Creating Circular Visualizations of Tabular Data

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Contributed by Bill Roehl, Data Geek at Capella University (@garciasn)

Analysts love raw data and end-users love to see that same data displayed in beautiful charts and pictures with exciting color. Dr. Danni Bayn, a Research Analyst at Capella University in Minneapolis, provides a drop-in method for SAS users to present data in ways that end-users will most definitely appreciate. Bayn explained that through the use of Circos, data visualization software written in the architecture independent Perl scripting language, SAS programmers can provide exactly what end-users are looking to see. Thankfully, she gives a step-by-step SAS program detailing everything a SAS user needs to pipe out their boring tabular data into thrilling and informative circular layouts.

Beginning with an example taken from Wired magazine, carrying a hefty warning about the possible spoiler it may be if you have not yet seen the end of the popular television series Lost, Bayn provided a brief glimpse of the capabilities of the Circos software package. She showed the tool’s powerful capability for drilling down within the chart to display complex associations between the show’s characters. Bayn provided a fun and exciting look into the package’s true power through popular culture.

In Bayn’s paper, she notes how Circos is used rarely outside genomics and high-profile media pieces because of the complexity of installation and operation. She provides a method, executable almost entirely within SAS, for installation of the Circos software and conversion of SAS data sets into a format that may be imported by the tool.

Utilizing four descriptive macros, the software is installed and operated without the need for anything more than the most basic knowledge of SAS programming. While the tool itself is powerful, Bayn admits she has only harnessed a small portion of its true power through the development of her macros. However, she promised that when time permits she would like to expand on the capabilities already present and provide SAS users with even more options with which to make stunning circular data visualizations.

Bayn’s excellent presentation spawned several after-talk discussions about how Circos may be used by others to provide new and informative ways to display their own tabular data. This is exactly why SAS Global Forum exists: to provide a single location for SAS users to learn from one another and take home with them new ways to perform their job better.

Way to go Danni!


These code examples are provided as is, without warranty of any kind, either express or implied, including but not limited to the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose. Recipients acknowledge and agree that SAS Institute shall not be liable for any damages whatsoever arising out of their use of this material. In addition, SAS Institute will provide no support for the materials contained herein.

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About Author

Waynette Tubbs

Editor, Marketing Editorial

+Waynette Tubbs is the Editor of the Risk Management Knowledge Exchange at SAS, Managing Editor of sascom Magazine and Editor of the SAS Tech Report. Tubbs has developed a comprehensive portfolio of strategic business and marketing communications during her career spanning 15 years of magazine, marketing and agency work.

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