This document is the tl;dr of EDI. It won’t contain everything. It may not answer all your questions. It will only apply to X12. But it will save you a ton of time if you’re trying to decipher your first EDI document.
For this document, I’ll be using an 856 Ship Notice as an example. If you’re wondering what the heck an 856 Ship Notice is, you’re in the right place. Anyway, here’s the example.
Think of it as a JSON Schema to cover all possible business transactions and details, but before JSON, or XML, or the World Wide Web were invented.
You might hear people talk about X12 EDI. This is just a specific format of EDI. Another common one is EDIFACT. We’ll focus on X12 EDI here.
You might also hear of 5010 or 4010 . These are specific versions (formally known as releases) of EDI. Think of a versioned API, which might have small but breaking changes as you increase versions. EDI is an old standard and it required some changes over the years.
Notice that the example of this particular EDI document is split into 5 lines. (The full document has 24 lines, as you can see at the start of the article.) Each line is called a segment. Each segment is broken into multiple elements.