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Sunday, April 26, 2015

FlexField Concepts

OVERVIEW OF FLEXFIELD CONCEPTS

A flexfield is a field made up of sub-fields, or segments.  A flexfield appears on your form as a pop-up window that contains a prompt for each segment.   Each segment has a name and a set of valid values.  There are two types of flexfields: key flexfields and descriptive flexfields.

BASIC FLEXFIELD CONCEPTS

Segment - A segment is a single sub-field within a flexfield.  You define the appearance and meaning of individual segments when customizing a flexfield.  A segment is represented in your database as a single table column.

For a key flexfield, a segment usually describes a particular characteristic of the entity identified by the flexfield.  For example, you can have a key flex field that stores part numbers.  The key flexfield can contain the part number PAD-YEL-NR-8 1/2x14, which represents a yellow, narrow ruled, 8 1/2" x 14" note pad.  Each section in the part number, separated by a hyphen, describes a characteristic of the part.  The first segment describes the object, a note pad, the second segment describes the color of the object, yellow, and so on.

Note that we also refer to the fields in a descriptive flexfield pop-up window as segments even though they do not necessarily make up meaningful codes like the segments in key flexfields.  However, they do often describe a particular characteristic of the entity identified elsewhere on the form you are using.

Values, Validation and Value Sets - Your end user enters a segment value into a segment while using an application.  Generally, the flexfield validates each segment against a set of valid values (a "value set") that are usually predefined.  To "validate a segment" means that the flexfield compares the value a user enters in the segment against the values in the value set for that segment.

You can set up your flexfield so that it automatically validates segment values your end user enters against a table of valid values.  If your end user enters an invalid segment value, a list of valid values appears automatically so that the user can choose a valid value.  You can think of a value set as a "container" for your values.  You choose what types of values can fit into your value set:  their length, format, and so on.

A segment is usually validated, and usually each segment in a given flexfield uses a different value set.  You can assign a single value set to more than one segment, and you can even share value sets among different flexfields.  For most value sets, when you enter values into a flexfield segment, you can enter only values that already exist in the value set assigned to the segment.

Structure - A flexfield structure is a specific configuration of segments.  If you add or remove segments, or rearrange the order of segments in a flexfield, you get a different structure.

You can define multiple segment structures for the same flexfield (if that flexfield has been built to support more than one structure).  Your flexfield can display different prompts and fields for different end users based on a data condition in your form or application data.  Both key and descriptive flexfields may allow more than one structure.

In some applications, different users may need a different arrangement of the segments in a flexfield (key or descriptive).  Or, you might want different segments in a flexfield depending on, for example, the value of another form or database field.

Your Oracle General Ledger application, for example, provides different Accounting Flexfield (Chart of Accounts) structures for users of different sets of books.  The Oracle General Ledger application determines which flexfield structure to use based on the value of the GL Set of Books Name user profile option.