What is SEF?

SEF_MatrixStarting off work on my On-line Status Repository, one of the things that I will be starting with is uploading and downloading SEF file from a data repository.  SEF stand for Standards Exchange Format.  SEF files are repositories of standards information that can then be exchanged between people and applications to define the format of EDI documents.

If you have used a standards editor, you probably know what an SEF file is, or have used it.  Some applications and EAI even use SEF files as part of their document creation and validation processes.  It becomes useful to describe briefly what SEF files look like, and what type of information they contain.

What is in there?

If you are familiar with EDI, and have cracked open an SEF file with your standard text editor of choice, you will already know what I am about to say.  The contents of the SEF file don’t look that complex to someone who is used to and familiar with how various EDI files look.  For those that are not so brave, I will explain this painlessly.

First, the SEF file is really just a text file.  It can be edited by hand, but I don’t really recommend it.  (not because you can’t, but because it is tedious.)

Second, it contains its data in sections.  There is a section for doc types, segments, elements, and encoded data.  There is also a few housekeeping sections like version and name etc.

What is an SEF file for?

SEF stands for Standards Exchange Format.  This is literally a file format that was designed to contain information about EDI standards.  It was created so that a computer application could understand an EDI file.  It is used by some application like Standard Repositories and Standards Editors to allow us humans to deal with a standard like it was a text document.  While at the same time keeping a repository that can be used by an integration application to form and validate an EDI file.

If you are familiar with the concept of metadata then an SEF file is the EDI standard’s metadata.  If you are not familiar with metadata, then skip this part.

Do I need to know about SEF files and EDI?

Nope.  SEF is only useful if you are exchanging standards using the format.  If your standard and usage is in the form of a PDF or a spreadsheet, that is fine.  Many people do just that.

For me, I need to know this because I am trying to build some Standard Repository tools, and want to use the SEF format to manage them.

And for those that want a deeper look, I will be following this article with some deeper and more detailed articles dealing with the internals of the SEF file.

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