Monthly ABAP to EXCEL Blog – January 2023
For over ten years now every month on the SAP Community Site someone publishes a blog about how to upload/download data from EXCEL to ABAP. So, I am going to start doing this as well – only I will always be talking about ABAP2XLSX as the preferred mechanism to do this.
The 120 blogs posted over the last ten years usually never mention ABAP2XLSX at all. They either talk about the archaic OLE technology that can be used to communicate with Microsoft products or re-invent the ABAP2XLSX concept.
Then myself and about three or four other people (the “usual suspects” as I call them) will post in the comments section talking about ABAP2XLSX and the original poster will either admit they had never heard of ABAP2XLSX or sometimes get all offended and say of course they had heard of it, just forgot to mention in their blog.
Then come one (or both) of the following two arguments: –
- I cannot use ABAP2XLSX because my organization has a “no open source” policy
- Open-source ABAP projects are not supported by SAP
- I cannot use ABAP2XLSX because it is far too complicated, a sledgehammer trying to crack a nut,
- ABAP2XLSX is not documented at all
Let us take these one at a time
No Open-Source Policy
Some years back the organisation I work for had a global “NO CLOUD” policy. So, when we in Australia wanted to start using SAP Ariba (which is of course a cloud product) we had to get a special exemption, which was not easy.
Nowadays of course there is no such global policy for some reason. What could possibly have changed everyone’s minds?
In the same way when someone says their organisation has a no open-source policy they are posting that statement either from a work supplied smartphone which is crawling with open-source software, or a work supplied PC which is crawling with open source software, using a browser which is crawling with open source software, and then get in their company car (which is crawling with open source software) to drive to or from work.
If an organisation really had a no open-source policy, then no employees would be allowed to use any modern technology and the company would have to work like the Flintstones where at the end of the day you leave your office by sliding down the neck of a Brontosaurus. Which would probably be quite fun. But in real life most offices do not have such slides – apart from maybe Google offices.
In addition, I cannot really see the difference between copying an open-source program from a GitHub repository into your development system and cutting and pasting the code from whatever blog it is into your development system which is of course what the blog poster is encouraging you to do.
If you are using an official framework supplied by SAP, then of course if something does not work you can raise what I still call an OSS message and SAP are supposed to investigate and fix the problem. With an open-source project like ABAP2XLSX however you cannot go running to SAP if anything does not work. Therefore – the argument goes – do not use open-source ABAP projects.
This is more of a mindset change than anything else. You must mentally move from support model A to support model B whereby: –
- In support model A you pay millions of dollars a year, and when you have a problem raise an OSS request, go backwards and forwards with first level support for several weeks, who keeps asking you for things you have already sent them. Eventually you get through to a higher level of support who tell you this is consulting, and it cannot be fixed unless you are willing to pay extra. Even if you have debugged the faulty code yourself and supply the solution (the needed code changes) it often makes no difference. If by some miracle the problem is fixed you get an OSS note which you can apply at once, and all the other SAP customers get the fix the next time they apply a support stack in three months’ time, or a year, or whatever.
- In support model B you do not pay anything and when you have a problem you are strongly encouraged to fix it yourself and then present the solution to the GitHub site whereby once it has been approved the central code base is updated for everyone at once, so the next time they check the repository using abapGit they will get all the latest fixes. If you cannot fix the problem yourself, you log an issue on the GitHub site and in a very short space of time someone out in Internet world will have fixed it without constantly fighting back, or telling you that this is working as designed or whatever.
People are used to support model A and have come to quite like it, sort of a Stockholm Syndrome thing I suppose, and the very idea of support model B makes them break out in a cold sweat.
To give some real-life examples of Model B
- Whilst writing the latest edition of my ABAP book I found a way ABAP2XLSX could be improved and described how to submit such an improvement request. Within a matter of days assorted people from internet world had jumped on this and proposed even better solutions than mine. When you raise an OSS note do you get different developers who work for SAP fighting each other to see who can solve your problem the best\ way?
- Several times now a colleague of mine has made suggestions/requests to the author of the ADT plug-in framework (Lukasz Pegiel) and the next day the fix/new feature was there.
- Several times I have raised an issue on the abapGit GitHub repository and an hour later I get a message saying the fix is ready please download it and respond back saying what you think (this works even better than standard SAP support because you download the new version of the code from a different branch, so if it does not work no-one else has been affected, and the fix is only generally released once you and the project owner are happy all is working correctly)
Far Too Complicated
When you download the ABAP2XLSX code from the GitHub repository (which is https://github.com/abap2xlsx/abap2xlsx by the way) to your development t system you will note it is not just one huge program but rather about 70 or 80 different classes.
That seems to get people squawking that everything is far too complicated, but I would counter this with two points:
- I don’t think 70 odd classes in one repository is that excessive. Some standard SAP packages have far more objects.
- This is nothing less than good OO design. That is the design follows the Single Responsibility Principle (SRP – the “S” in SOLID) whereby each class does one thing only and therefore has only one possible reason to change.
The CL_SALV_TABLE follows the same basic principle. Instead of one huge function module like REUSE_ALV_DISPLAY_GRID you have an array of small classes each doing one thing.
Coding using CL_SALV_TABLE to create an ALV report, and coding using ABAP2XLSX to download that report to Excel – in both cases you would need to create instances of assorted low-level objects and make them work together. Moreover, in both cases you can create re-usable templates, so you do not have to write half a million tons of boiler plate code each time.
So, the question becomes – why is the former deemed as no problem at all, but the latter deemed as so complicated as to be impossible?
The usual reason given is that CL_SALV_TABLE is sort of documented, whereas ABAP2XLSX is not documented at all. Back in 2000 when REUSE_ALV_DISPLAY_GRID came out that wasn’t documented very well either, but that did not strop the ALV taking off like a rocket and replacing reports that used WRITE statements.
Classified Documentation in my Office
Of all the arguments against ABAP2XLSX the only one I have any time for is the lack of documentation. Programmers generally aren’t much for writing documentation, they love writing code so much they don’t want to do anything else.
However, in the same way Thomas Jung wrote tons of documentation about CL_SALV_TABLE in his SAP Press book “Next Generation ABAP Development” I wrote tons of documentation about ABAP2XLSX in my book “ABAP to the Future”.
It has been pointed out to me on the internet that if I really want thousands of ABAP programmers to start using ABP2XLSX then forcing them to buy my book is probably not the correct way to proceed, and I see that point. On the other hand, if I just cut and pasted everything from the book chapter into an SCN blog I imagine SAP Press would not be too happy. So, can I find a happy medium?
ABAP2XLSX comes with a set of demo programs. Each one demonstrates one or more things ABAP2XLSX is capable of and gives an example of how to code it. They seem pretty much self-explanatory to me, but obviously they are not.
The Way Forward
As mentioned at the start I am going to be trying to do my own monthly ABAP2XLSX blog, to counteract all the ones which re-invent the concept. I will write my own demo programs.
By the time the next blog is ready I will have created a new GitHub repository so people can download my example programs. I will try to explain the code in as much detail as I can.
We will start with the most basic use case which is taking an existing ALV report and adding the option to turn it into a spreadsheet which you can then email to yourself (or anyone) even if the program is run in the background.
In subsequent blogs we will move on to adding assorted extra ABAP2XLSX features e.g., setting print parameters, conditional formatting, pie charts and so on.
No doubt by the time I am ready for my next blog there will be one or more blogs published by someone who has just invented a way to upload/download Excel to/from ABAP and when that happens, I will point them to this blog, which I will keep updated as and when I write the next blogs.