Controlling your formats


During my 35 years of using SAS® software, I have found the CNTLIN and CNTLOUT options in the FORMAT procedure to be among the most useful features that I routinely suggest to other SAS users. The CNTLIN option enables you to create user-defined formats from a SAS data set (input control data set). The CNTLOUT option enables you to create a SAS data set (output control data set) containing format details from an entry in a SAS format catalog.

In this blog post, I provide a few examples demonstrating how to use the CNTLIN option. I also mention how to use the CNTLOUT option to store your format information in case you need to move to a new operating environment.

You can store all the format details from a SAS format catalog in a CNTLOUT data set and later restore them in a format catalog in your new operating environment using the CNTLIN option. For details, see SAS Usage Note 22194: “How to use the CNTLOUT= and CNTLIN= options in PROC FORMAT to move formats from one platform to another.”

A data set for the CNTLIN option contains variables that give specific information about ranges and values. At a minimum, the data set must contain the following variables:

FMTNAME specifies a character variable whose value is the format or informat name.
START specifies a variable that gives the range's starting value.
LABEL specifies a variable whose value is associated with a format or an informat.

For details about input and output control data sets, see the “FORMAT Procedure” section of Base SAS® 9.4 Procedures Guide, Seventh Edition.

Create a Numeric Format

The following simple example using the CNTLIN option creates a numeric format named respf:

 data test;                                         
    input response desc $20.;                       
 1  Strongly Disagree                               
 2  Disagree                                        
 3  Neutral                                         
 4  Agree                                           
 5  Stongly Agree                                   
 data crfmt;                                        
    set test;                                       
 proc format library=work cntlin=crfmt fmtlib;      
    select respf;                                   

Controlling Your Formats

Reveal Data Set Variables

To see the other variables that are included in data sets created by the CNTLIN and CNTLOUT options, use CNTLOUT to create a data set for the respf format created above:

 proc format library=work cntlout=outfmt;       
    select respf;                               
 proc print data=outfmt;                        

Add Additional Ranges

To add another range to the respf format, you can use DATA step processing with the data set created by the CNTLOUT option. Then, re-create the format using the CNTLIN option:

data infmt;                                               
    set outfmt end=last;                                   
    if last then do;                                       
       HLO='O';  /* indicates a special other range  */      
 proc format library=work cntlin=infmt fmtlib;             
    select respf;                                          

Convert a State Name to Its Postal Abbreviation

One use for the CNTLIN option is to create a format that converts a state name to its 2-letter postal abbreviation. For example, this option can convert 'North Carolina' to 'NC'.  Because SAS does not have a function or format to convert state names to postal abbreviations, this is an excellent use of the CNTLIN option.

We can use data from the SASHELP.ZIPCODE data set to create a user-defined format using the CNTLIN option, as shown below:

proc sql noprint;                               
    create table crfmt as                        
    select distinct statename as start,          
           statecode as label,                   
           '$mystate' as fmtname                 
    from sashelp.zipcode;                        
 proc format library=work cntlin=crfmt fmtlib;   
    select $mystate;                             

Identify State Capitals

In a similar manner, we can use the MAPS.USCITY data set to create a user-defined format that identifies state capitals from the 2-letter state abbreviation. See the sample code and partial results below:

proc sql noprint;                                 
   create table crfmt as                          
   select distinct statecode as start,            
          city as label,                          
          '$mycity' as fmtname                    
   from maps.uscity                               
   where capital='Y';                             
proc format library=work cntlin=crfmt fmtlib;     
   select $mycity;                                

Use External Data Sources

You can gather information from external data sources and read that information into a data set created by the CNTLIN option to create user-defined formats.

The following example uses ICD10 medical diagnosis codes. I downloaded a list of ICD10 codes and their descriptions into a Microsoft Excel file from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services website. Then, I created a user-defined format from the first 25 records:
Note: You can also download the codes as a text file.

/* This code reads in the Excel file.   */                                                                  
proc import out==myicd10                                              
   datafile= "C:\Section111ValidICD10-2017.xlsx"   
   dbms=excelcs replace;                                                
   range="'Valid ICD10 2017 & NF Exclude$'";                            
data crfmt;                                         
   set myicd10 (obs=25);                         
title1 'ICD10 Format';                                                      
title3 'FMTLIB results only display the first 40 characters of the label';  
proc format library=work cntlin=crfmt fmtlib;       
   select $myicd;                                   

A more complicated example that uses other data set variables created by the CNTLIN option is included in the linked sample program in Sample 47312: “Create a user-defined format containing decile ranges from PROC UNIVARIATE results.”

If you can think of a scenario in which the CNTLIN format would be helpful, give it a try. If you have questions, you can ask via  SAS Communities or contact us in SAS Technical Support.


About Author

Jerry Leonard

Technical Support Analyst

Jerry Leonard has worked in Technical Support at SAS for over 18 years. He is currently an Analyst in the SAS Foundations group supporting BASE Procedures and ODS. He has been fortunate to work at SAS for almost 30 years, working previously in support of SAS users and representatives in Latin America. Jerry is an avid runner and enjoys many outdoor activities.

1 Comment

  1. Peter Lancashire on

    What is the efficiency of very long format lists? I would use SQL joins for all of the examples you give here. They have the advantage of a clean well-known syntax and indexes. A view would (should) save the intermediate table.
    In case anyone at SAS would like to use a non-USA example for all us customers out here in the sticks, you could try the départements in France. There are others. 🙂

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