Susan Slaughter

Archive for the ‘Little SAS Book Series’ Category

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.

Tips for Learning SAS

In China, Everything, Guest Blog, Little SAS Book Series, SAS on January 13, 2019 at 8:05 pm

New to SAS?  Here are tips from the translator of The Little SAS Book, Fifth Edition.

Hongqiu Gu, Ph.D. works at the China National Clinical Research Center for Neurological Diseases at the National Center for Healthcare Quality Management in Neurological Diseases at Beijing Tiantan Hospital, Capital Medical University.

He shared these important tips to learn SAS well:

1.  Read SAS Documentation

I have not counted the number of SAS books I have read; I would estimate over 50 or 60.  The best books to give me a deep understanding of SAS are in the SAS Documentation, including SAS Language Reference Concepts, SAS Functions and CALL Routines Reference, SAS Macro Language Reference, and so on.  There are lots of excellent books published by SAS Press, and usually they are concise and suitable for quick learners.  However, when I realized that SAS could give me a powerful career advantage, I needed to learn SAS systematically and deeply.  I believe the SAS Documentation provides the most authoritative and comprehensive learning materials.  Besides, the updated SAS Documentation is free to all readers.

2.  Use the SAS Help and Documentation frequently

No one can remember all the syntaxes or options in SAS.  However, don’t worry, SAS Help and Documentation is our best friend.  I use the SAS Help and Documentation quite often.  Even as an experienced SAS user, there are still many situations in which I need to ask for help from SAS Help and Documentation. Every time I use it, I learn something new.

3.  Solve SAS related questions in SAS communities

As the saying goes, practice makes perfect.  Answering SAS related questions is a good way to practice.  Questions can come from daily work, from friends around you, or from other SAS users on the web.  From 2013 to 2015, I spent a lot of time in the largest Chinese SAS online  community answering SAS related questions and I learned many practical skills in a short period.

4.  Make friends with skilled SAS programmers

Learning alone without interacting with others will lead to ignorance.  I have learned a lot from other experienced SAS users and SAS developers.  We share our ideas from time to time, and benefit a lot from the exchange.

 

 

The Little SAS Book in China

In China, Everything, Guest Blog, Little SAS Book Series, SAS on January 13, 2019 at 4:29 pm

Recently The Little SAS Book reached a major milestone.  For the first time ever, it was translated into another language.  The language in this case was Chinese, and the translator was Hongqiu Gu, Ph.D. from the China National Clinical Research Center for Neurological Diseases at the National Center for Healthcare Quality Management in Neurological Diseases at Beijing Tiantan Hospital, Capital Medical University.

To mark this achievement, I asked Hongqiu a few questions.

Susan:  First I want to say how honored I am that you translated our book.  It must have been a lot of work.  Receiving a copy of the translation was a highlight of the year for me.  How did you learn SAS?

Hongqiu:  How did I learn SAS?  That is a long story.  I had not heard of SAS before I took an undergraduate statistics course in 2005.  The first time I heard the name “SAS,” I mistook it for SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).  Although the pronunciations of these two words are entirely different for native English speakers, most Chinese people pronounced them as /sa:s/.  At that time, I was not trying to learn SAS well, and I simply wanted to pass the exam.  After the exam, all I had learned about SAS was entirely forgotten.  However, during the preparation of my master’s thesis, I had to do a lot of data cleaning and data analysis work with SAS, and I began to learn SAS enthusiastically.

Susan:  Why did you decide to translate The Little SAS Book?

Hongqiu:  Although I highly recommend the SAS Documentation for learning SAS, most beginners need a concise SAS book to give them a quick overview of what SAS is and what SAS can do.  There is no doubt that The Little SAS Book is the best one as the first SAS book for SAS beginners.  However, it was not easy for a Chinese SAS beginner to get a hardcopy of The Little SAS Book because it was not available in the Chinese market and the price was too high if they shopped overseas.  Another barrier is the language.  Most beginners still want an elementary book in their mother language. Besides, lots of R books had been introduced and translated into Chinese.  Therefore, I believed there was an urgent need to translate this book into Chinese.  So I tried several times to contact SAS press to get permission to translate it into Chinese, but no reply.  Things changed when manager Frank Jiang from SAS China found me after my book, The Romance of SAS Programming, was published by Tsinghua University Press.

Susan:  How long did it take you to translate the book?

Hongqiu:  First, I must state that the Chinese version of The Little SAS Book is a collaborative work.  Manager Frank Jiang from SAS China together with managing editor Yang Liu from Tsinghua University Press did much early-stage work to start this project.  We began the translation in early April 2017 and finished the translation in July 2017.  After that, we took more than three months to complete the two rounds of cross-audit to make sure the translation was correct and typo errors were minimized.

Members of the translation team include Hongqiu Gu, Adrian Liu, Louanna Kong, Molly Li, Slash Xin, Nick Li, Zhixin Yang, Amy Qian, Wei Wang, and Ke Yang.

Members of the audit team include Silence Zeng, Mary Ma, Wei Wang, Jianping Xue, and Sikan Luan.

Susan:  What was the hardest part of translating it?

Hongqiu:  The book is written in plain English and easy to understand.  We did not find any particular part that hard to translate.

Susan:  Are there a lot of SAS users in China?

Hongqiu:  There are a lot of SAS users in China.  I’ve no idea what the exact number of SAS users in China is.  With the increasing need for SAS users in medicine, life science, finance and banking industries, SAS users will become more and more prevalent.

Susan:  Thank you for sharing your experiences.  Perhaps someday we can meet in person at SAS Global Forum.

A Little Advice: How to Be a Top SAS Programmer

In Everything, Little SAS Book Series, ODS Graphics, SAS on April 6, 2018 at 1:18 pm

Recently I was honored to be interviewed by Mamadou Dakouo for his company DataSteps.

 

I was asked three questions:

  • How did I learn SAS?
  • What advice do I have for someone who wants to become a “top SAS programmer?”
  • What is my favorite SAS procedure?

My answers were

  • In graduate school
  • Be a self-starter
  • PROC FORMAT (runner-up: PROC SGPLOT)

For the details you can watch the 6 minute video.

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.

DisplayManager9-4window

Display Manager / SAS Windowing Environment

EG7-12window

SAS Enterprise Guide

SASStudio3-5window

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?

 

A short history of The Little SAS Book

In Everything, Little SAS Book Series, Publishing, SAS on November 19, 2015 at 10:11 am

In celebration of SAS Press’ 25th anniversary, Lora Delwiche and I reminisced about what it was like writing the first edition of The Little SAS BookYou can read about it on The SAS Learning Post. LSB1_and_SAS_manual

Who was the first SAS user to write a SAS book?

In Everything, Little SAS Book Series, Publishing, SAS, Writing on November 12, 2015 at 9:59 am

First_SAS_Book_cover SAS Press has been publishing books written by SAS users for 25 years.  That made me wonder: Who wrote the first such book?  The answer depends on how you phrase the question.  You can read about it on the SAS Learning Post.

Save Big on SAS Books

In Everything, Little SAS Book Series, SAS on October 22, 2015 at 10:33 am

Have you been thinking about ordering a SAS book or two?  Now is the time to do it.  SAS Press is a quarter century old.  To celebrate, they are offering a 25% discount on books ordered by December 31, 2015.  To get the discount, use the promo code SMPBBP when you place your order at support.sas.com/publishing/ (only available in the US).

Since SAS Press always has FREE SHIPPING for books, this means you get a real bargain.  For example, if you were to order The Little SAS Book, Fifth Edition from Amazon.com, it would set you back $47.30.  But with the SAS Press 25% discount, the same book costs only $41.21.  Such a deal!

SASPress_25Anniv_1024x512-1My question is this: Will they offer a 50% discount in another quarter century?  We will just have to wait and see.

SAS Essentials

In Everything, Little SAS Book Series, SAS, Western Users of SAS Software on September 8, 2015 at 7:45 pm

WUSS2015logoThe SAS Essentials section at the Western Users of SAS Software conference was created for people who are new to SAS.  Each year this section includes three core presentations designed to give both a broad overview and, at the same time, a thorough grounding in the fundamentals of SAS. For years I have thought about teaching the SAS Essentials core classes.  Well, this year I finally took the plunge, so to speak.  I really did feel like I was diving into deep water.  It was overwhelming, but it was also fun!  I think I did a good job of covering the basics in a short space.  You can download my slides here:

How SAS Thinks: SAS Basics I

Introduction to DATA Step Programming: SAS Basics II

Introduction to SAS Procedures: SAS Basics III