Like in some movies, let me start from the end:
The above picture shows the Country Selector, the first released SAP Elegant Finder component.
“Alex, a lucky user of a SAP Web Dynpro for ABAP application (top), is looking for a country code. Today there is a nice surprise: the classic popup (left) has been replaced by a new stylish one (right). Alex really like this new system!”
The basic idea is: as SDN community, let’s start to develop specialized Search Help components to enhance the user experience in Web Dynpro for ABAP applications. Thanks to SAPlink, we can create an Open Source collection of SAP Elegant Finder components that can be easily plugged-in any SAP system based on the ABAP engine of SAP NetWeaver 7.0.
It’s show time…
Luca did a fantastic job uploading 3 short movies in the project home page:
don’t miss our great Trailer (30” 5MB)
look how was the past. This is the classic interface (1′ 48” 2MB)
and now you can see Country Selector at work (1′ 13” 2MB)
In the last years, working in Techedge as SAP NetWeaver consultant, I conducted some relevant projects based on Web Dynpro for ABAP (WDA from now on…).
As you know, users are always attracted by refined applications and even if the Web Dynpro Framework provides a limited set of User Interface objects I can assure that it’s possible to build Elegant Applications.
We found SAPlink very useful to share development objects but its creator, as explained in the interesting blog “The Enterprise and the Bazaar” did more, he raised the idea to really put together the effort of sdn members to build something of special.
End-users feedback and the consideration that Search Engines and Skinning are the preferred area in terms of personalization (e.g. think about Firefox and Thunderbird Add-ons) convinced me and the other guys of the team to work on this project (I’ll present the team later on).
The best “Plug-in” concept I found in the Web Dynpro for ABAP Framework is the so called “Freely Programmed Input Help” that allows us to create and use our own Search Helps.
After asking to myself: “is it right to Search all kind of objects using a general purpose tabular User Interface ?”
Also keeping in mind the many great Web 2.0 sites that are available in these days, I decided to see if I can do something more…
The dream is to have an Elegant User Interface specifically designed for each business object. But I know how many Search Helps are defined in a SAP ERP 6.0 Data Dictionary, and you? It’s impressive: more or less 15K.
Even the sdn community cannot do a so huge job. What’s feasible indeed is to work together just on the most popular objects, I’m sure we can reach interesting results.
The Open Source project
But now let me introduce the baby:
SAP Elegant Finder was born on August 31st 2007 in Milan (Italy) the ‘Fashion Capital’ of the World. It lives in http://code.google.com/p/sapelegantfinder (and I hope in sdn.sap.com too).
There are both:
- the framework
- and the Country Selector, the 1st Elegant Finder component
- but we are fast and we have also the 2nd Language Selector component
Basically it consists of a set of best practices to develop Search Help components. The most important object is a generalized Web Dynpro Assistance class that all the Elegant Finder assistance classes will use as super class.
It supports the management of:
- Individual “Last Recently Used” list
- Global “Popular” list
In add, it suggests methods:
- to select data from the persistence storage
- to filter data(e.g. table entries provided by SAP could be skipped out)
- to filter data applying authority checks
- to render the Web Dynpro view (where dynamic programming is needed)
The Country Selector
We designed the following interface:
Flags and a couple of icons make the interface nicer.
The amount of entries is so small that we delegate the scrolling to the popup (no table paginator until 50 rows) introducing at the same time a nice A-Z Index.
The free text input box replaces the more complex select-option component (we do not need so much power). Here upper/lower case is not important!
Then we made the system clever: it learns from each user and from the global behaviour proposing the last recently used and the most popular (we collect stats!).
Unfortunately there is no standard link between a country and its region and so we didn’t apply any group by region.
Unfortunately Web Dynpro do not support the HTML tag MAP so any idea to map countries into a picture of the world cannot be taken into consideration.
The Language Selector
This is our 2nd SAP Elegant Finder component. It looks like the first one but we didn’t find “language’s flags”. It’s quite simple but I like it.
Where does SAP Elegant Finder fits
SAP Elegant Finder should well fit the selection of one entry from simple SAP standard tables composed by a limited number of entries.
For example I’m thinking about tables describing:
- the Enterprise Structure (e.g. Company Codes, Divisions, Plants, …)
- the Standards & Metrics (Unit of measurements, Time Zones, Currency,…)
- the Document types
In years of consulting, I never enhanced the above kind of Search Helps; indeed Master Data and Documents related Helps need the full powerful of standard Search Helps completely designed in the Data Dictionary.
Now, even the powerful TREX based Search Engines (e.g. SES or Enterprise Search) are available but I think that they are targeting the business objects with big dimensions not the small ones.
Then, if you need to manage data coming from a remote system, SAP Elegant Finder could be also a option. You have to code something but you’ll find all the samples and instructions to make you life easier. MDM could be a good example…
Even if the name is not so appropriate, SAP Elegant Finder could support sharing of reusable components that do not find anything but that provide a nice User Interface for special field types (e.g. calendars).
How to contribute
First of all, download the components from the project’s web site, then give us your feedback and report eventually bugs.
Then, Artists (that knows also WDA), will design their own Elegant Search Helps and will publish them becoming members of the Open Source project.
Any suggestions coming from WDA Architects to enhance the framework will be very appreciated.
I think that Web Dynpro ABAP in sdn could be a good place to place any comment, issue or suggestion.
Now let me introduce the team:
- Alessandro Lavazzi: “He knows also how to do a good coffee in WDA”
- Luca Grilli: “He’s the stylish one of the group”
- Sergio Ferrari: “at times I have an idea” – (I have also a blog profile )
- we are still waiting for the Invisible Women…
If everything goes well we’ll release other interesting Elegant Finders soon…