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SAS seriously needs to upgrade the documentation website

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Occasional Contributor
Posts: 14

SAS seriously needs to upgrade the documentation website

No sure this is the right place to post this. Mod please move the post to the right category.

 

But SAS seriously needs to upgrade the documentation website.

 

Everytime I googled something about SAS, I was almost always sent to a link for SAS 9.2. And there is no link to switch SAS versions on the documentation webpage. Miscrosoft is much smarter in this regard, for example: https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/system.componentmodel(v=vs.110).aspx . Google takes you to the current version of the document, and you can switch version on the webpage directly. For SAS, you have to add 9.4 to the search phrases to get to the right place in the documentation website. Also, look at the URL, obviously microsoft document URL is better designed. For SAS, it is something like this: http://support.sas.com/documentation/cdl/en/acpcref/67382/HTML/default/viewer.htm#n0msy4hy1so0ren1ac...

The url matters not only for SEO, but also for users to take notes. I can't even put the SAS document URL in presentation, because it just looks awful.

 

In general, the content of SAS documentation is great, but there is also space for improvement.

 

If I google "proc import". The first result is for SAS 9.2, and the second is for SAS 9.4. Let's see what's on the SAS 9.4 document. http://support.sas.com/documentation/cdl/en/proc/68954/HTML/default/viewer.htm#n18jyszn33umngn14czw2... If I CTRL+F to look for the word "excel", you know what, it's no there! Some would argue it belongs to SAS/ACCESS, but seriously, don't you think at least you should mention Excel on the PROC IMPORT document, and link to the right place?

 

OK, let's google "proc import excel". The third result gets to the right place to SAS 9.2 documentation. http://support.sas.com/documentation/cdl/en/acpcref/63184/HTML/default/viewer.htm#a003102096.htm . Unfortunately, this page is not specific for excel. The real information for excel is on this page: http://support.sas.com/documentation/cdl/en/acpcref/63184/HTML/default/viewer.htm#a003103761.htm , which is not linked by the proc import webpage. It is hidden in the left sidebar. If you click "File Format-Specific Reference", you will find it.

 

Some would argue that it is google's problem, but it is not. If you do the search on Bing, you will get similar results. Search "proc import excel" will not get you to the "Microsoft Excel Workbook Files" document, even "proc import excel namerow" won't. I think there's something to be improved in the design of the SAS documentation website.

 

 

 

 

Super User
Posts: 11,343

Re: SAS seriously needs to upgrade the documentation website

The issue is more likely a GOOGLE problem. Google returns many responses based on algorithms related to total searchs and page views. Since 9.2 has been around longer than 9.4 then it has had more time to garner hits (and gets repeated hits because of the previous results as in your case)

 

You can try adding 9.4 to the searches which may help sometimes.

 

And Excel has so many issues I wouldn't know which section was "right" by default. You can read Excel with LIBNAME statement for instance.

 

Not to mention that a percentage of Excel "files" are actually CSV or XML being hijacked by Excel and import for those should not be dependendant on Excel.

 

There may also be a slight misunderstanding of the SAS architecture when it comes to the specific procedure IMPORT. BASE sas includes Proc Import for dealing with several forms of text based files. Proprietary file formats are in specific additional cost modules, PC Files for one and those are all under SAS/ACCESS.

 

Super Contributor
Posts: 441

Re: SAS seriously needs to upgrade the documentation website

You have eloquently phrased exactly my gripes. Did you not want to add that the SAS Support site is slow as a dog and very unforgiving when it comes to typos in the search phrase?

 

- Jan.

Super User
Posts: 19,861

Re: SAS seriously needs to upgrade the documentation website

Posted in reply to jklaverstijn

Google's result accuracy actually has declined significantly this year IMO. If you search for something you see in the news it brings up similar articles from a year or two years ago instead of the current article. I've switched to using Bing, but am open to alternatives. 

 

The search on SAS website is not functional in my opinion.

 

I use this page as my starting point for documentation:

https://support.sas.com/documentation/cdl/en/allprodsproc/68038/HTML/default/viewer.htm#procedures.h...

 

 

Occasional Contributor
Posts: 14

Re: SAS seriously needs to upgrade the documentation website

[ Edited ]

Thank you guys' responses. It's more than the Google thing. As I pointed out in the original post, you can see Microsoft documentation can switch versions. If you check Python documentation, they can switch versions too, see https://docs.python.org/2/reference/ . If you check PHP documentation (e.g. http://php.net/manual/en/language.basic-syntax.phptags.php ), they have changelog to document the changes. The problem with SAS documentation is that it totally seprartes different versions and does not link to each other. It forces users to handle the issue manually.

 

Also, the content of document needs improve.

Super User
Posts: 19,861

Re: SAS seriously needs to upgrade the documentation website


jflycn wrote:
 

Also, the content of document needs improve.


 

Can you explain what you think needs improvement? An example would be great. 

 

Personally having used R/Python documentation I've been pretty happy with SAS's, not that there is never room for improvement.

Occasional Contributor
Posts: 14

Re: SAS seriously needs to upgrade the documentation website

 See last four paragraphs in OP.

Super User
Posts: 11,343

Re: SAS seriously needs to upgrade the documentation website

I seldom use the the SAS Documentation website myself. Mostly because the online help has almost everything there for the version installed. There's nothing quite like a neat solution only to find out that it won't work in the version installed.

 

When I'm looking for things I can't quite find I usually start at tech support because there you can fiddle around to get responses applicable to specific versions. Yes, many of the results still point to the documentation but I can usually filter to what I want quicker.

 

 

Super User
Posts: 19,861

Re: SAS seriously needs to upgrade the documentation website


jflycn wrote:

 See last four paragraphs in OP.


That's organization of content, not content per se. 

Occasional Contributor
Posts: 14

Re: SAS seriously needs to upgrade the documentation website


Reeza wrote:

jflycn wrote:

 See last four paragraphs in OP.


That's organization of content, not content per se. 


I don't think so. Let's focused on PROC IMPORT as an example. Does PROC IMPORT support Excel format? Yes. It does. Then why it is not even mentioned in the document? Is NAMEROW= statement a part of PROC IMPORT? Of course it is. Then why it is not even mentioned in the document? Well, you will say it is part of SAS/ACCESS. Yes, it is true, but it does not deny the truth that supporting of Excel is also part of PROC IMPORT. 

 

I am not suggesting Excel or SAS/ACCESS should be fully covered in PROC IMPORT. However, a well writen document certainly should mention importing Excel files through PROC IMPORT and link to the page of detailed information.

 

Maybe, let's say maybe, if SAS allow developers to comment on the documentation as PHP does, it will also solve the problem. 

Trusted Advisor
Posts: 1,321

Re: SAS seriously needs to upgrade the documentation website

In December, 2015 I participated in providing feedback on how I search for documentation as SAS are working on updating the search and documentation pages. I encouraged others in the community to register to provide their feedback at https://communities.sas.com/t5/General-SAS-Programming/Provide-SAS-Website-Feedback-have-your-say/m-...

 

I'm not sure where things are with the SAS search and documentation pages and have informed the person that interviewed me about this thread and asked for an update.

 

Kind Regards,

Michelle

 

Occasional Contributor
Posts: 14

Re: SAS seriously needs to upgrade the documentation website

[ Edited ]
Posted in reply to MichelleHomes

MichelleHomes wrote:

In December, 2015 I participated in providing feedback on how I search for documentation as SAS are working on updating the search and documentation pages. I encouraged others in the community to register to provide their feedback at https://communities.sas.com/t5/General-SAS-Programming/Provide-SAS-Website-Feedback-have-your-say/m-...

 

I'm not sure where things are with the SAS search and documentation pages and have informed the person that interviewed me about this thread and asked for an update.

 

Kind Regards,

Michelle

 


Thanks Michelle for being very helpful.

 

Let me reflect a little bit on what lead me to writing the post. Although I am a new user to the community website, I have used SAS for many years. Actually I have always been very satisfied with SAS documentation and countless SAS conference articles. Until today, when I read across an article and randomly saw the NAMEROW statement for PROC IMPORT. Yes, it is a very simple thing, not rocket science, but it strikes me because I have never heard of it! Even after I have used PROC IMPORT for many years and read so many SAS reference documents and conference articles! I must have read the PROC IMPORT document page many times. I sought NAMEROW might be a secret or undocumented feature, but the enhanced editor highlighted it correctly. So I pressed F1 on NAMEROW, I was lead to a very informative document page I have never seen before.

 

So I think there are many levels of problem here:

 

1. The NAMEROW statement should be mentioned on the PROC IMPORT document. When user hits F1 on PROC IMPORT, every possible statement should be there, no matter BASE or SAS/ACCESS.

2. Detailed information for Excel importing should be linked on the PROC IMPORT document. When user hits F1 on PROC IMPORT, the document should easily lead the user to detailed information for different file types.

3. I actually use google more than document from the software. Maybe many SAS users do the same. I think the SAS documentation website is not SEO friendly, so it also creates some problems.

Trusted Advisor
Posts: 1,321

Re: SAS seriously needs to upgrade the documentation website

I understand what you're saying...

 

The documentation for PROC IMPORT doesn't mention the NAMEROW statement as this is only available with a SAS/ACCESS Interface to PC File Format license. The BASE SAS PROC IMPORT documentation syntax being http://support.sas.com/documentation/cdl/en/proc/68954/HTML/default/viewer.htm#n1qn5sclnu2l9dn1w61if... and on the Overview tab there is a link to the SAS/ACCESS Interface to PC File Format PROC IMPORT documentation http://support.sas.com/documentation/cdl/en/acpcref/67382/HTML/default/viewer.htm#n0msy4hy1so0ren1ac...

 

I understand your point about all the documentation being available when you press F1 however if someone doesn't have SAS/ACCESS Interface to PC File Formats license what should happen, or better still, perhaps the documentation be dynamically provided based on what's in the SAS license? (not sure if this is possible but that would be nice). 

 

I started learning SAS in SAS 6.11 days when the documentation was only available in thick white books and I'd use the books' table of contents and index to navigate. Despite the SAS documentation being online with search facilities, today, I tend to still look up SAS documentation "treating it like a book" and have shown others this approach. When you know what PROC you are wanting to get documentation on, I always use the SAS Procedures by Name index. This is a great page as it is lists all the PROCs and takes you to the main page of each PROC with tabs for Syntax, Examples, References. It provides the syntax of statements and options in context of the PROC and examples are easy to find. If I want to find syntax for the data step (formats/functions, statements etc), I always go to the main BASE SAS page and open up the relevant "book" listed on the page - http://support.sas.com/documentation/onlinedoc/base/index.html

 

I've found this approach a lot easier and more intuitive than carrying out a Google search as yourself and others have described earlier in the thread. In fact, I rarely/don't use Google for searching for SAS syntax. I might do a Google search if I don't know what PROC to search on for a particular analysis and then based on the results return I have an idea as to what PROC to look up.

 

Looking up documentation varies from person to person and people also have their own techniques/habits. Perhaps the traditional way in which the documentation has been written needs to be modernized to accommodate to way people learn and interact today. Something the SAS documentation team may be looking at already?!?

 

It would be good to get the community's feedback/thoughts though on how they use the SAS documentation. Perhaps we could start a new thread of a "help about help" discussion where people can share their techniques in using SAS documentation? A topic for a future SAS programming webinar too?

 

Super User
Posts: 11,343

Re: SAS seriously needs to upgrade the documentation website


jflycn wrote:

 

1. The NAMEROW statement should be mentioned on the PROC IMPORT document. When user hits F1 on PROC IMPORT, every possible statement should be there, no matter BASE or SAS/ACCESS.

2. Detailed information for Excel importing should be linked on the PROC IMPORT document. When user hits F1 on PROC IMPORT, the document should easily lead the user to detailed information for different file types.

3. I actually use google more than document from the software. Maybe many SAS users do the same. I think the SAS documentation website is not SEO friendly, so it also creates some problems.


1. NOT every statement should be there, the ones for the installation should be there possibly. If you want to wade through the documentation for every single DBMS supported by SAS more power to you. And some of those IMPORT options are operating system dependent as well. So should the Windows user have the z/OS or MVS or Unix syntax, that will not work, included?

2. Why? If my shop does not use Excel why should Excel documentation be forced on us? And since Excel changes file formats so often I'm less interested in having to manuever through Excel 1, Excel 2, Excel 3, Excel..., Excel 13 versions.

 

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