Tools for Customizing Great Plains by cmlang


									by: Divine Rigor

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 Dexteritys 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.

Crystal Reports

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 users proposition.

In Great Plains, the Tables structure can be found in:
Tools > Resource Description > Tables

Direct Web Publishing

If youre 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).

Integration Manager

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.

SQL Queries

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.

This article was posted on January 31, 2005

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