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Using the Descriptor Portion of a SAS Data File

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Executive Summary

The descriptor portion is often an overlooked component of a SAS data file. The purpose of the paper is to explain what the descriptor portion is, when it is created, and how it can be accessed. Four examples will illustrate the usefulness of the descriptor. To give context and make the first two examples clear, the paper will briefly remind the reader how SAS processes a DATA step. The first two examples will demonstrate how using the information in the descriptor portion can make the SAS code more efficient. The last two examples will show how using the descriptor combined with the power of macro processing can make the programmers life much easier and the SAS code more elegant.

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