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The main input help available from the ABAP Dictionary is in the form of search helps. Search helps are independent Repository objects that you create using the ABAP Dictionary. They are used to present input help for screen fields. You can link search helps to table fields and data elements. As well as search helps, you can still, in exceptional cases, use check tables, fixed values, or static input help.

Input Help Methods

  • Search helps

    There are two kinds of search helps: elementary and collective. An elementary search help represents a search path. It defines the location of the data for the hit list, how values are exchanged between the screen and the selection method, and the user dialog that occurs when the user chooses input help. A collective search help consists of two or more elementary search helps. A collective search help combines all the search paths that are meaningful for a field. The collective search help is the interface between the screen and the various elementary search helps.

  • Check tables

    The ABAP Dictionary allows you to define relationships between tables using foreign keys. A dependent table is called a foreign key table, and the referenced table is called the check table. Each key field of the check table corresponds to a field in the foreign key table. These fields are called foreign key fields. One of the foreign key fields is designated as the check field for checking the validity of values. The key fields of the check table can serve as input help for the check field.

  • Fixed values

    You can restrict the values that a domain in the ABAP Dictionary may take by assigning fixed values to it. The fixed values can be used as input help for the fields that are defined using that domain. However, the value table of a domain is not used for input help. It is only used as a default value for the check tables of the fields that refer to the domain.

  • Static input help

    Fields with the types DATS and TIMS have their own predefined calendar and clock help that can be used as input help.

Input Help Hierarchy in the ABAP Dictionary

There are various ways of linking search helps with fields of database tables or components of structures. The input help available to a user depends on the type of link. The following list shows, in ascending order of priority, the input help that is used:

  1. Calendar and clock help

    If no other input help has been defined for a field with type DATS or TIMS, the calendar or clock help is displayed.

  2. Domain fixed values

    If a field has no check table or search help, any fixed values of the underlying domain are used.

  3. Search help of the data element

    Search helps from the ABAP Dictionary can be attached to a data element. If a field has no check table or search help of its own, the system uses the search help assigned to the underlying data element.

  4. Check tables

    If the check table has no text table and no search help of its own, and a field has no search help of its own, the contents of the key fields of the check table are used as input help.

  5. Check table with text table

    You can define a text table for a table. If the check table for a field has a text table defined for it, the input help displays both the key fields from the check table and the corresponding text from the text table in the user's logon language.

  6. Check table with search help

    Search helps can be attached to the check table of a field. The search help is displayed with the values from the check table. However, it allows you to transfer the values of more than one parameter.

  7. Search help for a field

    Search helps can also be directly attached to a field of a structure or a database table. This has the highest priority, and is always displayed for input help. When you attach the search help, you should therefore ensure that it only offers values that are also in the check table, otherwise errors may occur in the automatic input checks.

Search Helps and Value Transport

Search helps have an interface (search help parameters), which determines which entries, already made by the user on the screen, should be used when compiling the hit list, and the screen fields that should be filled when the user chooses an entry. The parameters of a search help are divided into import and export parameters. A parameter can simultaneously be an input and an export parameter.

When the user starts the input help, the contents of the fields on the screen are passed to the import parameters of the search help. If a search help is directly linked to a data element or a screen field, only one search help parameter is assigned to the field. The value transport is then only between the field and this parameter. If the search help is assigned to a table or structure field, or to the check table of the field, there may be more than one parameter of the search help that has to be filled with values. When the input help is called, the system tries to find a field with the same name for each import parameter of the search help that is attached to a table or structure field. If such a field is found, its contents are copied to the search help parameter.

When the user selects a line from the hit list of the search help, the system transfers values from the export parameters of the search help to the corresponding screen fields. Values from the hit list are only returned to fields on the screen that are linked with an export parameter of the search help and are ready for input.

Changing Search Helps

In exceptional cases, you can modify the standard flow of an input help using a search help exit. A search help exit is a function module with a predefined interface. You can call it at defined points within the input help process. The search help exit allows you to store your own program logic that either steers the subsequent processing or replaces it altogether.

The function module can change the attributes of the search help, the selection options that are used to preselect the hit list, the hit list itself, and also the subsequent processing steps.

All search help exits must have the same interface as the function module F4IF_SHLP_EXIT_EXAMPLE. However, you can define any number of additional optional parameters, especially exporting parameters. For further information about the interface, refer to the function module documentation.

If you have assigned a search help exit to a search help, it is called by the help processor at the following points. They are the points at which the user can interact with the input help, since these are the points at which you can best change the flow of the search help in the interests of the user:

  1. Before Displaying the Dialog Box for Selecting the Required Search Path.

    At the SELONE event (collective search helps only). This makes it possible to make the search help dependent on the transaction, on other system variables, or even on the state of the radio buttons on the screen. (This is the only event in which the search help exit is called for collective search helps. All other events call the search help exit for the selected elementary search help.)

  2. After an elementary search help has been selected.

    (PRESEL1 event). Here, you can change the assignment of the search help to the screen by, for example, changing the way in which the search help parameters are assigned to screen fields.

  3. Before Displaying the Dialog Box for Entering Search Conditions.

    (PRESEL event). This enables you to change the contents of the dialog box, or to suppress it altogether.

  4. Before Selecting Data.

    (SELECT event). Although the value selection contains no user interaction, it can still be overridden either partially or fully by the search help exit. This may be necessary if it is not possible to read the data using a SELECT statement for a table or view.

  5. Before Displaying the Hit List.

    (DISP event). You can influence the display of the hit list in this step with the search help exit. This makes it possible, for example, to hide certain entries or fields of a table from the user depending on his or her authorization.

  6. Before Returning the Values Selected by the User to the Input Template.

    (RETURN event). It could be advisable to intervene at this time if control of the further transaction flow should depend on the value selected. A typical use of this event would be to set SPA/GPA parameters.

Certain search help functions are requested repeatedly in similar ways. One example of this is the possibility to set the search help so that it can be used dynamically. Standard function modules have been written for these cases, which you can use either directly as search help exits, or call from within a search help exit. Such function modules all have the prefix F4UT_.

The Role of Domain Value Tables

Prior to Release 4.0, it was possible to use the value table of a domain to provide input help. This is no longer possible, primarily because unexpected results could occur if the value table had more than one key field. It was not possible to restrict the other key fields, which meant that the environment of the field was not considered, as is normal with check tables.

In cases where this kind of value help was appropriate, you can reconstruct it by creating a search help for the data elements that use the domain in question, and using the value table as the selection method.

Input help from the ABAP Dictionary.

REPORT demo_dynpro_f4_help_dictionary.
TABLES demof4help.

The next screen (statically defined) for screen 100 is 100. It has the following layout:

The components of the ABAP Dictionary structure DEMOF4HELP are assigned to the input fields. The pushbutton has the function code CANCEL with function type E.

The screen flow logic is as follows:


When the user chooses input help for the individual fields, the following is displayed:

  • The Date and Time fields refer to the components DATE_FIELD and TIME_FIELD respectively of the ABAP Dictionary structure. These have the data type DATS and TIMS, so the input help is a calendar and a clock respectively.

  • The Selection field refers to the structure component MARK_FIELD. This has the underlying domain S_FLAG, which has two fixed values. These are displayed as the input help.

  • The first Airline field refers to the structure component CARRIER1. This component has the underlying data element DEMOF4DE. The search help DEMO_F4_DE with the parameter CARRID is assigned to it. The search help reads the columns CARRID and CARRNAME from the database table SCARR. Only CARRNAME is listed, but CARRID is flagged as an export parameter.

  • The second Airline field refers to the structure component CARRIER2. This component has the check table SCARR. The check table, in turn, has the search help H_SCARR attached to it. This lists and exports the columns CARRID and CARRNAME.

  • The Flight number field refers to the structure component CONNID. The search help DEMO_F4_FIELD is assigned to it. The search help has two parameters CARRID and CONNID, which are assigned to the components CARRIER2 and CONNID of the structure. The search help imports CARRIER, reads the corresponding data from the database table SPFLI, lists CARRIER and CONNID, and exports CONNID.