Data Element Basic Definition
Data element is the smallest item in EDI messaging. Data elements are important data dictionary objects that describe the semantic characteristics of table fields and define the manner in which the table field is displayed to end users. This is the basic processing unit in electronic data interchange that contains a set of values representing a singular fact (either single-character codes, literal descriptions or numeric values).
Data elements have two basic attributes – length (size in characters) and type (alphanumeric, numeric only, true/false, date, etc.). We can say that a data element is a logical definition of data. There exist two types of data elements – Elementary Data Elements (are defined by the built-in values of data type and length) and Reference Data Elements (make use of reference variables mostly used in other ABAP objects). Data element is used to define certain characteristics of a table field or component.
Large data sets and databases consist of data elements – the basic data unit. Many single pieces of data such as date, name, identification number, city or state, price, cost, quantity etc. maybe considered data elements. Some data elements require special code elements. For example, speaking about unit price we should use a currency code element to define the definite currency used.