The new Unified Interface that launched in v9.0 of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement gave us all the possibility to try out the next generation CRM user experience in new trial orgs or sandboxes. While the CDU process for upgrading existing customer environments to V9 has not yet been made available by Microsoft (which gives them some time to iron out the remaining wrinkles with a steady stream of Service Updates), now’s a good time to explore what’s new and what’s changing with the imminent arrival of Unified Interface.
One of the most exciting platform enhancements from a developer perspective is surely the arrival of the Custom Control Framework. Known as CCF for short (no, not that Microsoft CCF you senior members of the community might recall), this is essentially the mechanism through which all of the data visualization in the XRM platform will be handled in the Unified Interface. Not just the custom developed UI components from partners but also everything that Microsoft builds. Take a look at the default solution of a V9 org and you’ll already see a wealth of these components listed in there:
The bad news is that as of now there’s no documentation nor API available for developers to build new or extend existing controls via CCF. It’s coming, but it just ain’t ready quite yet. In the meantime, us system customizers can get familiar with the concept by tinkering with the configuration options that ship with V9.
Custom Controls for Views
Back when the Editable Grid first launched, the feature was rolled out in an “all or nothing” style. What this meant was that you were able to enable it on the entity level, but then it was the only view type that any user would see in the UI (at least in the specified client type). Sure, they were given the option to switch from editable to classic read-only grid if they spotted the option, but the system customizer wasn’t able to target the powers of Editable Grid to only views that actually benefited from this feature.
V9 has taken this a step further and introduced a Custom Control setting for each individual entity view. This gives us the option to set that only a specific view like “Edit Account Details” would only present the grid in the editable format with all the pros and UX cons that this particular control introduces over a read-only view. This doesn’t apply in the classic web UI (or the “Refreshed UI” as the V9 release refers to it) but on the Unified Interface side we can now see the power that this granular control over controls has on the user experience.
New View Controls in V9
In addition to the Editable Grid, there are a number of other grid types that a V9 org presents as options for the system customizer. In the screenshot above you’ll see the Calendar Control having been chosen as the data visualization type for the view. This opens up a number of configuration options that can be set right in the UI, like the date field data sources, description label, colors and so on. What we see here is essentially an example of the point & click configurability that a CCF based control can offer when used in the Dynamics 365 CE solution.
The Calendar Control is also responsive to the client type. When access via a browser app using the Unified Interface style (in this case a custom Subscription Management app), you’ll see a somewhat ugly legacy calendar with the week days presented horizontally. When viewed via the Dynamics 365 for Phones app it will render in a the above format of vertically stacked records per day. (Yes, those day of the week and month texts are presented in Finnish regardless of the app language setting being English, because that’s how Microsoft prefers things to be).
There are also other control types available for views in V9 currently, such as Timeline Control. That specific control appears to require quite a specific format of source data that fits the scenario of the Company News Timeline solution, so you might not find it useful in your own customization work. What might be worth noticing is that there are in fact two separate read-only grids available in the current release: the default one and the Read Only Grid with settings to control the entity card form and data reflow behavior.