In recent times I've had the opportunity to trial the new SAP NetWeaver Business Client 4.0 (NWBC), and I've been pretty impressed with what I've seen. Here I share my thoughts and findings ...
These are the technical desktop pre-requisites listed in the latest documentation for NWBC 4.0 (check SAP's documentation for the latest advice on this) ...
- Microsoft .Net 3.5 SP1
- For Microsoft Windows XP SP2: Hotfix 919477
- For WTS Installation: Hotfix 955692
- SAP GUI for Windows 7.30
In relation to what back-end ABAP server release is required, the documentation is unclear. However, I have been testing against a ABAP NetWeaver 7.31 system (ERP6 Ehp6).
Within the Internet Communication Framework (ICF) on the backend server, use transaction SICF to activate nodes on the ICF server under the path /sap/bc/nwbc. For more information, refer this link.
Follow the instructions in OSS Note 1707626 to find and download the latest NWBC 4.0 from the Service Marketplace. You should also download and install the new SAP GUI 7.30 (released in June 2012).
You can find the on-line version of NWBC 4.0 documentation here.
Now for my thoughts and findings ...
First Impressions (desktop edition)
The first thing that surprises with NWBC 4.0 is that the user interaction paradigm is vastly different (and in my opinion improved) over the previous versions of NWBC. Here is what I see when logging into the NWBC 4.0 desktop edition (and after assigning some work centers to myself via transaction PFCG) ...
In the above example the default start page is an Index Page, which displays my assigned Work Centers. Clicking on a Work Center expands the options under it. You can see that SAP have sought to maximize the screen real-estate for navigation elements using this technique.
Clicking on any content option opens that user interface in a new tab. This is in my opinion an important usability feature, because it seeks to tackle the classic problem which occurs when users open applications in new windows and consequently lose context for where they should be. Instead opening applications or transactions in new tabs keeps things contained and reduces confusion for the user as to what applications they have concurrently open. This now resembles the behaviour of modern day browsers (such as Google Chrome). So for instance, opening the Cost Center Manager -> Master Data -> Cost Center option reveals that application in a new tab (note that the original Index Page remains available as the first tab) ...
In the above example, right clicking on the tab presents the option to 'Pin Tab'. Doing this means that the Cost Center Search tab (in the example) will always be automatically available as a tab when you launch the NWBC. I can imagine users pinning multiple tabs for their most highly used screens. Of course users can also have the option to press the star icon in the top left to flag all their favourite screens.
Of course, one of the key benefits of NWBC is that you can have native SAP GUI transactions co-existing with newer Web Dynpro ABAP applications. Here is a SAPGUI transaction in the NWBC 4.0 - notice the alignment with the new Corbu theme.
You can also elect to add a new tab (just like in a modern browser). Doing so presents you with a useful default page, which includes a listing of your most frequently used applications, and your last opened applications.
There are many other useful features offered by the NWBC 4.0 desktop edition which have been carried over from earlier editions, such as integration of search providers (in addition to transaction code search for the ABAP system), side panels, etc.
First Impressions (HTML edition)
If you are not already aware, there is a HTML edition of NWBC served directly from the ABAP server. This effectively serves as a lightweight 'applications portal' - without the need for a SAP NetWeaver (Java) Portal. Of course, with NWBC for HTML you don't get the heavier portal features offered by SAP NetWeaver Portal such as KM, Collaboration, Federation, Wiki etc.
Firstly, ensure that the ICF node is activated under path /sap/bc/nwbc (as per pre-requisites above). Secondly, navigate to table NWBC_CFG using transaction SE16 and add an entry like the following to activate the Corbu theme for your NWBC for HTML (special thanks to john soden for this useful tip) ...
To achieve the above, the following URL pattern was included within the wrapper web page ...
<iframe frameborder="0" height="800px" width="100%" src="http://SAP_SERVER_NAME:SAP_SERVER_PORT/sap/bc/nwbc/~canvas;window=embedded/wda/hress_a_persinfo/?WDCONFIGURATIONID=HRESS_AC_PERSINFO&sap-client=010&sap-language=EN"></iframe>
One thing I have noticed is that the start page for my NWBC for HTML edition does not commence with an 'Index Page' equivalent to that which the NWBC 4.0 for Desktop edition displays (refer my first screenshot above). I'm hoping that this will be aligned eventually.
Hopefully through this post you can see the potential benefits of the latest incarnation of SAP NetWeaver Business Client. Feel free to share your own thoughts or experiences with NWBC 4.0 in the comments.