WEBINAR: Wondering what to do with your Adxstudio Portal?

Things are changing in the world of portals for Dynamics 365 or Dynamics CRM. The platform is advancing forward at a rapid pace with new portal options from Microsoft being released and older legacy versions needing to be evaluated for their longevity.

I am often asked to help organizations understand and select the option that is right for them as existing Adxstudio customers looking to be properly supported in the future, or new customers considering what Microsoft portal options are available to them. To help make this content available for everyone I will be giving a webinar with Adoxio Business Solutions on Tuesday, June 27th at 10:00am PST / 11:00am MST / 1:00pm EST.

I invite anyone interested in portals for Dynamics 365 to join. If you already have burning questions you would like answered I would be more than happy to try and answer them during the webinar. Please see the full invitation from Adoxio below and a link to register as well as submit your question prior to the webinar.

Register Now Submit a Question

Join Adoxio on Tuesday, June 27th at 11:00am MST / 1:00pm EST for a webinar that will outline considerations for the future of your Adxstudio Portal. There are a lot of changes in the near future for portals from Microsoft for Dynamics 365. The portal source code will be released, bringing with it another choice for implementations. What does the future potentially hold for the legacy Adxstudio portals? What choices do you have for on-premises deployments?

Get answers to these and more with Colin Vermander, Technical Director for Service Delivery at Adoxio. You will leave understanding what your options are as a current or future portal customer, and get key insights into what Adoxio is recommending.

By attending this webinar, you will learn:

  • Overview of Microsoft’s announcement & their plans to release the code
  • How this will affect you?
  • Solutions and your options moving forward

Dynamics 365 portals: Early Upgrade Option – July 2017 Update

As we near the July 2017 Update for Dynamics 365 it looks like an option for early upgrade has shown up for portal add-ons.

You can find this option on new and existing portal add-ons in the CRM Administration Center under Applications and Manage your Portal Add-On. This option should be used with some caution as it will mean you are in the first release program for portals. What will you get? The next portals release! That release previously was looking to be version 8.3 based on all the information provided at eXtreme365 and the other information available, but it is looking like we might be making the jump to version 9.0 sooner than expected. The roadmap items are still the same as published on roadmap.dynamics.com.

Here is what the new option will look like in the portal add-on management:

Check this box with caution!

Update 6/23/2017: Correction to the versioning, as earlier expected the portals released now will be v8.3 not v9.

Dynamics 365 portals new documentation!

Microsoft Dynamics 365 team has been transitioning all documentation to the new docs.microsoft.com site and just launched now is the new documentation for portals. This is a great change to see and is starting to bring the breadth of documentation in alignment with what is available on the legacy Adxstudio Community site. Having it in the Microsoft docs site will help make the content much more accessible and easier to refer to in blogs, forums and all other ways of sharing :).

The documentation is still a little short on the newest components that are available (no chart liquid object and a couple other items) but I look forward to this being continuously updated as new releases come out. This is only the first release of the documentation and I think we can expect it to be updated regularly.

Dynamics 365 portals: Customize Knowledge Articles

One of the more popular features of the Dynamics 365 portals is its ability to expose the knowledge articles from your internal CRM on the public portal or to select audiences. With how the knowledge article functionality is currently implemented in the portal there is not an easy way to customize the article display or enhance it with more functionality like attachments. However with the customization capability of liquid we can create our own display of an article that includes whatever other data is accessible through liquid. In this post we will look at an example and the other elements like search results that need to be modified to properly support this approach.

Firstly let’s start out by creating our custom article liquid template. To do so create a new Web Template and we are going to assume that an ID parameter will always be passed in the query string so we know what article to surface.

{% assign article = entities.knowledgearticle[request.params.id] %}
<div class="container">
  <div class="page-heading">
      {% include 'Breadcrumbs' title: article.title %}
  <div class="page-header">
     {% if article %}{{article.title}}{% else %}No article found{% endif %}
     <div class="pull-right">
	    <div role="toolbar" class="btn-toolbar">
		    <div class="btn-group">
			    <a href="javascript:window.print()" class="btn btn-default btn-sm"><span class="fa fa-print"></span>&nbsp;{{ snippets['Knowledge Management - Print Button Label'] }}</a>
 <div class="row">
  <div class="col-md-12">
   <div class="page-copy">
     {% if article %}
       {{ article.content }}
     {% endif %}

This template simply takes the ID parameter, gets the knowledgearticle entity record and then uses the object to display the breadcrumbs using the title parameter in that template. Then displays the page title using the article title and displays a print button just like the default article template. Finally we display the article content attribute which is where the HTML blob is stored if the article is found.

A common enhancement is to add a display of the associated note attachments to the article. With liquid we can easily access the notes and display them in a fashion to provide a list of downloads. You can see the liquid note documentation here. Below is a simple liquid code that will output the notes that are associated to the article displaying the title linked (manually as note.url seems broken or disabled or changed and not documented in v8.x) as well with the note text as the description.

{% assign notes = article.knowledgearticle_annotations %}
{% if notes.size > 0 %}
 <h3>Associated Documents</h3>
   {% for note in notes %}
     <li><p><a href="/_entity/annotation/{{note.id}}">{{note.subject}}</a><br/>{{note.notetext}}</p></li>
   {% endfor %}
{% endif %}

This can be added where you want the list of attachments to display, for this example it is inserted right after the {{article.content}}. This could be further enhanced to conditionally include only this notes that have documents using the attributes of the annotation entity and condition liquid tags. With your web template completed, you should now create a page template and a web page that uses that page template. Once the web page is created, also create a site marker that references the web page as we will use this later to help us link to the new article page.

There are a lot more things you can add to your articles using liquid. You just need to parse through the relationships associated to the article and then present the data appropriately. I may look at some further enhancements in future posts.

With building a custom article template we need to deal with the fact we no longer want the links navigating to the old MVC based article routing. To do so we need to try to replace all the locations that this routing is in place. The largest one is probably the search. With the search being built off handlebars and liquid as we explored in a preview post – Extend Search Results with Handlebars, you can change the default URL for knowledge article results.

First we need to add a handlebars helper in JavaScript to the search results page so we can put in some conditional logic to change the URL when the result is for a knowledgearticle entity record. This is just a simple addition that allows you to do an if equals in handlebars.

Handlebars.registerHelper('if_eq', function(a, b, opts) {
    if(a == b) // Or === depending on your needs
        return opts.fn(this);
        return opts.inverse(this);

Now we can make use of this new helper in the Faceted Search – Results Template Web Template. Within the {{#each items}} we are going to modify the contents of the h3 tag to have some conditional logic to change the default link it uses to be our site marker we previously created.

{{#if_eq entityLogicalName "knowledgearticle"}}
  <a title="{{title}}" href="{%endraw%}{{articleSiteMarker.url}}{%raw%}?id={{entityID}}">{{title}}</a>
  <a title="{{title}}" href="{{url}}">{{title}}</a>

Basically all we have added is a condition that when the result is from a knowledgearticle entity then use our site marker URL passing the entityID as the id as the href of the anchor tag.

Make sure you also at the very top of this web template include a reference to your site marker.

{% assign openTag = '{{' %}
{% assign closingTag = '}}' %}
{% assign articleSiteMarker = sitemarkers["Article"] %}

With the chance of their being some routing that still is hard coded somewhere in the portal we can put some logic on the out of box article default page that will cause it to route to our new page as well. The easiest way to modify this is to login to the portal with an administrative account so you can use the front-side editor to make your changes. Navigate to an existing article you know by using the following route format https://{portal_url}/knowledgebase/article/ka-01000, and replace the ka-01000 with an article code you know exists.

Once on the page then edit using the front-side editor and go to the Options tab. Within the Custom JavaScript section add the following:

var pathArray = window.location.pathname.split( '/' );
var articleCode = pathArray[pathArray.length - 1];
{% assign articleSiteMarker = sitemarkers["Article"] %}
document.location = "{{articleSiteMarker.url}}?code=" + articleCode;

And within the Custom CSS add the following:

body {
  display: none;

This will cause a redirect to your new page while hiding the old one during the redirect. We now also need to enhance our custom web template for the article to take the code parameter as well. Replace the assign liquid at the top of the existing template with the following:

{% if request.params.id %}
  {% assign article = entities.knowledgearticle[request.params.id] %}
{% endif %}
{% if request.params.code %}
  {% fetchxml articlefetch %}
    <fetch version="1.0" output-format="xml-platform" mapping="logical" distinct="false">
      <entity name="knowledgearticle">
        <all-attributes /> 
        <filter type="and">
          <condition attribute="islatestversion" operator="eq" value="1" />
          <condition attribute="articlepublicnumber" operator="eq" value="{{request.params.code}}" />
  {% endfetchxml %}
  {% assign article = articlefetch.results.entities[0] %}
{% endif %}

With all our changes we should now have a custom article page that takes either the entityId or the article code as a parameter, search results routing directly to the new article and a catch for hard coded links to also redirect to the new page template. The same code here will have produced an article with the following format. You of course with liquid templating functionality can continue to customize and enhance this for your requirements.

Note with all these changes we have removed the content access level functionality. You can add this back by developing the appropriate liquid code to make the necessary checks.

Update 6/23/2017: Just announced at the July 2017 Update Executive Briefings, knowledge articles on the portal will be getting an enhancement to expose notes and attachments. This method in this post will still be of interest to those that find that the display is too limiting or there are other components in which they want to include in their knowledge article display.

Dynamics 365 portals: JavaScript as Web Files

With a lot of the previous posts about liquid there has been a lot of JavaScript involved as well. We have referenced JavaScript libraries on CDN’s (Content Distribution Networks) as well as wrote JavaScript inline in Web Templates. You may not want to use CDN’s and even package your own JavaScript into minified files so that they can easily be reused elsewhere. Out of the box Dynamics 365 portals is blocked from uploading JavaScript files as Web Files, but we can makes some changes to allow JavaScript files to be allowed as Web Files.

If you sign-in to the Dynamics 365 portal as an administrator and create a new child file with a .js file as the attachment it will seem that it will work as expected but when you browse to that new web file URL you will be presented with a blank screen. If you look at your browser tools you may notice that the portal actually returned a HTTP 404 (File Not Found) error. But in this case it does not redirect you to the standard Page Not Found portal page. So what happened? The portal seems to know the URL (or route) of the file I uploaded but isn’t showing any of the content. If you navigate to the back-end CRM and go to the Portals > Web Files entity, you will notice your Web File is infact there, but when you open it you may notice its missing your Note record with an attachment.

Web Files utilize notes (annotations) to store the actual file that will be surfaced with the Web File. If you try now creating a note with your attachment the issue will be revealed that the attachment was blocked due to “the attachment is not a valid file type”.

The standard Dynamics 365 configuration is set to block all file attachments with the file extension .js. This is due to security concerns that the JavaScript could be used to execute code within your CRM that causes unsafe actions or potentially even remotely accesses other services, all depending on the JavaScript code. The JavaScript code you likely want to use with the portal though is not a security risk to the CRM but we do need to be cautious as to not create a security hole for all the other CRM users.

First let’s change the allowed file types for CRM so that we can upload a JavaScript file. Navigate in CRM to Settings > Administration, then select System Settings. On the General tab find the Set blocked file extensions for attachments and within this long list locate js and remove it and the trialing semi-colon. Select OK to save the System Settings.

Now if you navigate back to Portals > Web Files, locate your previously created Web File without the note attachment and now try creating a note with an attached JavaScript file it will successfully create the note. If you now navigate on the portal to the Web File URL you should either see the JS content or the browser will prompt you to download the JS file. If you also now try to create a new Web File from the front-side editor tools in the portal this will also now operate as expected.

You can now reference this JavaScript Web File like any other JavaScript file in your Web Templates or elsewhere.

<script src="/path/name-of-file.js"></script>

Once you have uploaded your JavaScript files being your own JavaScript or libraries like chart.js or fullcalendar.js or the many other libraries, you should revert the System Settings to again block the .js file type to remove any security risk of your end users accidentally uploading malicious JavaScript code. Just navigate to Settings > Administration, open System Settings and within the Set blocked file extensions for attachments, add back the js extension with a semi-colon if not the last item.