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Promoting Consistency for ODS Graphics Designer Users

The ODS Graphics Designer (OGD) provides an intuitive user interface for creating visualisations, without needing to understand all of the semantics around writing Graph Template Language (GTL). Whereas this application does save time when it comes to creating graphs, it doesn't necessarily make life easy when it comes to sharing content with your colleagues, especially when you want to work in a consistent way. For example, it is not obvious how you might share a style created in the OGD with another OGD user. It is also not obvious how you might customise the graph gallery so that every OGD user sees a consistent set of default pre-prepared graphs.

The good news is that there is a way to share both types of content but it relies on finding out the Preference File Location used by OGD. This can be seen by clicking on Tools -> Preferences within OGD itself. This not only identifies the properties file which gets used on launching the ODS Graphics Designer, but it also importantly shows us where content like styles are automatically saved. It is very likely that colleagues within your team/department will have an identical location for their preferences.

Promoting Consistency for ODS Graphics Designer users1

The 'Styles' folder which is specified at the same level as the properties file is where all custom styles are created in the OGD. These are naturally saved as STY files which can be opened with notepad and contain a style definition. Whereas the OGD provides no in built in mechanism for sharing styles between sessions (you can export styles for use in the SAS DMS but not between OGD sessions) and it doesn't allow you to change the location of styles from within OGD, it is possible to share styles by simply copying STY files into the 'Styles folder for other users. This makes the style immediately available for selection in the OGD.

Promoting Consistency for ODS Graphics Designer users2

It is also possible to present a consistent graph gallery window. The main location for the graphics designs that we see in the graph gallery by default is in the SAS installation directory and specifically within the '..coresasmiscplot_gallery folder. The content within here is controlled by a config.xml file which is saved in the same location.

Adding our own content to the graph gallery window automatically writes content to the plot_gallery folder within our Preference File Location and updates a separate config.xml within here. New groups in the Graph gallery are represented by sub-folders and pre-prepared graphs as SGD files.

There is no way to obviously change this location, however we can ensure custom groups with prepared SGD files are presented to users by editing the following:

  • ODSGraphicsDesigner.properties which should list all custom groups that appears as tabs in the Graph Gallery. This is managed by the galleryGroups property.
  • Config.xml which is defined in a fixed structure with tags for each ODS Graphics designer Group (or tab) that appears in the graph gallery, with further tabs defined below this point for the plots that should be displayed on each tab (in the form of SGD files)
  • The Plot_gallery folder should contain a sub-folder for each group (or tab) that should appear in the graph gallery. These folders contain the SGD files that are displayed in these tabs.

All of these files must be kept in synch .SAS does this automatically when we natively use the OGD to create groups in the graph gallery and add graphs to these groups. However, by editing these files and distributing them manually (or ideally in an automated way) to each users Preference File Location, we can customise what a user sees in the graph gallery on start up thus making it easy to share useful graph design files.