With SAS 9.3, it’s pretty clear that SAS wants everyone to start using HTML as their base output format. That’s actually been a good idea since SAS 9 was first released. HTML output is easier to read, takes less paper if you print it, and is easier to deliver to the world or to integrate into other documents than the “print file,” the paginated monospace text of the Listing destination format that SAS relied on for the previous four decades. And though HTML might seem more complicated than Listing, it’s not actually any harder to create. You will find a series of changes in SAS 9.3 that make the transition easier.
- HTML is now the default destination if you are running SAS in the GUI windowing environment. That is, you don’t have to use any ODS statements to get HTML output.
- ODS graphics have been separated from SAS/GRAPH and moved entirely to base SAS. ODS graphics are now included in your HTML output with just a base SAS license. If you use the Listing destination, you can still use ODS graphics, but you have to look at the graphics separately, an approach we will all quickly come to see as an unnecessary inconvenience.
- There are improvements in the DOCUMENT procedure to make it more compatible with the PRINT procedure, and to allow arbitrary text to be added to a document. These changes are especially useful if you are using the DOCUMENT procedure for formatted output such as HTML output.
- There was a sense that ODS style attributes were converging with CSS attributes when SAS 9 was released, and that continues with several new ODS style attributes in SAS 9.3. The new attributes such as WHITESPACE, PADDING, and BORDERCOLLAPSE provide ODS support for attributes that you would take for granted in CSS formatting of an HTML document.
- There is a new style, HTMLBlue, that enhances readability and makes more efficient use of space when displaying tables. It also, in my opinion, just looks more glamorous in a graphic design sense. The HTMLBlue style is the default style for the HTML destination in SAS 9.3.
There are two tricky points with HTML being the default destination. First, if you were already running a program in SAS 9.2, you may want to keep its output style the same as before. There are three new system options that, used together, can provide the SAS 9.2 behavior, so that you don’t have to rewrite your programs to keep them from changing.
Second, while HTML is the default destination in the GUI windowing environment, Listing remains the default in all other environments. This means the output format could change just because you run a program in a different way. If this is a problem, add ODS statements to the program to explicitly select the destination you want and close the destination you don’t want. This is not as big a change as it might sound. You can start a program with this statement to close all ODS destinations, without having to know which ones are open:
ods _all_ close;
Follow this with an ODS HTML, ODS LISTING, or other ODS statement to open the destination of your choice. This is all it takes to get consistent ODS output from a program, not affected by where you run it.
If you have older programs that use the PRINTTO procedure to select a destination file for output, you need to know that the PRINTTO procedure works only for the Listing destination, and not for any other ODS destination. Even for the Listing destination, it is simpler to select destination files using the ODS LISTING statement. However, continue to use the PRINTTO procedure if you use it to temporarily reroute the SAS log, or use it with the Listing destination to combine the log and output in the same file.