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Comparing Smart Forms to SAPscript


Goto Notes
Preamble: With the release of SAP 4.6C a revolutionary change has been introduced with the new Document creation tool, "Smart Forms". SAPscript was based on the mainframe product, DCF (Document Composition Format) from the 1980s. Smart Forms on the other hand is an object driven Document Creation tool that will become the new order of Document Handling within SAP.

Although SAPscript has been evolving over the years it has always been constrained in functionality. Customers in the Internet enabled world of today need Documents that facilitate the BtoB nature of Transaction Handling taking full advantage of the Internet medium.

This article will contrast the two Document Creation tools to help the Reader identify the difference between the two and address two significant questions Companies are asking.

One: Do we utilize the functionality of Smart Forms by migrating the current SAPscript Infrastructure to Smart Forms?
Two: For new Documents do we customize or create a Smart Form solution or customize and create a SAPscript solution?

Discussed will be:

Note 1: SAPscript Components
Note 2: Mechanics of SAPscript
Note 3: Smart Form Components
Note 4: Mechanics of Smart Forms
Note 5: Customizing SAPscript
Note 6: Customizing Smart Forms
Note 7: Projected Future of SAPscript
Note 8: The Power and Future of Smart Forms
Ques 1: Deciding on If and When to Migrate SAPscript to Smart Forms
Ques 2: For new Documents: Smart Forms or SAPscript ?


Note 1
SAPscript Components




SAPscript has two driving components, a Print Program and a Layout Set.

The Print Program serves the purpose of getting the data content of the Document and calling the Layout Set Objects.

These Layout Set Objects are called Windows and are essentially logical blocks of Details like, "the Customer", "the ship to address", "document identification" .....

Note 2
Mechanics of SAPscript



P/O Layout Set

In the Window, "MAIN" a further sub-component known as an "Element" is shown.

Through combinations of placing "Windows" and "Elements" on the Layout Set, the Business Document is created.

The ABAP program fills the contents of the Windows through a Function Call as shown in the following way.

IF control = "start"
 Call Function "WRITE_FORMS"
    window = "MAIN"
    element  = "HEADER_TEXT".
 Call Function "WRITE_FORMS"
    window = "MAIN"
    element  = "HEADER_INFO".

 Basically the Print Program is a sequence of "Get Data" and call "WRITE_FORMS".

Note 3
Smart Form Components





Smart Forms has three driving components, "a Print Program", "a Layout Set" and "a Function".

From the point of "Windows" the Smart Forms Layout Set is no different over SAPscript. The Look and Feel is the same.

From the point of "Formatting" and "Element" referencing they differ. In the case of formatting, Smart Forms has implemented Smart Styles, making for a more centralized mechanism. They can be likened to a CSS (cascading style sheet) for HTML documents.

  The power of Smart Forms surfaces with the introduction of multiple Graphic Objects going leaps and bounds beyond "Text Element" referencing seen in SAPscript. The handling of these Objects are done through the "Navigational Panel" accessed through the Development Environment of Smart Forms. In SAPscript one had to Activate a Layout Set while in Smart Forms one has to Generate the Layout Set. This generation now creates a standard SAP Function that becomes callable from any ABAP Report which in itself is one powerful improvement over SAPscript. 
Note 4
Mechanics of Smart Forms




As Smart Forms is a Function it comes with standard Interface functionality of passing data to and receiving data from the Smart Forms call.

The Form Interface now has the added functionality of Emailing the output as PDF attachments and as well has hooks to SAP Archive Link. Having said this, it is the authors' understanding that the full functionality of email won't be available until version 5 of SAP.

Suffice it to say, the direction SAP is going will provide an extensive document handling tool in time.


  The Navigational Panel shows the order in which the Document is processed. Processing is done from Top Down and Left to Right. Behind most of the Control Objects there is a "Conditional Property" that controls whether that Branch of the Control is executed.

 As with SAPscript the hierarchy involves Page Window Element(s) however Smart Forms now allows building sub-elements. This introduces layers of detail that lends itself to cleaner Documents. Instead of looking at streams of nested "IF Calls" that surface with "Business Rules" we will begin to see "Conditional Text Elements" or "Conditional Folders" controlling the Implementation of Business Rules.

Note 5
Customizing SAPscript






What SAP provided with SAPscript is well over 500 Business Documents to accommodate multiple Business Activities or Transactions.

The "As Delivered" Document pretty much always needs New Data relevant to the Implementing Company along with Format Changing.

SAP also attempted to have multiple Touch Points in a Layout Set that would conditionally be called via Configuration. In addition Layout Sets could also serve different Business Documents. For example the Layout Set "Medruck" is used for Purchase Requisition, Purchase Order,.....


  The outcome is a Layout Set could have a lot of "Elements" that are never used. Also for every "Element" in a Layout Set Window there has to be a corresponding location in the Print Program.

The initial big question with SAPscript development is:

eg: Out of the 80 Elements that are Contained in the Layout Set what "3 to 7" Elements are the ones that have to be changed. Should I find those "3 to 7" Elements where are the Touch Points in the ABAP Print Program.

In fact there are techniques that facilitate this process. See RED-Rover SAPscript Methodology 


Note 6
Customizing Smart Forms



Like SAPscript there are two areas that could be customized, "the Print Program" and the "Navigation Tree". 

Unlike SAPscript there are no methods and design strategies for dealing with Customizing a Smart Forms.


  While the new functionality of Smart Forms is brilliant, a level of complexity comes with it. If SAP delivers a Smart Form that has to satisfy multiple Business Scenarios that encompass the Generic Smart Form say for the Purchase Order, one can expect several layers of Navigational Objects with nested branching.

All this makes for a difficult task to customize. Some likely scenarios will be cycles of "Surprises" and "Fixes" until the customized Form is made stable.


Note 7
Projected Future of SAPscript




Customers' Concern

A frequent comment from the Industry is, "SAPscript" is expensive. The Customers' experience is usually great expenditures of Time and Dollars have gone into the making of their Set of Business Documents.

R3 versus My-SAP

It is the authors' belief that the future of SAPscript will be driven by the future of the R3 environment when compared against the evolving My-SAP technologies. Smart Forms will lend itself more in time for My-SAP transactions.

Should SAP push to have R3 replaced by My-SAP implementations then SAPscript will die. Otherwise SAPscript is here to stay and subject to becoming a Legacy Process that gets replaced as Budgets and Needs dictate.

SAP's Commitment SAP realizes there is a tremendous amount of time and Investments dollars to commit to replacing their 500 plus Generic Layout Sets. The reality is, the Smart Forms "Print Program" will in itself be an involved process to be integrated into SAP transactions and the Smart Forms "Layout Set" will be an equally involved process. These will not come overnight.

With this being said, its the authors' belief, "SAP will maintain SAPscript" for the next 5 to 10 years with 10 years being comfortably said. It's probably fair to say, while SAP continues to support the R3 client/server platform, SAPscript is here to stay. 


Note 8
The Power AND Future of Smart Forms




Business Documents With the Object Control approach newly created documents will be implemented quicker. As well more elaborate Business Documents can be expected.

eMail Distribution Beyond doubt this functionality is so dearly missing within the SAPscript domain of Documents. The cost savings that a company can experience by having the choice to distribute documents  internal and external to the Business can be achieved so quickly. Of equal importance is the turn around time for the outcome of that documents purpose.

SAP ArchiveLink By its nature, a SAPscript Document becomes a legal business transaction and thereby subject to the 6 year Statue of Limitations for Liabilities or 7 years for the Statue of Limitations pertaining to Taxes. Essentially if a company is not keeping a Paper Version as a record on SAPscript issued documents then the company is vulnerable.

SAP Archive Link is being proposed by SAP as a means to save versions of Documents and eliminate this vulnerability. Smart Forms is being designed from the outset to accommodate SAP ArchiveLink.

An overview on ArchiveLink can be seen in the article "SAPscript / Smart Form Archiving Technologies

Reports Because Smart Forms is a Function it becomes callable by any ABAP. In addition with the  ABAP call functionality within the Navigational Panel, general everyday Reports could be written in Smart Forms.

By doing this the eMail and SAP Archive Component become available. Also the "Table" control in Smart Forms is brilliant.

Interfaces With a single toggle of the Header "XSL" Attribute of a Smart Form  the output generated against this Form is now in XML. This functionality will allow Interfaces to unfold.

Work Flow Given that Smart Forms are callable from an ABAP program then it lends itself to Work Flow Tasks. 

WEB Pages A natural evolution would be an Output Format that is WEB enabled. The author feels bold enough to project "Smart Forms" evolving into "WEB Forms".

Ques 1
Deciding ON
If and When to 
Migrate SAPscript to Smart Forms




New Functionality
Available via
Third Party Bolt Ons

No IF eMail, Archiving is required based on tight Budgets with Minimal Risk Tolerance Required 

Need The New Functionality
Excluding Third
Party Bolt Ons

Yes IF eMail, Archiving or XML Interface Functionality is required


Yes/No Has to be reviewed on an Individual Basis, leaning to a Yes if the Form represents major Customization.

Short Term
General Sustainment
The Present Year being 2001 makes the Short Term 2003. With Smart Forms being so New, waiting till 2003 will allow SAP to catch up on delivered Forms and get them to a more stable state. By then also techniques and Products will be in the market place to facilitate the process.

Long Term


Any Time Post 2003 Budgets should start to be planned for to move the most critical Documents over to Smart Forms.


Ques 2

new Documents:
 Smart Forms
or SAPscript ?   




If the Smart Form Exists

If the Document lends itself to a heavily Customized version then trying  to Customize a Smart Form is going to be subject to Cycles of "Surprises" and "Fixes". If this is the thought then Create your own version of Smart Forms.


If the Form is Never Likely To Exist as a Generic SAP Doc
SF SAPscript should never even be considered.

If the Smart Form Does Not Exist

SC Within the Year 2001 to year end 2003 the delivery of Smart Forms is expected to be sparse. If it is projected to be costly development under the SAPscript heading then do it in Smart Forms.


Within the Year 2001 to year end 2003 the delivery of Smart Forms is expected to be sparse. If one can easily implement a SAPscript version then spend some time debating SAPscript over Smart Forms.


Copyright: Osberg Software Services Inc.
Web: www.ossincorp.com
eMail: k_osberg@yahoo.com

    copyright: Quest4 Market Strategies Inc, July 2009