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Incrementing Character Values

Incrementing numeric values can be easily achieved using SAS software, but what about incrementing character values?

Let's consider a scenario where we have our starting code AA and we would like to increment this value by a one character each time, so therefore the next code is AB, then AC etc to the value of ZZ.

When incrementing numeric values we can simply add 1 to the value, similarly we can use the same method with character values.

The steps we need to take are:

  • Find the ASCII equivalent value for our last character value in our code using the RANK function;
  • Find the ASCII equivalent value for our minimum and maximum values so 'A' and 'Z' which are 65 and 90 respectively;
  • Increment the ASCII equivalent value by 1 for our code;
  • Place the new ASCII value back into a character value using the BYTE function.

The RANK function is used to find the position of a character in the ASCII collating sequence.
Syntax is


The BYTE function will return one character in the ASCII collating sequence.
Syntax is


where n ranges from 0 to 255.

Below is a simple example which starts with the code AW and will then increment the current code value by the next character value for duration of 10 iterations.

data work.code(keep=code);
  input code $;
  do i=1 to 10;
    *Find the ASCII value for the second character value;
    *If the new last character is higher than Z then set the  
    letter to A and increment the first character;
    if last_char > 90 then do;
      *Find the ASCII value for the first character value;
      *If the existing code is ZZ then error;
      if first_char > 90 then put 'ERROR: No More Unique Codes'; 
      *Replace the first character with new value; 
      else substr(code,1,1)=byte(first_char);
    *Replace the second character with new value;
proc print data=new_codes; run;

Output Window:

Obs    code
  1     AW
  2     AX
  3     AY
  4     AZ
  5     BA
  6     BB
  7     BC
  8     BD
  9     BE
  10    BF