Skip to content

ABAP Keyword Documentation →  ABAP - Reference →  Processing Internal Data →  Internal Tables →  Internal Tables - Overview →  Table Keys →  Primary Table Key 

Standard Key

The standard key is a special primary table key in an internal table.

Other versions: 7.31 | 7.40 | 7.54

Key Fields of the Standard Key

The key fields of the standard key are defined as follows:

  • In tables with a structured row type, the standard key is formed from all components with character-like and byte-like data types, with any substructures being expanded by elementary components. If the row type does not contain components like these, then the standard key is empty for standard tables, meaning it does not contain any key fields.
  • The standard key for tables with non-structured row types is the entire table row, if the row type itself is not table-like. If the row type is table-like, then the standard key is empty for standard tables.

Empty standard keys are not possible for sorted tables and hashed tables, and an error occurs if an attempt is made to create a key like this.


  • In tables with non-structured row types, the standard key can also have a numeric type or reference type; this does not apply for the key fields if the row types are structured.

  • The static boxes of a structured row type are handled like regular components, with respect to the standard key.

Declaration of the Standard Key

The standard key can be declared as follows:

  • Explicitly using the additions UNIQUE|NON-UNIQUE KEY of the statements TYPES, DATA and so on, with the addition DEFAULT KEY being specified rather than a list of components.
  • Implicitly if no explicit primary key specification is made in the declaration of a standard table with the statement DATA.

Notes on Use

Using standard keys is critical for various reasons:

  • It is not usually enough to identify the key fields just by their data type and not their semantic properties. This often leads to unexpected behavior in sorts and other access types.
  • The possibility of empty standard keys in standard tables also often causes unexpected behavior. For example, using keys like this for sorting is useless, whereas a corresponding read finds the first row.
  • The standard key often contains too many key fields, leading to performance problems in key accesses.
  • If using the standard key and a structured row type, all character-like and byte-like fields of sorted tables and hashed tables are read-only, which can cause unexpected runtime errors.

For this reason, declare the primary key by listing the components explicitly, if possible. In particular, you must make sure that the primary key is not set as the standard key by mistake, that you do not forget to specify the key in declarations of standard tables with DATA, and that you do not use a generic table type without realizing it.