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Introduction
In the ten years that I have been working in the SAP world I have seen the development tools go through a lot of changes. However for me the most exciting change came last year as customers got their first peak at the new ABAP editor during the SDN Meets Labs Conferences. For those of us that spend a fair amount of their day knee deep in the ABAP Development environment, any productivity improvements are welcome. But this new editor offered so many enhancements that it is no wonder that it went on to win the Demo Jam at both TechEds last year.

Many people have written about the capabilities of this new editor. In case you have been living under a rock and missed the buzz about the new editor, here are a few links to bring you up to date:
The New ABAP Editor
SAP Insider Article by Karl Kessler: New ABAP Editor and Debugger Boost Developers’ Productivity

There is only one problem with this new editor – it is available starting with solutions built on top of Netweaver04S. That means that some developers may still have to wait a few years until their companies upgrade their business packages to have access to the new editor.

Up until the beginning of this year, I was a developer that fell right into that category. The company I worked for was just completing an upgrade from 4.6C to ERP2004. ERP2004 is based upon Netweaver04 not Netweaver04S. Although this was a good release level with lots of development tool enhancements, this meant another upgrade that would contain the new ABAP Editor was still years away.

I decided to use SDN to express my opinion that the new editor should be backported to current release levels. I started a Back-porting the New ABAP Editor to older WebAS Releases and wrote Speak Your Voice; New ABAP Editor for Older Releases. To date the weblog has 45 comments and the forum thread has 224 replies. So I guess I wasn’t alone in my desire to see the new editor backported.

Everything Changes
At the start of this year everything changed for me however. I left my previous employer and came to work for SAP. I had been in my new role all of one week when I learned about what had been going on around the possible ABAP Editor Backport Project. Mark Finnern had been working on drumming up support for the project for some time. He had money and resources lined up. But he had also trying to arrange for me to possibly be part of the development project. I was quite overwhelmed by the exciting project. Mark has always been very supportive, but this was a dream come true – to go to Walldorf and work on the ABAP Development Tools!

I have to admit that it seem a bit like Karma. I had pushed hard for the editor backport as a customer, it seemed only fair that I now play whatever part I could in making it happen.

I was sitting in a hotel room in Palo Alto at about midnight on March first when I got the final approval email from Mark. The budget had been approved and the timelines were set. The goal was to travel to Walldorf in March for two weeks, then return home and work on the project during the month of April. Our original project scope was to backport the editor to just Netweaver04 (640). The enhancements would ship out with the next available support package for that release.

Arriving in Walldorf
This being my first trip to Walldorf, my first day was really spent on getting familiar with my surroundings. I had left the US on a Sunday Afternoon and arrived in Frankfurt on Monday morning. My very first experience in Germany was the hour long drive on the autobahn from Frankfurt to Walldorf. Still a little groggy from the overnight plane flight, it was an interesting experience to say the least.

For anyone who has never had the pleasure of visiting the SAP headquarters, you might find your first time there a bit overwhelming. There is a large complex of interconnected buildings. I was going to be sitting with the ABAP workbench group in Building 3 Floor 1 Section G. As I explored the buildings, I found that every floor and every section of the building look rather similar. More than once I found myself heading in the wrong direction. One very striking aspect to someone coming from the US was how most meetings are held within the local coffee bar area. I’m used to reserving meeting rooms, so this open public area for meetings seemed strange at first. However by the end of my trip, it actually made a lot of sense.

Near the end of my first day in Walldorf, something really exciting happened. Although fellow SAP employee, Brian McKellar, and I had written a book together we had never had the opportunity to meet in person. Mark Finnern had said before that it was an hope of his to facilitate our meeting some day. It finally happened.
image

Brian took very good care of me while I was in Walldorf. He snuck me into meetings and demos, let me talk one on one with the Web Dynpro ABAP development team and showed me tons of cool new technology. He also took me site seeing in the evenings and on the weekend. Anyone who is interested in see some of the pictures that I took during these outings are welcome to check them out on Flick. There are also pictures from the Unofficial SDN Meet up and some of the Walldorf offices.
Germany April 2006

Editor Work
As it turned out, other commitments had caused the project to get a later start than intended. I was unable to leave for Walldorf until April 2nd. The main person I was going to be working with on the project was Hans-Christian Weber. He is the developer responsible for the ABAP Editor integration in the Workbench. My late arrival meant that Christian already had a lot of work done before I even arrived. He had the core Editor classes CL_GUI_ABAPEDIT and CL_GUI_SOURCEEDIT already moved back. A lot of the other tools integration (function builder, flow logic, split screen editor, etc) had also already been completed by other members of the workbench team.

My main focus upon arrival was to perform testing on the work that had already been completed. At first testing seemed rather cut and dry. After all I had been using the ABAP workbench for years. However you forget just how many variations there are to test. We wanted to test all the integration points between the front-end editor control and the backend ABAP coding. This meant testing Clipboard functions, pattern, pretty printing, setting breakpoints, double click navigation, F1, F4, cut and paste, Navigation, Outlining, find and replace, formatting, and Drag and Drop. But each of these aspects have to be tested in core editor class, using a test wrapper, and then tested in each of the integrated tools. That means running each test in the wrapper, the function builder, the class editor, the split screen editor, the program editor (se38), the main workbench (se80), and the BSP method editor. To make maters just a little bit more complicated each aspect for each tool has to be tested in normal and modification mode.

To keep track of my testing, I used the high tech method of pen and paper. I’ve included a scan of the actual testing results. As you might notice by the stain on the right hand side of the page, that large amounts of coffee were involved in the editor backport project. It wasn’t until the third day in Walldorf that I learned that every other floor in the building had coffee machines that were decaf and that I was working one of the dreaded decaf floors. I wondered why I was still tired after several cups.
image

The testing went quite good. We found a few minor problems with being able to make changes in Modification Mode outside the modification area if you used Drag and Drop. But overall we were able to complete the full testing by the middle of the first week.

Given the swift progress backporting the editor to 640, we also decided to increase the scope of the project and backport to 620 as well. By the end of the first week we had 620 integration completed and tested as well. To me this was a major victory for the project. By backporting to both 620 and 640 we will be able to deliver the new editor to a huge amount of ABAP developers.

New BSP Layout Editor
So if we had the backport for 640 and 620 basically finished by the end of the first week of trip, you might be asking yourself what exactly was left to do during the second week of the trip. As it turns out we didn’t all just take the week off and go site seeing.

If you are a user of BSP, you might have noticed that even in Netweaver04s, the layout editor in the workbench still uses the basic text editor. There is actually a mode in the front-end control of the new ABAP editor for BSP. I asked around and found out that it had never been implemented in the ABAP workbench simply because of time constraints. Because we finished early on the main work, the workbench team let me do some new development in for the next release of Netweaver in the BSP workbench tools – which we then down ported to Netweaver04S, Netweaver04, and 620. Knowing my passion for the tool, they thought I might enjoy spending a little time updating and enhancing the BSP tools.

So first we completed the ABAP Editor Integration into the BSP Layout Editor. Now we will have syntax highlighting, code collapse, split screen editing, and all the other excellent features of the new editor for HTML and BSP Extension based development!
image

Personally as a BSP user I had always wanted some sort of integrated help for choosing BSP extensions and attributes. I decided that this was probably my only opportunity to ever have some thing like that added to the environment. So I stayed late one night and designed and built the following:

Parsing a BSP layout is much simpler than ABAP code because of its basis in XML. I found that I could parse the page and use the context menu to offer a very simple “code completion” for BSP Extensions.

So if you type the Extensions name and choose the context menu, you can get a list of the possible elements in that Extensions. Choosing an element from the context menu will of course insert it into the code:

image

Once you are within an element, you can use the same process to see all the attributes and choose the one you want:

image

All the logic is positionally sensitive, so you never receive an invalid option for the area you are working in.

I sent some screen shots and details about these new features to long time SDN members Eddy and Raja asking them for feedback and ideas. While I had the opportunity to effect a change in the BSP tools, I thought it would be wise to involve two of SDN’s strongest supporters for the tool.

Closing
First I want to say what a great honor it was to have the opportunity to work on this project. I was only helping out in some small way, the real credit for the final product should go to the men and women who work in the ABAP Workbench Group on a daily basis. It was also great to be able to meet and work with the people that create the tools that make ABAP Developers’ lives easier.

Of course we all also owe a debt of graditude to Alexey Arseniev. Alexey is the person who used his personal time to create the ABAP Editor Front-end control. It was his passion and vision that brought us the new editor in the first place.

You might be asking yourself, when do I get these new tools. Well if you are looking for the new BSP functionality in Netweaver04S, that is available now. It shipped this week at part of SP8. All of the backported functionality will ship with the next support package for 6.40 toward the end of the summer. You should check the Service Marketplace for the scheduled release dates of the support packages. The great news is that the new editor made its way into the most recently released support package for 6.20 (SP59). So 6.20 users, you can start enjoying the new editor today!

If you want to see more of a preview of the new editor running within 6.20, you can view these videos:
New ABAP Editor
New BSP Editor

This project is the perfect representation of the power of SDN. Through SDN, developers had a voice in which they could influence the direction of SAP’s product. SAP listened and responded to those requests.

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58 Comments

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  1. Anonymous
    Hi Thomas,
    this blog must be THE highlight of SDN – right now I can’t think of any other event that sums up what SDN can be – and is, thanks to people like you!

    I had to read this blog several times, because I was so anxious about this piece of news, and I can’t wait to get those support packages into our system.

    I’m awed, amazed, stunned … and out of words … is there an SDN lifetime achievement award to nominate you for? 🙂
    Kudos to you!

    Max

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  2. Peter Inotai
    It’s unbelievable to imagine, that one year ago it was just a dream to have the new ABAP editor available customer for their currently used release, and soon it will be available.

    I’m not only happy for that the downport happened, but it went for 6.20, plus new BSP editor was added. Wow!!!!!

    Thanks a lot for Thomas, Mark, Alexey, Christian, the whole SDN team and the whole ABAP Workbench Group!!!

    Peter

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  3. Jonathan Groll
    Great stuff! I assume the frontend components will also require upgrading.

    Would you be able to tell us what supported GUI versions / patch levels will support the new editor controls? And, dare I say it, will support be available for the java GUI as well?

    (0) 
    1. Peter Inotai
      SAP GUI for windows is available as of 6.40 patchlevel 10 /it’s better to use the latest: 19/.
      You can check OSS note 891549 /FAQ of the new ABAP editor as part of SAP GUI 6.40 / and 843289 / ABAP Editor as a part of SAP GUI 6.40 / for details.
      As far as I know no Java part is planned as the frontend control uses Active X.

      Peter

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      1. Thomas Jung Post author
        How great is SDN! Peter answered Jonathan’s question about the SAPGui requirements while I was sleeping. 🙂

        The frontend editor is only avialable in ActiveX which means only SAPGui for Windows Support.

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  4. Hakan Demirbilek
    After reading this blog, I have downloaded SAP_BASIS SP 59 for 620 and SAPGUI 640 patch 19. And guess what? I have the new Abap Editor on my desktop right now… Thanks a lot Thomas 🙂
    (0) 
    1. Thomas Jung Post author
      Actually by chance, it does appear that the release dates fell in such a way that the Editor Backport may very well have made its way into SP59 for 620! 
      (0) 
      1. Hakan Demirbilek
        It was indeed by chance… I was trying to get prepared for the next SP release. After applying SP59, I thought “maybe… why not?” and saw the radiobutton “new editor” on the settings window 🙂
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    2. Peter Inotai
      Wow! Thanks for the good news. I was expecting this in SP 60. I checked the object list and CL_GUI_ABAPEDIT is really there. I just can’t wait to get it in one of our systems.
      Peter
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  5. Anonymous
    Hi Thomas,

    Reading about your trip and viewing your photos brought back some nice memories of my own working visit to the Waldorf HQ and Heidelberg in 2003.  I especially remember that drive from the airport (in the rain at night… yikes!).  I’m glad you found some time to explore the land inbetween all the work and cups of decaf.  😉

    I’ve been at this ABAP game for 12 years now, and I have never met anyone who can equal your passion for the language and development environment.  It sounds like there is an entire team in Germany with that mindset (awesome!).  I must say (with just a tad of jealousy) that I truly admire your accomplishments.  You da man!

    Best Regards,
    Jamie Gaddis

    (0) 
  6. Nigel James
    Wow this is great news.
    Thanks for all your hard work Thomas. Great that you could finally meet Brian too.
    Working with SE80 by day and eclipse by night there was plenty to despise in SE80 by comparison.

    This goes a long way to making my day job a lot easier. If only I can convince basis to upgrade the patch level.

    Two points I love about working with eclipse.
    1. I can have tabbed windows. I find this much easier than having to alt tab between sessions. This means I could have the model view and controller grouped in one session and say have a session per component.

    2. I love how eclipse will remember your workspace. It takes me longer than it should to open windows and get all my editors to the right place in the morning. With eclipse, I start it and  there I am right where I left off.

    Thanks again for all yoru great work. Lifetime achivement award might be stretching it but I would certainly nominate your for a MVP award.
    regards,

    Nigel James

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  7. Uwe Fetzer
    Back from the German Autobahn, I got the message of this new Weblog. I was fallen on my knees saying: >>THANK YOU, THOMAS !!!<<
    But: where can I download the SP59 without waiting on the Support-Stack 27 coming in november ?
    Bye Uwe
    (0) 
    1. Thomas Jung Post author
      If you go to the service marketplace (http://service.sap.com/patches), you can download the individual ABA, BASIS and Kernel patches. I get there by choosing Entry by Application Group->SAP NetWeaver->SAP Netweaver components (< SAP NW 04)->SAP WEB AS->SAP WEB AS 6.20->SAP WEB AS ABAP
      (0) 
  8. Mark Finnern
    … after many many attempts to finally see this one come through is the best. Actually as usual Thomas overdelivered. Thanks a million. Makes me really happy to see the power of the SDN community at work.

    To get such a consensus of opinions presented via SDN was something new for SAP and we are tuning our feedback mechanisms and learning from this positive outcome and hopefully such improvements will come easier in the future.

    Thanks to everyone who helped push us in the right direction, Mark.

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  9. Leonardo De Araujo
    Great job!

    It might be an amazing feeling to see how far your initiative went. Congratulations.

    It shows how much mommentum the SDN community is building. You should be proud to be part of that.

    We all from the SDN community thank you!

    Look again at your picture with Brian. On top of your head. You are now a saint!

    Cheers!

    Leonardo De Araujo
    p.s. See you all in Vegas and Amsterdam!

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  10. Srinivas Adavi
    I think that says it all. I have been a big fan of ABAP and in all my 10 years of SAP, I never felt that I have learnt enough of ABAP. That brought me into the SDN world and Thomas of course. When I went to the first ever SDN meets SAP labs event in Palo Alto and met this giant ABAPer in person, I felt inspired by his passion. When I came to know of his previous employer (one of my company’s consulting clients) and that the client is in Indiana, closer to where I am currently located(Lousiville, KY), I felt that the SAP world is a close and small world.

    Thanks a lot Thomas for inspiring all of us out there that being an ABAP geek is cool!!! Thank you and all the ABAP workbench team at SAP for spending the time, money and efforts to backport the wonderful tools of development.

    (0) 
  11. Anonymous
    It is a pity that Alexej is mentioned just by-the-way. I do know him, and I do know how SAP get it’s new editor.

    Ferenc

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    1. Thomas Jung Post author
      I am sorry if you feel that I slighted Alexey in some way.  Alexey is the star of the ABAP Editor story without a doubt, and a very nice and talented person to boot. For instance when I was a customer and first interested in the new Editor, he took the time to correspond with me directly via Email.

      However I wasn’t trying to write the entire story of the ABAP Editor, nor was it a journalistic endevor.  This weblog is really just a sort of a diary of my experiences related to the backport project. 

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  12. Xavier De Hairs
    Great this new editor, but i’d like to know if there is also code completion for methods of an object like in Java editors ? I think that this is the most usefull tool when coding, that you don’t have to know all the available methods of an object nor all the input/output parameters, especially when working with ABAP where you have to type every parameter name.
    Otherwise the new functionalities are great, but it’s fun to see how ABAPers are impressed with functionalities that exist since so many time in other development tools 🙂
    But i’m certainly not criticizing anything or anybody here, certainly not, and I’m really pleased of the backward compatibility of the new ABAP editor, i wasn’t aware of this possibility !
    And to conclude, SAP is certainly going in good directions when we see all the latest tools that are released or that are ready to be released (Muse, new CRM UI, Web Dynpros, …).
    Bye.

    Xavier

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    1. Peter Inotai
      >Great this new editor, but i’d like to know if there is also code completion for methods of an object like in Java editors ?
      Based on this weblog / The new ABAP Editor / it will be only available with the next release. Probable Thomas can provide more detailed information.

      However if you type CALL and press ctrl+space, you will get some kind of code completion.

      Peter

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    2. Thomas Jung Post author
      Peter has pretty much given you the answer to your question.  There is simple completion done through a “history” of commands.  It doesn’t know anything about the objects that it offers, meaning that it can’t provide a complete method listing for an object.  That requires greater integration with the backend (and a round-trip) to server to load those details on demand.

      You have to remember that the scope of ABAP is very broad.  I can call CL_CLASS=>STATIC_METHOD and refer to any of the thousands of classes in the system without any forward declaration of the class that I am using.  You also probably want code completion on Function Modules too.  That has similar challenges. Pulling the parameters/help/exceptions for an object is the easy part once you have determined your scope. 

      All I can say is that there is work being done on the type of full code completion that you describe. I’m afraid that any details at this point would be premature.  Perhaps SDN Days at TechEd might bring some of those details however.

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    1. Peter Inotai
      Hi Walter,

      I don’t think it will be downported to 46C. From one hand 46C support will end at 31.12.2006 (quite soon), from the other hand the ABAP editor GUI control requires unicode (UTF-16LE), which is not supported in 46C.
      ( see this weblog for details:
      New ABAP Editor; too good to wait for. )
      Of course all the unicode conversion related code (FMs etc) could be downported, however it would require a lot of additional work, which is not worth for 46C, which will be out of support soon.
      I’m sure lot of customer will stay on 46C for a while, go for extended support, however I think downport including 6.20 covers the majority of the customers.

      Best regards,
      Peter

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      1. Thomas Jung Post author
        I think Peter has done a good job of addressing most of the big issues with going back to 46C.  The other related issue is stability.  As much as we may want to introduce new features to older releases, our primary concern always has to be making sure we don’t break something in the process.  We dont’ want to do anything to distrupt currently working business applications.

        To take the editor back to 6.20 was a relatively encapsulated job.  There was no major foundational pieces needed.  The way the workbench was designed, it was fairly easy to attach in the new editor coding without disrupting much of the surrounding code. 

        On the other hand introducing major new pieces of Unicode funtionality into 46C at this point would not be so localized.  All other factors asise, the risk of going to 46C and breaking something else is much higher.

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  13. Eckhard Woeller
    I’m tracking also the blogs about the backporting of the new editor in the SDN community in the past – and now with this great success story …..many thanks again

    One questions in addition: What about the new debugger ? Is there any chance to backport this also
    to 620 ?
    There is no checkbox for the new debugger in the settings .

    Thanks
    Eckhard

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    1. Thomas Jung Post author
      I am afraid that all that I know is that it wasn’t part of the scope of this project.  I would suspect that it would be a more difficult project as there are likely a greater number of Kernel dependencies and technical infrastructure that would need to come back. However that is really just speculation.
      (0) 
    2. Peter Inotai
      It would be great!

      What would be the best to have the possibility to perform a BC upgrade. Unfortunately it would be very difficult practically if we consider all the dependecies between BC and application layers. However downport the new ABAP related tools would be great. I always have a headache, when I see the new ABAP tools in the upcoming release and I think about when I can use in our system:-(
      Fortunately SAP already downported several tools: like Code Inspector to 46C, Assertions to 6.20 and now the ABAP editor (THANKS, THANKS, THANKS!!!!).
      Actually if upcoming ABAP tools will be donwported, it would
      – improve customer satisfaction 🙂
      – testing of upcoming tools could be done by customer, so by the time of shipping they would be more stable
      – of course in the end it would need more resource from the ABAP team:-(
      – kernel dependencies have to be also considered

      I hope in the future after the success of this ABAP editor downport SAP will make some steps in this directions. It would definately make the ABAP community happier.

      Peter

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  14. Sam Mesh
    Quite a strong proof of SAP technological power, congratulations!

    This upgrade will be much more lightweight that SP, right?

    PS. Does Waldorf look really like Forestvillage?

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  15. Ravi Dixit
    Thomas

    We are a small consulting firm and thanks to your article I convinced our Basis guys to install the Netweaver 2004S by getting rid of an old(!) Enterprise 470 system. I have had a look at the new Editor and man it does look cool!
    I also want to let you know that I have had a look at your pictures from Germany they are amazing particularly and I have this one http://flickr.com/photos/tjung/124595994/in/set-72057594100913676/ on my desktop!
    Keep up the good work of great blogs and snapping!

    Regards
    Ravi

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  16. Ahsan Safdar
    Hi Thomas,
    I have always been a great fan of your realisticly ambitious approach to productive innovation and its great to hear that you are part of the SAP team now. Right in the centre of all the innovation.

    Sadly though i havent still experienced the new editor, since i am on 640 patch level 17. Any ideas when the editor would be coming to 640.

    Ahsan

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    1. Thomas Jung Post author
      >Sadly though i havent still experienced the new editor, since i am on 640 patch level 17. Any ideas when the editor would be coming to 640

      According to the support package schedule on the Service Marketplace, it should be out sometime near the second week of August.  So it is only a couple of weeks away.

      (0) 
  17. Herbert Dederichs
    Hello,
    I’m looking forward to get the new editor.
    Will it be available on 4.7C Ext. 2? Where can I donwload it and is there a documentation how to install?

    Regards
    H. Dederichs

    (0) 
    1. Thomas Jung Post author
      It is available now.  R/3 Enterprise 4.7 Extension Set 2 runs on top of WebAS 6.20. The new editor is contained in the latest support package for WebAS 6.20. 

      The support package can be downloaded from the Service Marketplace.  It is a server side patch, not a client one, and should be applied by your Basis Team.  They would follow the normal proceedures for apply ABA/BASIS support packages to your system.

      (0) 
  18. ISAP ISAP
    Hi Thomas,

      Is there a possibility that the new editor will be backported to version 4.6c?
      It is a far-fetched idea but would like to have a chance to use the new editor on my current setup.
      Thanks.

    Regards,
    Bing Fatt

    (0) 
    1. Peter Inotai
      Hi David/Bing,

      You can find a detailed answer by Thomas, it was already asked on 2006-07-20 00:15:16 by Walter Schmidt.

      Best regards,
      Peter

      (0) 
      1. ISAP ISAP
        Hi Peter,

          Thanks for the info…Looks like I need to develop in old editor for the next few years b4 the upgrade to a newer version…
          Thanks.

        Rgds,
        Bing Fatt

        (0) 
        1. Peter Inotai
          Hi Bing,

          You can use the first version of the demoprogram from Thomas’ weblog, it already makes some features available and it works also on 46C (you need SAPGUI 6.40 SP at least 10).
          You can also install the Sneak Preview Netweaver 2004s ABAP in a machine and edit the code there and copy/paste to your 46C system.
          There are external editors (ConTEXT, Crimson), which can handle ABAP, or not a big deal to add ABAP keywords to them, but I didn’t really liked them, because they don’t support forward navigation, the only useful feature is syntax highlighting.

          Regards,
          Peter

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  19. Robert Moss
    We’ve just shoved support package 18 on our 6.40 development system expecting to find a nice shiny new ABAP Editor in there. I can’t find even a class CL_GUI_ABAP*, never mind the explicitly mentioned one, and the Editor is still the old one.

    Has there been some sort of problem? I want my new editor 🙁

    (0) 
    1. Thomas Jung Post author
      I double checked with the colleages that control the distribution to support packages and the new editor should be there.  See OSS note 930742 for documentation of the support packages that contain the new editor. 

      Are you positive that you went to Basis and ABA 6.40?  You can do System->Status and then click on the Icon under the Component Version entry to see SP levels by software component.  Feel free to send me a screen shot via email (my sap.com address is public in my Business Card).

      (0) 
  20. Herbert Dederichs
    We have SP 58 installed on our system and using SAP-GUI 640 PL19 but cannot find the new ABAP Editor. How can we activeate this in SE80 or SE 38 a.f.

    Regards
    H. Dederichs

    (0) 
    1. Thomas Jung Post author
      You need to go into SE80 and choose the menu Options->Settings. Then in the ABAP Editor Tab, the first screen has options of what Editor to use. You should have three options – Front-End Editor (New), Front-End Editor (Old) and Back-End Editor.  Select Front-End Editor (New).
      (0) 

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