SAS training for home-workers: Keeping your mind active and your skills current

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I have been working from home on and off since 1996, so it now feels quite normal to start my work day by walking from my kitchen into my office. I know some of my colleagues have struggled with the many distractions that exist at home, so I suppose I’ve been lucky, but I still do not like doing nothing at all. To stop any boredom setting in I will look for ways to do something useful, and, over the years, I have taught myself many programming languages by reading books, running example code, and trying to write applications that will be useful day-to-day, for example:

  • Database applications for calculating hours left to work and printing invoices in Visual Basic.
  • Web applications to send me emails and SMS messages in Perl.
  • Smartphone apps for webOS (remember HP/Palm phones?) in Javascript and HTML5.
  • Smartphone apps for Android in Java.
  • Crossword puzzle word-finder scripts in LibreOffice Basic.
  • SAS Enterprise Guide custom tasks in VB.Net.
  • SAS Studio custom tasks in XML.

Each language presents a different set of problems and solutions, so each new solution will broaden your knowledge of the computer world. Not all language have been central to my day job, but my views on solving computer problems has been moulded by each new programming language I’ve used. In 1996 there was no significant online help, so you couldn’t easily ask anyone for help, but instead you had to rely on hints and tips in computer magazines. Later the online communities have become vital, but you will now have to ask your questions in the correct way, so that it will be understood by each community, as names are not necessarily consistent, otherwise your question is likely to be ignored. I’ve now found ways to improve the chances of my questions being answered, even if my problems are not always resolved:

  • Write a subject line that asks a question that could be answered, otherwise it probably won’t even be read.
  • Set the scene by describing the environment you are working in, such as operating system, and software language and version.
  • Describe in as much detail as you can what you are trying to do, what you have already tried, and any results/messages that you are getting, even if you don’t understand them.
  • Never assume that you’re problem can be solved, but work with anyone who offers you assistance.
  • Be humble and grateful, because there will be programmers out there who know more about this than you, and you might need to call on their skills again.

So what has all this got to do with SAS training? Well, thanks to COVID-19, there are now more home-workers than ever before, and in some cases the work available may not be filling your day, so what can you do to fill your spare time and improve your programming knowledge? I have gathered together some sources of SAS training and information which are either free or inexpensive, which you may find useful, and if you find out about any more, then post a comment and I’ll be happy to check them out:

  • Training courses:
    • My corporate SAS training courses are intended for large groups, but each course has an associated eBook that is much cheaper and available through the Training section on this site.
    • I have a low-cost forum with a monthly subscription called the SAS Programming Forum, which welcomes SAS programming questions, but also includes the SAS course with a growing number of SAS-related topics, such as Data Steps, SAS Macros and PROC SQL, either as individual posts or LMS courses.
    • If you prefer to learn from eBooks or Android apps, then the topics in the SAS course are also available as eBooks and Android apps (on Amazon Appstore and Google Play).
  • Papers and books:
    • The Conferences Paper section on this site is filled with papers covering a wide range of SAS-related topics, which can be downloaded for free.
    • Other SAS-related books can be bought through the Books section on this site.
    • The largest searchable collection of SAS-related conference papers is maintained by Lex Jansen, including papers from SUGI, SeUGI, regional SAS user groups and forums, VIEWS, PhUSE, PharmaSUG and SAS Global Forum.
  • Competitive learning:
    • Sasensei is a SAS-related quiz and learning site where the flashcards, questions and quizzes are contributed by the users, and you earn points and awards from contributions and correct answers, but you will always learn from your incorrect answers too.
  • SAS support:
  • SAS programming platforms for learning:
    • SAS University Edition is free for use as a learning platform, and can either be downloaded and installed on your laptop using VMware or VirtualBox, or accessed through the web on the AWS Cloud.
    • WPS Analytics Community Edition is a free version of WPS Analytics, which can be licensed from World Programming for 6 months at a time and installed on your PC, and can run SAS programs using quite a large subset of SAS programming features, and includes R and Python interfaces.

I think that should at least get you started on your SAS improvement projects!

How good are you at calculating in your head? Are you calculator-dependent?

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Improving mental arithmetic (calculating in your head) has been a long-term quest for me. My 3 daughters were subjected to numerical puzzle questions whenever we were on long journeys, and now none of them routinely use calculators, unless absolutely necessary.

I used to develop JavaScript-based apps for the webOS platforms in Palm and HP devices, and created a number of mental arithmetic apps. I’ve recently found the time to re-engineer some of them to work on Android devices, and the following apps can now be found on Google Play and Amazon Appstore:

  • Arithmetic Brain – 8 different levels of 10 randomly generated questions about addition, subtraction and multiplication. Here are the links to Google Play and Amazon Appstore.

Arithmetic Brain

  • Multiply Brain – 19 different levels of 10 randomly generated questions on multiplication from x2 to x20. Here are the links to Google Play and Amazon Appstore.

Multiply Brain

  • Decimal Brain – 8 different levels of 10 randomly generated questions about decimal addition, subtraction and multiplication. Here are the links to Google Play and Amazon Appstore.

Decimal Brain

  • Fraction Brain – 4 different levels of 10 randomly generated questions about fraction addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Here are the links to Google Play and Amazon Appstore.

Fraction Brain

Full details about what is included in each Android app can be found on each app page.

Would you like 1/2 day or 1 day SAS training at PharmaSUG China 2020?

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I was considering attending PharmaSUG China at the end of August 2019, but I’ve been told that a seminar held previously in China on SAS programming efficiency had a low attendance, as programmers there are relatively young, so they like to learn techniques on their own, or take classes on topics that they cannot learn from the internet. However, they prefer challenging topics, which are hard to learn on their own.

I have now decided to delay what could be my one and only visit to China until 2020, and use the extra preparation time to find out a little more about what SAS programmers in China would be most interested in.

Therefore, please could you help me by answering this quick poll about the 1/2 day training sessions I currently provide. The answers will guide me to the best package to offer to PharmaSUG China 2020. Links to most of the training courses can be found below the poll.

If you have not yet voted and can view the poll results, but the Vote button is grey, your IP address may already have been used to vote on this poll. This is in fact quite common when viewing blog posts from a company PC, so I would therefore recommend that you try voting using your phone or your home PC instead.

Thank you in advance………..Phil

I'm planning to go to PharmaSUG China in 2020. Which 1/2 day training courses would you be interested in attending there? (max 2)

  • Efficient SAS Programming (28%, 7 Votes)
  • Defensive SAS Programming (24%, 6 Votes)
  • Introduction to ODS Graph Templates (20%, 5 Votes)
  • SAS PROC SQL (12%, 3 Votes)
  • Enterprise Guide and SAS Studio (8%, 2 Votes)
  • Practical ODS Graphics (8%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 14

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Fancy a 1-to-1 chat about a SAS-related topic?

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Now that I have Mondays free from client-related contracts, I am able to do whatever I want, such as work in my garden, read books, write my own books and articles, develop apps and other software applications, or even give SAS training! So, to help you book 1-hour 1-to-1 training sessions with me to talk about the SAS topics of your choosing, I have created a SAS training session booking calendar.

Training sessions will be provided using Google Calendar and Hangouts, and cost GBP100.00 for each hour. The booking form allows you to copy in your chosen SAS-related topics from the list provided, and then we get together at the selected time for an hour of discussion around that topic, so you will be able to ask me any questions you need answering to learn more about SAS software. The topic selection allows me to prepare demonstrations and information specifically for the session, and other topics will be added to the list over time.

Note that I will only send out one Google Calendar invite, but, if you want to have some friends and colleagues around to join in, then that will be just fine.

Apologies to anyone who recently downloaded my SAS Training Course List, but a new one for 2018 is now available!

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Apologies to anyone who recently downloaded my SAS Training Course List, but a new one for 2018 is now available as a free download!

The significant updates in the 2018 list are:

  • The new 1/2-day PROC SQL course is now available.
  • A new 1/4-day Introduction to ODS RTF course is now included, which should be considered as an add-on course, rather than to be booked on its own. Note that a 1/4-day course costs half of a 1/2-day course. However, any travelling and accommodation expenses will be the same, of course.

Finally a quick reminder that course notes for some of the courses can be purchased separately as PDF eBooks or Android apps. See the training page in the Product Shop for all the available course notes and also the latest Training Course List.

Poll: How does your company create graphs?

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ODS Graphics has been around since SAS 9.1.3 (in 2006!), and yet it hasn’t yet taken over the SAS graphics world, even though it could create the vast majority of graphs.

With this in mind I thought I’d create a quick poll to see what is currently being used out there in the real world:

How does your company create graphs?

  • Using SAS/GRAPH and ODS Graphics (40%, 12 Votes)
  • Using ODS Graphics (23%, 7 Votes)
  • Only with non-SAS software (23%, 7 Votes)
  • Using SAS/GRAPH (10%, 3 Votes)
  • Using SAS but not SAS/GRAPH or ODS Graphics (3%, 1 Votes)
  • No graphs are ever created (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 31

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If you think your company ought to be using ODS Graphics more, then download our SAS training course list for free.

If you would like to learn about ODS Graphics yourself, even if your company doesn’t want to pay for a training course for you and your colleagues, then you should read “Part III: Data Visualization” (chapters 9-14) in my book “SAS Programming and Data Visualization Techniques: A Power User’s Guide” instead.

There is a new SAS Training Course list for 2017Q4

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There is now a new Training Course list for 2017Q4, which can be downloaded from here. The courses available in 2016 and early 2017 are still there, but had added a new course to the list:

  • ½ day Defensive SAS Programming training

I’m also developing some new SAS-related courses, based on the SAS course, which you can accelerate to production status by requesting them:

  • ½ day SAS Data Step training
  • ½ day SAS PROC SQL training
  • ½ day SAS macros training

Your interest in any of these courses will result in them being developed as priority tasks!

My published Training Course list is for companies, the SAS course is for individuals

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I published a list of available training courses for 2017 in January this year, but this course list is actually intended for companies, and not for individuals, as the courses have a fixed price no matter how many people attend them. All the training materials are personalised and supplied in digital form, and so can be duplicated for that client to re-use internally.

Individuals looking for SAS training should subscribe to the SAS course in the SAS Programming Forum instead, which is specifically targeted at individual SAS learners and programmers, and is priced as a low-cost monthly subscription. However, the SAS Programming Forum is not just there for the SAS course, but can be used to get answers to any SAS-related questions you may have too, even if they are from homework or interview questions.

See “Making Graphs Easier to Validate – The Benefits of ODS Graphics” at SAS Global Forum in Orlando

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Are you attending SAS Global Forum in April this year? If you are then you have the opportunity to see me present “Making Graphs Easier to Validate – The Benefits of ODS Graphics” on Wednesday 5 April from 1100-1150hr. I’ll be in the Americas Seminar Room on Dolphin Level 5 at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Florida. In this presentation I’ll be talking about how to make your graphs easier to validate by using ODS Graphics and a lot of common sense!

However, maybe you are not going to be in Orlando in April, but you and your colleagues would still like to see me present on this topic. What can you do about that? Well it should still be possible, because I’m currently developing a 1/2 day training session which I’m calling “Defensive SAS Programming”. This will include “Making Graphs Easier to Validate – The Benefits of ODS Graphics”, but also “Writing Reusable Macros” and another new topic “The Art of Defensive Programming: How to Cope with Unseen Data”.

You’ll see from the link above that I don’t have to be in the room with you to present, therefore I could present through your company’s video-conferencing system from my own office at home to your conference room wherever you are instead. The “Available” and “Coming Soon” training sessions can all be booked in advance, but the “Coming Soon” training sessions will be developed specifically for you, if you are the first to request them.

Going back to “Making Graphs Easier to Validate – The Benefits of ODS Graphics”, this presentation and paper will be available for download from the Product Shop shortly after it is presented for the first time, but may also be available from the SAS Global Forum site before the conference too!

I’m looking forward to SAS Global Forum, and hope to see you there, or elsewhere in the near future!

There is now a new Training Course list for 2017

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There is now a new Training Course list for 2017, which can be downloaded from here. The courses available in 2016 are still there, but I’m developing some new SAS-related courses, based on the SAS course, which you can accelerate to production status by requesting them:

  • ½ day SAS Data Step training
  • ½ day SAS PROC SQL training
  • ½ day SAS macros training
  • ½ day Defensive SAS Programming training

Your interest in any of these courses will result in them being developed as priority tasks!

Are you learning about SAS?

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Anyone learning about SAS can take advantage of the SAS University Edition. This can be downloaded to your Windows or Linux platform as a free virtual machine compatible with VirtualBox or VMware Player (both free too!), or accessed online through an Amazon AWS environment (also free!). Full details about what you need to do can be found at Just follow the Get free software link on this web page.

Note that this version of SAS must only be used for learning about SAS, and is not intended for commercial use. The full list of permitted uses for the SAS University Edition can be found here.

You can use SAS University Edition with all of the topics in the SAS course on this site, except SAS Enterprise Guide.

Skills needed by a good SAS programmer apart from programming

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You have a certificate from SAS saying you can program, and you have been offered a job as a SAS programmer. Well done! So what happens now?

Hopefully your new employer will arrange for SAS training for you, and then you’ll be given a computer to run your SAS programs on. If you are lucky you’ll be in a team of SAS programmers where some are experienced enough to assist you. However, your team may only include inexperienced programmers like yourself, so how do you get answers to your questions?

(1) Research: Search Google for possible answers to your questions. This may produce links to or, so try these links first.
(2) Experiment: Try out these suggestions to see which work for your situation.
(3) Discuss: Talk about these solutions with your colleagues.

Do not:
(1) Delegate: Post vague questions on forums in the hope that someone will write your program for you. You will never improve your skills by using someone else to do it for you.
(2) Break copyright: Post any company data on the web or in external emails.
(3) Reveal: Ask questions on the web which may reveal confidential information about your employers or clients. It is also recommended that you never post your email address or phone number either, because they could be used to spam you, or even to spam others looking as if you are doing it.

Once you have a working SAS program, and this may take a while to achieve, remember to re-visit it regularly with a view to improving it using knowledge you’ve gained over time. No program is ever perfect, but your aim should be to approach perfection with each amendment.

So how do you gain SAS knowledge? The SAS certification questions and answers cover only a tiny fraction of what SAS can do. The temptation is to stick to what you know, but this will never allow you to improve your SAS programming, so read the SAS blogs, SAS-related forums and SAS conference papers regularly, and then try out the new techniques to learn new stuff all the time. This should never end. I’ve been using SAS since 1981 and I’m still learning new stuff about SAS every day!