Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hybrid development for the Managed Code developer (cont.)

In my previous article I outlined a hybrid development approach for managed code developers that allows for a C# or VB.NET programmer to make use of Modifier and Dexterity as complements to deliver a solution - see Hybrid development for the Managed Code developer.

In summary, a managed code developer could leverage Modifier to effect changes on the core Microsoft Dynamics GP (or any add-on or third party product) user interface, then use Dexterity to create the table definitions and routines that will make those tables available on SQL Server - the added advantage? tables are exposed to Microsoft Dynamics GP security model and are created on the first launch of your dictionary and you can create an assembly for the dictionary to drive table operations from your Visual Studio Tools solution that will not require the use of ADO.NET or even the GPConnNet.DLL file to access the tables. Finally, your Visual Studio Tools code would be used to drive the user interface controls added with Modifier and the table operations (the glue to it all if you will).

In using this hybrid approach, there are a number of considerations for deployment:

The Modifier bit
To deliver the UI changes to your customer, you will need to export a package file - using the Customization Maintenance window - that contains only the modified resource. Since it's possible to have VBA code with your UI changes, you may also need to export any references.

As best practice, export any references as a separate package as they may already be loaded in your customer's environment.

Since you also had to create an assembly for the modified forms dictionary (FORMS.DIC) using the Dictionary Assembly Generator tool (DAG), you need to include the Applications.Dynamics.ModifiedForms.DLL file with your package.

Note: as a best practice, you should generate a modified forms assembly using the actual forms dictionary from your client's environment, plus your UI changes. This will prevent any incompatibility with existing forms customizations when deploying the assembly in their environment. On the flip side, some developers prefer to DAG the clients FORMS.DIC dictionary file on site after the package file has been imported. This may still require to change the references within your existing Visual Studio project to use the modified forms assembly and recompile to create your final DLL.

Deliverable work products from this section:
  • Package File with UI customizations
  • Applications.Dynamics.ModifiedForms.DLL
The Dexterity bit
Since you created a Dexterity dictionary to deliver the table implementation (and any other bit you may have needed to facilitate your development project) you will now have to follow the conventional chunking process for your Dexterity application, YourPROD.CNK.

In addition, you would have needed to create an assembly for your Dexterity dictionary to reference in your Visual Studio Tools project using the DAG utility, yourCompany.YourProduct.DLL.

Deliverable work products from this section:
  • Chunk dictionary file with table creation/upgrade routines
  • yourCompany.YourProduct.DLL assembly file
The Visual Studio bit
As you are familiar with this process, suffice to say your actual VST project that serves as glue to the UI and table operations will need to be compiled into an assembly that will be deployed with the rest of components.

Deliverable work products from this section:

  • yourCompany.YourProduct.Extended.DLL assembly file
So in summary, you will be delivering 5 components with your application. While this may sound like a lot, it makes for a really slick solution. I want to hear from you about hybrid solutions you have created and how you have leveraged each tool.

Take a look at the following related articles for more information:

VST - Amount in Words on SOP Entry window
Developing Microsoft Dynamics GP hybrid integrating applications
Dex - How to get started with Dexterity over at Developing for Dynamics GP

Until next post!

Mariano Gomez, MVP
IntellPartners, LLC

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