styles to it to make it look better. You can control font (style, size, color), margins, paddings, background and other CSS style attributes. For example, try the following URL:

data:text/html, <textarea style="width:100%; height:100%; padding:20px; font-size:2em; font-family: SAS Monospace; color:darkblue; border:none; border-left: 10px solid lightblue; margin-left: 30px;" autofocus/>

Your web browser editor becomes much more presentable:

Customize SAS code editor in a browser

The autofocus attribute places cursor immediately in the typing area of the browser notepad, without having to click on the browser body first.

I want to hear from you!

Do you like this editable browser feature? Would you use it to enhance your presentations? Do you envision yourself writing SAS code in a browser? An article, a blog post? What other usages can you envision using such a web browser transformation? Do you have any ideas to expand this notepad browser functionality beyond presenting, typing, taking notes, copying/pasting, and saving your SAS code? Can you apply SAS color syntax highlighting in a browser? Or a background image? How about submitting your SAS code from a browser?

Using a web browser as a SAS code editor was published on SAS Users.

4月 012017

Solar farm on SAS campus The full text of Fermat's statement, written in Latin, reads "Cubum autem in duos cubos, aut quadrato-quadratum in duos quadrato-quadratos, et generaliter nullam in infinitum ultra quadratum potestatem in duos eiusdem nominis fas est dividere cuius rei demonstrationem mirabilem sane detexi. Hanc marginis exiguitas non caperet."

The English translation is: "It is impossible for a cube to be the sum of two cubes, a fourth power to be the sum of two fourth powers, or in general for any number that is a power greater than the second to be the sum of two like powers. I have discovered a truly marvelous demonstration of this proposition that this margin is too narrow to contain."

Here at SAS, we don’t take challenges lightly. After a short but intensive brainstorming, we came up with a creative and powerful SAS code that effectively proves this long-standing theorem. And it is so simple and short that not only can it be written on the margins of this blog, it can be tweeted!

Drum roll, please!

Here is the SAS code:

data _null_; 
	do n=3 by 1; 
		do a=1 by 1; 
			do b=1 by 1; 
				do c=1 by 1; 
					e = a**n + b**n = c**n;
					if e then stop; 

Or written compactly, without unnecessary spaces:

data _null_;do n=3 by 1;do a=1 by 1;do b=1 by 1;do c=1 by 1;e=a**n+b**n=c**n;if e then stop;end;end;end;end;run;

which is exactly 112 character long – well below the Twitter 140-character threshold.

Don’t be fooled by the utter simplicity and seeming unfeasibility of this code.  For the naysayers, let me clarify that we run this code in a distributed multithreaded environment where each do-loop runs as a separate thread.

We also use some creative coding techniques:

1.     Do-loop with just two options, count= and by=, but without the to= option (e.g. do c=1 by 1;). It is a valid syntax in SAS and serves the purpose of creating infinite loops when they are necessary (like in this case). You can easily test it by running the following SAS code snippet:

data _null_;
	start = datetime();
	do i=1 by 1;
		if intck('sec',start,datetime()) ge 20 then leave;

The if-statement here is added solely for the purpose of specifying a wait time (e.g. 20) sufficient for persuading you in the loop’s infiniteness. Skeptics may increase this number to their comfort level or even remove (or comment out) the if-statement and enjoy the unconstrained eternity.

2.     Expression with two “=” signs in it (e.g. e = a**n + b**n = c**n;) Again, this is a perfectly valid expression in SAS and serves the purpose of assigning a variable the value of 0 or 1 resulting from a logical comparison operation. This expression can be rewritten as

e = a**n + b**n eq c**n;

or even more explicitly as

e = (a**n + b**n eq c**n);

As long as the code runs, the theorem is considered proven. If it stops, then the theorem is false.

You can try running this code on your hardware, at your own risk, of course.

We have a dedicated 128-processor UNIX server powered by an on-campus solar farm that has been autonomously running the above code for 40 years now, and there was not a single instance when it stopped running. Except pausing for the scheduled maintenance and equipment replacements.

During the course of this historic experience, we have accumulated an unprecedented amount of big data (all in-memory), converted it into event stream processing, and become a leader in data mining and business analytics.

This leads us to the following scientific conclusion: whether you are a pure mathematician or an empiricist, you can rest assured that Fermat's Last Theorem has been proven with a probability asymptotic to 1 beyond a reasonable doubt.

Have a happy 91-st day of the year 2017!


SAS code to prove Fermat's Last Theorem was published on SAS Users.

3月 292017

There is a well-known Russian saying that goes “Если нельзя, но очень хочется, то можно.” The English translation of it can span anywhere from “If you can’t, but want it badly, then you can” to “If you shouldn’t, but want it badly, then you should” to “If you may not, but want it badly, then you may.” Depending on your situation, any possible combination of “may,” “can,” or “should” may apply. You can even replace “want” with “need” to get a slightly different flavor.

There are known means of modifying variable attributes with PROC DATASETS, but they are limited to variable name, format, informat, and label. But what if we want/need to modify a variable length, or change a variable type? And I am not talking about creating a new variable with a different length or converting a numeric variable value into a character value of another variable. We want to change variable type and/or variable length in place, without adding new variables. If you believe it can’t be done, read the first paragraph again.

Imagine that we have two data tables that we need to concatenate into one table. However, there is one common variable that is of different type in each table – in the first table it is numeric, but in the second table it is character.

Sample data

Let’s create some sample data to emulate our situation by running the following SAS code:

libname sasdl 'C:PROJECTS_BLOG_SASchanging_variable_type_and_length_in_sas_datasets';
/* create study2016 data table */
data sasdl.study2016;
	length subjid dob 8 state $2 start_date end_date 8;
	infile datalines truncover;
	input subjid dob : mmddyy10. state start_date : mmddyy10. end_date : mmddyy10.;
	format dob start_date end_date mmddyy10.;
123456 08/15/1960 MD 01/02/2016
234567 11/13/1970 AL 05/12/2016 12/30/2016
/* create study2017 data table */
data sasdl.study2017;
	length subjid $6 dob 4 state $2 start_date end_date 4;
	infile datalines truncover;
	input subjid dob : mmddyy10. state start_date : mmddyy10. end_date : mmddyy10.;
	format dob start_date end_date mmddyy10.;
987654 03/15/1980 VA 02/13/2017
876543 11/13/1970 NC 01/11/2017 01/30/2017
765432 12/15/1990 NY 03/14/2017

The produced data tables will look as follows:

Table STUDY2016:
SAS data table 1

Table STUDY2017:
SAS data table 2

If we look at the tables’ variable properties, we will see that the subjid variable is of different type in these two data tables: it is of type Numeric (length of 8) in STUDY2016 and of type Character (length of 6) in STUDY2017:

SAS variables properties

Also, notice that variables dob, start_date, and end_date, although of the same Numeric type, have different length attributes - 8 in the STUDY2016 table, and 4 in the STUDY2017 table.

Data table concatenating problem

If we try to concatenate these two tables using PROC APPEND, SAS will generate an ERROR:

proc append base=sasdl.study2016 data=sasdl.study2017;
NOTE: Appending SASDL.STUDY2017 to SASDL.STUDY2016.
WARNING: Variable subjid not appended because of type mismatch.
WARNING: Variable dob has different lengths on BASE and DATA
         files (BASE 8 DATA 4).
WARNING: Variable start_date has different lengths on BASE and
         DATA files (BASE 8 DATA 4).
WARNING: Variable end_date has different lengths on BASE and
         DATA files (BASE 8 DATA 4).
ERROR: No appending done because of anomalies listed above.
       Use FORCE option to append these files.
NOTE: 0 observations added.

Even if we do use the FORCE option as the ERROR message suggests, the result will be disappointing:

proc append base=sasdl.study2016 data=sasdl.study2017 force;
NOTE: Appending SASDL.STUDY2017 to SASDL.STUDY2016.
WARNING: Variable subjid not appended because of type mismatch.
WARNING: Variable dob has different lengths on BASE and DATA
         files (BASE 8 DATA 4).
WARNING: Variable start_date has different lengths on BASE and
         DATA files (BASE 8 DATA 4).
WARNING: Variable end_date has different lengths on BASE and
         DATA files (BASE 8 DATA 4).
NOTE: FORCE is specified, so dropping/truncating will occur.

The resulting data table will have missing values for the appended subjid:

Missing values in SAS table after PROC APPEND


In order to concatenate these tables, we must make the mismatching variable subjid of the same type in both data tables, either Character or Numeric. Making them both of Character type seems more robust, since it would allow for the values to contain both digit and non-digit characters. But if you know for sure that the value contains only digits, making them both Numeric works just as well.

Let’s say we decide to make them of Character type. Also note that our numeric variables representing dates (dob, start_date and end_date) are of different lengths: they are length 8 in STUDY2016 and length 4 in STUDY2017. Let’s make them the same length as well. From the standpoint of numerical accuracy in SAS for the dates, a length of 4 seems to be quite adequate to represent them accurately.

Let’s apply all our modifications to the STUDY 2016 dataset. Even though we are going to re-build the dataset in order to modify variable type and length, we are going to preserve the variable order so it feels like we just modified those variable attributes.

Here is how it can be done.

/* create macrovariable varlist containing a list of variable names */
proc sql noprint;
	select name into :varlist separated by ' '
	from sashelp.vcolumn
	where upcase(libname) eq 'SASDL' and upcase(memname) eq 'STUDY2016';
/* modify variable type and length */
data sasdl.study2016 (drop=v1-v4);
	retain &varlist; *<-- preserve variable order ;
	length subjid $6 dob start_date end_date 4; *<-- define new types/lengths ;
	format dob start_date end_date mmddyy10.;   *<-- recreate formats ;
	set sasdl.study2016 (rename=(subjid=v1 dob=v2 start_date=v3 end_date=v4));
	subjid = put(v1,6.); *<-- redefine subjid variable ;
	dob = v2;            *<-- redefine dob variable ;
	start_date = v3;     *<-- redefine start_date variable ;
	end_date = v4;       *<-- redefine end_date variable ;
/* make sure new concatenated file (study_all) does not exist */
proc datasets library=sasdl nolist;
	delete study_all;
/* append both (study2016 and study2017) to study_all */
proc append base=sasdl.study_all data=sasdl.study2016;
proc append base=sasdl.study_all data=sasdl.study2017;

In this code, first, using proc sql and SAS view sashelp.vcolumn, we create a macro variable varlist to hold the list of all the variable names in our table, sasdl.study2016.

Then in the data step, we use a retain statement to preserve the variable order. When we read the sasdl.study2016 dataset using the set statement, we rename our variables-to-be-modified to some temporary names (e.g. v1 – v4) which we eventually drop in the data statement.

Then we re-assign the values of those temporary variables to the original variable names, thereby essentially creating new variables with new type and length. Since these new variables are named exactly as the old ones, the effect is as if their type and length attributes where modified, while in fact the whole table was rebuilt and replaced. Problem solved.

When we concatenate the data tables we create a new table sasdl.study_all. Before concatenating our two tables using proc append twice, we use proc datasets to delete that new table first. Even if the table does not exist, proc datasets will at least attempt to delete it. With all the seeming redundancy of this step, you will definitely appreciate it when you try running this code more than one time.

Changing variable type and variable length in SAS datasets was published on SAS Users.

2月 102017

Small matters matter. Imagine saving (or spending wisely) just 1 second of your time every hour. One measly second! During your lifespan you would save or spend wisely (1 sec-an-hour * 24 hours-a-day * 365 days-a-year x 100 years) / (3600 seconds-an-hour * 24 hours-a-day) = 10 days, a whole two week vacation!

While truncation vs rounding may seem to be insignificant in a given instance, the cumulative effect of either could be truly enormous, whether it’s truncation vs rounding of decimal numbers or of the SAS time values presented below.

From my prior post Truncating decimal numbers in SAS without rounding, we know that SAS formats such as w.d, DOLLARw.d, and COMMAw.d do not truncate decimal numbers, but rather round them.

However, SAS time value formats are somewhat different. Let’s take a look.

Suppose we have a SAS time value of '09:35:57't. As a reminder, a SAS time value is a value representing the number of seconds since midnight of the current day. SAS time values are between 0 and 86400.

TIMEw.d Format

Let’s apply the TIMEw.d format to our time value and see what it does.

If you run the following SAS code:

data _null_;
	t = '09:35:57't;
	put t= time5.;
	put t= time2.;

you will get in the SAS log:


which means that this format does truncate both seconds and minutes. Conversely, if rounding were taking place we would have gotten:


HHMMw.d Format

Let’s run the same SAS code with HHMMw.d format:

data _null_;
	t = '09:35:57't;
	put t= hhmm5.;
	put t= hhmm2.;

SAS log will show:


What does that mean? It means that HHMMw.d format rounds seconds (in case of truncating I would expect to get t=9:35), but truncates minutes (in case of rounding I would expect to get t=10, as 35 minutes are closer to 10 than to 9). A bit inconsistent, at least for our purposes.

Truncating SAS time values

This little research above shows that out of the two formats, TIMEw.d and HHMMw.d, it is perfectly fine to use the TIMEw.d format for the purpose of SAS time value truncation, for both minutes and seconds.

Regardless of the format used, you can also truncate your time value computationally, before applying a format, by subtracting from that value a remainder of division of that value by 60 (for seconds truncation) or by 3600 (for minutes truncation). For example, the following code:

data _null_;
	t = '09:35:57't;
	t_m = t - mod(t,60);
	t_h = t - mod(t,3600);
	put t= hhmm5.;
	put t_m= hhmm5.;
	put t_h= hhmm5.;

produces the following SAS log:


Rounding SAS time values

Now that we’ve learned both the computational method and the TIMEw.d format method of truncation, how do we go about rounding? As long as the format behavior is consistent we can use its truncating functionality to convert it into the rounding functionality. In order to do that we just need to increase the original time value by 60 (seconds) for seconds rounding, and by 3600 (seconds) for minutes rounding. Truncation of that new value is equivalent to rounding of the original value.

Let’s run the following SAS code:

data _null_;
	t = '09:35:57't;
	t_m = t + 60;
	t_h = t + 3600;
	put t_m= time5.;
	put t_h= time2.;

SAS log will show:


which means that our original time value '09:35:57't was rounded in both cases – seconds rounding and minutes rounding.

Now you know how to truncate and how to round SAS time values. And don’t forget about your lifetime 2-week vacation opportunity by saving a second every hour; or make it 2 seconds per hour and enjoy the full month off.

tags: SAS Professional Services, SAS Programmers, tips & techniques

Truncating vs rounding SAS time values was published on SAS Users.

12月 202016

Joining tables with PROC FORMAT

The title of this post borrows from Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 comedy “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.” It stars the great Peter Sellers as the titular character as well as George C. Scott and Slim Pickens. The black and white film is strange and brilliant just like Kubrick was. Similarly, as I was experiencing the issue I outline below and was told of this solution, I thought two things. The first was “what a strange but brilliant solution” and the second one was “I’ll try anything as long as it works.”   Thus, a title was born. But enough about that. Why are we here?


You want to add a couple of columns of information to your already large dataset, but each time you try to join the tables you run out of memory!  For example, you want to append latitude and longitude values from Table B to an existing list of customer phone numbers in Table A.

You’ve tried this and got nowhere fast:

proc sort data = demo.tablea;
by npa nxx;
proc sort data = demo.tableb;
by npa nxx;
data demo.aunionb;
merge demo.tablea (in=a) demo.tableb (in=b);
by npa nxx;
if a;

And then you tried this and also got nowhere (albeit a little slower):

proc sql;
   	create table demo.aunionb as 
   	select *,
	from demo.tablea a
left join demo.tableb b on (a.npa = b.npa) and (a.nxx = b.nxx);

Solution - Joining tables with PROC FORMAT


Here’s how:

First, take Table B and create character equivalents of the fields required in your join (assuming they aren’t characters already). In this example, NPA and NXX are the two fields that you are joining on. They will be your key once you concatenate them.  Next, create character equivalents of the fields that you want appended.

data work.tableb (keep = npa_nxx--nxx_c); 
set demo.tableb; 
npa_c = compress(put(npa, best10.));
nxx_c = compress(put(nxx, best10.));
npa_nxx = catx('_',npa_c, nxx_c);
lat_c = compress(put(latitude, best14.3)); 
long_c = compress(put(longitude, best14.3)); 

Next, make sure that you have only unique values of your key. Use PROC SORT with OPT=noduprecs turned on.

Now, create a table that will be used as the input into PROC FORMAT. In this example, you are creating a table that will contain the formats for the latitude column.

proc sort data = work.tableb noduprecs;
by npa_nxx;
data demo.tableb_lat_fmt(keep=fmtname type start label); 
retain fmtname 'lat_f' type 'C'; 
set work.tableb; 
if npa_nxx = '._.' then start = 'Other  ';
else start = npa_nxx; 
label = lat_c; 
proc sort data = demo.tableb_fmt;
by start;

This step creates a table that includes the format name (lat_f), the format type (C), the key field (start) and its corresponding latitude value (label).  Sort this table by the ‘start’ column and then repeat this step for every column you wish to append, with each column getting its own unique format and table.

Now run PROC FORMAT using the CNTLIN option pointing to the tables that you just created in order to create your format.

proc format cntlin=demo.tableb_lat_fmt; 
proc format cntlin=demo.tableb_long_fmt; 

Now all you have to do is run your data step to create the resultant dataset with the appended values.

data demo.aunionb (drop = npa_nxx); 
set demo.tablea; 
npa_nxx = catx('_',compress(put(npa,best10.)),compress(put(nxx, best10.)));
latitude = input(put(npa_nxx, $lat_f.), BEST.); 
longitude = input(put(npa_nxx, $long_f.), BEST.);

This step creates 3 columns: npa_nxx, latitude, and longitude. Npa_nxx is the key built from the NPA  and NXX values. Latitude and longitude are then populated with the formatted value of npa_nxx, which in this case is the character equivalent of the original latitude or longitude. It also formats the value back into a numeric field.

The result is a clever way to add columns to a dataset, much like a VLOOKUP function works in Microsoft Excel, without the hassle of running out of memory space.


  1. The author realizes there are other, more boring ways of tackling this issue like indexing and using WHERE statements, but where’s the fun in that?
  2. This solution may not be right for you. See your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:  memory loss, headache, frustration, Cartesian rage, cranial-keyboard embedment or memory loss.
tags: Global Technology Practice, Joining tables, PROC FORMAT, SAS Programmers, tips & techniques

Dr. Strangeformat or: How I Learned to Stop Joining Tables and Love the PROC was published on SAS Users.

12月 082015

Communities"Where do you go to get help with SAS?" It's a question I've asked users more times than I can remember. Some will tell me they take a SAS class or call SAS Technical Support, but the most common answer is "colleagues."  There's no doubt fellow users are a great resource, but if you're only relying on colleagues at your company, you're missing out.

The SAS Support Communities apply the collective knowledge of more than 65,000 (and growing) SAS peers to help you solve coding problems, assist with data analysis, address deployment questions and so much more. It's a great resource that I'd encourage you to check out, if you're not one of the 65,000 members (and growing) already participating!

To whet your appetite, I thought I'd give you a glimpse of some recently accepted solutions from our various communities. "Accepted as Solution" posts are marked with a green check. This indicates that the original poster thought it successfully answered their question. Every month we get about 160,000 views of solutions so our users are certainly finding them useful.

Take a look at some of the answered posts below and then poke around at the thousands of other solutions offered by our talented SAS user base. (Our Recent Solutions page is updated in real time with the latest answered posts.) Then, if you're up for the challenge, pick a few unanswered posts and write a response. It's a great way to give back to the SAS community by sharing your knowledge with less experienced users.


SAS Programming

Data Management


Business Intelligence




tags: sas communities, tips & techniques

Problem Solved: Highlights from your SAS Communities was published on SAS Users.

3月 152013

This happens to me often. I read an abstract and then cannot wait to attend the presentation. However, about five minutes into presentation, I realize it's going to be Death by PowerPoint. If you have experienced this situation, it can feel like a prison!

Instead of learning a cool new technique, I find myself making To Do lists on the conference brochure or working on my Angry Birds score. Let’s face it, some of the topics we discuss lean toward the dry side. However, the SAS Global Forum is full of colleagues who think these dry topics are interesting! So how do you deliver a presentation that keeps interest?

Create Mystery
We all like puzzles or little mysteries to solve. You may think – how can I make a mystery about SAS code? You type the code and run it - nothing that requires Sherlock Holmes. Remember not all mysteries require a dead body; some are more subtle but still have the same impact.

So, let’s figure out how to add mystery to your topic. If your paper is about writing efficient code, how about starting the presentation with a picture of an impatient person? You could introduce your subject matter that way instead of just cutting-and-pasting the abstract in the slide. If your topic is about troubleshooting techniques, you could have a log with the error and begin your presentation. This is one example of how using a picture introduces mystery. The audience wants to know more – why is the person impatient? What’s wrong with the log? Ah, elementary my dear Holmes!

A presentation is about demonstrating expertise on the subject matter. Think about what happens when the audience sees the slide on the left. First, they start reading the text. They can read faster than you can speak so the audience already knows what you are going to say!

You might be thinking – how is that problem for me? Well, at some point someone will think, “I need to bounce. I don’t need this joker to read his paper to me.” My point is this - your audience wants to hear your explanation and learn more about what the paper did not discuss. Keep your talk at the summary level and create some mystery.

Communicate Key Concepts
Garr Reynolds, author of Presentation Zen, has excellent ideas on organizing your information so it is effective and interesting. One tip is “Start with the End in Mind” – what is the purpose of your presentation? What do you want the audience to walk away knowing? Don’t say “transfer knowledge”-you can accomplish this goal by publishing your paper.

Ask yourself - what is unique about my topic/method or what three things do I most want to communicate from my paper? You can build your presentation around those three points using as many slides as you need. Possibly, you want to consider a demonstration of the method.

Use the 7x7 Rule to Start
A common suggestion for slide preparation is the “7 x 7” rule - limit each slide to seven lines of seven words each. However, that is still a lot of text. Consider the following slides, which follow the rule, but the one on the left uses the rule I like – limit yourself to six words and limit the bullet points.

Again – it is about you connecting with your audience. [More tips from Garr]

Other Resources
Here are books that discuss preparing topics for presentation:

  • How To Deliver A TED Talk: Secrets Of The World's Most Inspiring Presentations by Jeremey Donovan
  • slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations by Nancy Duarte
  • Presentation Zen Design: Simple Design Principles and Techniques to Enhance Your Presentations by Garr Reynolds

Here are some other resources from around the Web:


tags: papers & presentations, SAS Global Forum, tips & techniques