Susan Slaughter

What’s Your SAS Interface?

In Enterprise Guide, Everything, Little SAS Book Series, SAS on May 12, 2016 at 7:30 am

These days SAS programmers have more choices than ever before about how to run SAS.  They can use the old Display Manager interface, or SAS Enterprise Guide, or the new kid on the block: SAS StudioAll of these are included with Base SAS.


Display Manager / SAS Windowing Environment


SAS Enterprise Guide


SAS Studio

Once upon a time, the only choices were Display Manager (officially named the SAS windowing environment), or batch.  Then along came SAS Enterprise Guide.  (Ok, I know there were a few others, but I don’t count SAS/ASSIST which was rightly spurned by SAS users, or the Analyst application which was just a stopover on the highway to SAS Enterprise Guide.)

I recently asked a SAS user, “Which interface do you use for SAS programming?”

She replied, “Interface?  I just install SAS and use it.”

“You’re using Display Manager,” I explained, but she had no idea what I was talking about.

Trust me.  This person is an extremely sophisticated SAS user who does a lot of leading-edge mathematical programming, but she didn’t realize that Display Manager is not SAS.  It is just an interface to SAS.

This is where old timers like me have an advantage.  If you can remember running SAS in batch, then you know that Display Manager, SAS Enterprise Guide, and SAS Studio are just interfaces to SAS–wonderful, manna from heaven–but still just interfaces.  They are optional.  You could write SAS programs in Word or Notepad or some other editor, and submit them in batch–but why would you?  (I know someone is going to tell me that they do, in fact, do that, but the point is that it is not mainstream.  Only mega-nerds with the instincts of a true hacker do that these days.)

Each of these interfaces has advantages and disadvantages.  I’m not going to list them all here, because this is a blog not an encyclopedia, but the tweet would be

“DM is the simplest, EG has projects, SS runs in browsers.”

Personally, I think all of these interfaces are keepers.  At least for the near future, all three of these interfaces will continue to be used.  What we are seeing here is a proliferation of choices, not displacement of one with another.

So what’s your SAS interface?


  1. I use all three of those and sometimes NotePad++ I guess I should explain that – if I have a program on my laptop & realize I made an error before uploading it to SAS studio, I may just open it in Notepad to change the typo on the variable name or whatever small change is needed

  2. @AnnMaria, I’m not surprised to hear that you are a multi-interface programmer since you are an uber-hacker.

  3. My primary SAS interface is EG due to company policy. The GUI is good for quick querries and reports but generally I feel much more in control when writing the code myself. Alterations can be made so much faster and the layout of graphs and reports can be more refined and precise.

  4. Does JMP count as an interface to SAS?

    • @Ilya Well, JMP is not the kind of interface I was talking about because it is not included for free with Base SAS. However, JMP is a very good tool all on its own! The fact that it can read SAS data sets is definitely a plus. Does it count as an interface to SAS? Sure, I think so.

  5. Listing a unique feature in each of these 3 interfaces:
    SS: needs no installation, just a link to a server
    (and it appears to be SI’s strategy for programmers)
    EG: easily register stored processes into metadata server
    WI ( previously known as DM): metadata browser
    and/or- user programmable actions on objects in the SAS-DM-explorer
    and/or- issue commands to the op:sys (because it is its own server)

    • So we have reason to need them all

    • @crawfordsoftware Thanks for your very insightful comments! Yes, a lot of the simplicity of the SAS windowing environment (Display Manager) follows from the fact that it is its own server. However, I must say that SAS Studio does sometimes need very complicated installation. One of the things that is confusing about SAS Studio is that it has so many incarnations. Even in a single operating environment, Windows for example, you have SAS Studio via SAS OnDemand that is truly zero footprint and requires no installation. Then you also have SAS University Edition that involves downloading a virtual Linux machine and, depending on your hardware may even require editing your bios which is not for the faint of heart and definitely does require installation. And then you have SAS Studio Single User which comes with Base SAS, but good luck finding it to install it. It took me months to install SAS Studio Single User and that was WITH the help of SAS Technical Support. So based on my experience, I would say that difficulty with installation is a major obstacle to the use of SAS Studio.

      • Thank you Susan
        I agree – for the single user, SAS Studio might be more of a setup problem than DM / EG especially single-user EG (with no metadata server).
        I suggest Studio needs little installation for the commercial sites who have more than a few users – relatively. The contrast with having to administer a locked-down desktop environment makes the browser-based platform for Studio, look wonderfully light compared with EG. The admin responsibilities are still there (and I expect Studio introduces many new ones) but these are central tasks. At the client/end-user, there is/seems no problem to add new users access – just share a link to the server.

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