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I have a love-hate relationship with spreadsheet data. I am interested in finding data to analyze, and if it arrives in the form of a spreadsheet, I'll take it. And I like to deliver results and reports, but often my constituents ask for it as a spreadsheet that they can then manipulate further. <Sigh.>

A spreadsheet is not a database, so it can be a challenge to whip spreadsheet data into analysis-ready shape. Likewise, saving results as a spreadsheet can lose something in the translation -- usually value formatting, appearance attributes, or graphs.

SAS offers many ways to read from and write to Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. They each have pros and cons. This post is an inventory of the methods that I know about for creating Excel files from within SAS.

Some "bits" about 32-bit and 64-bit architecture

Before I get to the Big List, let me set the stage by describing a few terms and concepts.

In order to create Excel files directly from SAS, you need SAS/ACCESS to PC Files. This product enables all sorts of file exchanges between SAS and other PC-based applications, including Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Access, SPSS, and more.

SAS/ACCESS to PC Files includes a component called the PC Files Server. The PC Files Server is a service-based application that runs apart from SAS on a Windows node. It accepts requests from SAS to convert data to and from Excel (and other file types). Traditionally, this innovation allows SAS running on UNIX (where there are no native facilities for Excel data) to exchange data with PC-based data programs.

Recent changes in desktop computing have complicated the picture. Newer desktop machines all have 64-bit architecture, and most organizations are now adopting 64-bit versions of Microsoft Windows. All of your 32-bit applications (designed for x86 architecture) still can still run, of course, but there are a few hard-and-fast rules. One of those rules is that a 64-bit application cannot dynamically load 32-bit modules in its process space. And guess what? There is a better-than-even chance that the built-in data providers that you have for Microsoft Excel -- the bits that allow SAS to write to Excel on Windows -- are 32-bit modules. This means that the PROC EXPORT DBMS=EXCEL program that worked in your 32-bit SAS session will not work in your 64-bit SAS session.

There are two remedies for this bitness mismatch. First, you could install the 64-bit data providers (which accompany the 64-bit version of Microsoft Office). But you cannot have both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of these data providers on the same machine; if you have 32-bit Microsoft Office, then you're stuck with the 32-bit providers for now.

The second remedy is to use the PC Files Server, right there on the same Windows machine where SAS is running. This allows a 64-bit SAS process to delegate the data exchange to a 32-bit PC Files Server process. Thanks to the out-of-process communication, this circumvents the bit architecture mismatch. To make this work you don't have to set up any additional software, but your SAS programs must change to use DBMS=EXCELCS. The EXCELCS keyword tells SAS to use the PC Files Server instead of attempting to use in-process data providers.

Exporting to Excel: ways to get there from SAS

With the architecture lesson behind us, here's my list for how to put SAS content into Microsoft Excel. I won't dive into much detail about each method here; you can follow the links to find more documentation.

These methods use features of SAS/ACCESS to PC Files:

LIBNAME EXCEL – reads/writes Excel files at the sheet level when the bitness of SAS (32- or 64-bit) matches the bitness of Microsoft Office installed (or more specifically, the ACE drivers that accompany Office). An Excel file is viewed as a SAS library, while sheets/ranges are the member tables. Requires exclusive lock on an existing Excel file.

LIBNAME PCFILES – does the same as LIBNAME EXCEL, but uses PC Files Server. Good for UNIX and for Windows configurations where bitness of SAS and Microsoft Office don't match.

PROC EXPORT DBMS=EXCELCS – uses PC Files Server to write an Excel file. There are various options to control the output behavior. Good for UNIX and for Windows configurations where bitness of SAS and Microsoft Office don't match.

PROC EXPORT DBMS=EXCEL - writes Excel files when the bitness of SAS (32- or 64-bit) matches the bitness of Microsoft Office installed (or more specifically, the ACE drivers that accompany Office).

PROC EXPORT DBMS=XLS – writes Excel (XLS) files directly, no driver or PC Files Server needed. Has limits on volume and format. Works on Windows and UNIX.

PROC EXPORT DBMS=XLSX – new in 9.3M1, writes Excel 2010 files (XLSX format) directly. No driver or PC Files Server needed. Works on Windows and UNIX.

The following methods do not require SAS/ACCESS to PC Files, so they are popular, even if they don't produce "native" Excel files:

PROC EXPORT DBMS=CSV – produces comma separated value files, most often used in Excel.

ODS TAGSETS.CSV (or just DATA step and FILE output) – produces comma separated value files, most often used in Excel.

ODS TAGSETS.EXCELXP – uses ODS to create an Office XML file. Provides a fair amount of control over the content appearance, but recent versions of Excel do not recognize as a "native" format, so user is presented with a message to that effect when opening in Excel.

FILENAME DDE – uses Windows messages to control what goes into an Excel file, down to the cell level. Works only when SAS for Windows and Excel are on the same machine. Doesn't work in SAS workspace servers or stored process servers (often accessed with SAS Enterprise Guide). It's an antiquated approach, but offers tremendous control that many long-time SAS users enjoy.

SAS client applications make it easier

While I've focused on the SAS programming methods for creating Excel files, applications like SAS Enterprise Guide and the SAS Add-In for Microsoft Office make the operation a breeze. SAS Enterprise Guide can import and export Excel files through point-and-click methods, and SAS/ACCESS to PC Files is not needed to make that work. (However, the work is not captured in a SAS program, so it cannot be run in SAS batch jobs or stored processes.)

SAS Add-In for Microsoft Office turns the problem on its head. By allowing you to access SAS data and analytics from within Microsoft Excel, you pull the results into your Excel session, rather than export them from your SAS session.

tags: excel, export, pc files server, SAS/ACCESS PC Files


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