Fun with Dots in PROC REPORT


You should play a little. Add dots. Add color. Your PROC REPORT output does not have to be boring. As a matter of fact, it can be both functional and appealing.

Any Unicode value will do, but this blog shows how to use the Unicode value for a dot (filled circle) to display test results, not as numbers or text, but as colored dots. The color of the dot indicates the severity of the test.

Your data set probably has a variable that contains the results of the test. For this example, the test result is numeric but you can modify the example to work for a text value as well. Your data set does not have to change. SAS formats will do the heavy lifting of displaying the dot and applying the color.

Here is the full code:

/*Create test data*/
data a;
length dow $10;
input dow $ test1 test2 test3;
Monday 1 2 1
Tuesday 2 3 1
Wednesday 2 4 3
Thursday 0 1 1
Friday 1 2 3
Saturday 1 1 0
Sunday 1 0 2
/*Create a color format and a dot format
  unicode 25cf is a dot (filled circle)*/
proc format;
   value cfmt 
      3 ='orange'
   value dot 
	low-high='^{style [just=c fontsize=20pt]^{unicode 25cf}}';
ods escapechar="^";
/*Apply formats to test values*/
proc report data=a style(column)=[width=1in];
	column dow test1 test2 test3;
	define test1 / style(column)=[foreground=cfmt.] format=dot.;
	define test2 / style(column)=[foreground=cfmt.] format=dot.;
	define test3 / style(column)=[foreground=cfmt.] format=dot.;

The PROC FORMAT step creates two formats. The first assigns a color to each level of the test. The second format assigns all possible values to the Unicode value 25cf.

In the PROC REPORT step the format for the color is applied to the FOREGROUND= attribute. The format with the Unicode value is assigned in the FORMAT= option.

You might have seen the code above, or something like it, before. Lots of reports add traffic lighting and symbols. What might have caught your eye is the extra styling attributes in the format for the dot, [just=c fontsize=20pt].

The desired result is to have the dot both horizontally and vertically centered. The default style template for each ODS destination should vertically center the dot, so you don’t have to worry about adding an attribute for that control. However, you do need to tell the ODS destination to horizontally center the dot within the cell.

Achieving the desired look takes a slightly different code strategy depending on which ODS destination you are using. If the justification attribute just=c is left out, the dots are right aligned in both HTML and PDF.

The just=c attribute can be applied within a DEFINE statement.

define test1 / style(column)=[foreground=cfmt. just=c] format=dot.;

This works for the HTML output:

but not the PDF output:

For the PDF output you need to add the justification attribute to the format where you create the dot, '^{style [just=c fontsize=20pt]^{unicode 25cf}}'.

In this example adding the justification to the DEFINE statements works for HTML and not PDF. Conversely, adding the justification to the format works for PDF and not HTML. The example demonstrates the importance of developing code based on the destination you are using for your final results.

For more examples of controlling styling in PROC REPORT tables in the common ODS destinations, check out my book The SAS® Programmer's PROC REPORT Handbook: ODS Companion.


About Author

Jane Eslinger

SAS Technical Support Analyst

Jane is a Technical Support Analyst at SAS Institute Inc., in Cary, NC. She supports the REPORT procedure, ODS, and other Base SAS procedures. Before she joined SAS, Jane worked as a statistical programmer in the social science and clinical research fields. She is a graduate of NC State University with a Bachelor of Science in Statistics.


  1. Louise Hadden on

    Awesome - I've used this trick to put in sparklines, which is so much fun! And use stars every single month... Thanks for posting this!

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