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Context sensitive help in NWBC using side panels

One of the very useful features of the more recent versions of SAP NetWeaver Business Client is the availability of the side panel.  And one useful scenario for leveraging the side panel is to place context sensitive help in it.  Here I explore the possibilities for leveraging the side panel for context sensitive help …

Using SAP Help Center

SAP provides its own context sensitive capability in the Help Center.  This supports help linkages from both Web Dynpro and ABAP Transaction Dynpro applications. 

For Web Dynpro applications, the Help Center can be launched by selecting the Help -> Help Center option at the top right of a Web Dynpro page in NWBC.  It doesn’t appear in the Side Panel by default … to have it do that, you need to set the application parameter WDHELPCENTERDISPLAY from it’s default of NEW_WINDOW to SIDE_PANEL.  When doing that, the Help Center appears like the following …


For ABAP Transaction dynpro applications however, the approach to launching the Help Center is via the menu options which appear in the top left of the screen (as distinct from the top right of the screen for Web Dynpros) via the path Help -> Application Help.  And also, when launching the help for these transactions within NWBC, the Help Center does not appear in the NWBC side panel but instead appears in a separate pop-up window which once again is inconsistent with the behaviour for Web Dynpros.  From a user experience perspective, this is not ideal … whilst NWBC serves well to unify classic ABAP dynpro as well as Web Dynpro screens in the one user interface, the mechanisms to launch the SAP Help Center are inconsistent as is the location in which the Help Center pages appear.

So lets look an alternative option …

Third Party Context Sensitive Help

Many organisations utilise alternative solutions to surface context sensitive help.  Irrespective of the solution, if it supports launching of URL pages whereby the particular screen app code is included in the URL to launch the screen-specific help (eg. http://<helpserver>/helplink?appcode=<abc>, then the solution below may work for you.

First things first.  You may not be aware, but SAP exposes information into web pages served in the Side Panel.  One way to see what information is available is to hold down the CTRL key and follow the menu path below in NWBC …


When you do this, the side panel will display contextual information related to the current screen, like the following …


You can leverage this concept for your context sensitive help, creating a customised page which extracts the relevant contextual data and injects that into a URL for your help system, then redirecting to that URL.  To do this, create a BSP application with a single HTML page with flow logic, like the following …


In its simplest (non-robust) form, the content of your BSP application might look something like this (click on the image to display in full resolution) …


Using transaction PFCG add the BSP to your NWBC menu role at the top-level folders under which you wish the context sensitive side panel to be available.  Be sure to set the ‘Node Option’ to be ‘Side Panel’…


Then, when opening your side panel you should have the option to see your context sensitive help in there, irrespective of whether you are viewing a ABAP dynpro transaction, or a Web Dynpro application.  This provides much more consistency in the user experience.  Here is an example below …


Want to know more about NWBC?  Here are two options to find out more …

Mentor Monday – Sept 23rd 2013

If you would like to know more about NWBC, there is a public mentor call hosted by SAP Mentors Matt Harding and myself sharing our experiences with it, at the following time:

Sept 23rd

Pacific Standard Time (PST) 6AM

(which for those of us in Australia, equates to AEST 11PM)

UPDATE: This session has now occurred.  A link to the recording is here …

Expert Networking Session at SAP TechEd Las Vegas – Oct 23rd 2013

I will be hosting a 30 minute expert networking session on NWBC at SAP TechEd in Las Vegas this year.  The date and time for this is as follows …

Oct 23rd 10:30AM – Expert Networking Lounge 1

If you want to hear more about NWBC, or even want to share your own experiences with it, please drop by.  Everyone is welcome!

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  • Hi John,

    Nice post. One question: So in this scenario you would disable the other "Help" links and teach users to open the side panel to get to the context sensitive help?

    Nice to see that you will be at TechEd LV too! See you there 🙂


    • Hi Simon,

      I haven't yet investigated disabling the other help links.  But absolutely users will be taught to open the side panel for their context sensitive help.



  • Hi John,

    Thanks for this great blog. I'll be adding it to our Side Panel master document asap (sorry, pretty hectic with TechEd prep at the mo).

    Best wishes,

      • Hi Damean,

        Which part is not working for you?

        Unfortunately, if it is the last part, John is referring to including third-party content in a BSP, so I don't see how we can standardize this.

        If it is the first part, then there is a standard Chip - X-SAP-WDHC-CHIP:WDHC_CHIP . It provides the content shown in John's screenshot, but available automatically as a side panel in a SAP GUI transaction - ie in the same place as John shows it for the WD application - ie you don't have to call it using Help > Application Help.

        In either case, if you can describe what exactly is going wrong, someone here may be able to help.

        Best wishes,

        • Judy

            Based on my previous testing, I believe the standard CHIP "X-SAP-WDHC-CHIP:WDHC_CHIP" does NOT work for SAPGUI transaction (i.e. It does not recognize transaction); it only work for WebDynPro application. Hence the need of a workaround using the BSP Application that John Moy described above. Regrettably, I have NOT been able to duplicate the BSP application that John described in my environment.

              As an example,

          1) I created a new Side Panel Role of Entry type Web Dynpro App (WDC_HELP_CENTER) that's associated with Tcode VA03

          2) Using  Tcode: shc_admin, I create a link between a PDF document and Tcode VA03

          3) From the NWBC client, I execute VA03 

            3a)  When I called the Help Center via the Side Panel, it will show the generic Help Center, however the PDF document will NOT be display (The reason is because it's NOT capable of locating the file linkage to the Tcode)

            3b) When I called the help via  "Menu> Help > Application Help", a separate IE window will be launch showing the PDF document

            In a perfect world, I would hope that both action 3c) and 3d) above would call up the PDF document. i.e. The Help Chip is "SAPGUI Transaction" aware.

            If you need a little bit more details, let me know, I could send a detail instruction with screen prints.



          • Hi Damean,


            Ok, I tested this, but obviously not thoroughly enough, so apologies for
            that. When I attached the Chip to a SAP GUI tx (SU01), it displayed. However,
            when I tested 3-4 other transactions, the chip didn’t change – ie it wasn’t

            I’ll pass this on to the product owner.


            Sorry about that – I guess I just had to work through it.

            Best wishes,

          • Thanks Julie ... In the spirit of Holidays gift, may I add one extra request? Could the Helpcenter be made more accessible and prominent via a single Help Icon on the left side of the Top level "Tabs" bar? When the user click on the Help icon, the side panel will automatically open up with the Help Center Chip (i.e. Documentation) displayed prominently.

            Reason: Prominent One click access to reduce new user frustration. With current design, user need to perform click 2~3 click (Depending on Side Panel design) before they could obtain the Help Documentation.

      • Hi Damean,

        I talked to the PO recently about both these suggestions.

        Your 2nd point: All Help in 1 location. At present, the SAP GUI Help is part of the SAP GUI screen; this is rendered by the DIAG protocol, whether SAP GUI is standalone or embedded – we can’t change this. Side panel help belongs to the side panel; that is why it the Help icon displayed in the side panel. At present, there are no plans to change this. However, this could be nominated as part of the customer connection initiative (which I will be blogging about soon).

        Your 1st point: This is another candidate for customer connection, and probably a better one. The only thing to bear in mind is that it is not as trivial as it perhaps looks. Technicall, the WD side panel is different from the SAP GUI side panel: the panel runs in the same session as the main WD application, plus the WD side panel was developed fairly recently, so the technology exists for the panel to communicate with the Help Center, and
        also to modify the main WD application where necessary. Conversely, a SAP GUI
        side panel is a completely new application, developed years after the main transaction,
        running in a separate session. Thus this would be a cross-team project: The Help Center team would have to create a new chip that reacts to information passed from SAP GUI (through NWBC). Then we would have to change the NWBC runtime too.

        However, the idea is a good one: if this feature is nominated for customer connection, and if the interest is there from the community, then we would try to work with the Help Center team on this.


        Best wishes,


        • Thanks for the followup Julie ... Just saw the latest schedule, looks like "NetWeaver Business Client" will be part of the Upcoming Focus Topic on Q1-2014. Hopefully we will get more detail from your Blog soon.

  • One other comment on this... there is also the "Help" link in the NWBC menu itself (can be seen in your screen shot above)... this links to the standard SAP Help for NWBC. I would argue you would want to possibly remove this for end users and supply your own help link and not have two... I haven't seen a way to disable the standard Help menu link. Does anyone know?