A Newbie at NESUG


“So, you work for SAS?” asked my co-passenger. I was on the plane to Baltimore to attend my first NESUG conference and the tag on my laptop bag was the clue. I happened to be seated next to a SAS user who was familiar with ODS Graphics. I ended up giving a demo of the ODS Graphics Designer. Talk of a ‘captive audience’! Thus began a journey where I learned some things and, I hope, helped some users transition to and learn more about ODS Graphics.

At NESUG, I reprised the presentation for my SAS Global Forum 2012 paper, ‘Off the Beaten Path: Create Unusual Graphs with GTL’ and also presented Sanjay’s “Clinical Graphs using SG Procedures”. I gave super demos on “What’s New for GTL in SAS 9.3” and “ODS Graphics Designer”. The latter drew a standing-room only crowd the second time around. (Of course, the ‘room’ here was the smaller solutions theater, but it was still a larger crowd, relatively speaking -- thanks to recommendations by Cynthia Zender.) I sensed that many users now appreciate the benefit of the ‘Designer as a quick and easy graph tool. Some had misgivings about the application being light on programming, but were won over when I pointed out the code window that shows you the code behind the scenes, which also makes it a great learning tool for GTL.

I also realized that many of our users are not aware of our “ODS Graphics Editor” application. To reiterate here, if you have a need for post-processing your ODS Graphics generated graphs for minor changes such as editing or inserting/deleting titles and footnotes, or adjusting the color of some graphical element, the 'Editor is what you need! It also allows some basic annotations, all via a point-n-click GUI operating on .sge output files. It does not allow any data-related changes in order to preserve the data integrity of your output. Here is a screen shot of the tool in action:

The ODS Graphics Editor

The ODS Graphics Editor has been available since SAS 9.2. The stand-alone version of this tool (no other SAS install required) can be installed from the SAS Support website. The ODS Graphics Editor: User’s Guide (SAS 9.3) has all the information you need to download and use this free application.

Perusing the dozen or so posters, I learnt a new trick from Perry Watts & Nate Derby’s entry titled ‘Using SAS® GTL with 9.3 Updates to Visualize Data When There is Too Much of it to Visualize’. Here is the of the plot of interest:

Airline bookings: continuous legend for discrete data!

In my GTL paper, it would have been nice if the population pyramid example had a continuous legend instead of the discrete legend for just the end-point values. The above poster shows how you can do this by using a SCATTERPLOT statement that uses MARKERCOLORGRADIENT= set to a RANGEATTRVAR which is then referenced in a continuous legend! I reworked my graph, now with a continuous legend using this trick, as shown below.

Population pyramid: now with a continuous legend.

Here is another interesting graph from a paper “Using Axes Options to Stretch the Limits of SAS® Graph Template Language” also authored by Perry Watts:

How about them partial minor ticks on x axis?

While we have added support for minor ticks on linear axes in SAS 9.4, the above graph displays an x-axis with minor ticks restricted to a part of the axis to indicate a higher data precision! You will have to read the paper for the details on which SAS 9.3 feature was exploited to achieve this.

All in all, it was a very productive conference for me. Not bad for a newbie, eh?


About Author

Prashant Hebbbar

Principal Software Developer

Prashant Hebbar is a software developer in Data Visualization at SAS. He began his career at SAS in 1997. His areas of expertise are the Graph Template Language (GTL), the ODS Graphics Designer and image formats.

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1 Comment

  1. I really like the samples you provide and have adapted many of them to fit my needs. However I do have a graphic that I would really appreciate your help with. I have a dataset that I want to show a site average and compare that to the entire study average on a color coded bar. I have an example of what I would like that I can email you. I would like to program this with a template and sgrender, but this has me stumped.

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