Data Elements in Software

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Data Elements
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A data element describes the role of a domain in a specific business context. An isolated data element does not define the technical attributes for objects, nor the permitted value range. A data element really includes a semantic definition, in other words, it assigns a certain meaning to the table fields which are defined using that data element. However, the syntactical or technical definition, that is, whether a field can contain integer number, characters, and so on, is defined at the domain level. Refer to the next section for more information. The data element always needs to be defined over a domain. At the same time, a field always needs a data element. This allows all fields with the same technical and semantic settings to use the same data element. As an example, suppose you have two PAYMENT fields in different tables which are referring to the same content, that is, fixed payments. These fields can be defined using the same data element, for example, ZFIXPAYM. However, another table may need a field for variable payments, which should not be defined using the previous data element since the meaning of both is different, as well as the associated text elements and the documentation. However, both can use the same domain (ZPAYDOM) which only defines the technical settings for the field, in this case a 4 byte integer with a 10 character field length. Defining a Data Element There are several ways to define a data element. The most usual is to create the data elements before defining the table fields which later use those data elements for their semantic definitions. To create a data element, from the main dictionary screen, enter the name for the data element in the Object name field and click the radio button next to Data elements. Remember to use the customer naming convention. Then, click on the Create button. Figure 8 10 shows an example of the screen for defining a new data element.
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Figure 8 10: Defining data elements. You have to enter information for the following input fields:
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Data Elements Short text. This is a mandatory field (remember the sign). Enter here a description which can later be used as online help, since clicking on the F1 function key when a field has this data element assigned will show this description. It can also be used in reports. Domain. This is a mandatory field, also. If the domain does not exist, SAP can take you directly to the domain definition screen. If you use an existing domain, press the Return key to display the settings for the domain. Then it will display the data type, the field length, and the value table, if there is any. If it does not exist, you can create it directly by double clicking on the field. Then the system will display the screen for maintaining domains. This is explained in the next section. Maintain field labels flag. In current versions, these texts are optional. It only makes sense to deactivate this flag if the data elements are not going to be used in screens. When you use a table field in a system screen, the text displayed for that field can be the text associated with the data element, where you can select either the short, medium, or long settings. Texts elements. In these fields, you can enter a description for short, medium, and long texts, as well as for the header text. Headers are used when entering data for these fields in tabular forms (columns). Text elements are language dependent. If you maintain the text elements only in language E (English), these texts will not be available for other logon languages. Parameter ID. This is an optional field. With the parameter ID, users can set a default value in their default settings, as was explained in Chap. 5. The parameter ID can also be used in transactions. You can define a parameter ID, which can be used to determine the default values for a field in the user master record. Moreover, when several screens containing a field designated in this way are displayed in succession, the field is automatically filled with the value entered in the first screen of the series. When designing a screen with screen painter, an appropriate attribute must be assigned to the field. For example, if a user only has authorization for company code 001, the fields displaying the company code can be filled automatically by the system with the value 001. For this, the corresponding parameter ID must be entered in the data element for the company code. Change document. This, too, is an optional field. You may stipulate that a document be generated each time data is changed in a field that refers to this data element. The commercial objects for which a change history is to be recorded are defined using transaction SCDO. Function modules can be generated for these objects, which are then called in the corresponding application programs and the changes logged at runtime. A log entry is generated for each changed field that refers to a data element for which the flag Change document is set. Once the data element definition is complete, click on the Save button. Then for the data element to become effective, you must activate it. To do that, click on the Activate button on the application toolbar. Note status fields in the data element definition screen when you are defining it, when saving it, and when activating it. These are the statuses: Before saving, the status reflects New and Not saved. After saving and before activating, the status shows New and Saved. Once activated, the status switches to Active and Saved. Remember that when creating this new object the system displays the dialog box for creating a new change request. Once the data element is saved and active, it can be used in any table field definition. An interesting property of the data elements is that you can also associate documentation with a data element. To do that, from the data element definition screen, select Goto Documentation. The documentation entered for a data element will be displayed when a user presses the F1 help function key over a screen field. Note
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Data Elements Available Management Options When in the data element maintenance screen, you have several utility menu options. These options are quite common for most of the dictionary objects. From the Utilities menu, you can do the following: Display the Activation log. This log gives information about how the activation was performed and whether there were any errors in the process. Access the Repository Info system. The repository info system is briefly discussed later in this chapter. Find out where this object is used with the Where used list function, for example, in which table fields it is referred to. It works like a cross reference pointer. Display the tasks and request information associated with the user ID with the Requests (Organizer) option which calls the workbench organizer directly. Display the version management functions with Version management, where you can display, compare, recover a previous version, and perform other functions with the existing versions of an object. This topic is discussed in a later section. On the Goto menu there are two other useful options. One is Search help, which can be used for associating a data element with a search help. When this option is selected, R/3 displays a dialog box for entering the search help and the parameters. Pressing the F4 function help in the parameter field displays the available values. More information on search helps is provided in a later section of this chapter. From the Goto menu, there is another useful option such as the Translate. With the Translate function, you can translate the texts associated with the data elements to other languages installed (imported) into your R/3 system.
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