Using PCF to display contact cards

What is PCF?

If you are building Model Driven Apps, you would have realised by now that Unified Interface is the future. Microsoft has made huge investments in this area to ensure that you have an optimal experience regardless of the device or form factor. Unified Interface is composed of several components/controls that help you to visualise and interact with the data.

If you wanted to swap out the control or build a new one that is better than what comes out this box, the only way you could do this earlier was to build a custom webresource and embed it into an IFrame. Using IFrame is clunky, and you had to handle all the complexities of building a responsive interface. IFrame also cannot be displayed on a view, only on a form.

But with the arrival of PowerApps Component Framework, you can build custom components/controls that can be used in fields or view fairly quickly. PCF entered public preview around April, 2019. The are three things that you will be using while developing a custom components/control: PCF, the framework that can be used to build the components, a CLI (similar to yeoman, if you are from node world) that is used to scaffold, build & deploy the control and a test harness to assist you during development.

What do you need to know to build components/controls using PCF

  1. TypeScript (preferable) or JavaScript
  2. NodeJS
  3. Ability to run commands from commandline
    • If you don’t like to live in the commandline, download XrmToolBox tool called PCF Custom Control Builder by Danish
  4. React (preferable)
  5. Office UI Fabric  (preferable)
  6. Edge Dev Tools or Chrome Dev Tools (while build/debug)
  7. Fiddler (while build/debug)

Where do I go to get inspired or assess the capabilities

There are couple of places:

  1. Community Content on PCF Forum
  2. PCF Gallery

In this post I will share a control that I built using PCF that displays the view as a set of cards. Here is how it looks on the contact grid when you choose the Full layout.

Full Layout

You can also display the result in the compact layout.

Compact Layout.png

Clicking on the card takes you to the record, and you can load more records, by clicking on the “Load more” button on the command bar.

In order to install the control, you would first need to install the managed solution by downloading Contact.Card.Component.zip from https://github.com/rajyraman/Office-UI-Fabric-Card/releases

After you have downloaded and installed the managed solution, you can add the PCF component/control to an existing view or new view.

View Properties

As you can see above, I am configuring the view to show the results using “Cards” control, and not “Read only Grid” control. After this you need to configure each property to the correct field on the entity, that you would like be shown on the card.

Card Layout

Card Props

Each property on this control maps to the card as below

Card.png

How do you get the image to display on the custom control?

If you don’t need image on the card, you can skip this step. This is the tricky bit. There is a field on each entity that is capable of storing a image. The name of the field is entityimage. This screenshot should jot your memory.

Upload Image.png

You cannot however, add the entityimage field to a view, as this field is not visible in the View Builder: both classic experience and maker experience. But, entityimage is a valid field, so you can add this field using the awesome tool called “View Designer” in XrmToolBox.

View Designer.png

This allows you to modify both the FetchXML and LayoutXML of the view. Using this tool you can add the “entityimage” field.

Edit View.png

Once you do this, you can see the entityimage field on the view in the classic designer. If you try to open the same view in the modern designer it will fail.

PCF View

After save and publish, you should now be able to use the custom control on the view that it is bound to. You can also use a custom control to display results on the Quick Find as well, using similar update to FetchXML and LayoutXML, but Quick Find does not seem to be supporting entityimage attribute at the moment.

I hope this is an useful control that everyone can use.

Further reading:

  1. Using TypeScript with modern React (YouTube)
  2. Office UI Fabric Controls
  3. Office UI Fabric CodeSandBox
  4. What are custom components (docs.microsoft.com)
  5. PCF Forum

People to Follow for PCF

  1. Andrew Butenko
  2. Andrew Ly
  3. Aung Khaing
  4. Greg Hurlman
  5. Jose Aguilera
  6. Oleksandr Olashyn
  7. Vignesh
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Embedded Canvas App: User Settings Utility

User Settings utility is a popular XrmToolBox tool that helps administrators update the user specific settings in bulk, without asking individual users to update them. Here is how it looks:

User Settings Utility.png

I attempted to do this using embedded canvas apps. Here is how it looks:

Business Unit Form

As you can see the canvas app is embedded inside the “Business Unit” form called “Business Unit – Users”. It initially displays a list of users in the Gallery. You can then click on an user record to edit the user’s settings.

Edit Settings

The canvas app currently uses the ModelDrivenFormIntegration datasource, that is the default for embedded canvas app. But, you could very well tweak this app to make it a regular canvas app, and then you would be able to edit the user settings from your phone on the go, which could be quite useful for an administrator.

You can download the managed solution from https://1drv.ms/u/s!AvzjERKFC6gOxDDJp_ZoVc2Pqw7x?e=sNq5Gq. The solution contains the following components:

  1. New view – “Enabled Users for UserSettings” on System User entity
  2. New form – “Business Unit – Users” on Business Unit entity
  3. Canvas app – “User Settings Utility”

User Settings Utility Solution.png

Hope this is a useful tool for admins.

 

 

Getting entity record counts

There are couple of ways to gets entity record counts: you could use XrmToolBox’s Record Counter Tool, or write the FetchXml to count the records as you navigate from one page to the next. But, if you just want to use the SDK here is a simple method: a new message called RetrieveTotalRecordCountRequest. Here is how to use it in C#:

var r = new RetrieveTotalRecordCountRequest();
r.EntityNames = new[] {
"contact", "account"
};
var m = ((RetrieveTotalRecordCountResponse)this.Execute(r)).EntityRecordCountCollection;
m.Dump();

Retrieve Record Count

Here is the same call in JavaScript:

var entities = ['contact','account'];
fetch(`${Xrm.Utility.getGlobalContext().getClientUrl()}/api/data/v9.1/RetrieveTotalRecordCount(EntityNames=@EntityNames)?@EntityNames=${encodeURIComponent(JSON.stringify(entities))}`, {
	credentials: 'include',
	headers: {
		'accept': 'application/json',
		'content-type': 'application/json; charset=utf-8',
		'odata-maxversion': '4.0',
		'odata-version': '4.0',
	},
	method: 'GET',
	mode: 'cors'
})
.then(x => x.json())
.then(r => console.log(r.EntityRecordCountCollection.Keys.forEach((k, i) => console.log(`${k}: ${r.EntityRecordCountCollection.Values[i]}`))));

Retrieve Record Count JS

Hope this is useful.

Reference:

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/dotnet/api/microsoft.crm.sdk.messages.retrievetotalrecordcountrequest?view=dynamics-general-ce-9

Triggering Flow from NFC cards

I recently came back from Sydney and I now have 4 new Opal cards. Opal card is used in public transport across Sydney and these cards use NFC technology. Since I no longer have any use for these cards in Melbourne, I wanted to do some thing productive with these cards. I also wanted to try a low cost alternative for triggering Flow from a hardware that is not flic (Opal cards are free).

Reading NFC card is not a native functionality of Flow, so I decide to use something that is capable of reading NFC card and also can call a HTTP endpoint. Since I am using Android, there is an app that meets this need perfectly. It is called Automate. This app has been around for a while, and you can develop Automate Flows that can use native hardware capability of Android.

Here is how my Flow looks in Automate.

Automate Flow

The are start important blocks to get this Automate Flow working:

  1. Read NFC Tag
  2. HTTP Request
  3. Flow Start

Read NFC block is used to read the NFC card. I map the NFC tag id to the variable called “TagId”. You can use the “Read tag” button in this to identify the NFC tagid and then use it in the switch/case statements in Microsoft Flow.

Read NFC

 

The next step in the one where I call Microsoft Flow, which is triggered by HTTP Request.

HTTP Request

The same Automate Flow has to be triggered again after Microsoft Flow is called using HTTP Request, so that a new fiber is started to continue reading the NFC card.

Start Flow

This is the Microsoft Flow that is triggered by HTTP request.

NFC HTTP Flow

The HTTP trigger accepts the tagId in the URL parameter of the HTTP Request.

HTTP Trigger

Based on what tag has been scanned, I can then perform the appropriate action. I use the switch statement for this purpose.

Flow Switch.png

Here is a quick demo of Automate and Flow working together in harmony.

Automate Flow.gif

Here are somethings that are now possible with the NFC capability:

  1. Deploy solution from DEV to TEST, using Azure Function, PowerShell and Xrm.Data.PowerShell module. I experimented with this and it works nicely even though PowerShell support in Azure Function is only experimental
  2. Call a RunBook in Azure Automate using HTTP Webhook

I hope this is useful in scenarios where you need alternate ways to trigger Microsoft Flow.

 

 

Quick Tip: CDS Base URL in Flow

I have a Flow that sends out email at 8 a.m everyday that lists the solutions that were imported in the past 24 hours. In the initial version of the Flow, the email was missing an link to the actual solution. But, after making some changes, the email now includes a clickable link to the solution that was imported.

Flow Email.png

As you can see there is a link in the last column. This link is not hardcoded. The base URL changes, based on the CDS environment the Flow is deployed to. The trick is to grab this URL from the “List records” action which includes the full URL to each record in the result. You just need the first record in the result set to use in the expression in the next step.

RetrieveMultiple.png

As you can see the @odata.id key contains the full URL to the record, from which you just need the base URL. Once you grab the base URL, you can easily compose the full URLs to the areas that you want the link to navigate to e.g. open the record, open solution, new record, open list etc.

Below is the expression that I use to get the base URL only.

first(split(first(body(‘[ACTION_NAME]’)?[‘value’])?[‘@odata.id’],’/api/’))
If you use this expression and assign it to a variable, you can set the variable with the base URL.
Variable.png
This technique is quite useful if you are sending emails with clickable links that navigate to a CDS record or area.

 

Excel to JSON using Flow

I was reading through Scott’s recent post -> https://www.hanselman.com/blog/ConvertingAnExcelWorksheetIntoAJSONDocumentWithCAndNETCoreAndExcelDataReader.aspx and I was thinking that this could be done in a codeless way using Microsoft Flow. So, I tried to do this in Flow, and it was really easy to do this – under 15mins, as all the plumbing is already there. This is my Flow.

Excel to JSON Flow.png

The Flow is triggered by a HTTP GET and reads from an Excel file stored in OneDrive.

Trigger and Source.png

The output is already a JSON, but not a valid one probably one, as it has spaces and special characters in the key names, which map to the column names of the table.

Excel JSON.png

So, we can simply re-shape the data using Select, and dump the JSON response.

Select and Response.png

Now, when I call my trigger URL, the Flow executes and returns me the JSON.

Response JSON.png

With Flow add-on for Excel, you could run the same Flow from Excel itself, if you want to.

Hope you find this useful.

 

Flowception: Creating solution enabled Flow with Flow

Solution is a feature that has been used in the CRM space for a long time. Solutions support for Flow was announced last year -> https://flow.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/solutions-in-microsoft-flow/. One thing the post does not mention is that Flows have to be created from the solution record. If you have an existing Flow, that you want to package up into a solution, you cannot do that. To workaround this limitation, I have created a Flow to clone an exisiting Flow and make it solution enabled.

The Flow itself it not that long. Here is how it looks.

The Flow definition fits on a readable screenshot!

The first step is to select the existing Flow that you want to clone, into a solution enabled Flow. This can be done using the Flow Management Connector’s “Get Flow” action.

Solution enabled Flows, like solution enabled canvas apps, are also stored in the CDS database. The entity it used to store the Flow is called Process (logical name: workflow). It stores both the Flow definition, as well the the connection references.

LINQ output

However, the connection references are stored differently between CDS and Flow. Here is how the connections are stored in Flow.

[{
	"connectionName": "shared-flowmanagemen-f22a175e-d99e-4e41-8404-f6823b2d4d5e",
	"displayName": "Flow management",
	"id": "/providers/Microsoft.PowerApps/apis/shared_flowmanagement"
}, {
	"connectionName": "46c0ebf24ba6458f9a582abde1185b12",
	"displayName": "Common Data Service",
	"id": "/providers/Microsoft.PowerApps/apis/shared_commondataservice"
}]

Here is how the connections are stored inside CDS workflow.

{
	"shared_flowmanagement": {
		"connectionName": "shared-flowmanagemen-f22a175e-d99e-4e41-8404-f6823b2d4d5e",
		"source": "Invoker",
		"id": "/providers/Microsoft.PowerApps/apis/shared_flowmanagement",
		"tier": "NotSpecified"
	},
	"shared_commondataservice": {
		"connectionName": "46c0ebf24ba6458f9a582abde1185b12",
		"source": "Invoker",
		"id": "/providers/Microsoft.PowerApps/apis/shared_commondataservice",
		"tier": "NotSpecified"
	}
}

As you can see one is an array and another is an object. So, this means the connection JSON has to be reshaped, when we create a Modern Flow Process record, directly in CDS. We will use select action to reshape the data, and then do a replace to cleanup the JSON.

Flow Connection JSON.png

Connection References

The action below is the one that creates the Solution enabled Flow. You create the “Process” record using the CDS connection, and populate the Flow JSON in “Client Data” field.

Create Workflow.png

This is the formula I use in the concat.

concat
(
	'{"schemaVersion":"1.0.0.0","properties": { "definition": ', 
	body('Get_Flow')['properties']['definition'],
	', "connectionReferences": ', 
	variables('connectionReference'), '}}'
)

This creates the JSON that is accepted for the “Modern Flow” process record.

In the last step we activate (start) the newly created Flow.

Enable Flow.png

The Flow’s GUID is stored in a field called “workflowidunique” on the Process entity. So, we can use this to the retrieve the Flow, and activate it.

The crazy part of this Flow is that I was able to run the Flow on itself and add it to the solution, hence the title of the post.

Flow run.png

You can now add the Flow into the Solution, from web.powerapps.com

Solution.png

The newly created Flow, will have the same step Flow name, you specific in the first Get Flow step, prefixed with “Solution: “

Add Flow.png

The solution with the Flow can now be exported and imported into a new CDS environment. I hope this helps you to package some of you old Flows into a solution. This Flow can further improved by listing all Flows in the environment and doing the same process or cloning it, rather than specifying a specific Flow at design time.

You can download the Flow from https://1drv.ms/u/s!AvzjERKFC6gOwWC7Ywi5fgguPW1s

If you have any comments/feedback, please share them on the post or tweet me @rajyraman.