Unix and Why You Need to Learn It

[last updated - 08 September 2007]


You think learning Unix is not for you? Stick with SAS because there's enough there yet to learn? True, there's plenty more to learn in SAS. Very true for me, and I have been programming in it intensively since 1986. So leave Unix for the techies because it won't help you with SAS and the work you do? Well, think again! If you work on a Unix platform and you don't know Unix well then I guarantee you that you are not working as efficiently as you could be. Very far from it, in fact.

SAS is SAS and Unix is Unix, right?

WRONG. This is probably the assumption you are making and you couldn't be more wrong. That is why you don't bother learning more about Unix. Don't blame yourself, though, because this is what 99% or more of SAS programmers on Unix platforms think. But, in fact, you can combine SAS and native Unix commands easily and in so doing open up whole new possibilities for ease and greater efficiency. Once you start out down this route, you will never look back. But you can't see that now, so I would like you to step into my shoes for a few minutes so you can see things from my point of view. I will tell you about a typical day of mine using SAS with Unix.

How I use Unix with SAS

I have written a number of Unix utilities and many of these execute SAS within them. I use some of these utilities every day at work. I can't remember a day, now, in the past year, when I have not used at least one of them. I'll give you a list of the SAS/Unix utilities I use often as well as some of the pure Unix ones that still relate to the work I do with SAS. I'd like you to imagine what it could be like working in the following way that I will illustrate. Put yourself in my place and imagine doing the same thing. I've by no means covered all possible examples of what would be useful to you in your Clinical trials reporting environment. There is no such thing as a definitive list. It all depends on the way you work. All I hope to have achieved here, assuming you have read the above list and thought about it, is to open up your mind to what might be possible in your own workplace if you could make SAS talk to Unix in the form of utilities that operate to match the way you work. Let me assure you that there is very little "pain" to get to this stage and a great deal of "gain" to be had. Unix commands, and writing Unix shell scripts, is much easier than writing SAS code. It just looks odd and when you make an error it is hard to debug. But once you know how to do this you will be able to transform the way you work and raise the efficieny of your department in a way you never previously thought possible.

I invite you to join me in making the transition from being a pure SAS programmer to a SAS programmer who has married their skills to the Unix environment. You have maybe studied the many SAS macros on this web site to see how it could be applied to achieve greater efficiency in the field of Clinical reporting so maybe you are ready to take one more step with me in that direction. Click on the following link to move onto the next stage.


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