In this chapter, we start with recipes for users of Microsoft Dynamics GP. After all, that's who this book is for. This chapter is designed to improve a user's productivity from day one. In this chapter we will look at ways of:
Improving visibility by setting Required Fields to bold and red
Getting faster access to data with the Shortcut Bar
Reducing clicks with Startup shortcuts
Personalizing the Home page by selecting the right role
Speeding up access to data with Quick Links
Rearranging Navigation to make it easier
Jumping to the right location with Breadcrumbs
Managing personal reports with My Reports
Viewing open items with the Task List
Visualizing information with Home page Metrics
Accessing accounts faster with Favorites in Lookups
Cleaning up the mess by fixing AutoComplete errors
This chapter explores recipes designed to enhance the usefulness of Microsoft Dynamics GP by personalizing the look and feel of the application. These recipes provide the initial steps in harnessing the full power of Dynamics GP. They are designed to improve productivity today so don't wait to put them to use.
In almost all cases the recipes in this chapter do not require administrative privileges and are available to the average user. The ability of each user to tailor these items to their own needs is what makes these recipes so powerful.
By personalizing Dynamics GP users get the opportunity to fine tune the system to the way that they work. There is something incredibly satisfying about tailoring a system to make it more efficient, and we'll cover some of those personalizing options here.
Although the nature of these recipes makes them useful right away, it is strongly recommended that these items be attempted in a test environment first.
Microsoft Dynamics GP provides an option for each user to identify required fields on any form. By activating this setting, users can get an obvious visual cue indicating the minimum required fields on any form. This recipe shows how to set required fields to bold red and what the end result will look like.
Prior to changing the appearance of required fields the feature Show Required Fields needs to be turned on. To activate this feature:
Click on the Help icon (the white question mark on a blue background in the upper-right corner) on the Home page of Dynamics GP.
Ensure that Show Required Fields has a checkmark next to it. If it does not, click on the Show Required Fields item to turn this option on.
To improve visibility of required fields, follow these steps:
The Shortcut Bar is the vertical bar on the top left-hand side of the screen and appears when the Home button is selected on the left. From the Shortcut Bar, click on User Preferences. Then, click on the Display button to open the User Display Preferences window.
In the bottom right, under the heading Required Fields, set Font Color to Red and Font Style to Bold:
Click on OK to accept the changes and close the window. Then, click on OK to close the User Preferences window. Now, any window that allows data entry will show the required fields in bold red, such as the one in the following screenshot:
Dynamics GP contains identifiers behind the scenes to mark fields as required. Dynamics GP uses these identifiers to change the color of the field label. Highlighting required fields provides a quick visual cue to ensure that at least the minimum amount of data is entered prior to saving a form. This will save hours of time by preventing annoying messages indicating that required fields have not been completed, especially as there is no indicator as to what field is missing.
By default, activating Show Required Fields simply sets the required fields to black and regular font. That is, it doesn't distinguish these at all. This is important because if Show Required Fields is off completely, Dynamics GP 2010 will prompt users to turn it on. However, it won't appear to have any effect:
There are some areas in Dynamics GP where required fields are not marked in red and bold despite this feature being enabled. In almost all cases these fields occur in the grid section of a transaction entry form. This area of a form has a heading at the top and a grid that allows multiple entries under one heading. The nature of the programming behind the grid format prevents Dynamics GP from properly highlighting these fields.
When a user receives a warning that a required field is missing, but all required fields appear to be correctly filled in, they should examine the fields in the grid for missing information. The most common culprits are the Unit of Measure (U of M) and Site ID fields.
With the available Modifier with VBA utility for Dynamics GP, an administrator or developer can mark additional fields as required; and in most cases Dynamics GP will apply the red and bold formatting automatically. More information on Modifier with VBA is available from the manuals in Dynamics GP or from an authorized Microsoft Dynamics partner.
The Shortcut Bar provides fast access to Dynamics GP's windows and SmartLists along with web pages and external applications. Often, external shortcuts are used for quick access to currency websites, budget spreadsheets, shipping sites, or any other applications. Almost anything used to improve a user's productivity can be linked via the Shortcut Bar. In this recipe, we'll spend some time looking at how to get the most out of it.
The vertical area to the left of the Dynamics GP home page is known as the Navigation Pane. Click on Home on the Navigation Pane to make the Shortcut Bar visible in the top left.
Clicking on other Navigation Pane sections makes other navigation options available. Only the Home selection makes the Shortcut Bar available.
Dynamics GP windows
Select Financial from the Navigation Pane on the left. In the Financial Area Page, select General. This opens the Transaction Entry window.
Click on the Home button to see the Transaction Entry window added to the Shortcut Bar:
The Shortcut Bar in Microsoft Dynamics GP works a lot like shortcuts on the Microsoft Windows desktop. Dynamics GP places a pointer to the window or file inside the shortcut and launches the appropriate selection when the shortcut is clicked on.
Typically, users simply accumulate shortcuts on the Shortcut Bar. However, getting the most out of the Shortcut Bar requires a few extra techniques.
In order to add web pages and external shortcuts, right-click on the Shortcut Bar. Then, select Add followed by Add Web Page or Add External Shortcut.
Selecting Add Web Page provides the option to enter the location (URL) along with a button to test that the link works correctly.
Selecting Add External Shortcut provides an option to browse for the external file on your system. This can be an application file such as an Excel spreadsheet (as shown in the following screenshot) or a Microsoft Word document. It can also be a link to an application such as Microsoft CRM budgeting software or even Solitaire for a much needed break.
Right-clicking on the Shortcut Bar and selecting Add | Folder provides the option to add a folder to the Shortcut Bar that can be used to organize entries. For example, a Month End folder can be used to hold links to windows, routines, and reports that are used as part of the month-end closing process. This is a great place to start organizing shortcuts.
Microsoft's 'Developing for Dynamics GP' blog provides additional information on dealing with complex shortcuts for scenarios such as launching an application and opening a specific file. More information on this is available at http://blogs.msdn.com/developingfordynamicsgp/archive/2009/08/24/creating-external-shortcuts-with-parameters.aspx.
For users who want the same set of features available every time Dynamics GP opens, the Shortcut Bar supports automatically opening a: window, SmartList Favorite, web page, macro, or external file when Dynamics GP starts.
For example, someone with heavy Accounts Payable responsibilities would regularly use the Payables Transaction Entry window. Adding this window as a startup shortcut would open this window immediately after Dynamics GP starts without the user having to do anything. In this recipe, we'll look at how to activate a shortcut automatically when Dynamics GP starts.
To use this recipe, users need a basic familiarity with shortcuts. As that was covered in the last recipe, everyone should be in good shape.
To set shortcuts to open automatically, complete the following steps:
Open the Payables Transaction window in Dynamics GP by selecting Purchasing from the Navigation Pane and clicking on Transaction Entry.
Select File | Add as a Shortcut to add the shortcut to the Shortcut Bar.
Select Home to see the shortcut that was just added.
Right-click on the shortcut that was just created and select Cut. Right-click on the Startup folder and select Paste. Once Dynamics GP is restarted, the window represented by the shortcut will start automatically:
The Startup shortcut folder is designed for more than just windows in Dynamics GP.
Another option to add items to the Startup folder on the Shortcut Bar is to right-click on the folder and select Add | Add External Shortcut. Name the shortcut and select Browse. Find the external file in the menu system and click on Open.
Optionally, add a Keyboard Shortcut and click on Add.
Experienced users will comment that it is also possible to select the shortcut with the left mouse button and drag it to the Startup folder. That works as well, except for a bug in Dynamics GP that prevents dragging and dropping the first shortcut into the Startup folder. If there is already a shortcut in the folder, dragging and dropping works fine. However, until the first one has been created, dragging and dropping a shortcut into a folder is impossible.
Interestingly, dragging shortcuts to folders worked correctly in version 9 and seems to have broken with version 10.
With version 2010 of Dynamics GP, Microsoft has placed a strong emphasis on a user's role in both the organization and the software. Selecting the right role in the system presents many of the best Home page options by default.
A role is usually selected by default when a user is created and it's often wrong because at setup, the focus is placed on job titles, not on the tasks the user performs. Additionally, user's roles evolve and change over time. Fortunately, changing a user's role is easy so we'll look at how to do that in this recipe.
On the Home page click on the Customize this Page link.
Click on the Change Role button on the bottom right-hand side. Changing the role resets any customizations that a user has made to their Quick Links, Metrics, or Microsoft Outlook settings on the Home page.
Click on OK to indicate an understanding of the consequences of changing a role.
In the Select Home Page window, select an industry at the top. Changing an industry simply adds or removes available role options below. Selecting Other as the industry provides all of the role options.
On the left, select the role closest to a user's responsibilities. As a role is highlighted, a description of that role's tasks is included on the right-hand side of the window. Click on OK to accept the role:
Like the Shortcut Bar, Quick Links provide fast access to data both inside and outside of Dynamics GP. Though there is some overlap with shortcuts, Quick Links provide some unique features. For starters, related Quick Links are provided based on the user's Home page role. Additionally, Quick Links also provide fast access to Navigation Lists, something that shortcuts can't do. In this recipe, we'll select an included Navigation list and then add it as a Quick Link.
Navigation Lists provide another way to work with data in Dynamics GP, and these aren't available to add to the Shortcut Bar. For our Quick Links example we will look at adding a Navigation list as a Quick Link.
To add a Navigation list as a Quick Link:
Click on the Home button on the Navigation Pane to the left. On the main Home screen, find the section labeled Quick Links.
Place the cursor in the Quick Links section and a pencil icon will appear on the upper right-hand side. Click on the small pencil icon and select Add | Dynamics GP Navigation List:
Click on the plus (+) sign next to Sales to expand the list.
Click on the plus (+) sign next to Accounts and select Customers. Click on OK to finish.
This process puts the Customers Quick Link at the top of the Quick Links area. Now, clicking on the Customers Quick Link will immediately open that Navigation list. Without this Quick Link a user would need to select Sales from the Home page and find the Customers Quick Link every time they needed to add a customer. Simply selecting a Quick Link is a much faster way to get deep into Dynamics GP.
The Navigation Pane on the left-hand side of Dynamics GP is full of useful functions. Sometimes it is too full! For many users it's beneficial to rearrange items on the Navigation Pane to better suit their role. We'll look at how to do that in this recipe.
Most users quickly discover that left-clicking and dragging the separator above the Home button on the left allows them to shrink and expand the space available for Navigation Pane buttons. This expands the room for lists and shortcuts above by transforming the large buttons into smaller, but less intuitive, icons. However, there is so much more that can be done to personalize the Navigation Pane.
Cleaning up the Navigation Pane can provide faster and simpler navigation options. Let's see how by completing the following steps:
On the Navigation Pane select Navigation Pane Options from the bottom-right corner of the pane.
In the Navigation Pane Options window select Purchasing and move it to the top using the Move Up button at the right.
Then select the Sales module and deselect its checkbox. Click on OK:
Dynamics GP 2010 has embraced the concept of Breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs provide a fantastic opportunity to ease system navigation. By showing the path through the system, new users gain an understanding of how to navigate within Dynamics GP. Experienced users learn that it's a fast way to hop through the system without accessing menus. In this recipe, we'll look at how to use breadcrumbs to improve navigation through Dynamics GP.
In Dynamics GP, select Financial from the Navigation Pane. On the Financial Area Page select Transaction Entry in the Transactions area. This will open the Transaction Entry window for a general journal entry.
On the upper left of the screen is the breadcrumb trail. It shows Home | Financial | Financial:
This is the path through the system to this window. It indicates that from the Home page, the user has navigated to the Financial Area Page.
On the Navigation Pane to the left select Accounts. This opens the Accounts Navigation List and changes the breadcrumb to show Home | Financial | Accounts. Select Financial from inside the breadcrumb trail to go back one step and return to the Financial Area Page.
My Reports is a section of the Dynamics GP Home page designed to provide fast access to reporting options in Dynamics GP. Similar to the Quick Links functionality, My Reports provides single-click access to reports, replacing multiple clicks and drill-downs with a direct connection.
In Dynamics GP, every prebuilt report (also known as a Report Writer report) requires an option. An option is simply a named group of settings for a particular report. For example, a user may have a Receivables Aged Trial Balance report with date and selection criteria designed for month-end reporting. The report name is always Receivables Aged Trial Balance, but the option name to describe those particular month-end settings might be Month End.
The My Reports feature provides one-click access to reports with saved options. In this recipe we'll look at how to add a report to My Reports.
To add a report to My Reports, we will need to complete the following steps:
Select the Sales button from the Navigation Pane on the left. From the list on the left, select Report List.
In the center section, scroll down to the report named Aged Trial Balance with the Option as demo and select the checkbox to the left.
demo is a prebuilt, saved report option. Report options are saved report settings for items such as dates and restrictions.
Click on Add to to add this to the My Reports section of the Home page. Accept the default name for the report by clicking on OK:
Click on the Home button on the Navigation Pane to return to the Home page. The Aged Trial Balance-demo report now appears on the Home page under My Reports:
Other features and options are available to assist with managing reports in Dynamics GP.
Reports without options cannot be added to the My Reports section of the Home page. Consequently, users need to create and save report options to make those reports available to the Home page.
Dynamics GP provides a Task List for managing items to be accomplished within the system. Although it is not quite as powerful as say Outlook's tasks, the Task List in Dynamics GP can provide direct links to the appropriate window, web page, or external file needed to accomplish a task. Even Outlook can't provide a direct link to the right window in Dynamics GP. Additionally, tasks can be assigned to other users in the system to better delegate the workload. In this recipe, let's look at how to use the Task List in Dynamics GP.
To get started, select New Task from the Home page to see the full task list. An example is shown in the following screenshot. Yes, that's not particularly intuitive, but that is how it works:
To create a new task, select New Task from the To Do section on the Home page to open the full task list.
Select New Task on the Task List window. In the Task field, enter Reconcile Bank Statement. Set the due date to the 5th of May and the Status to Pending:
From the Task Assigned To drop-down menu select a user to assign this task to. From the Link To drop-down menu select Microsoft Dynamics GP window.
To attach the Reconcile Bank Statement window, click on the blue arrow next to the Name field.
In the new Add Command window that opens select Transactions on the left. Then click on the plus (+) sign next to Financial on the right.
In the right-hand side pane select Reconcile Bank Statement and click on OK:
The new task now appears in the Tasks area on the Home page. Selecting the checkbox next to a task marks it as complete and sets the user who completed the task as well as the date the task was marked as completed.
Even better, tasks can be repeated. This means that they work great for regular processes such as month-end or quarter-end tasks.
To set a task as recurring:
Select the Recurrence button during task creation or double-click on an existing task and select Recurrence.
From the previous example select the Reconcile Bank Statement task and double-click on the line.
Click on the Recurrence button. Set the Recurrence Pattern to Monthly on Day 5 of every 1 month. This means the task will recur on the 5th of every month. That's about five days after a typical bank statement cutoff.
Leave the Range of recurrence set to No End Date and click on OK.
Now this task will repeat on the 5th day of every month, perfect for a calendar month-end bank cutoff. Obviously, if a company's bank statement cuts off at some other time during the month these settings can be easily changed:
On the Home page Dynamics GP provides a default set of metrics via charts and graphs designed to provide better visualization of data based on a user's role. Individual users can include or exclude various charts from their Home page and select a default chart. In this recipe, we'll look at ways to tailor the Home page metrics for each user.
On the Home page in the Metrics section move the mouse over the title Metrics to expose additional options on the right. Click on the pencil icon that now appears on the title bar to the right.
The left-hand side shows all of the metrics available to a particular user. Selecting a metric on the left and clicking on Insert moves that metric to the right and makes it available on the user's Home page. Selecting a chart on the right and clicking on Remove eliminates that chart from the Home page:
The Metric functionality was significantly expanded in version 2010. In Dynamics GP 2010, users can add multiple metrics to their Home page. Additionally, users can create their own metrics using SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) and apply those metrics to their Home page. The creation of new metrics is beyond the scope of this book. However, more information on this is available via the Dynamics GP manuals.
Dynamics GP 2010 provides an option to view multiple metrics on the Home screen, open metrics in a browser window, and drill back for more information.
Inserting multiple metrics in the Metrics to display box will place all of those metrics on the Home page:
The option to display all of the selected metrics is controlled by the Customize this Page selection on the Home page. Once opened, the Show All checkbox under the Metrics selection of the Customize Home Page window controls how many metrics are shown on the Home page. If the Show All checkbox is selected, all of the metrics will appear. If it is not selected, one metric will show on the Home page with an option to scroll through all of the available metrics:
Clicking on the Full View option below a metric opens the SSRS report behind that metric in a web browser. Selecting individual items in the metric drills back to reports with more information. For example, clicking on Full View below the Top Customer Balances metric and then clicking on the CONTOSOL0001 column drills down into that customer's balance detail:
In larger organizations it is common for users to only work with a subset of the chart of accounts. Often these accounts are limited to a certain division or department. To find a set of accounts fast, Dynamics GP provides a mechanism to look up a more limited set of accounts and save these as Favorites. This provides faster access when selecting accounts in transactions. In this recipe, we'll look at using Favorites in Lookups. Favorites are actually part of SmartLists, which are covered in detail in Chapter 4, Harnessing the Power of SmartLists.
This recipe showcases the power of integrating SmartLists into the application interface. It provides an unlimited number of ways to target account selection including selection based on department, company, account type, financial statement type, and more, all with just a few clicks.
To begin this recipe we are required to set up a simple SmartList to set up the account limits. To do so, complete the following steps:
Select the Microsoft Dynamics GP menu and click on SmartList to open the SmartList window.
Click on the plus sign (+) next to Financial and select Accounts:
Now, click on the Search button. In the Column Name field, click on the lookup button (it looks like a magnifying glass) and select Account Number.
Set Filter to begins with and enter the Value as 000. Click on OK to close the window:
This process creates a specialized list based on a segment in the chart of accounts, and then saves it to make it available for account selection.
First, select Financial from the Navigation Pane on the left and select General from the Transactions section of the Financial Area Page.
Click on the Accounts field and then click on the lookup button.
Click on the arrow next to View and hover over Favorites.
Select Segment 000, the Favorite created previously:
This presents a specialized list to users giving them a more targeted list of accounts to select from when creating a transaction.
There are more options than just this recipe for limiting the selections from the chart of accounts.
The new feature in Dynamics GP 2010 is the ability to save a Favorite as the default view. Once a Favorite has been selected in the view, simply click on Set as Default View from the View menu. Default views are per user and only available for master record lookup, not transactions.
If users only need to restrict the available accounts occasionally, there is a temporary option. After clicking on the lookup button and then on the arrow next to View, users should select Restricted List instead of Favorites. The Restricted List option provides similar functionality to Favorites, but the search is not saved and Restricted lists cannot be set as the default view.
Account Security is a feature in Dynamics GP that limits a user's access to certain accounts in the chart. A user cannot even see an account that they don't have access to. This is another option to limit the selection of accounts available to a user. However, it requires an administrator and quite a bit of thought to set up correctly. Setting up Account Security is less like a recipe and more like a seven-course meal, so it's not covered here.
Activating Account Security without proper setup makes it appear as if the chart of accounts has been deleted. Deactivating Account Security returns users' access to the chart but not before triggering a gut-wrenching fear that it's time to find a new job.
Dynamics GP includes a fantastic feature known as AutoComplete that remembers what a user has typed in a field and later makes data entry suggestions based on that information. This can significantly reduce repetitive data entry. However, if a user makes an error during data entry, such as a misspelled or incorrect word, that error will continue to be suggested over and over again.
There is a simple way to remove erroneous entries, and we'll look at how this is done in this recipe.
Select Sales from the Navigation Pane on the left.
On the Sales Area Page select Customer under Cards on the right to open up the Customer Maintenance window:
With the Customer Maintenance window open, type MISPELL in the Customer ID field and press Tab. Click on the Clear button to remove this customer entry.
Back in the Customer ID field, type MIS. Dynamics GP will suggest MISPELL. Right-click on the suggested word MISPELL and select Remove From List:
Now, typing MIS in the Customer ID field doesn't provide the MISPELL suggestion.
AutoComplete is controlled in User Preferences, which is accessed via the Shortcut Bar. The AutoComplete settings are defined for each user. This means that each user has a different set of AutoComplete entries, so removing an errant entry doesn't affect other users.
To better manage AutoComplete, there are some other settings that can be adjusted on a per-user basis.
The AutoComplete cache of entries can grow quite large and unwieldy leading to a significant number of entries to sort through, thus reducing the effectiveness of this feature. A consistent way to manage the size of the AutoComplete list is by letting AutoComplete remove unused entries automatically. To set this up:
Select User Preferences from the Shortcut Bar and click on AutoComplete.
In the Remove Unused Entries After field enter 90 and click on OK. This means any AutoComplete entries that have not been used for 90 days will be removed.
Select User Preferences from the Shortcut Bar and click on AutoComplete.
For the Max. Number of Entries to Store per Field entry the default is 10,000. Think about it: 10,000 entries per field, per user is a huge limit. This limit can safely be lowered by changing the value to 1,000 in the Max. Number of Entries to Store per Field field.