Monday, March 21, 2005

Customizing IBF for MSCRM

I have been playing around with the IBF 1.0 package for MSCRM 1.2 to find out how we can modify it to fit the needs of our customers. It is quite easy to modify the XML as described on MSDN, but the article is mostly cut'n'paste with very brief explanations.

What I would like to achieve is to add a hyperlink to a WSS team site in the account details view in the IBF task pane. We use one SharePoint team site per MSCRM record applicable for collaboration (e.g. account) in our solution. This allows for collaboration on both structured (MSCRM data) and unstructured (documents, e-mails, meetings, etc) information needed in the business processes, such as lead qualification and opportunity management. The hyperlink in the Office 2003 task pane will allow for easy access to the team sites from Word and Outlook.

I cannot find out how to add working hyperlinks to the IBF view. MSCRM IBF does not use HTML regions, but rather uses custom region types. After a bit of looking around in the XML definitions used in the above article (mailto and URLs), I added this code:

< xsl:template match="account/accountid" >
< iwbui:FormItem name="GotoAccountTeamSite" type="URL" Caption="Team site:"
http://server/sites/{substring(.,2,36)}/" >
< /iwbui:FormItem >
< /xsl:template >

It looks like a duck, walks like a duck, but it does not quack like a hyperlink :) The URL is correct, the text is blue, underlined and has the hand cursor, but it never navigates. Maybe the MSCRM custom regions does not support hyperlinks ? None of the mailto: links in the MSCRM IBF package works either. It would also be nice to allow for setting target="blank".

I guess I will add a IBF 'title bar' menu item (custom region menu) to provide the users with the navigation option, just like the standard 'Go to Microsoft CRM record' menu item. This approach is also recommended at MSDN/OfficeZealot.

I have googled quite a bit to find detailed documentation on the IBF UI schema without success. There is a lot of information about IBF on MSDN and elsewhere, but most of it is too general for problem solving. The most useful introduction to the inner details of IBF that I found was this: “Building a Simple IBF solution – For Beginners”.

PS! be careful about installing the IBF 1.5 client if you use the MSCRM IBF package as this can cause your smart tags and other stuff to stop working. Microsoft is aware of these problems and will hopefully release a fix before too long.

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