Microsoft Dynamics GP, the next generation of end-user customization tools?

September 9, 2011

My new article is out on my Community column blog, In my humble opinion with The Dynamics GP Blogster. This time, I take a swipe at some significant improvements that could be added to the customization and integration tools like Modifier, Report Writer, and Integration Manager, just by switching out the programming environment and scripting languages, Visuals Basic for Applications and VBScript for Visual Studio Tools for Applications and PowerShell, respectively.

Far fetched? Not quite, go on and read my reasoning behind this, over at the Community’s website.

Microsoft Dynamics GP, the next generation of end-user customization tools?

For more information on all the programming languages and environments, check the following links:

VBScript
   http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc175562(v=vs.90).aspx

Visual Basic for Applications
   http://support.microsoft.com/kb/163435

Visual Studio Tools for Applications 2.0
   http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc175562(v=vs.90).aspx

Scripting with Windows PowerShell
   http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/scriptcenter/dd742419

Windows PowerShell Getting Started Guide
   http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa973757(v=vs.85).aspx

Modifier with VBA for Microsoft Dynamics GP 2010 Sample Applications
   http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?displaylang=en&id=9304

Microsoft Dynamics GP 2010 Tools Documentation: Integration Manager
   http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?displaylang=en&id=10955
Until next post!

MG.-
Mariano Gomez, MVP
IntellPartners, LLC
http://www.IntellPartners.com/

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Hybrid development for the Managed Code developer (cont.)

April 27, 2011

In my previous article I outlined a hybrid development approach for managed code developers that allows for a C# or VB.NET programmer to make use of Modifier and Dexterity as complements to deliver a solution – see Hybrid development for the Managed Code developer.

In summary, a managed code developer could leverage Modifier to effect changes on the core Microsoft Dynamics GP (or any add-on or third party product) user interface, then use Dexterity to create the table definitions and routines that will make those tables available on SQL Server – the added advantage? tables are exposed to Microsoft Dynamics GP security model and are created on the first launch of your dictionary and you can create an assembly for the dictionary to drive table operations from your Visual Studio Tools solution that will not require the use of ADO.NET or even the GPConnNet.DLL file to access the tables. Finally, your Visual Studio Tools code would be used to drive the user interface controls added with Modifier and the table operations (the glue to it all if you will).

In using this hybrid approach, there are a number of considerations for deployment:

The Modifier bit
To deliver the UI changes to your customer, you will need to export a package file – using the Customization Maintenance window – that contains only the modified resource. Since it’s possible to have VBA code with your UI changes, you may also need to export any references.

As best practice, export any references as a separate package as they may already be loaded in your customer’s environment.

Since you also had to create an assembly for the modified forms dictionary (FORMS.DIC) using the Dictionary Assembly Generator tool (DAG), you need to include the Applications.Dynamics.ModifiedForms.DLL file with your package.

Note: as a best practice, you should generate a modified forms assembly using the actual forms dictionary from your client’s environment, plus your UI changes. This will prevent any incompatibility with existing forms customizations when deploying the assembly in their environment. On the flip side, some developers prefer to DAG the clients FORMS.DIC dictionary file on site after the package file has been imported. This may still require to change the references within your existing Visual Studio project to use the modified forms assembly and recompile to create your final DLL.

Deliverable work products from this section:

  • Package File with UI customizations
  • Applications.Dynamics.ModifiedForms.DLL

The Dexterity bit
Since you created a Dexterity dictionary to deliver the table implementation (and any other bit you may have needed to facilitate your development project) you will now have to follow the conventional chunking process for your Dexterity application, YourPROD.CNK.

In addition, you would have needed to create an assembly for your Dexterity dictionary to reference in your Visual Studio Tools project using the DAG utility, yourCompany.YourProduct.DLL.

Deliverable work products from this section:

  • Chunk dictionary file with table creation/upgrade routines
  • yourCompany.YourProduct.DLL assembly file

The Visual Studio bit
As you are familiar with this process, suffice to say your actual VST project that serves as glue to the UI and table operations will need to be compiled into an assembly that will be deployed with the rest of components.

Deliverable work products from this section:

  • yourCompany.YourProduct.Extended.DLL assembly file

So in summary, you will be delivering 5 components with your application. While this may sound like a lot, it makes for a really slick solution. I want to hear from you about hybrid solutions you have created and how you have leveraged each tool.

Take a look at the following related articles for more information:

VST – Amount in Words on SOP Entry window
Developing Microsoft Dynamics GP hybrid integrating applications
Dex – How to get started with Dexterity over at Developing for Dynamics GP

Until next post!

MG.-
Mariano Gomez, MVP
IntellPartners, LLC
http://www.IntellPartners.com/


Hybrid development for the Managed Code developer

April 25, 2011

A few weeks aback, I co-presented a deep dive session with my partner in crime, David Musgrave, at Microsoft Dynamics Convergence Atlanta 2011 DDGP03 Microsoft Dynamics GP Customization & Integration Tools Review – see Microsoft Dynamics Convergence Atlanta 2011: Day 3 for more on what happened that day.

During our session, we introduce a Visual Studio Tools sample that left a few managed code developers scratching their heads – a bit. The sample in question used Modifier, Dexterity, and Visual Studio Tools to provide a customization to the Vendor Maintenance window. So let’s break down the customization.

The Modifier bit

One of the limitations of Visual Studio Tools is that it cannot modify existing Microsoft Dynamics GP windows to incorporate new controls. In addition, if this particular window, the Vendor Maintenance window, was a third party dictionary resource, frankly, Dexterity won’t be the tool to modify the window either – Dexterity cannot modify third party dictionary resources.

In addition, sometimes the user requirements need the customization to be implemented on the same window where they conduct most of their work on, understandabily so, as this simplifies the navigation process. 

Vendor Maintenance with customizations

The only way to bridge the gap between the aforementioned tools limitations and the user requirements is to use the Modifier tool. Modifier will allow a developer to deliver the controls needed by the user within the desired window. In turn, by using Modifier, we are ensuring that the changes can be displayed to the user on an “as needed” basis through the implementation of standard Microsoft Dynamics GP security.

However, by adding the controls to the window, the information selected by the user still has nowhere (yet) to be stored.

The Dexterity bit

By using Dexterity, we can implement the table metadata information that will allow the data selected by the user from the newly added controls to be stored. This will require a brand new Dexterity dictionary to be created.

If you are a Visual Studio developer you may still be asking, why can’t I implement the table and storage mechanism in SQL directly. The answer? Of course you can! However, by using Dexterity, you are able to expose your table to Microsoft Dynamics GP security model as well as simplifying the calls by using standard range methods in Visual Studio Tools.

In addition, if you need to make special calls to existing Microsoft Dynamics GP programatic objects (functions, procedures, etc.) which may require you to create wrappers, you can do so from Dexterity and perform the calls from Visual Studio Tools.

xmpVendorMaster table definition

On a more mundane note, Dexterity will create the table auto procedures and automatically add the DEX_ROW_ID identity column that will allow the runtime engine to control row level locking for you. By implementing your table in Dexterity, you are also providing a failsafe mechanism against deploying incorrect table structures or a different version of the table. If you are familiar with Microsoft Dynamics GP, you will know that the SQL Server tables must strictly match the metadata definition stored in the dictionary.

However, we still don’t have a glue for the UI changes and table storage and retrieval – commonly known as CRUD operations.

The Visual Studio Tools bit
Because the UI does not know of the table or the table of the UI, you must now implement the Visual Studio Tools portion to attain the final pieces. But first, you must do a few things…
 
In order to expose the controls added with Modifier to your Visual Studio Tools project, you must create an assembly for the modified window. In order to do so, you must use the Dictionary Assembly Generator tool (DAG.EXE).
 
In addition, exposing the table you created in Dexterity will also require you to DAG your Dexterity dictionary. Once you have generated both assemblies, you can then reference them in your Visual Studio project.

Solution Explorer

Once you have the code necessary to drive the interface and store the data, you can then build your assembly. The overall architecture of this solution is as follow:
 

Customization Architecture

 
You can download the code for this sample by visiting the Convergence Atlanta 2011 materials post below:
 
Microsoft Dynamics Convergence Atlanta 2011: Presentation Materials

Tomorrow I will talk about how to deploy this solution.

Until next post!

MG.-
Mariano Gomez, MVP
IntellPartners, LLC
http://www.IntellPartners.com/


How to change your Microsoft Dynamics GP 2010 Map Services

November 12, 2010

In recent weeks, the newsgroups have been flooded with questions about the Bing Maps service not working at the street level for addresses in Microsoft Dynamics GP 2010 – see Microsoft Dynamics GP 2010 map buttons not drilling down to the street level. While this issue is slated to be fixed in Microsoft Dynamics GP 2010 Service Pack 2, the bottom line is, it has left a bit of a bad taste in users relying on this functionality.

In addition, some users have questioned whether they can use a map service of their choice. There are a few well known services out there, for example Yahoo! Maps, Google Maps, or even some region specific services like Australia’s WhereIs.com.

The good news is the Microsoft Dynamics GP community is full of individuals who are willing to share their knowledge without any restrictions and my buddy Jon Eastman at Touchstone Group, a Microsoft partner in the United Kindom offers this Dexterity based solution.

The Dexterity solution implements an AFTER trigger on the FormatWebAddress() function of the of the syMapPoint form. The processing function, GenerateGoogleMapsURL(), overrides the formatted address returned by the FormatWebAddress() function based on the address parameters. The Google Maps URL is then masked with the correct parameters and returned by the function for Microsoft Dynamics GP call to the browser application.

GenerateGoogleMapsURL()

{ function GenerateGoogleMapsURL

Created by Jon Eastman, Touchstone Group
This code is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Generic license.
}
function returns string sWebAddress;

in string sAddress;
in string sCity;
in string sState;
in string sZip;
in string sCountry;

sWebAddress = "http:\\maps.google.com\maps?q=" + FormatSegment(sAddress) of form syMapPoint +
"," + FormatSegment(sCity) of form syMapPoint +
"," + FormatSegment(sState) of form syMapPoint +
"," + FormatSegment(sZip) of form syMapPoint +
"," + FormatSegment(sCountry) of form syMapPoint;

Finally, we need to register our function trigger in the Startup script for the Runtime Engine to recognize our integrating solution event.

Startup

{ Startup
Created by Jon Eastman, Touchstone Group
This code is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Generic license.
}
local integer l_result;

l_result = Trigger_RegisterFunction(function FormatWebAddress of form syMapPoint, TRIGGER_AFTER_ORIGINAL, function GenerateGoogleMapsURL);

So, I figured, this is way cool! So why not implement the Visual Studio Tools for Microsoft Dynamics GP version of it? This would give me a chance to showcase the new event registration methods for functions and procedures.

The following C# code shows the event registration using Visual Studio Tools, but this time using Yahoo! Maps:

using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Text;
using Microsoft.Dexterity.Bridge;
using Microsoft.Dexterity.Applications;
using Microsoft.Dexterity.Applications.DynamicsDictionary;

namespace sampleMapService
{
public class GPAddIn : IDexterityAddIn
{
// IDexterityAddIn interface
SyMapPointForm mapService;

public void Initialize()
{
Dynamics.Forms.SyMapPoint.Functions.FormatWebAddress.InvokeAfterOriginal += new SyMapPointForm.FormatWebAddressFunction.InvokeEventHandler(FormatWebAddress_InvokeAfterOriginal);

}

void FormatWebAddress_InvokeAfterOriginal(object sender, SyMapPointForm.FormatWebAddressFunction.InvokeEventArgs e)
{
mapService = Dynamics.Forms.SyMapPoint;

e.result = "http:\\\\maps.yahoo.com\\map?q1=" + mapService.Functions.FormatSegment.Invoke(e.inParam1) +
"+" + mapService.Functions.FormatSegment.Invoke(e.inParam2) +
"+" + mapService.Functions.FormatSegment.Invoke(e.inParam3) +
"+" + mapService.Functions.FormatSegment.Invoke(e.inParam4) +
"+" + mapService.Functions.FormatSegment.Invoke(e.inParam5);

}
}
}

In the above code, we register an InvokeAfterOriginal event, which is very similar to the trigger registration created in Dexterity. Once the event is registered, the actual method, FormatWebAddress_InvokeAfterOriginal() is implemented by reformatting the web address using the event arguments passed by Microsoft Dynamics GP to our method.

Hope you find these two approaches useful. For more information on these development methods, please visit the Learning Resources page on this blog or visit Developing for Dynamics GP.

Downloads

VST Google Maps solution – Click here
VST Yahoo! Maps solution – Click here
VST Sample Map Service Source Code – Click here

Until next post!

MG.-
Mariano Gomez, MVP
Maximum Global Business, LLC
http://www.maximumglobalbusiness.com/


Top 10 Microsoft Dynamics GP freebies

August 26, 2010

With the amount of money customers pay for software and implementations nowadays, it only makes sense that they would want to maximize their investment. What better than free (as in no strings attached!) software that works as intended. Because of this, I have set out to compile a list of the top 10 free add-ons — in no particular order — that I would drop into ANY Microsoft Dynamics GP implementation, no questions asked!

1) Support Debugging Tool. Ok, so I am biased! I have talked about this product in two Microsoft conferences and to outright show how biased I am, I am also personal friends with the product’s author, David Musgrave. SDT is a collection of some of the most powerful administrative tools for Microsoft Dynamics GP currently available from anywhere, with rich features like Resource Information, Security Profiler, Dictionary Control, SQL Execute, Runtime Execute, XML Import/Export and the even more powerful Advance Debugger mode. So, where can you download this product? The product is available from Microsoft. If you are customer you MUST request it from your Microsoft Partner, and no, you shouldn’t need to pay for it. The product is available via PartnerSource. For more information on SDT, visit the Support Debugging Tool Portal page over at Developing for Dynamics GP.

2) VersionPro. I really like when someone can identify a problem and produce a simple, yet powerful solution. Are you currently having problems keeping tabs of all the dictionary product versions throughout your entire organization? Version Pro is an administrative tool designed to ease the hassles of maintaining workstations on your Dynamics GP network. It keeps track of each product you have installed at a system level – and takes the next step in ensuring that each and every workstation on your network is on the same version for every product. VersionPro is available from Rockton Software — yes, Mark Rockwell and his crew — and can be downloaded here.

3) Password Expiration Notice. How many times have you been frustrated by passwords expiring with no prior notification to you or your system administrator? While I have addressed this issue from a SQL Server perspective in my article Enforcing Password Policy with Microsoft Dynamics GP, my friend and fellow blogger Michael Johnson, the MBS Guru takes it a step forward by implementing a Visual Studio Tools customization to check up on expiring passwords. You can download Michael’s solution here.

4) Dynamics GP Productivity Pack Add-on. Do you work all day long with customer records? Won’t you like to be able to capture information much faster and visit the typical inquiry and transaction entry screens just from the Customer Maintenance window? Matt Landis and the folks over at Landis Computer have the answer. You can download Matt’s Productivity Pack Add-On here.

5) DexSense. Are you a die hard Dexterity developer? Wish you could have IntelliSense embedded in Dexterity to speed up your product development cycle? Just a few weeks aback I posted a call to vote on IntelliSense for Dexterity, but the answer came from the community. Tim Gordon at Alpine Limited in South Africa worked tirelessly to produce a solid first approach to IntelliSense with the product now being featured by MVP Leslie Vail in her new round of Dexterity training here in the United States. Now you can download Tim’s DexSense here.

6) SpellCheck for Dynamics GP. Who knew right? Tired of misspelling every word typed into those pesky note fields? SpellCheck for Dynamics GP provides spell-checking on any Note, Comment, Text or String field in GP and 3rd party products. SpellCheck can be attached to any text entry field in the application. This add-on is an essential tool for environments that rely heavily on the accuracy of every single word stored in their database. You can download SpellCheck here.

7) Menus for Visual Studio Tools. This is another great free add-on that allows the developer in you to place your WinForms on a standard Microsoft Dynamics GP menu. This gem is also created by Microsoft’s David Musgrave. For more information and links to download Menus for Visual Studio Tools click here.

8) Purchasing Account Required. Missing an expense account on a purchase order line item can be just a bit as annoying as having to figure out which line was missed. Michael Johnson puts out another piece of code that takes the thinking out of entering POs by making the Purchase Order account required in the process of entering the order. As if it wasn’t enough, you can download both the VBA and the VST versions of the customization here.

9) SmartSort.Perhaps you’ve already discovered that getting your hands on information inside of Microsoft Dynamics GP may not always be an easy proposition, despite the range of tools available. EthoTech SmartSort speeds up your inquiries — and your data entry — by eliminating as many as 3 mouse clicks per lookup. Now you can automatically sort lookup information in almost every conceivable way! Quickly find the information you need by customizing your own view based on built-in advanced sorting options or SmartList favorites. AND… you can use SmartSort with over 40 Microsoft Dynamics GP lookup windows. Download SmartSort here.

10) SOP Batch Split. I couldn’t have wrapped up the list without one of my own. Ever wish you could segregate invoices that have been transferred from orders in the same batch? What if all you want to do is change the batch name for a few sales transactions? Now you can do this with the SOP Batch Split tool. SOP Batch Split is a free add-on that uses Modifier with VBA and T-SQL stored procedures to perform a SOP batch transfer and is available here.

If you enjoyed this list and would like to know about other free products or suggest your own please add a comment to this post.

Until next post!

MG.-
Mariano Gomez, MVP
Maximum Global Business, LLC
http://www.maximumglobalbusiness.com/


Top 10 Microsoft Dynamics GP freebies

August 25, 2010

With the amount of money customers pay for software and implementations nowadays, it only makes sense that they would want to maximize their investment. What better than free (as in no strings attached!) software that works as intended. Because of this, I have set out to compile a list of the top 10 free add-ons — in no particular order — that I would drop into ANY Microsoft Dynamics GP implementation, no questions asked!

1) Support Debugging Tool. Ok, so I am biased! I have talked about this product in two Microsoft conferences and to outright show how biased I am, I am also personal friends with the product’s author, David Musgrave. SDT is a collection of some of the most powerful administrative tools for Microsoft Dynamics GP currently available from anywhere, with rich features like Resource Information, Security Profiler, Dictionary Control, SQL Execute, Runtime Execute, XML Import/Export and the even more powerful Advance Debugger mode. So, where can you download this product? The product is available from Microsoft. If you are customer you MUST request it from your Microsoft Partner, and no, you shouldn’t need to pay for it. The product is available via PartnerSource. For more information on SDT, visit the Support Debugging Tool Portal page over at Developing for Dynamics GP.

2) VersionPro. I really like when someone can identify a problem and produce a simple, yet powerful solution. Are you currently having problems keeping tabs of all the dictionary product versions throughout your entire organization? Version Pro is an administrative tool designed to ease the hassles of maintaining workstations on your Dynamics GP network. It keeps track of each product you have installed at a system level – and takes the next step in ensuring that each and every workstation on your network is on the same version for every product. VersionPro is available from Rockton Software — yes, Mark Rockwell and his crew — and can be downloaded here.

3) Password Expiration Notice. How many times have you been frustrated by passwords expiring with no prior notification to you or your system administrator? While I have addressed this issue from a SQL Server perspective in my article Enforcing Password Policy with Microsoft Dynamics GP, my friend and fellow blogger Michael Johnson, the MBS Guru takes it a step forward by implementing a Visual Studio Tools customization to check up on expiring passwords. You can download Michael’s solution here.

4) Dynamics GP Productivity Pack Add-on. Do you work all day long with customer records? Won’t you like to be able to capture information much faster and visit the typical inquiry and transaction entry screens just from the Customer Maintenance window? Matt Landis and the folks over at Landis Computer have the answer. You can download Matt’s Productivity Pack Add-On here.

5) DexSense. Are you a die hard Dexterity developer? Wish you could have IntelliSense embedded in Dexterity to speed up your product development cycle? Just a few weeks aback I posted a call to vote on IntelliSense for Dexterity, but the answer came from the community. Tim Gordon at Alpine Limited in South Africa worked tirelessly to produce a solid first approach to IntelliSense with the product now being featured by MVP Leslie Vail in her new round of Dexterity training here in the United States. Now you can download Tim’s DexSense here.

6) SpellCheck for Dynamics GP. Who knew right? Tired of misspelling every word typed into those pesky note fields? SpellCheck for Dynamics GP provides spell-checking on any Note, Comment, Text or String field in GP and 3rd party products. SpellCheck can be attached to any text entry field in the application. This add-on is an essential tool for environments that rely heavily on the accuracy of every single word stored in their database. You can download SpellCheck here.

7) Menus for Visual Studio Tools. This is another great free add-on that allows the developer in you to place your WinForms on a standard Microsoft Dynamics GP menu. This gem is also created by Microsoft’s David Musgrave. For more information and links to download Menus for Visual Studio Tools click here.

8) Purchasing Account Required. Missing an expense account on a purchase order line item can be just a bit as annoying as having to figure out which line was missed. Michael Johnson puts out another piece of code that takes the thinking out of entering POs by making the Purchase Order account required in the process of entering the order. As if it wasn’t enough, you can download both the VBA and the VST versions of the customization here.

9) SmartSort.Perhaps you’ve already discovered that getting your hands on information inside of Microsoft Dynamics GP may not always be an easy proposition, despite the range of tools available. EthoTech SmartSort speeds up your inquiries — and your data entry — by eliminating as many as 3 mouse clicks per lookup. Now you can automatically sort lookup information in almost every conceivable way! Quickly find the information you need by customizing your own view based on built-in advanced sorting options or SmartList favorites. AND… you can use SmartSort with over 40 Microsoft Dynamics GP lookup windows. Download SmartSort here.

10) SOP Batch Split. I couldn’t have wrapped up the list without one of my own. Ever wish you could segregate invoices that have been transferred from orders in the same batch? What if all you want to do is change the batch name for a few sales transactions? Now you can do this with the SOP Batch Split tool. SOP Batch Split is a free add-on that uses Modifier with VBA and T-SQL stored procedures to perform a SOP batch transfer and is available here.

If you enjoyed this list and would like to know about other free products or suggest your own please add a comment to this post.

Until next post!

MG.-
Mariano Gomez, MVP
Maximum Global Business, LLC
http://www.maximumglobalbusiness.com/


New Article on MSDynamicsWorld: "When It Comes to Customizations for Microsoft Dynamics GP, Which Tool Should You Rely On?"

July 16, 2010


“The term “customization” can mean different things to different people…”

My new article is out over at MSDynamicsWorld. This time, I go back to basics defining what is a customization and what tools are available to customize the Microsoft Dynamics GP user interface. This article is a good start if you are still trying to figure out your options for developing add-on solutions to Microsoft Dynamics GP. To read the full article, click here.

Until next post!

MG.-
Mariano Gomez, MVP
Maximum Global Business, LLC
http://www.maximumglobalbusiness.com/