Anton Grening
Author: Anton Grening

De­scrip­tive names for com­pu­ted fields in ACL™ script

Today I am going to discuss the difference between technical field names and alternate column titles and explain what the differences are and how to specify or change these texts. Therefore you will see two ways how to manage it: On the one hand with the ACL™ GUI and on the other within a script.

Do you sometimes have difficulties with strange column names in ACL™ or maybe work with SAP® data and try to handle all the abbreviations in table and field names? If so, you’re in the same boat with us when we extract data from SAP® systems and develop a variety of analyzes. But for our customers we found a way how to avoid these problems and made a direct evaluation of results through descriptive column names possible. That’s because our dab:Exporter is extending the technical field names automatically by alternate column titles from SAP® depending on the Logon Data to your system.

Figure 1: extract from SAP® - field names

The technical name is used within the program and ensures that a field can always be addressed properly, also regardless of the system language. These names are in most cases hard to read and abbreviated because it makes sense to keep them as short as possible. For this reason, ACL™ provides the opportunity to add alternate column titles next to the technical names (limited to 31 characters). These alternate names are used exclusively for the display and can be much more extensive and descriptive (max. 150 characters). As part of the data export, we adapt this name even in your desired language making the interpretation of the results easier. It simplifies things enormously (e.g. on an international audit working with not your business language speaking colleagues)
As already indicated, the data columns after the export with an export tool such as dab:Exporter are already coming with descriptive titles and are not a big deal. But what about computed fields created in ACL™ e.g. within your own scripts. The majority of you is surely using the benefits of the ACL™ script language and knows the command to create such a field. Here is an example for the calculation of the total value (quantity multiplied by price) in the Audit Command Language, the scripting language of ACL™:

DEFINE FIELD c_Value COMPUTED Quantity * Price

„c_Value“ is the technical name of this simple computed field and will be also used as the title for this column in the data view.

Figure 2: Computed field without descriptive column title

Now that’s not very useful. It would be better if we had a name such as “total quantity * price (in document currency) or something like that. However this is due to restrictions (length, special characters) not possible in technical names. But how to get a short technical name and a descriptive column title in the data view at the same time?
There are basically two ways. The first one is to change the alternate column title in the table layout with the ACL™ GUI (CRTL + i and double-click the field) or the second one is to define it directly in the script code. In this case you just have to alter the command by adding the “AS” parameter and consider following syntax:

AS „Total purchase requisition (c)“
Quantity * Price

Figure 3: Computed field with descriptive alternate column title

Now you get a clearly descriptive name in the data view and it’s much easier to identify the field. A most common mistake when defining alternate column titles within a script is not to write the command in three lines. However the DEFINE command in ACL™ is requiring to split it whenever an optional parameter like “AS” is used. Besides it is advisable to indicate that this field is created in ACL™ and is not an imported field. We use a lowercased “c” in enclosing marks or a leading “c_” in the technical name. This shows immediately that this field has been created in ACL™ and was not part of the original data to be analyzed.

A tip: If you now want to filter or work with this field and don’t know the technical name anymore, just double-click the column title and get this overview:

Figure 4: column details – technical name and alternate column title

Caution: If changing the alternate column title at this place, you need to know that the change is just for the selected field in this current view. To edit or change the title globally you have to use the table layout.


For any comments on this article, feel free to write us at info@dab-gmbh.de.

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