Invisible Character Alt-255

The text aligning and positioning in SAS output is really important if you want your report looks good. I usually use space to aligning text in titles, footnotes and columns, etc. However, SAS have its own rule to handle the blanks, especially the leading or trailing blanks, so sometimes the space cannot do what you want.

Here I’m introducing a new simple and elegant approach: using Alt-255. It looks like a blank space in the program code and SAS output but is processed and printed by many programs as a valid text character.

Now, how? First of all, remember you need to use a numeric keypad for typing the magic number 255.

You should follow the following steps to create an invisible Character.

1. Press and hold the “Alt” key and while holding it, type digit keys 255 from numeric keypad.
2. Release the “Alt” key and after releasing the cursor will moves to the next position so you will know that an invisible character has been inserted.

Actually, we can use Alt-N to enter any letter and a lot of graphical symbols. There is a nice place where you can check all Alt-N characters ( Alt-255 is of special interest just because it is invisible.

See the example below:

data test;
  input fname $;
* The blank before Alan is Alt-255, before Andy is space;

proc print data=test;

And the result:

1 Joe
2  Alan
3 Andy