Field Symbol


A field symbol is a programming concept commonly used in ABAP, the programming language for SAP systems. It acts as a dynamic placeholder or reference to a memory location containing data, allowing developers to access and manipulate the contents indirectly without knowing the specific variable or memory address in advance. With field symbols, programmers can create more flexible and reusable code, as they can adapt dynamically to different memory locations and data types at runtime.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “Field Symbol” can be represented as: Fee-ld Sim-bol/ˈfiːld ˈsɪmbəl/

Key Takeaways

  1. Field Symbols are dynamic placeholders in ABAP that allow you to access and manipulate data objects during runtime without the need to know their data type or structure beforehand.
  2. Field Symbols are memory-efficient and enhance the flexibility of ABAP programs by providing indirect and generic access to data, enabling dynamic and modular coding approaches.
  3. Field Symbols can be used for various operations such as looping through internal tables, accessing components of a structure, and changing the value of variables or table fields.


Field symbol is an important technology term in programming, specifically in the context of SAP ABAP language as it enhances the flexibility and efficiency of data manipulation.

It acts as a dynamic placeholder that can point to any data object, regardless of its data type, during program runtime.

This adaptability enables programmers to write more versatile and reusable code when handling data structures, such as internal tables or variables.

Furthermore, utilizing field symbols can lead to improved performance by reducing memory usage and allowing direct access to data, without the need for data copies.

As a result, field symbols play a crucial role in developing concise and efficient programming solutions.


Field Symbols are powerful, versatile and flexible constructs in the ABAP programming language, which act as dynamic pointers to data objects and improve the programmer’s ability to manipulate and navigate through data during the runtime of a program. They enable ABAP developers to work effectively with complex data structures, such as nested tables or internal tables consisting of multiple data types. Field Symbols are often employed when the data type or exact structure of the data object is not known in advance or when there is a need for increased adaptability in the code.

By utilizing Field Symbols, ABAP developers can create more compact, dynamically adaptable programs that respond to the specific requirements of the user and the system at hand with greater precision and efficiency. One of the most common use cases for Field Symbols is to process internal tables in a way that is independent of the table structure or data type, enabling ABAP programs to quickly process large volumes of data. This generic approach to accessing data offers considerable advantages in terms of both performance and code readability.

Another notable application of Field Symbols is found in modifying data objects during an implicit enhancement implementation. This allows the developer to alter and fine-tune the behavior of SAP standard code without interfering with the original implementation. By implementing Field Symbols in these scenarios, developers can optimize memory consumption, streamline the coding process, and ensure that their programs can accommodate a wide variety of data scenarios and specific user needs.

Examples of Field Symbol

Field symbols in the context of ABAP programming language are used to reference memory locations that store data with unknown data types at runtime. This allows for dynamic variable handling and more versatile programming. Here are three real-world examples of how field symbols are employed in different scenarios:

Data Migration in SAP Systems: Data migration typically involves moving a huge volume of data with many different formats and data types. Field symbols can play a crucial role in streamlining this process, as they allow the developer to work with dynamic data formats efficiently. With field symbols, developers can easily refer to data objects without explicitly knowing their structure and data type, making it easier to transfer data between different systems while minimizing errors.

Dynamic Internal Tables: When working with internal tables in SAP, sometimes, it’s necessary to deal with generic table structures that aren’t fixed in the initial coding phase. Field symbols not only allow developers to create dynamic internal tables at runtime but also enable more comfortable, structured data handling. By using field symbols, a developer can access, modify, or loop through the content in a dynamic internal table without defining the table’s exact structure until runtime.

Alternative to Work Areas in ABAP: Field symbols offer more flexibility compared to work areas when modifying an internal table. In some cases, developers need to modify internal table contents in loops. Field symbols allow for direct access to the data in the internal table rather than creating a separate work area to hold and modify the data. This direct access increases code performance, memory usage, and significantly minimizes the amount of code required to perform these operations.

FAQ – Field Symbol

What is a field symbol in programming?

A field symbol is a placeholder or reference variable used in various programming languages to represent or access the contents of a memory cell or field. It doesn’t reserve memory like a conventional data object, but instead, points to a memory area where the value is stored.

How do you use a field symbol in ABAP?

In ABAP, you can use a field symbol by declaring it and assigning a memory address to it. You declare a field symbol using the FIELD-SYMBOLS keyword followed by the field symbol name enclosed in angled brackets <>. Assign a memory address to a field symbol using the ASSIGN keyword followed by a variable, table or structure field.

  ASSIGN gs_data TO .

How does a field symbol improve performance in ABAP?

Field symbols improve performance in ABAP by enabling direct access to memory cells, eliminating the need for copying data to intermediate variables. This results in faster data manipulation and reduced memory consumption, especially when dealing with large internal tables or complex structures.

Can you use a field symbol to access table fields?

Yes, you can use a field symbol to access table fields in ABAP. By assigning a field symbol to a table’s field, you can directly manipulate the data within the table without the need for additional memory or constant read and write operations.

  LOOP AT it_example INTO wa_example.
       = 'New Value'.
      MODIFY it_example FROM wa_example.

Are there limitations to using field symbols in ABAP?

Although field symbols offer increased performance and flexibility, they come with some limitations. Field symbols cannot be used as actual parameters for pass-by-value calls, and they require care when handling since they can cause runtime errors or unwanted modifications to the original data. Proper error handling and thoroughly testing your code can help mitigate these risks.

Related Technology Terms

  • Data Binding
  • Dynamic Programming
  • Memory Allocation
  • Variable Addressing
  • Runtime Reference

Sources for More Information


About The Authors

The DevX Technology Glossary is reviewed by technology experts and writers from our community. Terms and definitions continue to go under updates to stay relevant and up-to-date. These experts help us maintain the almost 10,000+ technology terms on DevX. Our reviewers have a strong technical background in software development, engineering, and startup businesses. They are experts with real-world experience working in the tech industry and academia.

See our full expert review panel.

These experts include:


About Our Editorial Process

At DevX, we’re dedicated to tech entrepreneurship. Our team closely follows industry shifts, new products, AI breakthroughs, technology trends, and funding announcements. Articles undergo thorough editing to ensure accuracy and clarity, reflecting DevX’s style and supporting entrepreneurs in the tech sphere.

See our full editorial policy.

More Technology Terms

Technology Glossary

Table of Contents