With SAP ERP EHP 6, SAP introduced a way to export texts from an SAP system for translation. While this feature is very useful, it’s important to know when to use it and when it’s best to rely on “traditional” SAP translation in transaction SE63.
Exporting Texts with SAP Standard Functionality
When SAP introduced the translation externalization feature with SAP Netweaver 7.31, which SAP ERP EHP 6 is based on, customers had been asking for this feature for a while, and a considerable number of third-party tools providing basically the same functionality had been on the market for some time. I have always assumed that one reason why SAP released this feature so late in the game was that they feared customers would use it indiscriminately for all projects, with less-than-optimal results.
A solution that promises to make all SAP texts available for translation in Microsoft Excel or using standard translation industry tools such as SDL Trados or MemoQ is very tempting, and runs the risk of being used for projects where it is simply not the right tool for the job. But many customers decided to use non-SAP text export tools anyway, and maybe that was what convinced SAP that it made sense to make this feature available as part of the SAP standard.
What Does it Do, Exactly?
The feature set of the LXE_MASTER export can be explained quickly. It builds on SE63’s object list concept, which means you have to scope your translation project as you normally would for any SAP translation project, with the same fairly complex process to decide which texts to include in your translation project an which texts to leave out. But once you have an object list, you can export all translatable short texts contained in it to a series of Microsoft Excel or XLIFF files. The files can then be translated in Microsoft Excel or using CAT tools. Once the files are translated, they are reimported, and the translations are filled into the relevant fields in the SAP system.
The start screen of SAP’s externalization tool.
Interaction with the Proposal Pool
One big advantage the LXE_MASTER export tool has over most third-party tools that I know of is that it has some integration with the Proposal Pool. That means you have the option to set the Translated status for all imported texts, which is extremely important for maintaining translations, as I have detailed in The Translated Status in SE63. It’s not a very deep integration, mind you, and the options we get are not very granular, but at least your lines turn green and can be maintained properly after a translation project is completed.
Only Short Texts an
One glaring omission in the LXE_MASTER export functionality is that is does not support exporting any long texts, such as F1 help texts. Exporting SAPscript forms or Smartforms is also not possible. Adobe PDF forms can be exported, however.
The Limits of Exporting
I have written an entire blog post on why it’s not a good idea to export texts from an SAP system for translation, which was mainly aimed at projects where entire transactions or reports need to be translated. And it’s still true that I would never recommend using this LXE_MASTER functionality (and LXE_MASTER does far more than just provide this one feature) for any kind of user interface translation, since the way it usually works is that any costs saved during the actual translation are lost again when the screens are tested by the departments involved and the correction requests come in – and then some. Externalization simply is not the way to translate entire reports or transactions.
When Externalization Is the Way to Go
But there are a number of scenarios where exporting texts for translation does make sense:
- You need to translate single customizing or master data tables and have no plans to translate entire transactions or reports.
- You need to translate texts that only exist in the productive system.
- You need to translate transactions or reports purely for legal reasons and have no intention of using the translated screens productively (yes, that happens too).
But even when you are translating single tables or texts that are not intended for productive use, if those translations are part of a larger translation project that also calls for translation of ABAB developments such as entire reports, or if this type of project is planned in the future, it’s usually better to use SE63 as your translation environment. And if any language testing is planned at all, SE63 is far superior to the LXE_MASTER export functionality in any case, even if it may look more complicated at first glance.
When to Decide Which Translation Tool to Use
In any case, the decision as to which tool to use is critical to the success of your SAP translation project, and in my experience, the best moment to make that decision is usually after translation scoping is complete and you know which texts in your SAP system actually need translation, and into which languages. Scoping needs to be done anyway, it can be done with SAP standard functionality, and if done right, it provides you with information on the number of texts that need to be translated and enables you to estimate project costs – so you might as well put off the tool choice until you have all the information. Ultimately, project scope, budget, expected outcome and required quality level should be considered.