Microsoft Great Plains Customization Tools – Overview
Formerly Great Plains Software Dynamics / eEnterprise, and currently Microsoft Business Solutions Great Plains was initially designed in the early 1990th as the extendable and modular application with its proprietary tool: Great Plains Dexterity, written in C programming language as a shell. This was popular tendency those days -compare with SAP ABAP or Navision C / Side. Great Plains has additional ideas – database platform independence and graphical platform independent interface (initially targeted to both Apple Macintosh and Microsoft Windows with good chance that one of them will take market over – and it did happen, including the acquisition of Great Plains Software by Microsoft ). In this small article we'll give you revised overview – you can find previous publication in the last year posts.
o Great Plains Dexterity. Dexterity is the architecture of Great Plains and it is very difficult to take it out of the picture. So we'll say that if you plan on creation GP module or custom piece for reselling it on the market – you should first consider Dexterity as a tool. Dexterity requires deep training and some experience – you can not begin programming in Dexterity over night. So-called fat client of Great Plains is pure dexterity application, although database itself since version 8.0 is MS SQL Server with some Dexterity specifics (DEW_ROW_ID column, for example).
o Old Tools. These tools were popular in 1990th and relate to such now legacy technologies as OLE, VBA scripting, etc. Please note that even if C was considered as universal language – custom scripts were targeted for light customizations and both C and VBA were targeted to modify fat client – thin client and web interface were not known those good old days.
1. VBA / Modifier. Microsoft introduced VBA as scripting for light customization of Microsoft Office products – Excel, Word, etc. Great Plains adopted it for its own needs. It tried to produce Dexterity / VBA hybrid and allowed Dexterity forms to be modified via Modifier (Dexterity application) and enabled modified screens to adopt VBA for its fields.
2. Continuum for VB / Dephi. Borland was strong on the customization market – this is why it also includes Delphi. In Continuum you can program Great Plains workstation as OLE server. For example – you can have Great Plains Integration Manager integrate multiple companies data one-by-one with automatic logging in and off without operator intervention – over night for example. Also – you can deploy Continuum to switch Dexterity modules (such as Intellisol APOP or Project Accounting) and include Dexterity Sanscript code into VBA scripts.
3. ReportWriter. We placed RW in this section because it is Dexterity application and is now actively replaced with new tools, such as Crystal Reports, SQL Reporting, XML & HTML web publishing
o New Tools. In XXI century development world begins to bias toward thin and web clients and SQL scripting. eCommerce is a must for retail and wholesale nationwide businesses and Microsoft Business Solutions come with these tools:
1. eConnect. As good instrument for eCommerce developer – it allows to create, modify and delete Great Plains objects – customers, invoices, purchase orders, payments, inventory items. It has certain restrictions – it can address core Great Plains objects (not something in former third party modules – Collection Management, Customer / Vendor Consolidation, etc.). Also eConnect can not post SOP, AR, AP, POP documents – posting should be done by operator in Great Plains. However you can deploy posting stored procedures, available on the market (through Alba Spectrum for example)
2. Extender. Let's see it in action in the following year. The idea is really nice and it allows non-developer to modify Great Plains screens and place custom logic
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