Susan Slaughter

The Little SAS Book 6.0: What’s New

In Enterprise Guide, Everything, Little SAS Book Series, SAS on November 7, 2019 at 2:37 pm

Six editions is a lot! If you had told us, back when we wrote the first edition of The Little SAS Book, that someday we would write a sixth; we would have wondered how we could possibly find that much to say. After all, it is supposed to be The Little SAS Book, isn’t it? But the developers at SAS Institute are constantly hard at work inventing new and better ways of analyzing and visualizing data. And some of those ways turn out to be so fundamental that they belong even in a little book about SAS.

Interface independence

One of the biggest changes to SAS software in recent years is the proliferation of interfaces. SAS programmers have more choices than ever before. Previous editions contained some sections specific to the SAS windowing environment (also called Display Manager). We wrote this edition for all SAS programmers whether you use SAS Studio, SAS Enterprise Guide, the SAS windowing environment, or run in batch. That sounds easy, but it wasn’t. There are differences in how SAS behaves with different interfaces, and these differences can be very fundamental. In particular, the system option that sets the rules for names of variables varies depending on how you run SAS. So old sections had to be rewritten, and we added a whole new section showing how to use variable names containing blanks and special characters.

New ways to read and write Microsoft Excel files

Previous editions already covered how to read and write Microsoft Excel files, but SAS developers have created some great new ways. This edition contains new sections about the XLSX LIBNAME engine and the ODS EXCEL destination.

More PROC SQL

From the very first edition, The Little SAS Book always covered PROC SQL. But it was in an appendix and over time we noticed that most people ignore appendices. So for this edition, we removed the appendix and added new sections on using PROC SQL to

  • Subset your data
  • Join data sets
  • Add summary statistics to a data set
  • Create macro variables with the INTO clause

For people who are new to SQL, these sections provide a good introduction; for people who already know SQL, they provide a model of how to leverage SQL in your SAS programs.

Updates and additions throughout the book

Almost every section in this edition has been changed in some way. We added new options, made sure everything is up-to-date, and ran every example in every SAS interface noting any differences. For example, PROC SGPLOT has some new options, the default ODS style for PDF has changed, and the LISTING destination behaves differently in different interfaces. Here’s a short list, in no particular order, of new or expanded topics in the sixth edition:

  • More examples with permanent SAS data sets, CSV files, or tab-delimited files
  • More log notes throughout the book showing what to look for
  • LIKE or sounds-like (=*) operators in WHERE statements
  • CROSSLIST, NOCUM, and NOPRINT options in PROC FREQ
  • Grouping data with a user-defined format and the PUT function
  • Iterative DO groups
  • DO WHILE and DO UNTIL statements
  • %DO statements

Even though we have added a lot to this edition, it is still a little book.  In fact, this edition is shorter than the last—by twelve pages! We think this is the best edition yet.

Now Available: The Little SAS Book, Sixth Edition

In Little SAS Book Series, SAS on October 21, 2019 at 11:46 am

I am excited to announce that the sixth edition of The Little SAS Book is now available. We spent over a year rewriting and updating, and this may well be the best edition yet.

You can download a sample chapter or purchase e-book versions (PDF, EPUB or Kindle) by visiting SAS Press’ site.

If, like me, you like to be able to flip the pages and make notes in the margin, then you can get a hard copy (in paperback or hardback!) from Amazon.

What is Data Literacy?

In Everything on October 16, 2019 at 3:52 pm

It has recently become fashionable to talk about data literacy. This is an important idea so I’m glad to see people discussing it.

To me, data literacy means understanding that data are not dry, dusty, abstract squiggles on a computer screen, but represent living things: people, plants, animals. Having a deep understanding of data enables people to engage with data, to explore data, to interpret data, and to use data to impact their lives and work.

Data literacy necessarily comes with a degree of skepticism, recognizing that data can be not only used, but also misused. In this age of “alternative facts,” it is important to recognize when assertions are supported by data, and when they are not.

Everyone knows that technology is becoming more and more a part of everyday life. Without data literacy, people become passive recipients; with data literacy, you can actively engage with technology.

You know you are fluent in a foreign language when you are comfortable speaking it and can communicate what you want to say. The same is true for data literacy; it is about reaching a level of comfort, about seeing the meaning behind the data, and about being able to communicate what you want to say.

Here is how Wikipedia defines data literacy.