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Screen Improvements in Sage 300 ERP 2014

Introduction

In a previous posting I talked about some improvements to the look of the Sage 300 ERP Desktop, in this article I’ll be looking at a number of improvements we’ve made in our document entry screens. The last major screen refresh was when we re-wrote our screens from CA-Realizer to VB6 for version 5.0A. This was a major technology upgrade that enabled much of the new technologies in our screens. This allowed them to be customizable and enabled things like screen resizing. Back then we designed the screens for a maximum display resolution of 800×600 and designed the screens accordingly. Since then over several versions we’ve added many new features and this has tended to clutter up the screens.

With this version, we aren’t performing a major technology refresh but we are revisiting many of the screen design decisions made back in the 5.0A days and making small but significant changes to make the screens look more modern. We don’t want to disrupt current customers with this release, we want the screens to still be familiar and we want people to work the way they have always worked. As a result we haven’t rearranged fields or moved fields around. Everything should be where you remember it, just laid out a bit better using some extra space.

First we’ll look at the new O/E Order Entry Screen so we can refer to it as we go through the various changes.

oenew1

New Minimum Resolution

When we released 5.0A 800×600 was a pretty good super-VGA resolution that could be handled by most good laptop and desktop computers. Now it’s pretty easy to get multiple banks of 27 inch monitors with terrific resolution. If you want to spend a lot of money you can even get 4K resolution. However we now live in a world with quite small ultra-notebooks as well as a plethora of tablet computers. So we can’t greatly change our minimum resolution, but we can at least increase it to 1024×768.

This then gives us a bit of room to unpack fields, to get better column alignment and to add a bit of white space back to the forms. Some fields where quite squished in, and now we can get back to everything having a bit of room to breathe. This is then much easier on the eyes and makes using the screen a bit easier on the concentration.

New Graphics

If you look at the form, you might notice that we’ve updated most of the little bitmaps, for instance, to create a new record or to drill down to further information. Some of the graphics are a little larger than they used to be, taking advantage of the extra screen real estate. They are also a little more modern looking with the current prevailing styles. Notice that everything is a bit flatter looking as this is the trend.

Required Fields

We’ve added an asterisk to all the required fields. You can see this on the Order Entry screen next to the Customer Number along with a little legend over on the right. This has been a long time requested feature for the product. Order Entry doesn’t have many required fields, but some other functions have quite a few. These just give you a visual cue of which fields to enter, so you can avoid annoying error messages when you save or post a document.

Notes for Developers

All of these features are “opt-in”. If you don’t do anything to your screens, they will look and behave exactly as before. We don’t want to effect screens generically, since if we just put in the new graphics, they could cause fields on screens to overlap and such. Besides remaining compatible with third parties, we also need to remain compatible with older versions of our applications for before they are activated to the new version. Some of the old graphics are quite small and didn’t want to limit ourselves to those sizes since it restricted the graphics designers too much.

Of course resizing the form is up to you and just done in VB. I suspect many ISVs have already adopted larger screen sizes, so this may not be such a big deal.

For the other items they are all options in the field edit control that must be turned on. Below is the new FEC configuration dialog for the customer number field in Order Entry:

fec1

Note the checkboxes for “Load Modernized Icon” and “Required Fields” that have been added to allow you to enable these features.

Summary

With each release of Sage 300 ERP we are striving to take steps to improve the look and usability of the product. Since the 2014 version isn’t a major technology release we want make sure the changes aren’t disruptive. As a result we’ve analyzed a number of improvements that are useful, but won’t cause any retraining burden on our customers. Combined with the changes to the Desktop, these changes give the product a fresher look. Then we’ll keep on adding a few improvements of this nature in each product update and release.

Managing Lanpaks in Sage 300 ERP 2014

Introduction

If you look in our product feedback site at https://www11.v1ideas.com/Sage300ERP/Accpac you will notice a number of items in the top ideas section to do with managing Sage 300 ERP Lanpaks. In the upcoming Sage 300 ERP 2014 release, we are adding a number of features to help with this.

How to Tell Who is Using Lanpaks

We’ve always had a screen accessible from the Desktop’s Help menu where you can get a list of the Lanpaks in use, and who is using them. However there was a fundamental flaw in this screen, namely that you needed to log on to the Desktop to access it and this required using a Lanpak. So if you were out of Lanpaks, you couldn’t log in and see who was doing what.

Now if you run the Desktop, you can cancel the signon dialog and select Help – Current Users… This then will give you a signon dialog where you can signon specifically to see who is on the system without using a Lanpak. To demonstrate I did this on my laptop and the screenshot is below.

lp1

Notice that no Lanpaks were used in bringing up this screen. So now if you are out of Lanpaks and need one, you can access this screen, see what people are doing and then ask the person doing the least important work to sign-out.

Giving More Information

Previously, all the Lanpak screen told you was which user was logged into which company, you didn’t know what they were actually doing. In fact many companies have only one company and everyone logs in as ADMIN, in which case the screen gave you no useful information. The usual suggestion here is to setup users and security properly, but for Sage 300 ERP 2014 we are giving quite a bit more useful information in our new “Current Users” screen.

Now we give you the users along with their contact information. Sorry for the two screen shots, but one shows the information with the horizontal scroll bar scroll left and the next one with the scroll bar scrolled right.

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Further there is an option to see all the screens that they are running and the time when they started the screen.

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The screen AS9010 is the Desktop and will have a proper description by the time we ship.

This way you can make a judgment on who you want to kick out of the system. Perhaps user1 is only running data entry screens and you know they have gone home, so you can log them off. Or perhaps user2 is running I/C Day End Processing and only started it just now, so you want to let that run to completion.

Besides using this screen to manage Lanpaks once they run out, you can also use this screen to see what people are doing when the system is slow, perhaps lots of people are printing reports or posting batches. Either way you can use this to manage more cases than just Lanpaks. Managing periodic slowdowns is one case, looking for low usage times to run larger reporting or processing runs is another.

The descriptions come from the language DLL that is generated from the VB template that is part of the Sage 300 ERP SDK. This means that we will be able to display good screen names for any Sage or third party application that is written in the SDK and uses the VB UI template. We also know about a few special cases like the Desktop.

For IAPs we don’t give as much information since this tends to be used by third party non-SDK applications that we don’t know about.

For this version we don’t provide a mechanism to kick people out from here. We are considering this for a future version, but want to get this rights, so we don’t just kill a process while some one is entering an order and causing them to lose their work. However if you are running on Terminal Services then you can use the Terminal Services console to kick people right out of Windows from there.

Ideas Web Site

As I mentioned in the introduction, this feature was the direct result of input to our ideas web site. So to just stress that if there are features you want added to Sage 300 ERP, be sure to add them here. If others agree with you and it makes it to the top of the list, then it has a very good chance of being implemented. Notice that the ideas web site lists the ideas that we have implemented, ideas in progress and which are the current top rated ideas. Feel free to promote your idea on Sage City, this can help get your idea implemented with sufficient support.

Summary

With the forthcoming Sage 300 ERP 2014 release we are giving you better methods to manage your Lanpaks. First by letting you see what is going on without using a Lanpak and then second by giving you more useful information on what people are currently doing.

Visual Process Flows for Sage 300 ERP 2014

Introduction

We introduced Visual Process Flows with Sage 300 ERP 2012. This has been quite a popular feature since it lets you customize people’s desktop to exactly match their real workflow in a friendly intuitive graphic manner. Several other Sage ERP product incorporate the same Visual Process Flow common desktop component including Sage 100 ERP and Sage X3 ERP. A great number of ERP type products have nice graphical tools to launch screens, but a key differentiator of our Visual Process Flows is that they aren’t fixed and hard-coded into the product. You can edit all the existing Process Flows and you can create as many new ones as you like. Then you can assign specific Visual Process Flows to the various users in your organization.

Sage 300 ERP 2014 is now in alpha testing and will be shown at the upcoming Sage Summit conference in Washington, DC. With this release we are adding a number of improvements to the Visual Process Flow features.

New Visual Process Flows

Sage 300 ERP 2014 will be bundled with three new Visual Process Flows. The first one is for Project and Job Costing Transactions shown below:

pjcvpf

Then we have on for Canadian Payroll Transactions and another for US Payroll Transactions. Below is the screen shot for the Canadian Payroll one. Notice that I resized the tree of icons down to zero width so you only see the Process Flow. This way you can do away with the tree of icons entirely and run entirely from Visual Process Flows.

prvpf

Desktop Customization

Generally, you use the provided Visual Process Flows as starting points and then customize them to exactly match the roles within a company. With Sage 300 ERP 2012 you can only add elements to Visual Process Flows that run standard existing UIs. There wasn’t a mechanism to run the other sorts of objects you can add to the Sage 300 Desktop.

With Sage 300 ERP 2014, you can now add and run Crystal Reports, VBA Macros and arbitrary EXE programs just like you can directly from the bare Desktop. When you are have a Process Flow in Edit mode you can now select these as link types and specify them in the designer. Generally you do this by using the Browse (…) button in the Link… dialog.

editvpf

This way if you have Macros (perhaps custom screens) or custom reports you can include these in a user’s workflow.

Running Other Process Flows

Another ability we’ve added is to run one Visual Process Flow from another. This give you the ability to provide links to common functions as well as create Visual Process Flows with many pages. You could even re-create the Sage 300 ERP Desktop with a Process Flow for each group of icons (with better graphics) and then link them all together to replace the tree of icons entirely.

If a user has multiple roles, you could produce a master page with all their job functions and then each one of these runs a Process Flow for the individual functions. Basically allowing you to automate larger processes than you could before.

Summary

Visual Process Flows were introduced in Sage 300 ERP 2012 and with the upcoming Sage 300 ERP 2014 we are adding quite a few enhancements to make these even better.