Monday, May 18, 2020

Business Central Navigation Challenge: Finding "Hidden" Pages?

By Steve Endow

I'm new to Business Central.  So please excuse my lack of proper Business Central decorum.

I don't yet know the lingo, the tricks, or the secret handshake.  I barely know the basics as I slowly learn the product.

So...I'm like a new "User".  One of those pesky new users who asks the "dumb" questions.  The obvious questions.  The questions that all real Business Central users already know and don't even think about.

Like how to navigate and find pages in Business Central.

Can I just ask for directions?

"Don't navigate! Just use Search!", is the obvious response.

But I, as a typical User, will find the oddities and exceptions.  The apparent secrets of Business Central that are not obvious to a new user.

It all started with this tweet:

Neat! A new "control" that lets you expand and contract hierarchical data!

I'd like to try that!

1. Open Business Central in a browser
2. Search for Chart of Accounts Overview
3. Page not found

No Such Page

Wait, what?

The tweet has a screen shot of the page:  Chart of Accounts Overview.  But I can't find the page.

Is that a custom page that was created just to demonstrate the feature?

Wait, my tenant is still on 15.4.  Maybe that control, and that page, is only available in 16.0?  Ah, yes, it says 2020 Wave 1.  Great, let's upgrade my tenant.

15 minutes later, my Business Central SaaS tenant is upgraded to 16.0.

Let's try that again:

1. Open Business Central in a browser
2. Search for Chart of Accounts Overview
3. Page not found

Um, what's going on?

I asked my friend Tanya what I'm doing wrong and why I can't find the Chart of Accounts Overview Page.

"Just search for it," she replied, providing this handy screen shot.

It's right in front of you

What?  I DID search for it.  But it wasn't listed for me.  Once again, with enthusiasm:

What am I doing wrong?

An eagle eye reader will note that my search results don't match Tanya's, and Chart of Accounts Overview is definitely not listed.

But then I started at Tanya's search results for a few more seconds, and a very dim light bulb slowly came to life.

Did you notice it?

You were searching wrong.
I noticed her search results said "On current page (Chart of Accounts)".  As a clueless new Business Central user, I've never noticed "On current page" in the search results before.

Wait, what???  What is that about?

Are you telling me that I have to be on one specific page in order to find another specific page?


So let's try this one more time.

1. Open Business Central in a browser
2. Search for Chart of Accounts
3. Open Chart of Accounts page
4. Search for Chart of Accounts Overview
5. Open Chart of Accounts Overview

Um.  Really?  Is that how this is supposed to work?

I naturally posted on Twitter to see if I was missing something.

Me asking dumb user questions

Tin Fišter quickly dug into the Business Central source code and found the reason that the COA Overview page isn't accessible in the the "normal" search.

The source code tells all

Tin found that the Chart of Accounts Overview page does not have an Application Area property, so it is not available in the global search results.

So is that lack of an Application Area property intentional?  Or is it a mistake?

If I'm a user searching for the Chart of Accounts Overview page, I would consider this to be a mistake.  If I'm a developer who is trying to avoid cluttering up the global search results, maybe this was intentional?

But through this head scratching journey, I learned two things:

1. The Business Central Search feature is sometimes context sensitive. Not all search results are available globally.  This will cause user confusion, just as it confused me for several days.

2. The Application Area property is an important setting in BC AL development.  While I am familiar with the property, I do not yet know how to use it or why one would want to exclude it from a page.  I still have lots to learn.

And that, dear readers, is my most recent adventure in learning about Business Central.

Update:  I had previously searched the Chart of Accounts page to see if I could find a way to open the Chart of Accounts Overview page, but I couldn't find it anywhere in the menus.

But this tweet by Erik Hougaard made me look through the menus again.

And of course, when I went back through the menus on the Chart of Accounts page, I finally found it.

COA page -> More options -> Navigate -> Balance -> Chart of Accounts Overview

Dynamics GP users can probably empathize with this fun menu structure.

Steve Endow is a Microsoft MVP in Los Angeles.  He works with Dynamics 365 Business Central, Power Automate, Power Apps, Azure, Dynamics GP, SQL Server, and .NET

You can also find him on Twitter and YouTube

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