This post is the next in my series covering revision topics for the MB2-712 certification. (Microsoft Dynamics CRM 0216 Customization and Configuration).
This time I will look at customizing forms.
I’m going to start this post by making a comment I have made before! Your prep for this exam should (or must) include as much hands on time as possible. This statement is very true when we talk about form customization, reading theory is great but it is not a substitute for experience. Having said this let’s look at the exciting topic for form customization ……
Forms are obviously the main interface for users working CRM they represent how users will interact with CRM on a day-to-day basis. I stress this to highlight the importance of good form design as the users are going to need screens that are a pleasure to use. All users have unique requirements and in some circumstances you may need multiple forms (on one entity) to support the specific needs of particular users. User adoption is key to the success of every CRM project. And that adoption is very dependent on users enjoying the experience of working with forms.
There are several types of forms in CRM. The main one include;
- Main – the main entity forms typically used in browser. But can also be seen in outlook and CRM mobile clients.
- Main Form – Interactive experience – Similar to the main form but specific for the interactive service hub.
- Quick Create – Short versions of the form used for record creation, typically used when creating a child record in context of a parent.
- Quick View – These offer a simplified view of parent record information that can be added to child forms. (And also used in hierarchy views.)
- Card Form – These are short versions of forms as used in the interactive dashboards in the interactive service hub.
- Mobile – Express – These forms provide a version of the form that is optimized for a mobile experience. NOTE: Express forms have effectively been replaced by the latest version of the mobile app.
Each entity can have multiple versions of each of these form types. Sometimes access to alternative forms is control by enabling them for specific security roles and other times the users are left to select the version they feel is most appropriate at any comment in time.
Components of a Main Form
Before we start to look at how to customize a CRM form it is important to understand the component parts of a form. To try to explain these I have shown the main account form below.
|1||Navigation bar and ribbon bar||The top blue bar is the navigation bar, clicking the down arrow on this is going to show additional navigation options. Such as viewing connections for the account.|
|2||Header||The header can contain key information, such as the status of the record, owner and such like. Unlike the footer data can be maintained directly on the form.|
Within a tab we have sections. Commonly system entity forms in CRM work with a three column layout. But other layout options are available.
|4||Social Pane||The social pane is commonly used to show posts, activities and notes. OneNote may also show here. As can the knowledge base when looking at cases.
Also the posts tab can be used to display posts that are native to CRM or Yammer.
|5||Maps||Maps are another “special” component that can be added to forms.|
|6||Sub grids||Data that is related to this entity using either a “one to many” or “many to many” relationship can be shown in sub grids.|
|7||Footer||The footer can display additional read-only information. We can also see if any unsaved data exists by looking at the right hand corner of the footer.|
|8||Quick View Forms||Quick view forms can be used to show information about parent records on the child forms. In this example, we can see the contact details for the primary contact for this account. Information that isn’t held on the account entity but can still be viewed on the account form.
Below you can see what the account form I showed earlier looks like whilst we customize it in the form designer. This interface gives us the ability to drag and drop fields on to appropriate areas of the form, making positioning fields a very simple process. You really need “play” with the application at this point! Try moving fields around and adding new ones. As well as adding tabs / sections.
In the example below I have the “Body” of the form selected. But you can change this to select the form header, footer or navigation areas. For example, selecting “Header” would allow me to add and remove fields in the form header.
Note: Generally speaking, what you see is what you get with forms. Except the navigation shows vertically on the left hand side of the screen but in the CRM application the navigation is actually horizontally displayed at the top of the screen. This is simply a hangover from earlier versions of CRM when the navigation used to be on the left.
Notice the field explorer on the right hand side of the form designer, it is from here that I can drag new fields onto the form. Also notice that a useful tick box exists to show all fields or just those not yet included in this form. It is also possible to create new fields directly from the field explorer by clicking the “New Field” button. (Not shown on screen shot above!)
As you experiment with the form designer also notice the “INSERT” Tab. From here we can add tabs and sections to the form. We can also insert “special” controls including sub-grids, quick view forms, bing maps, notes and more.
There are several options available for tabs as they can have one, two or three columns. And when more than one column exists several options are available for the layout. For example, you can have three columns all of equal width or make the central column wider. (You will notice that a three column tab layout with a wider central column is a common format used on out of the box CRM forms.)
Tip: Notes will actually add the control already shown in the main body of the form called Social Pane. In earlier versions of CRM notes were a standalone resource but can now be surfaces to users as part of the social pane. Often times you will find that the notes icon is greyed out as soon as you load a form. This is because the social pane can only exist on a form once, so once added the option becomes disabled.
“Special” options on the INSERT tab include;
- Sub-Grid, allows me to add a sub grid of records from a related entity. Such as a list of contacts for the account.
- Spacer, simply inserts a gap on the form. Sometimes useful if you want to force a field into a specific position or just create some “white space” on the form.
- Quick View Form, use this option to insert a quick view form for another entity.
- Web Resource, allows the insertion of web resources. (Technically creation of web resources is beyond the scope of the MB2-712 exam but will may need to know this feature exists.)
- IFRAME, iframes are effectively web pages that can be inserted into the form.
- Notes, add notes / social pane to the form.
- Bing maps, supports the addition of the Bing mapping controls.
- Navigation link, when customizing the navigation area this option allows you to add a link to a custom url or web resource.
- Social insights, when using Microsoft social Engagement, you add social insights to forms.
- Timer, a new feature to add timers to forms. Useful when an SLA is being applied to the entity.
- Knowledge Base Search, on entities enabled for knowledge search this option will add the search control to the form. (Note: Can also be added as an option in the social pane.)
Sub-grids support using access teams with entities. An access team is a special temporary team that allows us to grant access to individuals on a record by record basis. Below I have shown as example of adding an access team to an opportunity. Notice that the entity is Users and that I have selected the team template to apply. It is worth experimenting with access teams as part of your exam preparation as it is quite likely questions may be asked!
The HOME ribbon also contains some important options.
- Business Rules allows business rules to be created straight from the form. I haven’t yet covered business rules but will do so in a later post.
- Preview allows us to get an idea of what the form is going to look like without leaving the form designer.
- Enable Security roles allows us to assign this form to all roles or specific roles.
- Show dependencies allows us to see any components that depend on this form or are required should the form be added into a solution.
- Managed properties lets us define what can be customized should this form be included in a managed solution.
Another very important option to be aware of is the Form Properties option on the HOME ribbon.
Below you can see that from within customizations we can have multiple forms of multiple types for each entity. For example, we have multiple quick view forms on the account that would be used in different circumstances.
Selecting new will present an option to decide which type of form to create.
The ribbon bar also contains an option to assign security roles to forms.
The form order can be defined; this is important as should the user’s role give them access to multiple forms then the form order will dictate which is displayed by default. Users can have multiple roles that might therefore give them access to multiple forms. Their default form will be the first one found for a role assigned to them.
An important concept here is the fall back form. As that will be the form visible to users whose security roles do not have any forms explicitly assigned to them.
I have covered a lot information about forms quite quickly! Hopefully you have found some useful nuggets of information along the way. I have only briefly touched on some topics so trying some of them out as part of your preparation will be very important.
I hope this post has helped people preparing for the MB2-712 exam and I hope you now enjoy some hands on time with the product. J