New to SAS? Ready to learn more? Check out these tips and tricks from the authors of Exercises and Projects for The Little SAS Book, 5th Edition


Old and new SAS users alike learned the tricks of the data trade from our Little SAS Book! We hope these fun tips from our exercise and project book teach you even more about how to master the data analytics game!

From Rebecca Ottesen:

Tip #1: Grouping Quantitative Variables
My favorite tip to share with students and SAS users is how to use PROC FORMAT to group quantitative variables into categories. A format can be created with a VALUE statement that specifies the ranges relevant to the category groupings. Then, this format can be applied with a FORMAT statement during an analysis to group the variable accordingly (don't forget the CLASS statement when applicable). You can also create categorical variables in the DATA step by applying the format in an assignment statement with a PUT function.

From Lora Delwiche:

Tip #2: Commenting Blocks of Code
This tip I learned from fellow SAS Press author Alan Wilson at SAS Global Forum 2008 in San Antonio. It might be a bit overly dramatic to say that this tip changed my life, but that’s not far from the truth! So, I am paying this tip forward. Thank you, Alan!

To comment out a whole block of code, simply highlight the lines of code, hold down the control key, and press the forward slash ( /). SAS will take those lines of code and turn them into comments by adding a /* to the beginning of each line and an */ at the end of each line.

To convert the commented lines back to code, highlight the lines again, hold down the control and shift keys, and press the forward slash ( /). This works in both the SAS Windowing environment (Display Manager) and SAS Enterprise Guide.

If you are using SAS Studio as your programming interface, you comment the same way, but to uncomment, just hold down the control key and then press the forward slash.

From Susan J. Slaughter:
Tip #3: Susan's Macro Mottos
There is no question that writing and debugging SAS macros can be a challenge. So I have two "macro mottos" that I use to help keep me on track.

“Remember, you are writing a program that writes a program.”

This is the most important concept to keep in mind whenever you work with SAS macros. If you feel the least bit confused by a macro, repeating this motto can help you to see what is going on. I speak from personal experience here. This is my macro mantra.

“To avoid mangling your macros, always write them one piece at a time.”

This means, write your program in standard SAS code first. When that is working and bug-free, then add your %MACRO and %MEND statements. When they are working, then add your parameters, if any, one at a time. If you make sure that each macro feature you add is working before you add another one, then debugging will be vastly simplified.

And, this is the best time ever to learn SAS! When I first encountered SAS, there were only two ways that I could get help. I could either ask another graduate student who might or might not know the answer, or I could go to the computer center and borrow the SAS manual. (There was only one.) Today it's totally different.

I am continually AMAZED by the resources that are available now—many for FREE. Here are four resources that every new SAS user should know about:

1. SAS Studio
This is a wonderful new interface for SAS that runs in a browser and has both programming and point-and-click features. SAS Studio is free for students, professors, and independent learners. You can download the SAS University Edition to run SAS Studio on your own computer, or use SAS OnDemand for Academics via the Internet.

2. Online classes
Two of the most popular self-paced e-learning classes are available for free: SAS Programming 1: Essentials, and Statistics 1. These are real classes which in the past people paid hundreds of dollars to take.

3. Videos
You can access hundreds of SAS training videos, tutorials, and demos at Topics range from basic (What is SAS?) to advanced (SAS 9.4 Metadata Clustering).

4. Community of SAS users
If you encounter a problem, it is likely that someone else faced a similar situation and figured out how to solve it. On you can post questions and get answers from SAS users and developers. On the site,, you can find virtually every paper ever presented at a SAS users group conference.

If you want even more tips and tricks, check out our Exercises and Projects for The Little SAS Book, Fifth Edition! Let us know if enjoyed these tips in the comment boxes below.


About Author

Sian Roberts

Publisher, SAS Press

Sian is currently Publisher at SAS Press. She has over 20 years of publishing and marketing experience in technology and holds a BEng in Electronic Engineering from Brunel University, London, UK, and a MSc in Cognitive Science & Intelligent Computing from the University of Westminster, London, UK. When Sian is not busily leading SAS Press, she is a devoted soccer/baseball mom to her two boys and walking Chuck, the family chocolate lab.


  1. Great post! I love the little tricks like this. It's helpful when developing to remind one's self that macro functions are code that writes code -- not always "programs" per se, but sometimes filters, conditional logic, or loops.

    And always a good idea to know your IDE's shortcut for toggling commenting 🙂

    • Sian Roberts

      Thank you Paul! I agree, the macro function reminder from Susan was by far my favorite part of the post. Those small mottos help! 🙂

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