I introduced this series the other day. Next up in the list is “getting help”. In both SAS and R, there are many sources of help. SAS has one that the usual R package does not have – technical support – although if you read the comments to the above article, you see that there are commercial versions of R that do have it. I won’t say much about this, because I think it’s bound up with the fact that R is free and SAS is not. I do find SAS technical support very helpful.
But both SAS and R have help files, both have documentation – both free and commercial, both have mailing lists. I’ll look briefly at each.
I’ll look at help for a couple functions. Suppose you want help with something very simple – calculating the median. In R, you can type ?median, and you get this; in SAS, you could click on “help” in the upper right, then search for “median”, or you could Google for “median” and SAS, which gets to the same place, but with a link. I find the SAS help rather more readable; and I think the typical person needing help with medians will find that same difference.
How about something more complex, like linear models?
In R you would type ?lm
In SAS, finding the right PROC is a little tricky, as there are several that do linear models, but if you know that you want PROC REG, for instance, you find this. Here, it’s somewhat a matter of taste. SAS has a lot more text, R is much more terse.
Mailing lists and other web help
Both SAS and R have mailing lists. Information on the SAS list is here and on r-help here. They are quite different in tone. SAS-L is rather more open to newbies, whereas r-help has a posting guide indicating what you should do before posting. SAS-L has a lot of comments that are not about statistics, but about other aspects of SAS.
Stackoverflow gets a lot of R questions, but not many SAS questions, and many R packages have their own mailing lists. SAS, on the other hand, has SAS-Community, and SAS forums including one devoted to statistics.
There are many books on both SAS and R, and they vary in quality. SAS has a “books by users” program, which allows collaboration between SAS as a company and the writers. In R, one useful series is the useR series.
Both SAS and R have conferences. The largest SAS conference each year is SAS Global Forum and there are also regional and local conferences. As far as I know, the only officially organized R conference is useR but there are many local groups as well.
Both SAS and R offer numerous ways to get help.