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Archive for June 2010

Accpac on the iPhone and Android

with 15 comments

In a previous posting (https://smist08.wordpress.com/2010/03/19/sage-erp-accpac-6-x-mobility/), I talked about our mobile strategy of using HTML and JavaScript screens to run on mobile devices. But how exactly will that work? Mobile phones like the iPhone allow you to run web sites in the same manner you run native applications. So you can add an icon to the phone’s home page and then run your web based application. But does it look like a true iPhone or Android native application? Well it does with a little help. There are now several JavaScript libraries that reproduce the look and feel of native phone applications. In the screens below, I used the JQTouch (http://www.jqtouch.com/) library to easily construct some menus to act as an “Accpac Mobile Desktop” to launch our various data portlets (https://smist08.wordpress.com/2009/12/24/sage-erp-accpac-6-0-data-portlets/). This lets a user see various dashboards in real time from their phone.

In this picture we have a basic iPhone with some home page icons, including one for Accpac.

When you select the Accpac icon you then go to a set of menus for Accpac. Notice that even though this is a web page, it looks just like any other iPhone application. There isn’t any sign of the Safari browser, everything is nicely hidden.

The menus have nice animated transitions, so when you select them they slide to the side. Clicking on Payables yields:

Then if we click on Aged Payables we get to our regular Aged Payables snapshot that we normally see in the new portal/desktop. At this point our portlet isn’t styled to fit into the iPhone and there are a few style sheet bugs. But otherwise it does nicely display your aged payables.

Actually it looks a little better in landscape:

To use Apple’s iPhone SDK and iPhone emulator you need a Mac computer. I don’t own an iPhone, an Android phone nor a Mac. To test for the iPhone I used the MobiOne Test Center (http://www.genuitec.com/mobile/). For Android, I used the emulator in the Android SDK (http://developer.android.com/sdk/index.html).

Same sort of thing in Android:

Since we have made all our screens with standard HTML and JavaScript we will work on all modern devices. Plus as HTML5 is rolled out over the next few years we will pick up all the advances there as well.

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Written by smist08

June 25, 2010 at 11:40 pm

Posted in Mobility, sage 300

Tagged with , , ,

Sage ERP Accpac 6 User Assistance

with 6 comments

As Sage ERP Accpac makes its transition from being a traditional Windows desktop application to becoming a more modern Web based application, we are looking to greatly improve the User Assistance within the product.  We are applying the principles of User Centered Design (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User-centered_design) to make the product far easier to use. As part of this we are adding all sorts of help and tips integrated right into the screens. For instance in the screen shot below of our Accounts Receivables – Days Receivables Outstanding snapshot, when the user hovers the mouse over the 181 days label, we popup a tooltip help box that describes what this number is and how it is calculated. This way the program is actively assisting you rather than passively waiting for you to hit the F1 key or go to the Help menu. The goal of the User Centered Design combined with this active User Assistance is that you should be able to do your work and understand what is going on without being required to go to a separate help page.

However, if you do need more detailed help or want to study the product in more detail, we have the new Accpac Learning Center. This is similar in concept to our existing Windows Help.

The new Learning Center improves on the existing help in a number of key manors. The new Learning Center is much more focused around helping you accomplish tasks rather provide an encyclopedic reference of every small field in the product. It still describes all the key fields in detail, but is more focused on providing information on the steps to accomplish tasks and providing troubleshooting tips.

The new Learning Center is fully web based like the rest of the product. The core content is installed on the customer’s web server along with the rest of the product. However the Learning Center seamlessly links to Accpac on-line content including the Knowledge Base, the Technical Support Center, User Community Forums, Blogs (like this one), Training Courses and Training Videos.

The Learning Center is available from the Help link at the top of the new Portal/Desktop.  There are numerous “?” icons through the product that link you to the appropriate help pages. There is a new “Getting Started” snapshot that is included by default in each user’s home page as shown below.

The goal to the new help system isn’t just to help new users get up and running, but also to help experienced users be more productive by providing active tips and helping to assist users use some of the more advanced or infrequently used features in the system. Then to further connect people to the Accpac online community for a richer more social user experience.

Written by smist08

June 19, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Posted in sage 300, TCO

Tagged with , , , ,

Running Classic Forms in Sage ERP Accpac 6

with 5 comments

One of the main features of Sage ERP Accpac 6.0A is a fancy new Web based desktop/portal to act as a new home page for Accpac users. This new desktop/portal includes new dashboards (https://smist08.wordpress.com/2009/12/) and reporting capabilities (https://smist08.wordpress.com/2009/12/11/sage-erp-accpac-6-0-adhoc-query/). This is the first step in a transition for Accpac from a traditional Windows desktop application to a true Web based application. For this first release the only accounting screen that have been “webified” are the various quote and order related screens that are run inside SageCRM (https://smist08.wordpress.com/2009/12/17/sage-erp-accpac-6-0-quote-to-orders/). In the meantime we still want the new desktop/portal to be used by all users, so we have provided the ability to run the classic VB forms from the new desktop/portal.

The Tasks and Reports menu give you access to all the screens that are available in Accpac today.

Then when you click on “Order Entry”, the regular screen runs:

You can add any of these screens to the shortcuts bar for easy access:

When running these classic screens, they aren’t using the older Accpac Web Deployed mode, they are using Workstation Setup. This means the screens will run exactly the same as they run from the classic Accpac Desktop. The setup and configuration requirements for these screens are exactly the same as for the classic Desktop.

The classic Desktop is still included with the product and you can still use this, if you wish. Even once we have Web versions of our screens, we will still provide the classic VB screens as an option. This way you can move to the web at your own pace. You can move your customizations at your own pace and you can learn the new screens and transition over at your own pace. The new web based Accpac is still Accpac. All the business logic is exactly the same. The screens will still provide the same functionality as the classic product, but with usability improvements for learn-ability and productivity.

Of course, normally, a web page cannot run a VB ActiveX object. We also don’t want to work like the current Web Desktop where each VB screen is embedded in a web page and downloaded separately taking time and throwing up all sorts of security messages. So what we do is embed one small ActiveX control in our main web page whose responsibility is to run any of the Accpac OCX screens when requested. This way you only need to download and install one ActiveX control from IE. If you want to use this functionality you must use IE as your browser (it will simply be ignored in other browsers like Firefox). But hopefully this provides a simpler less painful mechanism to run our VB forms from IE than the current Web desktop.

Any third party ISV product written in the SDK and using VB based classic screens can provide XML configuration files, so they can run from the new desktop/portal as well. However we will only be running classic VB screens, we will not be running older CA-Realizer based screens nor general EXE programs. For these you will need to use the classic Desktop or run them directly from the Windows Start Menu. Since we are running these programs from an ActiveX control, we simply can’t open it up to run everything since this would be a huge security hole. We certainly can’t run arbitrary EXEs as this would be very exploitable by hackers.

This mechanism should provide an easy way for customers to transition from the VB world of Windows desktop applications to the newer more popular Web Based approach. Again, customers can move at their own pace. They can freely use both the new screens and old screens at once. They can keep using the VB screens and their current customizations for a long time (probably as long as Microsoft supports running them on Windows). And if some users prefer the Web screens and some prefer the VB screens, they can both happily co-exist.

Written by smist08

June 12, 2010 at 4:32 pm

Posted in sage 300, TCO

Tagged with , ,

Drilling Down from Crystal Reports in Sage ERP Accpac 6

with 7 comments

Sage ERP Accpac 6 brings the ability to drill down from data in a Crystal Report. This ability is only available in the new Web version and not from the VB version. Report designers have the ability to add hyper-links to reports, which will trigger a user interface form to be run when the link is clicked on. The Crystal Report can pass data to the UI form to enable drill down. In the screen shot below the cursor is over the first money amount in the report, so an underline appears indicating you can click on this number (the underline appears when the cursor is over the link).

When you click on the link, the Crystal Viewer sends a JavaScript notification to our Portal which then takes that and runs the web URL indicated. This runs another Accpac UI form, which doesn’t display, but instead immediately runs another report to show the drill down information.

Having a look at the Balance Sheet Report in Crystal:

You can select a field and select Format – Hyperlink.

Then set the hyperlink to a formula (the formula button is red in the previous screen shot) that you edit in the formula editor:

Basically with this you are setting the data that will be sent to the Accpac portal when you click on the hyperlink. Here you specify what you want done, including the URL of the UI form to run and build its parameters. You build the parameters using the Crystal formula language to build a string or URL parameters, which the UI form can interpret when it runs. To the end user it then appears that from reports you can drill down to both other reports and to UI data entry forms.

As we develop the new Web Based version of Accpac we are putting hyperlinks everywhere. This allows you to drill down from almost anything. This functionality will be far more pervasive than we’ve had in the past. Adding drill down to the current product has always been very popular, since customers want to know how various numbers are calculated, what was added up to give them a total or summary. Hopefully a popular feature.

Written by smist08

June 4, 2010 at 10:46 pm