Review of Developing Microsoft Dynamics GP Business Applications – Part 1

Microsoft Dynamics GPAt the end of December, Developing Microsoft Dynamics GP Business Applications, written by Leslie Vail and published by Packt Publishing was released.

Developing Microsoft Dynamics GP Business Applications by Leslie Vail

I got a copy of the book in order to do a review and have decided to break the review down into multiple parts. The reason for this is that the book includes some practical examples which I have decided to do and then include the results of this in the review; after all if it is a book on developing how can you accurately review the book if you don’t use what you learn to build something?

The book is aimed at developers new to working with Microsoft Dynamics GP, so bear in mind that I am not a developer when reading my reviews. Quick synopsis of my background: I started my career as a trainee developer and moved through a variety of roles such as developer and support analyst before moving to my current position as consultant and project manager.

I oversee development teams working on additions or amendments to Microsoft Dynamics GP as well as personally undertaking some modifications using Report Writer or Modifier with VBA. So despite not being a developer, I am used to working with them and did, once upon a time, be one myself.

The first chapter of the book covers the Microsoft Dynamics GP Architecture from a high level perspective.

It covers the history of the GP interface from it’s origins with Great Plains Software, an overview of Dexterity and the development environment. There is a detailed explanation of the launch file (Dynamics.set), which included a couple of points of which I wasn’t aware, and the configuration/preferences file (Dex.ini).

The explanation of the Dex.ini file included the ExportOneLineBody switch which I didn’t know about, but for which I have an immediate use.

Leslie then goes on to explain about the structure of the tables in the SQL Database which always strikes newcomers as arcane and overly complex. Leslie explains this well with plenty of detail on both the structure, including both the physical and technical names, and how transactions move between tables as their state changes.

Chapter 1 wraps up with a detailed explanation of the UI covering how forms are constructed, how the scrolling windows work and the common buttons used on forms, scrolling windows and individual buttons.

The second chapter of the book focuses on the fundamentals of integrating applications with Microsoft Dynamics GP.

In the chapter opening, Leslie discusses how to define the scope of the project (is it a change in a windows look and behaviour, is it adding functionality) and then follows up with a look at the types of integration available covering database- and user-interface-level integrations.

She then moves onto a detailed overview of the available tools. As each is covered, Leslie discusses the capabilities, limitations, developer skills required and the end-user prerequisites.

The overview Leslie gives of each of the tools is very thorough and easy to read and understand. It also highlighted some of the areas on the developer skills which I both have (an understanding of SQL Server and SQL Server Stored Procedures) and don’t have (knowledge of sanScript and understanding of either VB.NET or C#; my personal programming experience is with Databasic, VB6, PHP and Lua) so we’ll see how much of a challenge it is for me to keep us as I progress through the book. Fortunately available methods include Table Import, Integration Manager and eConnect so I can at least fall back into my comfort zone with these tools if I need.

After introducing each of the tools available, Leslie takes a look at how they can be used to either modify the user interface or to change current, or add new, functionality. In this section the reader gets an introduction to the events available to Dexterity and VS Tools as well as what can be done using VBA, Continuum and Extender.

Leslie wraps up Chapter 2 with a look at the Dynamic User Object Store, colloquially known as DUOS, where developers can store additional static information in the database.

Having read the first two chapters of the book, I’d say it is going to be a good read and there is definitely going to be a steep learning curve but I think this will be so because I am not a developer and haven’t been for a number of years. This means I have some refreshing of skills and thinking patterns to go through to get into making the changes.

If I was to give the book to a developer at Perfect Image Ltd. who hadn’t worked with Microsoft Dynamics GP before I think they’d be off and running a lot quicker than I will be; as the book makes clear it is aimed at developers and not consultants like me.

That said, the aim of the book is to give an introduction to the development tools and step by step instructions on creating small integration projects along with an insight into how each of the tools works and where it could be used, rather than complete working applications.

On this basis, I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the book and challenging myself with the development examples Leslie uses. The book so far has been clear and well written, so I think I’ll do fine and will post details of my progress.

You can purchase Leslie’s book either direct from Packt Publishing or via Amazon:

Amazon UK Amazon US

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