Adobe Forms for SAP
Adobe Forms for SAP lets you develop forms - a technology that surpasses its two predecessors, SAPscript and SmartForms.
What is Adobe Forms for SAP?
SAP Adobe Forms is a technology for forms development - the current standard in SAP. Adobe Forms for SAP was launched in 2005. Prior to that, SAP and Adobe began working together in 2002 as part of a strategic partnership.
With the help of Adobe Forms for SAP (officially: SAP Interactive Forms by Adobe or IFbA for short), forms can be created in companies, filled out, output as print forms, displayed on the screen as a pdf file, or even sent. Such forms include orders, purchase orders, and invoices.
Adobe Forms reads the associated master and transaction data from the SAP system. The application then displays the data in the desired and predefined form, for example, as a print form. It is also possible to enter data in forms.
SAP Interactive Forms by Adobe is the successor to SAPscript and SmartForms. The technology surpasses its two predecessors in many areas - such as design and performance. And unlike SAPscript and SmartForms, Adobe Forms is still under development.
With Adobe Forms for SAP, there is a clear separation of design and programming. In addition, SAP Interactive Forms by Adobe offers various suitable functions and tools to make forms easy to design.
For example, users have access to numerous ready-made templates - with the SAP S/4HANA 1909 release alone, more than 5,000 form templates.
In order to use Adobe Forms for SAP, a Java stack (a so-called stack) must first be installed in SAP Basis. In addition, developers must configure the Adobe Document Service (ADS). Adobe LiveCycle Designer (LCD) - the graphical user interface for Adobe Forms - must also be installed separately because the application runs on Windows.
What is SAPscript? What is SmartForms?
SAPscript is SAP's oldest forms development technology. SAPscript was released in the early 1970s with the introduction of SAP R/2.
Today, the technology is considered obsolete and is no longer being developed. New forms should therefore no longer be created in SAPscript today.
However, companies still use SAPscript for form development today, which speaks for the quality of the technology. The reason for its continued use is that once forms have been created, they are usually not transferred to one of the newer languages because this is too time-consuming.
To create forms with SAPscript, there is the Form Painter. This is a text-based 72-line editor. Users and developers can call the Form Painter with transaction SE71 or via the SAP menu. However, there is no graphical editor.
Forms created in SAPscript often consist of many lines of code and are therefore often very extensive. The search for errors is therefore time-consuming. This makes maintenance, for example, more difficult. However, ABAP knowledge is usually sufficient to make changes.
SAPscript was followed by SmartForms. This technology has been on the market since 2001. SmartForms is already considered a significant improvement over SAPscript.
SmartForms is already a comparatively modern, comfortable development tool - many things can now be done without programming knowledge. Form developers can call SmartForms via the transaction SMARTFORMS.
For the first time, SmartForms separates data retrieval from data preparation. Only the form is called in the program. In addition - and this is also new compared to SAPscript - a graphical editor is available. Data can now be transferred to the form simply by "dragging and dropping" with the mouse.
Troubleshooting is also easier than with the predecessor technology, here with the APAB debugger. SAPscript also has a separate debugger, which is already quite helpful - but troubleshooting with SmartForms is easier due to the clearer separation between data retrieval and layout.
What is SAP ADS, what is Adobe LiveCycle Designer?
SAP ADS stands for SAP Adobe Document Services. This technology is the basis for Adobe Forms for SAP.
SAP ADS ensures that SAP can use the Adobe applications Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Reader. Adobe Document Services generates the finished form from the available data in SAP, which can then be worked with online or offline.
The tool used to design and create forms in Adobe Forms for SAP is called Adobe LiveCycle Designer (LCD). Companies must download the application and install it on the developer's computer. Adobe LiveCycle Designer is not required for the application (for example, to print or display the form).
Adobe LiveCycle Designer is a "stripped-down" version of Adobe Experience Manager Forms (formerly Adobe LiveCycle). As part of the transition, Adobe has discontinued support for Adobe LiveCycle 2020.
Importantly, this does not change anything for SAP customers - Adobe LiveCycle Designer remains the editor of choice for SAP. It is a standalone product.
Adobe LiveCycle Designer offers a graphical interface that is intuitive to use - a "What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get" editor in the best sense. Under SAP S/4HANA, Designer additionally supports form fragment technology to further simplify form development (for example, fragments for a uniform corporate design).
Data can be inserted using drag & drop with the mouse, for example. Graphics and symbols are also available. In addition, users can easily embed tables in forms.
Technically, the pdf files are created as follows: Adobe LiveCycle Designer saves the forms as XDP files. SAP ADS then generates a pdf file from the XML application data (from the SAP system) and the corresponding XDP file.
What are the features of Adobe Forms for SAP?
SAP Interactive Forms by Adobe has features and functions that differentiate it from SAPscript and SmartForms.
One of the biggest advantages is the clear separation of data and layout. For example, regardless of the operating system, forms always remain readable.
Printing forms is also easier and more secure because the output of print forms is now independent of the printer used. This reduces the error rate and costs.
Furthermore, the graphical editor should be mentioned. It is true that SmartForms already has a simple graphical editor. However, Adobe LiveCycle Designer is a stand-alone version and was developed by Adobe specifically for SAP.
Similar to SmartForms, data can be transferred to forms simply by dragging and dropping. Symbols and graphics facilitate operation. Images, tables or videos can be integrated into a form.
Changes can also be made more quickly: users can simply move certain elements on the form with the help of the mouse - there is no need for time-consuming adaptation through programming.
In addition, users can automatically forward a completed form to an SAP system. For example, they can initially enter data in a form while on the road without an Internet connection. Later, the form is automatically transferred to the corresponding SAP system. The advantage: Subsequent and manual entry of data is no longer necessary.
Using the scripting languages, developers can make changes directly in the form. It is also possible to insert buttons, which are then assigned a specific function. The interactive use of pdf forms may require a license.
What are the advantages of Adobe Forms for SAP?
Adobe Forms for SAP has several advantages. These include:
- Strict separation between programming and design
- Significant time savings when creating forms (especially compared to SAPscript)
- Development of interactive forms possible (static and dynamic forms)
- Convenient, generally easy-to-use designer
- TrueType fonts can be used without upload
- Good performance, contemporary interface
- Users can use Adobe Forms at any time, from any location, and on any device (including mobile, even offline)
- Compliance with regulatory, legal, and corporate requirements through auditing and archiving
What is the difference between Adobe Forms and Forms by Adobe?
The application is called "Forms by Adobe" when the SAP ADS is connected to the cloud - so Forms by Adobe is the cloud solution of SAP Adobe Forms.
The two applications are largely the same, although Forms by Adobe has certain advantages as a cloud solution. The hardware and fixed costs are lower, and there is also less work involved in installation, maintenance and operation. The Java stack, for example, is not necessary with Forms by Adobe.
Another advantage: SAP Adobe Document Services can communicate with non-SAP applications via the cloud and corresponding external interfaces - and thus also generate pdf documents from them.
How does SAP Adobe Forms for SAP work with SAP S/4HANA?
First of all, it is important to know that the "old" forms under SAPscript and SmartForms can still be used under SAP S/4HANA. However, SAP does not provide a guarantee that they will work.
For the use of SAP Adobe Forms under SAP S/4HANA, SAP has developed a new output control (output management). It is based on the BusinessRulesFrameworkplus (BRF+). In addition, the SAP specialists have revised the customizing and determination rules.
SAP's goal is to replace the previous form templates and frameworks with the new output management and templates over time.
Technologically, the new forms under SAP Adobe Forms in the SAP S/4HANA world are now "fragment-based" (Adobe Fragments). The basis for this development was the normal Adobe forms.
Accordingly, the fragments can now be divided into two areas: Master form templates and Content form templates.
The "master form" fragment contains content that rarely changes, such as a company's logo. If information is changed here, it will automatically change in all forms. A content form template, on the other hand, contains content that varies from form to form.
Technically, these two types of fragments are reassembled when a form is created.
The templates can only be used with the new output management. It is based on a new interface, an ODATA-based service. Accordingly, the form templates obtain the necessary data via the SAP gateway services.
The new interface also enables easy integration with cloud technologies. Previously, the interface was an ABAP-based interface.
Companies that choose the greenfield approach when implementing SAP S/4HANA - and thus rely on the SAP standard - will now also find a whole new set of standards in the area of forms. This set of forms corresponds to the latest technology.
How do you make the switch to Adobe Forms?
There are many companies that are still using SAPscript or SmartForms. If they are now making the switch to SAP S/4HANA, they should take the opportunity to also switch directly to Adobe Forms now.
Since further development of SAPscript or SmartForms has already been discontinued, the switch must be made sooner or later - a later switch will result in unnecessary costs and avoidable additional work.
The changeover to SAP Adobe Forms should always begin with an assessment of the current situation. After that, those responsible determine the exact procedure and ensure operation during the transition.
Do you have questions about how to manage the switch to Adobe Forms in your company? Need help analyzing your existing technologies and forms? Are you looking for a partner who can help you develop an individually tailored concept for the changeover?
GAMBIT is a strong and experienced partner for the changeover to Adobe Forms, also in your company. Our development experts will be happy to help you. Call or write us - we will get back to you as soon as possible!
Stefan Burghardt, Head of Connectivity + DevelopmentDo you have questions about Adobe Forms for SAP? I am happy to be there for you!
+49 2241 8845 637