Look before you buy: peek at your data details before opening


Are you afraid of big commitments? Do you like to shop around thoroughly before making a purchase decision? I can't help you with most of Life's Big Choices, but I can help you in one way: I can show you how to learn more about your data set before you open it.

In SAS Enterprise Guide 4.2, we added a feature that allows you to view the details of your data sets (such as the data set labels, how many records they contain, and more) while you browse the contents of a SAS library. What's more, you can also see the column names and column types right from within the file dialog, providing you with that peace of mind that comes only with knowing that, yes, you've selected the correct data set.

But, the feature is not turned on by default. Why not? Because gathering this information incurs a slight performance hit as you browse your libraries. For local file-based SAS data sets you probably won't notice much of a slowdown.

Here's how you turn it on:

  1. Select Tools->Options. The Options window appears.
  2. On the General page, check the box that reads, "Show full details when viewing SAS libraries in File Dialog details view."

The next time that you select File->Open->Data and navigate to the Libraries view, select the Details option from the toolbar in the file dialog, as shown here:

Toolbar for selecting details

When you drill down into a SAS library, you'll be overwhelmed with a tremendous set of new details, as shown here:

What the list looks like with details

But wait -- there's more! Go back up to the toolbar and tick the Show detail pane option, and on the right-hand side you'll see the list of SAS variables that lurk inside a SAS data set, as you select it within the list.

And with the column list in view

Try it! Turn on the option and give it a whirl. It will help you to eliminate "buyer's remorse" (or at least "data-opener's remorse") from your daily life.


About Author

Chris Hemedinger

Director, SAS User Engagement

+Chris Hemedinger is the Director of SAS User Engagement, which includes our SAS Communities and SAS User Groups. Since 1993, Chris has worked for SAS as an author, a software developer, an R&D manager and a consultant. Inexplicably, Chris is still coasting on the limited fame he earned as an author of SAS For Dummies


  1. In most Windows programs, once you have selected the Details option in an open file dialog, the next time you use the dialog it will show you a details view by default. The open file dialog in EG 4.3 always reverts back to a large icon view, even during the same session, which is hugely annoying. Is there a way to set the default view for all open file dialogs?

  2. Pingback: SAS Enterprise Guide options: my favorite 5 - The SAS Dummy

  3. Hi Chris - do you have an updated page for this. I know most of these are still good to go for EG 8.3 but noticing some images missing and also no mention of later versions.
    These are also some of my top ones. As I help our user community, I don't want to recreate the wheel. Much of my Tips and Tricks and FAQS will be linking right to you and the many SAS resources.

    • Chris Hemedinger
      Chris Hemedinger on

      Yes, some of these older posts are missing images. Will look at recreating and perhaps re-homing some of these topics on the SAS Support Communities.

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