Difference between revisions of "Stata Coding Practices: Programming (Ado-files)"

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However it is not very useful at this stage: it outputs far too much useless information, particularly when variables take integer or continuous values with many levels.
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The file would then just need to be run using <syntaxhighlight lang="stata" inline>run levelslist.ado</syntaxhighlight> in the runfile for the reproducibility package to ensure that the command <syntaxhighlight lang="stata" inline>levelslist</syntaxhighlight> would be available to all do-files in that package (since programs have a global scope in Stata). However, this command is not very useful at this stage: it outputs far too much useless information, particularly when variables take integer or continuous values with many levels. The next section will introduce code that allows such commands to be customizable within each context you want to use them.

Revision as of 20:44, 24 November 2020

Programs and ado-files are the main methods by which Stata code is condensed and generalized. By writing versions of code that apply to arbitrary inputs and saving that code in a separate file, the application of the code is cleaner in the main do-file and it becomes easier to re-use the same analytical process on other datasets in the future. Stata has special commands that enable this functionality. All commands on SSC are written as ado-files by other programmers; it is also possible to embed programs in ordinary do-files to save space and improve organization of code.

Read First

This article will refer somewhat interchangeably to the concepts of "programming", "ado-files", and "user-written commands". This is in contrast to ordinary programming of do-files. The article does not assume that you are actually writing an ado-file (as opposed to a program definition in an ordinary dofile); and it does not assume you are writing a command for distribution. That said, Stata programming functionality is achieved using several core features:

  • The program command sets up the code environment for writing a program into memory.
  • The syntax command parses inputs into a program as macros that can be used within the scope of that program execution.
  • The tempvar, tempfile, and tempname commands all create objects that can be used within the scope of program execution to avoid any conflict with arbitrary data structures.

The program command

The program command defines the scope of a Stata program inside a do-file or ado-file. When a program command block is executed, Stata stores (until the end of the session) the sequence of commands written inside the block and assigns them to the command name used in the program command. Using program drop before the block will ensure that the command space is available. For example, we might write the following program in an ordinary do-file:

cap prog drop
prog def autoreg

  reg price mpg i.foreign

end

After executing this command block (note that end tells Stata where to stop reading), we could run:

sysuse auto.dta , clear
autoreg

If we did this, Stata would output:

. autoreg

      Source |       SS           df       MS      Number of obs   =        74
-------------+----------------------------------   F(2, 71)        =     14.07
       Model |   180261702         2  90130850.8   Prob > F        =    0.0000
    Residual |   454803695        71  6405685.84   R-squared       =    0.2838
-------------+----------------------------------   Adj R-squared   =    0.2637
       Total |   635065396        73  8699525.97   Root MSE        =    2530.9

------------------------------------------------------------------------------
       price |      Coef.   Std. Err.      t    P>|t|     [95% Conf. Interval]
-------------+----------------------------------------------------------------
         mpg |  -294.1955   55.69172    -5.28   0.000    -405.2417   -183.1494
             |
     foreign |
    Foreign  |   1767.292    700.158     2.52   0.014     371.2169    3163.368
       _cons |   11905.42   1158.634    10.28   0.000     9595.164    14215.67
------------------------------------------------------------------------------

All this is to say is that Stata has taken the command reg price mpg i.foreign and will execute it whenever autoreg is run as if it were an ordinary command.

As a first extension, we might try writing a command that is not dependent on the data, such as one that would list all the values of each variable for us. Such a program might look like the following:

cap prog drop levelslist
prog def levelslist

  foreach var of varlist * {
    qui levelsof `var' , local(levels)
    di "Levels of `var': `: var label `var''"
    foreach word in `levels' {
      di "  `word'"
    }
  }
  
end

We could then run:

sysuse auto.dta , clear
autoreg

Similarly, we could use any other dataset in place of auto.dta. This means we would now have a useful piece of code that we could execute with any dataset open, without re-writing what is a mildly complex loop each time. When we want to save such a snippet, we usually write an ado-file: we name the file levelslist.ado and we add a hashbang line with some metadata about the code. The full file would looks something like this:

*! Version 0.1 published 24 November 2020
*! by Benjamin Daniels bbdaniels@gmail.com

// A program to print all levels of variables
cap prog drop levelslist
prog def levelslist

  // Loop over variables
  foreach var of varlist * {

    // Get levels and display name and label of variable
    qui levelsof `var' , local(levels)
    di "Levels of `var': `: var label `var''"
    
    // Print the value of each level for the current variable
    foreach word in `levels' {
      di "  `word'"
    }

  }
  
end

The file would then just need to be run using run levelslist.ado in the runfile for the reproducibility package to ensure that the command levelslist would be available to all do-files in that package (since programs have a global scope in Stata). However, this command is not very useful at this stage: it outputs far too much useless information, particularly when variables take integer or continuous values with many levels. The next section will introduce code that allows such commands to be customizable within each context you want to use them.