What’s New in Extensibility and App Platform in the Enterprise Edition for Dynamics 365 (Online)
Microsoft has been putting a lot of effort and work into the Dynamics 365 product. If we take a look at the history of the Dynamics family, it is obvious Microsoft is investing a lot of time and resourcing in perfecting and unifying the whole business solutions experience.
A noticeable move Microsoft has been taking in the last couple of years is the level of customization it’s allowing Dynamics users to make without having technical backgrounds. We’ve seen this with the introduction of real-time workflows, business rules, etc.
The new features in the app designer are:
- Solution/sitemap selection: This is optional to quickly create your app
- Client type: You can choose whether the client the app will be run on is “Web” or “Unified Interface.”
- Interactive dashboards support: For apps created with the Unified Interface client type
- Search canvas: Find the components you need easily using the search functionality
- Mobile offline support
- Custom welcome page: You can now add a custom welcome page that will load when the created app is selected.
The new features in the sitemap designer are:
- Interactive dashboards as default dashboards: When you select any area (app) in Dynamics 365, the dashboards sub-area is selected by default. Now interactive dashboards can replace the old dashboard for apps that are based on the new unified interface framework.
- Cut, copy and paste sitemap components: These make it easier to rearrange sitemaps in the future.
- Miscellaneous security privileges support within app sub-areas.
- Inline editing: You can edit sitemap components inline by hovering over the component and selecting the pencil for editing.
“My Apps” Update
The “My Apps” landing page was updated to include filtering and app search capabilities. Also, it now supports responsive design to better suit smaller screen size.
This is a new and very useful feature added with this update. Virtual entities are mainly custom entities in Dynamics 365 (Online) with a very specific purpose: Grab data from external sources and show them in your Dynamics 365 app.
Before this update is released, a lot of technical knowledge was required to fetch data from external sources. This is a big step, as Microsoft is taking a rather complex task and simplifying it to help users integrate their Dynamics 365 apps with outside applications in the easiest way possible. These virtual entities will appear in Dynamics 365 (Online) as regular custom entities with data fetched from an external database. And that’s not the best part:
- Availability: Virtual entities will be available from all Dynamics 365 (online) clients including custom apps built using the Dynamics 365 SDK.
- Usability: Even though data is grabbed from external sources, end users will be able to work with virtual entities to view fields, grids, fetch-XML reports, and dashboards.
- Customization: Data source records and virtual entities can be customized without the need to write a single line of code.
- Plugins: Developers can write plugins using the Dynamics 365 SDK to access data from external sources.
Microsoft Flow is a cloud-based service providing users with an easy way to automate tasks by running different workflows. With the new update, users will be able to run Microsoft flows directly from their Dynamics 365 (Online) app.
PowerBI-Dynamics 365 integration has been there for a while now. Since it is an important part for analytics, Microsoft keeps looking into ways to bring it forward and extending its usability.
With this release, you can now embed PowerBI dashboards from group-based PowerBI app workspaces (as opposed to only allowing dashboards from “My Workspace” previous to this release).
Business Process Flows
Microsoft seems to be taking good care of business process flows for the last couple of years. With the introduction to Dynamics 365, they produced a nice update and the trend is still going on. Here’s what’s new in business process flows with this release:
- Action steps: You can now call on-demand process actions directly from a business process flow step. This allows Dynamics 365 to perform server-side business with a click of a button that will be displayed as one step in the BPF.
- Sitemaps, views, and grids: Business process flows now come in the form of entities. They can be accessed directly from the sitemap or from views, charts, dashboards, etc.
- Interactive dashboards: Since they come in the form of an entity, they can be included in interactive dashboards to give users a view of what’s important and what to jump to next.
Multiselect Option Sets
I know what you’re thinking: This sounds like a small update. If you knew how much work this would’ve saved solution architects in the past, it would surprise you. Before this addition, consultants used to go for 1:N relationships and sub-grids, to replicate this functionality. That required one more custom entity and one more relationship. This wasn’t the end of the world, but to be able to replace that with something that is much easier and makes much more sense is just amazing.
Localization for web resources has been a problem previously because of the lack of proper support for localized strings. Developers used to use a JSON-based hard-coded approach that was not really scalable for big web applications. The new update includes simplified localization of resource strings to make building HTML web resources supporting multiple languages a lot easier and more efficient.
Also, a new resource type, “resx,” is now supported. This is an XML-based format used to store <Key, Value> translation pairs.
Command Bar Themes
Commands can now be customizable with different background colors and text colors.