Custom Apps – Can we stop messing with the navigation?

We’ve all done it in the past, where we started tinkering with the navigation, filtering entities based on permissions, removing entire areas from the navigation, and tinkering with user roles and hiding aspects of the platform.

Well, welcome to a new world of apps. What started with mobile, where “there’s an app for that”, now find it’s home in Dynamics 365 CE also. Microsoft gave us the tone, with the Sales and Customer Service apps, and gave us the tools to roam free.

We can now use the very visual App Designer to create our own very specialized apps. And the beauty, it follows the same configurable model as any other configuration on the platform.

NOTE that, while you have the ability to configure new apps in both a solution file or directly in the core solution, you should really try to stick with using solutions.

So, to create a new custom app, open a solution and find the Apps component.


Once you click New, the wizard is triggered and walk you through the initial app setup. Provide a name, description, leave the default icon or select a custom one from the available icons, select the client targets (web or UI). The last two checkboxes serve to allow you to start from an existing solution with a site map, or start blank, as well as define a welcome page for your app. When you choose to define a welcome page, you are prompted to select a html web resource created as a welcome page. When satisfied click Done to proceed with the app design.


And here’s where the fun begins.

If you chose to start from scratch, first thing you will observe on the designer is that you are already warned of the first issue: Configuration missing on the Site Map. This means we have checks in place to make sure we’re not completely screwing up our app. Nice!

Click on the Site Map and the wizard brings up a wizard for configuration. You can add here Areas, Groups and Subareas. Selecting an element allows you to edit it’s properties.

In my case, I have a group that deal exclusively with Leads processing. All they need to see on the platform is Leads, Accounts, Contact and related Activities.

NOTE that while a little misleading in naming, a Subarea relates to an Entity. So, to add Accounts, Contact and Activities you select the Group (or the white area of the navigation) and add a Subarea.


When done, Save and Publish.

Back on the App Designer, now you have the choice to select which Dashboards are available, Business Process Flows, as well as Entities and assets. This is where the value of the custom app shines, as you can include only custom forms, views, charts and dashboard on your app, as well as custom EPFs (Business Process Flows).

When using a solution package, you can have all those assets customized in the same solution, and have it packaged together for delivery.

And when satisfied with your customizations, again Save, Validate and Publish the entire app. And here validation kicks in again if you were lazy like me for this example. I’ve left all assets on All, and I’m prompted with warning messages. Got to do a better job next time!


Once you’ve published your newly created App, it will show in the Apps view within your solution.


Publish the solution and try your app. If you had the main CRM page open, you will need to refresh to see the app added to the list of apps.


With the app in place, test it, and, when satisfied, follow your organization standard promotion and distribution process.


No more sitemap editor, or for the hardcore resources out there XML editing. Give the users only the chunk(s) they need to do their job, and avoid confusion.


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