EDI Documents

To give you a better view of what EDI is, let's look at the key parts of what goes into EDI. An EDI document is comprised of three core pieces: envelopes, segments and data elements, formatted to follow a specific EDI standard.

EDI documents, such as an 850 purchase order, must adhere to strict formatting rules that define exactly where and how each piece of data in the document goes so the EDI translator on the receiving computer can instantly find all key data, such as the buyer's company name, PO number, items purchased and price. Then, the data will be fed into the supplier's order entry system in the proper internal format without requiring any manual entry.

EDI Envelopes for Transmission

EDI document transmission uses a system of three envelopes to house transaction sets:

  • Message envelope
  • Group envelope
  • Interchange envelope


A segment in an EDI transaction set is a group of like data elements.

Data Elements

The data elements in an EDI transaction set are the individual data in the document, such as the item being purchased, quantity of items purchased, etc.