WARNING: No bars were drawn. This could have been caused by ORDER= on the AXIS statement. You might wish to use the MIDPOINTS= option on the VBAR statement instead.

What you see above is a an error issued by a SAS program like what a colleague at work recently found. The following code will reproduce this so let us walk through the steps to explain a possible cause for this.

The first stage is to create a test dataset containing variables y and x, for the vertical and midpoint axes, respectively, and populating these using a CARDS statement in a data step:

data a;
input y x;
cards;
1 5
3 9
;
run;

Now, we define an axis with tick marks for particular values that will be used as the definition for the midpoint or horizontal axis of the chart:

axis1 order=(1 3);

Then, we try creating the chart using the GCHART procedure that comes with SAS/GRAPH and this is what results in the error message being issued in the program log:

proc gchart data=a;
vbar x / freq=y maxis=axis1;
run;
quit;

The cause is that the midpoint axis tick marks are no included in the data so changing these to the actual values of the x variable removes the message and allows the creation of the required chart. Thus, the AXIS1 statement needs to become the following:

axis1 order=(5 9);

Another solution is to remove the MAXIS option from the VBAR statement and let GCHART be data driven. However, if requirements do not allow this, create a shell dataset with all expected values for the midpoint axis with y set 0 since that is used for presenting frequencies as per the FREQ option in the VBAR statement.

WARNING: Engine XPORT does not support SORTEDBY operations. SORTEDBY information cannot be copied.

When recently creating a transport file using PROC COPY and the XPORT library engine, I found the above message in the log. The code used was similar to the following:

libname tran xport “c:\temp\tran.xpt”;

proc copy in=data out=tran;
run;

When I went seeking out the cause on the web, I discovered this SAS Note that dates from before the release of SAS 6.12, putting the issue at more than ten years old. My take on its continuing existence is that we still to use a transport file format that was introduced in SAS 5.x for sake of interoperability, both between SAS versions and across alternatives to the platform.

The SORTEDBY flag in a dataset header holds the keys used to sort the data and it isn’t being copied into the XPORT transport files, hence the warning. To get rid of it, you need to remove the information manually in data step using the SORTEDBY option on the DATA statement or using PROC DATASETS, which avoids rewriting the entire data set.

First up is the data step option:

data test(sortedby=_null_);
set sashelp.class;
run;

Then, there’s PROC DATASETS:

proc datasets;
modify test(sortedby=_null_);
run;
quit;

It might seem counterproductive to exclude the information but it makes no sense to keep what’s being lost anyway. So long as the actual sort order is unchanged, and I believe that the code that that below will not alter it, we can live with its documentation in a specification until transport files created using PROC CPORT are as portable as those from PROC COPY.

Dealing with variable length warnings in SAS 9.2

A habit of mine is to put a LENGTH or ATTRIB statement between DATA and SET statements in a SAS data step to reset variable lengths. By default, it seems that this triggers truncation warnings in SAS 9.2 or SAS 9.3 when it didn’t in previous versions. SAS 9.1.3, for instance, allowed you have something like the following for shortening a variable length without issuing any messages at all:

data b;
length x $100;
set a;
run;

In this case, x could have a length of 200 previously and SAS 9.1.3 wouldn’t have complained. Now, SAS 9.2 and 9.3 will issue a warning if the new length is less than the old length. This can be useful to know but it can be changed using the VARLENCHK system option. The default value is WARN but it can be set to ERROR if you really want to ensure that there is no chance of truncation. Then, you get error messages and the program fails where it normally would run with warnings. Setting the value of the option to NOWARN restores the type of behaviour seen in SAS 9.1.3 and versions prior to that.

The SAS documentation says that the ability to change VARLENCHK can be restricted by an administrator so you might need to deal with this situation in a more locked down environment. Then, one option would be to do something like the following:

data b;
drop x;
rename _x=x;
set a;
length _x $100;
_x=strip(x);
run;

It’s a bit more laborious than setting to the VARLENCHK option to NOWARN but the idea is that you create a new variable of the right length and replace the old one with it. That gets rid of warnings or errors in the log and resets the variable length as needed. Of course, you have to ensure that there is no value truncation with either remedy. If any is found, then the dataset specification probably needs updating to accommodate the length of the values in the data. After all, there is no substitute for getting to know your data and doing your own checking should you decide to take matters into your hands.

There is a use for the default behaviour though. If you use a specification to specify a shell for a dataset, then you will be warned when the shell shortens variable lengths. That allows you to either adjust the dataset or your program. Also, it gives more information when you get variable length mismatch warnings when concatenating or merging datasets. There was a time when SAS wasn’t so communicative in these situations and some investigation was needed to establish which variable was affected. Now, that has changed without leaving the option to work differently if you so do desire. Sometimes, what can seem like an added restriction can have its uses.