Introduction to ABAP: SAP Programming language

If you want to learn ABAP: SAP programming language, this discussion gives you an introduction with the historical perspective. By the end of this section you will have a fair idea of "What is ABAP" 

What is ABAP?

ABAP is the proprietary programming language of SAP for its ERP and new-dimensional products like CRM, APO, BW, etc. It is used to fulfill the customer requirements through programming where the standard software can not. ABAP stands for Advanced Business Application Programming though originally it meant Allgemeiner Berichts-Aufbereitungs-Prozessor, German for "general report creation processor".

SAP has developed ABAP to meet the programming requirements of its business solutions. It can be used only on SAP platform. It's not like C, C++, Java, etc. to develop stand-alone application and SAP installation, which provides the ABAP run-time environment, is required to run ABAP code. SAP has a tool – ABAP Workbench – for carrying out development activities in ABAP:

ABAP Development Workbench
ABAP Development Workbench

History of ABAP

The history of ABAP traces back to late 70s when it started as a reporting language in the era of mainframes and was implemented as a macro assembler within SAP R/2. With the advent of R/3 client-server architecture, it developed into 4th generation language with SQL integration and dialog programming, the language known as ABAP/4.

With Release 4.6, object-oriented features were added to the language and with further releases, it has transformed into a modern object-oriented and flexible programming language even capable of developing web-applications running in portal (Webdynpro, BSP).

ABAP is more than a programming language in the scheme of things in SAP applications. It is a part of the overall and integrated development environment comprising of tools for user interfaces(GUI). ABAP is not a mere addition to SAP as a programming language to achieve a few features but except system core which is written in C, the Basis component, all SAP modules and even the development environment was written in ABAP.

ABAP Objects

This is the name given to the object-oriented extension of procedural ABAP. With the advent of Object-oriented programming paradigm and its advantages in managing the complexity of large programs, SAP implemented the object-oriented features like Instantiation, Inheritance, Polymorphism, etc. ABAP has heavily borrowed these features from Java and C++.

In adapting object-orientation though, it didn't discard its earlier features completely. As a result, ABAP is now a hybrid-language with features from both procedural programming and object-oriented programming approaches. There is a downward compatibility since plethora of old ABAP code lies in live business applications. On a broad level, object-oriented ABAP does not drop old ABAP (ABAP/4) but enhances and enriches it and adds object-oriented dimension to it.

There are old language constructs which can not be used in Classes in object-oriented ABAP and should be avoided while writing new programs so as to embrace and keep up with the latest and enhanced development though the downward compatibility ensures smooth execution of the earlier code.

ABAP Tutorials

SAP Community Network has good repository of articles on SAP ABAP. It also has info on SAP Netweaver ABAP trial version. You will find the opportunity to get your hands dirty with ABAP tutorial (document). The tutorial will guide you in writing your first ABAP program and in understanding the basic concepts. Enjoy exploring ABAP SAP resources !

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