Programming Microsoft Dynamics® NAV 2013 — Save 50%
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In this article by David Studebaker and Christopher Studebaker, the authors of Programming Microsoft Dynamics® NAV 2013, we will cover one of the key features of NAV 2013, which is the Role Tailored user experience centered around Role Centers tied to user work roles.
(For more resources related to this topic, see here.)
The standard NAV 2013 distribution from Microsoft includes 21 different Role Center pages, identified for user roles such as Bookkeeper, Sales Manager, Shop Supervisor, Purchasing Agent, and so on. Some localized NAV distributions may have additional Role Center pages included. It is critical to realize that the Role Centers supplied out of the box are not generally intended to be used directly out of the box. According to the Help section, Working with Role Centers, only 3 of the 21 supplied Role Centers have been fully configured. These three are:
9004 — Bookkeeper
9005 — Sales Manager
9006 — Order Processor
The 21 Role Centers should be used as templates or models for custom Role Centers tailored to the specific work role requirements of the individual customer implementation.
One of the critical tasks of implementing a new system will be to analyze the workflow and responsibilities of the system's intended users and configure Role Centers to fit the users. In some cases, the supplied Role Centers can be used with minimal tailoring. Sometimes, it will be necessary to create complete new Role Centers. Even then, we will often be able to start with a copy of an existing Role Center Page, which we will modify as required. In any case, it is important to understand the structure of the Role Center Page and how it is built.
Role Center structure
The following screenshot shows Page 9006 — Order Processor Role Center:
The components of the Role Center highlighted in the preceding screenshot are:
Cue Group Actions (in Cue Groups)
Cues (in Cue Groups)
A general representation of the structure of a Role Center Page is shown in the following outline:
We need to understand the construction of a Role Center page so that we are prepared to modify an existing Role Center or create a new one. First we'll take a look at Page 9006 – Order Processor Role Center in the Page Designer.
The Role Center page layout should look familiar, because it's very similar in structure to the pages we've designed previously. What's specific to a Role Center page? There is a Container control of the RoleCenterArea SubType. This is required for a Role Center page. There are two Group Controls which represent the two columns (left and right) of the Role Center page display. Each group contains several parts which show up individually in the Role Center display.
Role Center page properties are accessed by highlighting the first blank line on the Page Designer form (the line below all of the defined controls), then clicking on the Properties icon, or we could right—click and choose the Properties option, or click on View | Properties or press Shift + F4. Note that the PageType is RoleCenter, and there is no Source Table .
Role Center activities page
Since the Group Control has no underlying code or settings, we'll examine the first Part Control's properties. The PagePartId property is SO Processor Activities .
Cue Groups and Cues
Now we'll focus on Page 9060 — SO Processor Activities. Designing that page, we see the following layout. Comparing the controls we see here to those of the Role Center, we can see this Page Part is the source of the Activities section of the Role Center Page. There are three CueGroup Controls – For Release, Sales Orders Released Not Shipped and Returns. In each CueGroup, there are the Field Controls for the individual Cues.
An individual Cue is displayed as an iconic shortcut to a filtered list. The size of the stack of papers in the Cue icon represents the number of records in that list. The actual number of entries is also displayed as part of the icon (see the Sales Orders — Open example in following screenshot). The purpose of a Cue is to provide a focus on and single click access to a specific user task. The set of Cues is intended to represent the full set of primary activities for a user, based on their work Role.
Cue source table
In the Properties of the SO Processor Activities page, we see this is a PageType of CardPart tied to SourceTable Sales Cue .
Next we want to Design the referenced table, Sales Cue, to see how it is constructed. There we see a simply structured table, with an integer field for each of the Cues that were displayed in the Role Center we are analyzing. There is also a key field and two fields identified as Date Filters.
When we display the properties of one of these integer fields, Sales Orders — Open, we find it is a FlowField providing a Count of the Sales Orders with a Status of Open:
If we inspect each of the other integer fields in this table, we will find a similar FlowField setup. Each is defined to fit the specific Cue to which it's tied. If we think about what the Cues show (a count) and how FlowFields work (a calculation based on a range of data records), we can see this is a simple, direct method of providing the information necessary to support Cue displays. Clicking on the Cue (the count) then opens up the list of records being counted.
The following screenshot shows the list of Cue tables. Each of the Cue tables contains a series of FlowFields that support a set of Cues. Obviously, some Cue tables service more than one of the Role Center pages.
Cue Group Actions
Another set of Role Center page components to analyze are the Cue Group Actions . While the Cues are the primary tasks that are presented to the user, the Cue Group Actions are a related secondary set of tasks displayed to the right of the Cues.
Cue Group Actions are defined in the Role Center essentially the same way as Actions are defined in other page types. As the name implies, Cue Group Actions are associated with a Control with the SubType CueGroup . If we right— click on the CueGroup Control, one of the options available is Control Actions (as shown in the following screenshot):
When we choose Control Actions , the Action Designer form will be displayed showing the two CueGroup actions in the For Release CueGroup in the SO Processor Role Center page. If we open the Properties window we will see the "New" functionality is accomplished by setting the RunPageMode property to Create.
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Now that we have covered the components of the Activities portion of the Role Center page, let's take a look at the other components.
Returning to Page 9006 in the Page Designer, we will examine the Properties of the next Part Control. This Page Part is the one that incorporates a view of the users' Outlook data into the Role Center. Looking at this control's properties, we see a PartType of System and a SystemPartID of Outlook. The Outlook Page Part can only appear in the left column of the Role Center page.
Now let's look at the second Group in Page 9006, the Group that defines the righthand column appearing in the Role Center page. There are five Page Parts and a System Part defined.
Page Parts not visible
If we look again at the display of the Role Center page generated by this layout, we will see a chart (Trailing Sales Orders), followed by two ListParts (My Customers and My Items), in turn followed by the System Part (My Notifications).
The two Page Parts, My Job Queue and Connect Online, do not appear. These two Page Parts have been defined by the developer with the Visible property equal to FALSE, which causes them not to display unless the Role Center Page is customized by the user (or an administrator or by a developer) and the part added to the visible part list.
Page Part Charts
The first Page Part in the second Group provides for a Chart to display using the Chart Control Add—in included in NAV 2013. The Chart Control Add—in is documented in the Developer and IT Pro Help in the Displaying Charts Using the Chart Control Add—in section. In the Page 9006, the Page Part Trailing Sales Orders Chart invokes Page 760 of the same name. Looking at Page 760 in the Page Designer, we see the following layout:
The properties of the Field named Business Chart look like the following:
Note that the property ControlAddIn contains the necessary information to access the Chart Control Add—in. This property provides access to the screen, shown in the following screenshot, where the Client Add—ins are listed that are available for use in our NAV system. An Add—in is a Microsoft .NET Framework assembly (a module external to NAV but registered with the system) that lets us add customer functionality to a NAV Windows Client.
Page Parts for user data
The next three Page Parts in Role Center Page 9006 all provide data that is specific to the individual user. They track "My" data, information important to the user who is logged in. If we design any one of the pages, we can open the page properties to find out what table the page is tied to. Then, viewing any of these tables in the Table Designer, we will see that a highly ranked field is user ID. An example is the My Item table.
The user ID allows the data to be filtered to present user specific information to each user. In some cases, this data can be updated directly in the Role Center Page Part, for example in My Customers and My Items. In other cases, such as My Job Queue, the data is updated elsewhere and is viewed only in the Role Center Page Part. If our users needed to track other information in a similar manner, such as My Service Contracts, we could readily plagiarize the approach used in the standard Page Parts.
Continuing with the last Control in Page 9006, we see another PartType of System, in this case one for the SystemPartID of MyNotes. System Part options for the right—hand column include MyNotes, Notes, or RecordLinks (or None).
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Navigation Pane and Action Menus
The last major Role Center Page components we're going to review are the Navigation Pane and the Action Ribbon. Even though there are two major parts of the Role Center Page that provide access to action choices, they both are defined in the Action Designer section of the Page Designer.
The display of Action Controls in a Role Center page is dependent on a combination of the definition of the controls in the Action Designer, certain properties of the page, and configuration/personalization of the page. Many of the default Role Centers provided with the product are configured as examples of possibilities of what can be done. Even if one of the default Role Centers seems to fit our customer's requirements exactly, we should create a copy of that Role Center page as another page object and reconfigure it. That way we can document how that page was set up and make any necessary tweaks.
We're going to start with Role Center Page 9006, because it is used as the default Role Center and is used in so many other examples. Copy Page 9006 into Page 50020 — Order Processor RC WDTU using the sequence Object Designer | Page | Design | File | Save As... and with a new page object ID 50020 and object Name WDTU Role Center.
Once we have the new page saved, in order to use this page as a Role Center we must create a Profile for the page. This is done within the Role Tailored Client and is typically a System Administrator task. Invoke the RTC and click on the Departments menu button in the Navigator Pane. Then click on Administrator: Application Setup | Role Tailored Client | Lists: Profiles . Click on the New icon and create a new profile like this one.
For the purpose of easy access to this Role Center for testing, we could also checkmark the Default Role Center box. Then, when we invoke the RTC, our test Role Center will be the one that displays (if no other profile is assigned to this user). Another approach to testing is to assign our User ID to use this Profile.
When we are doing development work on a Role Center, we can run the Role Center as a page from the C/SIDE Object Designer in the same way as other pages. However, the Role Center page will launch as a task page on top of whatever Role Center is configured for the active user. The Navigation Pane of the Role Center being modified will not be active and can't be tested with this approach. In order to test all of the aspects of the Role Center page, we must launch it as the assigned Role Center for the active user.
Other methods for running a Role Center for test purposes are these available from the mibuso.com NAV forum (http://mibuso.com/dlinfo.asp?FileID=1194 and http://mibuso.com/dlinfo.asp?FileID=1051) or the one described in the Help section Starting the Windows Client at the Command Prompt . The guidance on use of Command Prompt initiation of the RTC is helpful in several other areas as well.
A major area where action choices are presented in a Role Center (and also in other page types) is in the ribbon. The ribbon for the standard Page 9006 — Order Processor Role Center, as delivered from Microsoft, looks like the following:
After we have created our Role Center copy, the ribbon for Page 50020 — Order Processor RC WDTU looks like the following:
When we compare the available actions in the two ribbon images, we see most the same actions, but displayed quite a bit differently. Two of the report actions available in the standard ribbon don't show up in the Page 50020 ribbon, but if we take a look at the report tab on the ribbon, we'll see that they are available there.
If we made the same kind of analysis of other default Role Centers, we would find similar results. The appearance of the ribbon changes, losing detail, when the page is copied to another object number. As it turns out, the default Role Centers have been configured by Microsoft as part of the effort to show good examples of Role Center ribbon design. This is a good reason for starting with a fresh copy of our Role Centers when designing for our customer.
The actions for a page are defined and maintained in the Action Designer. The Action Designer is accessed from within the Page Designer. Open our new Page 50020 — WDTU Role Center in the Page Designer, then either press Ctrl + Alt + F4 or View | Page Actions to open the Action Designer to view the current set of actions defined for this page.
For our newly created Page 50020, cloned from Page 9006, the Action Designer contents look like the following:
The actions enclosed in the green rectangles are the ones that are assigned to the ribbon. Whether or not they actually are displayed, how and where they are displayed is controlled by a combination of factors:
The structure of the controls within the action list
The properties of the individual actions
The customizations that have been applied by a developer, administrator, or the user.
The first column of each action control is the Type. In hierarchical order, the action control entries can be ActionContainer, Action Group, Action, or Separator. The specific SubType of each ActionContainer entry determines the area, Ribbon, or Navigation Pane, in which the subordinate groups of actions will appear.
If the SubType is HomeItems or ActivityButtons (SubTypes that can only be used in Role Center pages), the indented subordinate actions will appear in the Navigation Pane. All the other SubTypes (NewDocumentItems, ActionItems, and Reports) will cause their subordinate actions to appear in the Role Center Ribbon. These three SubTypes are not limited to use in Role Center pages. The SubType RelatedInformation is not intended for use in Role Center pages, but for use in other page types.
An ActionGroup control provides a grouping of actions which will appear as a category in the ribbon. This is one way of defining a category to display in the ribbon. For actions to appear within the category on the ribbon, these Action controls must follow the ActionGroup and be indented. If an ActionGroup is indented within a parent ActionGroup, it will generate a drop-down list of actions.
The other type of action control is the Separator. In NAV 2009 page menus, the separator controls displayed a dashed line between logical sets of actions. In the NAV 2013 Action Ribbon, the separator controls don't appear to do anything.
If we compare the control entries in the preceding Action Designer screenshot to the action icons that display in the screenshot of the unmodified Page 50020 ribbon, we see the following:
The action control entries of the NewDocumentItems and ActionItems ActionContainers appear on the Actions tab of the ribbon. ActionItems is intended for task related functions. NewDocumentItems is intended for those actions that cause a new document to be opened.
All the control entries in the NewDocumentItems ActionContainer appear in the New Document Items Category in the Action Ribbon.
The control entries in the ActionItems ActionContainer appear in the General Category of the ribbon.
One action, Refresh, is a default action that is automatically generated and assigned to the Page Category.
All the control entries in the Reports ActionContainer are in the General Category on the Reports tab of the Action Ribbon.
Creating a WDTU Role Center Ribbon
If we were creating a role center to be used in a real production environment, we would likely be defining a new Activities Page, new Cues, a new or modified Cue table, new FactBoxes, and so on. But since our primary purpose here is learning, we're going to take the shortcut of piggybacking on the existing role center and simply add our WDTU actions to the foundation of that role existing center.
There are several steps to be taken to define our WDTU Role Center Ribbon. The same end result, from the user's point of view, can be achieved using different approaches. We can also perform the development steps in different sequences. For the WDTU ribbon work, we will use the Developer tools.
The steps we need to follow for our WDTU actions are:
Define one or more new ribbon categories for the WDTU actions.
Create the WDTU action controls in the Action Designer.
Assign the WDTU action controls to the appropriate ribbon categories.
Finalize any look and feel items.
Because some of the original Order Processor Role Center ribbon layout disappeared when we cloned Page 9006 to Page 50020, we will also recreate that layout. For this part of our ribbon definition effort, because we want to learn more ways to accomplish implementation goals, we will use the Configuration/Personalization tools.
The steps needed to replicate the Page 9006 ribbon layout are:
Define the needed ribbon categories.
Assign the action controls to the appropriate categories.
Finalize any look and feel items.
The normal sequence of defining an Action Ribbon is to complete the work which utilizes development tools, then proceed with the work which can be done by an implementer or system administrator (or even an authorized user). So we will work on the WDTU portion of the Action Ribbon first, then the work of replicating the original layout.
Let's add the following functions to the WDTU portion of the Action Ribbon:
Radio Show List page
Radio Show Types page
Playlist Item Rates page
Item List (filtered for Playlist Items) page
Record Labels page
We'll put the first two items in a category named WDTU Operations and the other four items in a category named WDTU Data Maintenance.
Promoted Actions Categories
There are at least two ways available to set up the categories. One involves assigning values to the Page Property PromotedActionCategoriesML (which appears to be originally intended to support NAV's MultiLanguage capabilities rather than Ribbon layout customization).
There are 10 PromotedActionCategoriesML slots available. The first three are assigned categories by default of New , Process, and Report, but can be renamed (the default names are retained in this example). The category slots must be referred to by their default names ( New , Process , Report, Category4, Category5, …, Category10) when referred to in code. In the standard product the CategoryN names are used in a number of pages. Category4, for example, is used in Pages 88 Job Card, 950 Time Sheet , 5900 Service Order , and others. Category4 and Category5 both are used in Pages 1027 Job WIP Cockpit and 8629 Config. Wizard . Category4, Category5, and Category6 are all used in Page 9500 Debugger .
Individual actions are assigned to appear in a specific category through the action's properties. Promoted is set to Yes , the PromotedCategory is (in this case) set to Category4 which has been assigned to display as WDTU Operations. Note that the Image property was also assigned; as a general rule, an image should be assigned for all action controls to indicate functionality to the user.
Let's do the same thing for one of our WDTU Maintenance actions, the Radio Show Types page. We'll set Promoted to Yes, the PromotedCategory to Category5, and the Image to Entry. The Ribbon resulting from the two actions being Promoted and assigned looks like the following screenshot. Using this method of defining and assigning Categories causes a new Home tab to be added to the ribbon.
Another way of defining Categories and assigning actions to them is through the use of ActionGroups. This approach seems quite a bit simpler. All we have to do is make the proper ActionGroup entries in the Action Designer with the appropriate Action entries indented under them as shown in the following screenshot:
The resulting Ribbon looks like the following. Note that the WDTU categories and actions appear this time on the Actions tab and there is no Home tab.
The procedures and interface tools we use to do Configuration are also used by users to do Personalization. Both terms refer to revising the display contents and format of a Role Center as it appears to one or more users. As it says in the Help section Walkthrough: Configuring the Order Processor Role Center .
The difference between configuration and personalization is configuring a Role Center changes the user interface for all users who have that profile, whereas personalizing a Role Center only changes the user interface for a single user.
We could replace the WDTU Category assignments we just made using ActionGroups by defining Categories and assigning actions using Configuration. The result would look exactly the same to our users. But instead, let's use Configuration to quickly restore the layout of the actions that were in Role Center Page 9006. We can run page 9006 to see what that layout is (or reference the earlier snapshot of the Page 9006 ribbon).
A couple of important points:
Configuration is tied to a specific Profile. Other profiles using the same Role Center page do not see the same Configuration layout.
Configuration can only be done by the Owner of a Profile. When we created our WDTU Test Profile, we did not assign an owner so that will have to be done now.
Profile setup can be accessed in the RTC in Departments | Administration | Application Setup | Role Tailored Client | Profiles. This can also be found by entering the word Profile in the RTC Search box. The Owner ID for a Profile can be updated there by an Administrator with sufficient Permissions.
A Role Center ribbon is configured by opening the Role Tailored Client in Configuration mode with the focus on the Profile we want to configure. Personalization doesn't require this step. This is done from the DOS Command prompt using a command line essentially similar to:
"C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Dynamics NAV\70\ RoleTailored Client\Microsoft.Dynamics.Nav.Client.exe" -configure -profile:"WDTU Test"
For additional information refer to the Help section How to: Open the Microsoft Dynamics NAV Windows Client in Configuration Mode.
Once the Role Center displays, click on the arrowhead to the right of the Microsoft Dynamics icon (1 in the following screenshot), then on Customize option (2 in the following screenshot), followed by the Customize Ribbon option (3 in the following screenshot).
That will take us to this screen:
As we can see, using the Customize Ribbon screen we can Create Groups (referred to as Categories elsewhere), add new actions to those available on the ribbon, remove actions (make them not visible), reorganize ribbon entries, even create new tabs, or rename existing items. In sum, everything that we've done so far to customize the Role Center Ribbon can be done through this screen. The big difference is that Customization (a general term encompassing both Configuration and Personalization) is specific to a single Profile, while the other modifications will apply to all profiles.
As part of our Personalizing, we might use the Move Up and Move Down options to rearrange the actions on the ribbon, moving the WDTU actions to the left. When we are done configuring the ribbon for the WDTU Test Profile, it might look like the following:
The Navigation Pane is the menu list that makes up the leftmost column on a Role Center. A Navigation Pane can have two or more buttons. The required two buttons are Home and Departments.
Navigation Home Button
The basic contents of the Home button for a Role Center are defined in the Action Designer in the ActionContainer of SubType HomeItems.
In addition to the action controls defined in the Action Designer, the Navigation Pane Home menu list includes all the Cue entries that appear in the Activities Pane of the Role Center. We can see the combined sets of action options in the following screenshot. Note that there are a number of indented (nested) options within groups such as Sales Orders, Sales Quotes and Sales Credit Memos. These groups have been set up using the same type of Configuration tools we just used for the ribbon.
We can access the Configuration/Personalization tools either through the arrow next to the Microsoft Dynamics logo or through the chevron at the bottom right of the Navigation Pane (below the buttons).
Navigation Departments Button
The other required Navigation Pane button, the Departments button, has its menu entries generated based on the contents of the MenuSuite object. If we click on the Departments button, a screen like the following will be displayed:
Other Navigation Buttons
Other Navigation Pane buttons can be defined and populated by means of ActionGroup entries with the ActionContainer ActivityButtons in the Action Designer as shown in the following screenshot:
Navigation Pane buttons can also be added, renamed, repopulated and made not visible through the Customize Navigation Pane... option in the page Customization submenu.
Thus in this article, we saw that the Role Tailored approach provides a single point of access into the system for each user through their assigned Role Center. The user's Role Center acts as their home page. We saw how Role Center focuses on the tasks needed to support its users' jobs throughout the day.
Resources for Article :
- Installing Microsoft Dynamics NAV [Article]
- Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2009 Development Tools [Article]
- Modifying the System using Microsoft Dynamics Nav 2009: Part 1 [Article]
About the Author :
Christopher Studebaker, a NAV Developer/Implementer, has 12 years' experience designing, developing, implementing and selling the NAV and SQL Server environments. He has specialized in retail, manufacturing, job shop, and distribution implementations, most in high user-count, high data volume applications. Chris has worked on many NAV implementations with integrations to external databases and third party add-on products. Some special applications have included high volume order entry, pick-to-light systems, procurement analysis and Web frontends.
Chris acts in a consulting and training role for customers and for peer NAV professionals. He provides training both in informal and classroom situations, often developing custom course material to support courses tailored to specific student group needs. Courses have included various NAV functional and development areas.
Before becoming a certified NAV developer, Chris was a certified environmental consultant working with manufacturing facilities to meet national and state regulations. His duties included regulatory reporting, data analysis, project management and subcontractor oversight. Accomplishments included obtaining several safety certifications and managing projects for hazardous material management and abatement.
Chris is a Microsoft Certified IT Professional, SQL Database Developer, as well as a Microsoft Certified Business Solutions Professional in NAV Development and NAV Installation and Configuration. He has a Bachelor of Science degree from Northern Illinois University and has done graduate work at Denmark Technical University.
David Studebaker is Chief Technical Officer and a founder of Liberty Grove Software with his partner Karen Studebaker. Liberty Grove Software, a Microsoft Partner, provides development, consulting, training, and upgrade services internationally for Microsoft Dynamics NAV resellers and end user customers.
David has been recognized by Microsoft as a Certified Professional for NAV in all three areas: Development, Applications, and Installation & Configuration. He has been honored by Microsoft as a Lead Certified Microsoft Trainer for NAV.
David just celebrated his first half century of programming, having started programming in 1962. He has been developing in C/AL since 1996. David has been an active participant in each step of computing technology from the first solid state mainframes to today's technology, from binary assembly language coding to today's C/AL and C#.
David's special achievements include his role as co-developer of the first production multi-programmed SPOOLing system in 1967. David has worked on a diverse set of software applications including manufacturing, distribution, retail, engineering, general accounting, association management, professional services billing, distribution/inventory management, freight carriage, data collection and production management, among others. Prior to co-authoring this book, David was the author of Programming Microsoft Dynamics NAV (for the Classic Client) and Programming Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2009 (for the Role Tailored Client).
David has had a wide range of development, consulting, sales and management roles throughout his career. He has been partner or owner and manager of several software development businesses, while always maintaining a hands-on role as a business applications developer.
David has a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University and an MBA from the University of Chicago. He has been writing for publication since he was an undergraduate. David has been a member of the Association for Computing Machinery since 1963 and was a founding officer of two local chapters of the ACM.