Tools for Customizing Great Plains
Microsoft Business Solutions - Great Plains has captured the US market with its integrated business applications for small and mid-size organizations. Its comprehensive accounting and business management capabilities provide businesses with tools to customize various modules of the Great Plains software. These tools have been proven to have contributed to business growth and tighter control over its processes.
There are several ways in which customization and integration can be applied to Great Plains applications because of its open architecture characteristic. Integrity of data and performance of processes can also be validated using one of the many tools as listed in this article. So how do we answer the question of Customizing Great Plains?
Although Dexterity requires the user an extensive knowledge in software development (primarily in C/C++ or Pascal) and experience in scripting languages (VBScript, or Dexterity's own script - SanScript), this proprietary programming language that Great Plains was developed in allows access to all of Great Plains resources such as tables, reports and scripts. With this access, you can manipulate and define triggers such as opening a form or leaving a field. Moreover, it can be used to call up procedures and functions and create new applications without interfering with other customizations already in place and integrate them into Great Plains user interface easily.
Dexterity can be installed using CD #2 that comes with the Great Plains 7.5 package.
Modifier with VBA
Modifier with VBA is one of the simplest tools to have for end-users and developers alike. It uses common graphic drawing techniques which can be used to alter the appearance of a Great Plains application. It can be used to move, alter or delete menus within a window so that you can manipulate the importance of each field. It also allows for addition of new windows or controls or simply rearranging those that exists. This customization tool is safe to use since the original information is stored separately from the modified one. Modifications can also be shared with other users. However, unlike Dexterity, it is not recommended to create new applications with Modifier VBA.
Continuum for VBA/Delphi
This tool uses Great Plains as an OLE Server. It captures the VB or Delphi code as queried by the user for macro recording. However, we do not recommend it since it is an old technology.
Great Plains comes with its own Report Writer. However, its functionality is limited. Introducing Crystal Reports to Great Plains opens up a whole new world of creating reports. With the use of the Crystal Report Designer Interface, you can easily create complex reports with formatting and grouping just the way you want it - professionally done. Grouped data can be summarized and subtotaled and with its drill-down capabilities, the user can view report data in detail.
Crystal Reports also came up with a version for Visual Studio .NET. With all the features of Crystal Reports 8.0, the Visual Studio .NET version gives .NET users the flexibility to share information and reports over the internet. Through the use of Database drivers, Crystal Reports connects to the Great Plains database and accesses the specific data as queried by the user and selects the tables or views according to the user's proposition.
In Great Plains, the Tables structure can be found in: Tools > Resource Description > Tables
Direct Web Publishing
If you're looking to publish your Great Plains information over the Internet, then using Visual Studio .NET is the right tool to use. It allows the deployment of Web-based applications and XML Web Services and can be leveraged by the use of programming languages like Visual Basic .NET, Visual C# and Visual J#.
Integrating data from outside sources, such as your point-of-sale applications, customer relationship management applications and Web services, to your Great Plains application is what eConnect is all about. eConnect can filter data or add script to the business object according to the specified diagram. It enables for limiting the number of values entered in a field or setting a default value for the field. Although eConnect promises integration, it asks for advanced programming skills. It uses a number of different programs including Microsoft SQL Server, Visual Basic objects and extensible markup language (XML).
Converting and transferring data (importing) from one database format (ODBC-compliant) to a Great Plains application can be done with the use of Integration Manager. This tool enables the end-user to map the data source to the target field without the need to search from the database tables. SQL queries can also be defined to accompany your integration and data validation. Integration Manager requires development experience with a background in database maintenance, SQL commands and VBA or VBScript to name a few.
Microsoft SQL Server is a database engine that gives users tools for creating, configuring and maintaining databases. It is integrated directly into the Great Plains database. Its Query Engine enables you to create statements to call up certain information from the database. Although this is a powerful tool, SQL queries should only be done with experienced hands. One false statement could wipe out your database.
The smooth operations of your business depend on YOU. With the right experience and education, these tools for customizing your applications and database can lead your business to a better ground.
Need more information?
Contact us: 1-866-528-0577
For customization work and advice, please contact Andrew Karasev, Alba Spectrum Chief Technology Officer. His works include development of applications with the use of Dexterity, SQL, C# .NET, Crystal Reports and Microsoft CRM SDK.
Divine Rigor is the Technical Writer for Alba Spectrum Technologies USA ( www.albaspectrum.com">http://www.albaspectrum.com ), a Great Plains, Microsoft CRM customization company. We are based in Chicago with locations in California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Georgia, New York and contacts in international markets.