For­mats for down­load from SAP (SE16)

In this post I will show you the download options from SAP®, describing the various formats. We also discuss the disadvantages of access and downloads with the transaction „SE16 – Data Browser“.

En­try in­to trans­action „SE16 – Date Brow­ser“

After launching the transaction you are prompted in the window to enter a table name (e.g. BSAK – balanced vendor items) which you can confirm with the Enter key.

In the next window you can enter filter criteria, depending on the selected table, and thus reduce the amount of data to be downloaded. This can be very important, depending on the size of the table. Filters on unordered (non-indexed) SAP® fields increase the access time enormously, causing the probability of a “time out” increases.

You always need to keep in mindthat the number of columns and rows in this window is restricted by default in the table output. Looking at tables directly in SAP® is associated with very high system load and therefore it is limited by default by SAP, where you can remove the restriction. To be able to view and download the “complete” table, you must set the value “width of the output list” to 9999 and remove “maximum number of hits”.

Now all records are displayed in this table (32.116), while in the line “fields displayed: …” already in this window is a restriction which is not to be overcome. There are only 73 of 179 columns displayed. By switching from field identifier to field name you can see some additional columns, but you’ll never see all fields in very wide tables, as in the BSAK table. The display is limited to 1024 characters in width (0-1023).

After these short initial remarks we’re reached the actual aspect of this blogpost – which data formats are available for downloaded. Using “Edit – Download” or right click in the “download” table allows you to open the wizard.

  • unconverted
    This label draws no conclusions from the format in the end. This is to create a simple text file (.txt). The advantage is that the downloaded data is written one on one without data interpretation (unconverted) from SAP® into a text file.
  • Spreadsheet
    The target format of this label is hardly surprising, an Excel file (.xls) and the SAP columns are written in individual Excel columns. This is useful for rapid processing, but the number of records in Excel is limited and the formatting (numbers, dates, etc.) can also be misinterpreted by Excel. This often leads to disadvantages in further processing.
  • Rich Text Format
    This export function creates a .rtf file which contains the actual date as well as formatting instructions for text processing programs. The very long waiting time for the creation/export into this format, is a great disadvantage and further processing is requiredin special cases.
  • HTML Format
    The data is exported and optimized for opening in web browsers (e.g. Internet Explorer). Hereby the actual data is also provided with formatting instructions for display.
  • To Clipboard Use this option to copy all records to the clipboard and the data can be copied manually e.g. into a text file or Excel file.


The SAP transaction „SE16“ may be regarded as a tool, but it should not be used as the main extraction tool. Well-defined disadvantages are the incomplete download of the table width (about 1024 characters), the time outs (SAP dropout by logon timeout without result) and the enormous stress of SAP system performance. The user also must download each table manually and this creates unnecessary idle times. As a conclusion – a professional data analysis needs a decent data extraction tool and “SE16” cannot be sees as the ideal solution.

Florian Popan

P.S. For any comments or questions, feel free to write us at info@dab-gmbh.de 

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