SAP GUI: The Graphical User Interface at a Glance
In addition to a definition of terms, this page deals comprehensively with the technical background, history, functions, and integration options of the SAP Graphical User Interface (GUI).
What is SAP GUI?
SAP GUI (SAP Graphical User Interface) is the name for the graphical user interface of an SAP system. It is necessary so that users can interact directly with the SAP software. At the same time, the SAP GUI is also a program that is installed locally on mobile devices. This receives data from the application server and displays it in a familiar visual form.
The SAP GUI user interface is called in Windows environments via SAP Logon. This is a program that is used to log on to SAP systems. SAP Logon lists all available systems. The user selects the desired system by double-clicking it. SAP Logon then automatically establishes a connection with the server that currently has the best response time.
Alternatively, you can also call the SAP GUI interface in the browser. It is completely written in the programming languages C and C++. In addition, platform-independent versions (Java), HTML implementations, and variants for mobile devices exist (for details, see "Which SAP GUI implementations are possible?").
What is the concept behind SAP GUI?
Classic SAP systems are structured according to the so-called three-layer architecture, which is made up as follows:
- Data storage layer (also: back-end, database layer, data server)
- Logic layer (also: application server, business layer)
- Presentation layer (also: front-end)
The SAP GUI is the presentation layer in this multi-level client-server model. It is therefore purely responsible for the interaction with users and the presentation of content. Other layers exist for data storage and application logic.
The separation of presentation layer and logic layer is primarily for performance reasons. The aim is to keep the utilization of the application server low by transferring the computing load for screen display to local user devices. This means that the central server does not have to deal with the complex screen display of SAP systems, but only provides data.
What functionalities does the SAP Graphical User Interface contain?
The SAP GUI provides several functionalities for the visual adaptation of the user interface. Many settings can be made by the users themselves, while others are set by administrators.
The SAP Graphical User Interface is delivered with predefined themes, which control the color, contrast, and display of symbols, buttons, and labels. Companies decide for themselves whether they specify a certain theme or whether they allow users to select or customize the visual details of the GUI. A uniform theme is recommended as it prevents irritations and thus also facilitates user support. SAP regularly updates its standard themes to provide customized and modern interfaces.
In addition to the visual appearance, certain display values of the SAP GUI can also be configured. For example, the display of technical descriptions (e.g. document types) can be switched on and off. Individual default values or presettings for certain input fields can also be defined.
ABAP developers can use the SAP GUI to define their preferred debugger approach and configure the Pretty Printer (tool for writing code). With the help of SAP Screen Personas (available since 2012), users can adapt their screens (dynpros) to individual needs even without programming knowledge. In "SAP GUI for Windows" the tool GuiXT is already available since 1998, which also allows an adaptation of screens.
What are Dynpros?
Screens are program components that ABAP applications use to communicate with users using the SAP GUI. Screens of a screen can contain a set of standard elements or GUI controls. There are the following screen types, which are used to build the familiar SAP interfaces:
- General Screens
- selection screens
How can the SAP GUI version be determined?
The local installation of the SAP GUI has the disadvantage that current or uniform versions are not always available on the client computers. However, it is important to install updates nationwide, especially in the case of security vulnerabilities. User support also benefits from the same version levels. This leads to the question of how to determine the SAP GUI version.
At the user's workstation, one click in the SAP Logon Pad is all it takes. The menu contains the entry "About SAP Logon", which can be used to query both the release and the version of the SAP GUI. More important, however, is the central determination of all SAP GUI versions. Unfortunately, the SAP standard does not allow this. Companies must therefore create their own reports, which log the version when users log in. Alternatively, you can also force the installation of the current version of the SAP GUI using software distribution methods.
Which SAP GUI implementations are possible?
Although the SAP GUI is mainly used in conjunction with Microsoft Windows, other implementations exist. This means that the user interface can also be used in browsers, Java environments and on mobile devices such as tablets. The individual variants sometimes differ considerably, which is why we would like to take a closer look at them in the following.
SAP GUI for Windows
SAP GUI for Microsoft Windows has been available since the early 1990s. It is thus the oldest and to this day most frequently used implementation of the SAP Graphical User Interface. You access the system via the SAP Logon, which users use to select the required system. In the second step, the interface displays a mask in which users must enter the desired client, their user name and their password in order to log in.
In the course of time, SAP released new SAP GUI versions for Windows every few years. In some cases this was accompanied by considerable changes. Note in this context that GUI versions are only compatible with old and new SAP releases for a limited time. Support from SAP ends at a defined point in time, which is why updates should be installed promptly.
In the first version the SAP GUI did not contain any graphical elements like radio buttons, icons or checkboxes. However, adjustments were made quickly. The following were key milestones in the development of SAP GUI for Windows:
- 1996: Introduction of a Windows 95 look (flat buttons, tabs, list windows)
- 2000: Extensive redesign of the surface (contemporary look, multiple work surfaces, improved clarity)
- 2007: Introduction of a Windows Vista look (integration of Microsoft Office 2007 features, new ABAP Frontend Editor)
- 2010: New Logon Pad, support for Office 2010 and Windows 7
- 2012: Support for Windows 8
- 2014: Support for Windows 10, introduction of the "Blue Crystal Theme" (based on the Fiori optics)
- 2017: Introduction of "Fiori 2.0 Visual Theme for Classical Applications".
- 2019: SAP GUI 7.60, introduction of the Belize theme (alignment of existing Web Dynpro ABAP applications with the Fiori design)
With the latest version (SAP GUI 7.60), SAP wants to ensure a consistent user experience for all SAP products. The Enjoy-Theme, which has been in use for years, will be replaced by "Belize". The SAP Logon Pad is also displayed with the Belize visualization. Another technical innovation of the SAP GUI for Windows is that the saplogon.ini format is no longer supported. In the past, it was responsible for establishing the connection to the SAP System and was replaced with version 7.60 by the new format "SAP UI Landscape".
SAP GUI for Non-Windows Systems (Java Implementation)
Since 2007, SAP GUI has also been available for Java environments. This programming language is ideal for platform-independent use. SAP GUI for Java" is used on several non-Windows systems. These include Apple Mac OS X, Sun Solaris, various Linux distributors and AIX.
SAP GUI for Web Browser (HTML)
SAP GUI for mobile devices
SAP GUI in the classic sense does not exist for mobile devices. Rather, SAP and SAP partners offer numerous native apps for smartphones and tablets. Mobile apps based on SAP Fiori and HTML5 technology are also available and can be operated via any browser.
SAP Fiori in particular plays an important role in interface design. It provides the most frequently used functionalities of SAP Business Suite both on the desktop and mobile. Thanks to Responsive Design, the apps adapt to the different screen sizes. All common operating system platforms and browsers are supported.
SAP Integration in Microsoft Office Applications
Another option for accessing SAP is the "Duet" software. It was the result of a cooperation between Microsoft and SAP. The goal was to integrate the software products of both vendors. Duet enables you to access certain SAP functions from Office applications.
SAP GUI Outlook: User Experience Improves Increasingly
The introduction of SAP S/4HANA is accompanied by a clear objective: SAP will not only be faster, but also visually more appealing and simpler. The traditional SAP GUI will be replaced by modern HTML5 Fiori interfaces. For the first time in the history of SAP interfaces, the User Experience (UX) is clearly in focus. The new UI technology is based on the advantageous features of apps that users know from their private lives: intuitive usability, simplification of the user interface and limitation to the essentials.
In addition to classic mouse and double-click operation, the trend in the area of SAP user interfaces is towards language-based operation. Corresponding language assistants are already available today and are constantly being further developed by SAP. With SAP Fiori 3, SAP also brings artificial intelligence into play. An algorithm presents users with the information and business events they need to take care of. The system then provides recommendations for action and learns from the user's decisions.
Meinolf Schäfer, Senior Director Sales & Marketing
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