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A Sampling of New and Improved UI Features that Simplify and Expedite Navigation in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011

I wanted to highlight some of the new and improved user interface features of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 that have consistently improved my navigation experience over the past few months.  The first enhancement I will touch on is the horizontal “Get Started” pane, which you will notice immediately upon logging into the system.  It contains links to learning videos, articles, and diagrams related to the content showing on the screen.  As you switch to different parts of the system, the Get Started pane changes based on the entities you click on.  In the example below, I selected the Opportunities section.  Located just above the Opportunities grid, the Get Started pane then displays and provides an overview, video, and learning materials on the Opportunity concept and its related functionality.  The Get Started pane expedites a user’s learning curve and it is a nice contextual help complement to the more traditional and detailed Help section.  It is a valuable resource especially for new users getting acclimated to the system or for those who are unfamiliar with certain features.

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Once you have gone through the various Get Started videos and articles and you feel more comfortable with the system, you do have the ability to remove it from your personal screen layout.  To do so, simply  go to File – Options – General Tab and uncheck the box for “Show Get Started panes on all lists” as seen below.  Removing the Get Started pane from your screen definitely gives you some more viewing real estate.

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If System Administrators want to hide the Get Started pane for all users, they can go to Settings – Administration – System Settings – General Tab and mark off “No” for the first question of “Show Get Started panes on all lists for all users” as seen below.

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Also noteworthy is that the Get Started pane is customizable. For those of you who are interested in embedding your own help content in CRM 2011 and creating a Get Started pane for a custom entity, you can learn how to do so by clicking here.

Another new feature that has been a huge time-saver for me and that simplifies the user navigation experience is the “Recently Visited” menu.  This is a listing of a user’s most recently visited individual records and views.  To access it, click on the drop down folder on the left-hand side in the Navigation pane, which is circled below.

recent records

Next, the instance below brings up all the recent places in CRM 2011 that I have visited, ranging from certain Accounts, Contacts, Views or frequently used Dashboards.  This feature comes in particularly handy if you find yourself repeatedly working with the same few Accounts or Contacts throughout the workday.  The time saved here in the form of reduced clicks can then be transferred to a user’s core competencies and more mission-critical tasks.  Accessibility to frequently visited items and relevant data can actually be simplified even further.  You’ll  see that I have pinned the “Basic Company (sample)” Account.  Pinning the Account stores it in the menu and creates a sort of personalized shortcut for users.  If you prefer, you can always unpin an item or pin more than one at any point in time.

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One of my other favorite navigation productivity enhancers in CRM 2011 is the new ability to jump to other records directly from a form.  In the Account form below, you will notice on the right that there are some up and down arrows.  Without having to exit the form and go back to the main screen, users now can browse from one record to another.

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In this example, you can either open the drop down and select the Account you want to switch to or you can move up or down one by one throughout the list using the arrow keys.  Either way results in less clicks for users.

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Lastly, I wanted to accentuate that the bottom of the grids in CRM 2011 now displays a total count of all the records listed in the view on the screen.  This new feature makes it easier if you need to know the size of your search results or of the complete data set, especially if it spans multiple pages. No report or custom code needs to be run.  The total count also notes how many records you have selected to be actioned.

Total Counts

All of the UI enhancements found in CRM 2011 are designed to save users time and make their lives easier.  As a result of the reduction in clicks, user satisfaction will improve, which is crucial to increasing overall user adoption.