Column Input in SAS4 min read

The column Input in SAS is one of the methods to read raw data files that have spaces or other delimiters between all the values or periods for missing numeric data.

Advantages of Column input in SAS

Column input has the following advantages over list input:

  • Spaces are not required between values
  • Missing values can be left blank
  • Character data can have embedded spaces
  • You can skip unwanted variables.


INPUT variable <$> start-column<–end-column> <.decimals> <@ | @@>;

  • $ - It indicates that the variable has character values. The $ is not required if the variable is previously defined as a character.
  • Start-column - It specifies the first column of the input record that contains the value to read.
  • End-column -specifies the last column of the input record that contains the value to read. If the variable value occupies only one column, omit the end-column.
  • .decimals - specifies the power of 10 by which to divide the value. If the data contain decimal points, the .decimals value is ignored.An explicit decimal point in the input value overrides a decimal specification.
  • @ it holds the input record for the execution of the next INPUT statement within the same iteration of the DATA step. This line-hold specifier is called trailing @.
  • @@ holds the input record for the execution of the next INPUT statement across iterations of the DATA step. This line-hold specifier is called double trailing @.

The trailing @ and @@ must be the last item in the INPUT statement.

The trailing @ prevents the next INPUT statement from automatically releasing the current input record and reading the next record into the input buffer. It is useful when you need to read from a record multiple times.

The double trailing @ is useful when each input line contains values for several observations.

Example 1: Reading Input Records with Column Input

data Students;
	input name $ 1-18 age 25-27 weight 30-32;
Joseph                  11   32
Mitchel                 13   29
Sue Ellen               14   27
Column Input

Example 2: Read Input Records Using Decimals

The .decimals argument is used to read values from input lines and inserting a decimal place into data that does not have an explicit decimal already defined.

If the data contains an explicit decimal it is not changed, instead the data is padded to match the greatest number of significant digits that occur in any of the output data after conversion.

data product;
input cost 1-5 .2;
Column Input Decimals

Example 3: Reading two types of Input data 

This is an example which reads a file that contains two types of input data records and creates a SAS data set from these records.

One type of data record contains information about a particular college course. The second type of record contains information about the students enrolled in the course.

You will need two INPUT statements to read the two records and to assign the values to different variables that use different formats.

Records that contain class information have a Course in column 1 and records that contain student information have an Student in column 1, as shown below:

Course  HISTORY Watson
Student Williams 0459
Student Flores 5423
Course  MATHS Sen
Student Lee 7085
data students(drop=type);
retain Course Professor;
input type $7. @;
if type='Course' then 
input course $ professor $;
else if type='Student' then 
input Student $10. Id;
output students;
Course HISTORY Watson
Student Williams 0459
Student Flores 5423
Course MATHS Sen
Student Lee 7085 
Column input SAS

Example 4: Holding a Record across Iterations of the DATA Step

This example shows how to create multiple observations for each input data record. Each record contains several NAME and AGE values.

The DATA step reads a NAME value and an AGE value, writes an observation, and then reads another set of NAME and AGE values to output, and so on, until all the input values in the record are processed.

data test;
   input name $ age @@;
Joseph 13 Mitchel 12 Sue 15 Stephen 10 Marc 22 Lily 17
holding-record sas

When to use Column Input in SAS?

If each of the variable’s values is always arranged in the same place in the data line, then you use column input as long as all the values are character or standard numeric.

Standard numeric data contains only numerals, decimal points, plus and minus signs, and E representing scientific notation.

If the numbers have embedded commas or dates are not standard numeric data.

If you liked this article, you might also want to read Importing Data using PROC IMPORT as well.

Do you any tips to add Let us know in the comments.

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by Subhro Kar
Been in the realm with the professionals of the IT industry. I am passionate about Coding, Blogging, Web Designing and deliver creative and useful content for a wide array of audience.

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