Dynamics CRM – What Options for Editable Grids?

I have yet to be on a Dynamics CRM project where no one mentions or asks about the possibility to edit information directly from a grid or a sub-grid. In the interest of saving time when I’m recommending solutions to my clients, I thought I’d build a grid to gather the options and additional information when available.

Product Name & URL Supported CRM Versions Cost Comment(s) and Links
Sparkle XRM Framework CRM 2011 CRM 2013

CRM 2015

CRM Online

Open Source Library OK. It’s not fair to call this an Editable Grid per say. Sparkle XRM is an Open Source development library to help build complex visual components for Dynamics CRM. It is initiative from MVP Scott Durow. With strong developer, you can leverage Sparkle to build your own editable grid. See how it can be done here.
AbleBridge EditAble Grid CRM Online CRM 2015

CRM 2013

Not public Out of the few products that I have tested and seen in action, it is easily the best one out there. It is also the most expensive. I guess it’s true when they say you get what you pay for. You can read my product review from last year. Editable Grid official overview
PowerObject Power Grid CRM Online CRM 2015

CRM 2013

1$ per CRM user per month MSDynamicsWorld article on PowerGrid.
Sonoma Partners Editable Grid for CRM 2013 CRM 2013 Free Anything that’s free, I happy about! That being said, it is a bit tricky to configure when you are not a bit technical. See configuration here.
MTC’s Super Grid CRM 2011 CRM 2013

CRM 2015

CRM Online

Org License : $1000 + User License : $15 per user Last I used this (about a 1.5 year ago). MTC was transitioning away from its Silverlight controls and implementing an HTML/JavaScript based editable Grid. It wasn’t perfect, but it did the job. It works by adding an HTML5 graphical UI “overlay”, to CRM standard or custom Views. What bothers me is that there is not an advanced view configurator. It does come with an API to perform these advance operations such as color coding rows/cells, hide columns, make fields required etc., so that is a good consolation prize.
BusiPlanIT’s free customizable editable Grid CRM 2013 CRM 2015

CRM Online

One grid for free – Pay for more than one. This is a great free add-on. I would pay for it. If your needs are simple and you just need to edit records inline for one record time, go for it. You need to contact BusiPlanIT for pricing information if you need more than one grid.

Obviously, there is always the possibility to build an editable grid yourself using JavaScript libraries of your choice. It’s just a matter of how much time you need and want to invest versus creating a dependency to an add-on. Eternal debate.

I thought I should also mention the availability of the Immersive Excel experience with CRM Online (2015 Update 1). Though it can be used to perform inline editing on list views, it is really meant to to do quick analysis right from CRM Online. There is plenty of articles on the subject out there. Check out Inogic’s article here.

Hope this helps!

 

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Silverlight, HTML5 and Dynamics CRM

The Glory Days of Silverlight

Silverlight is Microsoft’s plugin for web-browsers that enables running rich Internet applications, with features and purposes similar to those of Adobe Flash such as multimedia, graphics, animations etc. Shortly after Silverlight was introduced to the market in 2007, Microsoft quickly started to build knowledge around how to write and deploy rich applications and integrate them with Microsoft Dynamics CRM starting at version 4.0.

When you thinking about it, the need for custom UI integration with Dynamics CRM has always been there since the earlier versions. As CRM solution providers, most of us have been in situations where we can come up with a complex data model and we feel like the out of the box UI capabilities won’t be user friendly enough to drive user adoption. Situations like that created the need to build more user friendly interfaces to simply make people’s lives easier when they start using the CRM/XRM application.

To better illustrate, here are a few examples of when we would want to write a custom UI components in CRM

  • Display a tree view of related records with parent/child relationship.
  • Display complex search results: I’m thinking about PowerSearch which is a Global Search add-on for CRM. If you want to search for multiple entity types at once, a custom UI is required to display all results on a single page/view
  • Display timesheets, Gantt project management charts in Professional Services Automation solutions such as Assistance PSA and XRM1 (view screenshots below)

The Decline of Silverlight and the Rise of HTML5

With the emergence of HTML5, it seems we are headed towards a future in which browsers will support HTML5 tags natively thus enable rich content without the need of plugins like Silverlight or Adobe Flash. If some of us as individuals don’t believe this is true, Microsoft and Adobe seem to believe it is since they both dropped or significantly slowed down the evolution of their platforms. Silverlight’s latest major release (version 5) came out in 2011 in a world in which we see companies releasing software solutions at a very fast pace. The emergence of HTML5 have been well documented over the past year. There are still a lot of skeptics out there and that is understandable given how long it’s taking for the HTML5 standard to be completely defined and made available in all browsers.

Dynamics CRM: HTML5/JavaScript or Silverlight

What does this all mean for us Dynamics CRM integrators? The need to have custom UI controls is still existent and it will not go away even with all the new flexibility that we get with CRM 2013. Some data models will always be complex enough to require a better UI to give the solution its best chance of being used. In addition to that, there are still plenty of CRM add-ons built by Microsoft Partners that still use Silverlight 5 as a key piece of their solution. Below is a decision matrix that I came up with for us CRM Solutions providers going forward in making a technology decision when building new UI pieces for MSCRM.

What about the upgrade question? You have Silverlight controls and are wondering if you should built new controls in HTML5 and JavaScript. It’s your decision. Silverlight is not dead, Microsoft is still supporting it and it will for a long time. If you want to learn the new technology and have the time and money to do so, then go for the HTML5 remodeling. Keep in mind that it is a risk given that we have no idea what the lifespan of HTML5 will be.

What about buying an add-on that heavily relies on Silverlight controls? I don’t have a problem with that as long as it’s OK for you to install Silverlight on all client computers. Moving controls from Silverlight to HTML5/Javascript is A LOT of work and represents a significant amount of work for the add-on solution providers. They will upgrade when the time is right for them to do so (hopefully).