[R] Are you experienced in SAS and R as well? Which of these would you recommend?

Scot W McNary smcnary at charm.net
Fri Nov 23 21:38:23 CET 2001

Here's another "use both" opinion.

I use SAS for large datasets, data manipulation/transformation,
subsetting, file creation, data aggregation, and canned data analysis
routines.  As an applied end user of software products, SAS serves me well
in these capacities.  However, as a perpetual student of the field, I find
that if I want to learn something, R is a tremendous resource as both a
software solution and a community of scholars (in r-help).  I find reading
r-help to be a daily tutorial on data analysis.  But the graphing
capabilities were astonishing to me.

As a data analyst I find that much of my work is designed to solve a
problem that needing solving yesterday.  As most of my colleagues use SAS,
it's often the path of least resistance to getting the job done.
However, it's a bit of a leviathan when it comes to manuals and support
and maintenance.  The exclusive SAS user can fall into a bit of a trap,
too: if a problem can't be solved in SAS, it can't be solved.

I've had to work 8 hours to get a set of plots to look like I want them to
look.  Here's a good example: if you want to make a scatterplot matrix in
SAS you have to borrow somebody's 180K macro that makes repeated calls to
PROC GPLOT sending them to the sphinx-like PROC GREPLAY.  When I finally
figured out how to _use_ it, I still was still unable to make it work for
my data.  Chalk up 8 hours to education.  To get the _same_ thing in R is:


Plotting functions have "sensible defaults", which is a blissfully
generous accomodation for those of us who are trying to get a job done.

I'd side with Jon Baron, that learning both will ultimately benefit you.
I open an R session as soon as I sit down at the computer and leave it
running all day.  Any by-hand calculating or short demonstrations I need
I run on R.  I've even begun trying my hand at running simulations
(formerly the province of only the select few), because it's relatively
easy to figure out how to do in R.  Learning R has bent my head a bit to
think about computing entirely differently (open source, object-oriented
programming<-still trying to understand that).  When it comes right down
to it, I can get jobs done with SAS, but I learn when I use R.

Incidentally, an editor I'm very fond of (on a Windows platform) is
Ultraedit.  With syntax highlighting for both SAS and S (i.e., R), is what
I use to edit in both worlds.  It's not free, it's shareware for $15:



  Scot W. McNary  email:smcnary at charm.net

On Fri, 23 Nov 2001, Jonathan Baron wrote:

> Also, the editing features in PC-SAS are v. friendly and pleasant to
> >use. This (in my view) is in contrast to R where I have to use NOTEPAD (in
> >Windows anyway) to create a text file which is then included into the
> >console (I find it a bit cumbersome).
> Emacs, and ESS, are available for Windows, although I must admit
> that it is much easier to configure them on Linux.  Other Windows
> editors to try are Nedit (good for people used to Word), WinEdt
> (not free) and JED.  You don't have to use Notepad.
> See
> http://www.nedit.org/
> http://space.mit.edu/~davis/jed.html
> http://www.winedit.com/
> and the bottom of http://www.psych.upenn.edu/cattell/edit.html
> for others.
> Jon
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