Guest blogger and CRM MVP Ross Lotharius regales us with his first look observations about IE 8. Ross Lotharius is an Associate Partner and Director of Software Development for the CRM Practice of Ascentium.
Yesterday at MIX 09, Microsoft announced the release of Internet Explorer 8. Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) brings a lot of new features to the browser and for us developer types. These features include a View Source that has color coding (instead of “notepad”) and Developer Tools that are built in instead of the need to download extensions and 3rd party tools.
The Microsoft product team also released the following statement regarding support for CRM 4.
“We’re thrilled to have IE8 in market and released. During the past 12 months we have worked closely with the IE team and Dynamics CRM has been one of the key “test products” for the IE team when working through their validation and tests. During the process we naturally identified issues and resolution to those were vigorously pursued and implemented. At this point we only have 1 known issue and we’re happy to be able to state that IE8 is an officially supporter browser for Dynamics CRM 4.0. We expect the Implementation Guide to be updated in April 2009 to reflect this supported status for IE8.”
With these new tools, working with CRM has become much easier and much more friendly. Below are a few examples of the new features using CRM 4. I’ll touch on the new View Source and focus on the Developer Tools relating to styling, formatting, and layout. The screens below were taken in the Windows 7 (build 7000) build of IE8, so they may appear different in the release version.
For those that use Firefox or Safari, this is nothing new, but better late than never. Regularly, we have to view source of files to find certain things we are looking for. This mainly applies to clients that haven’t installed 3rd party options such as Notepad++ or Programmer’s Notepad. With Notepad, this was an arduous task, but with the new View Source it’s much easier! Below is a screenshot of edit.aspx.
To make our lives even easier, Microsoft has also included a much improved developer tools. These tools are available to any CRM form by clicking F12. Here is what the Developer Tools look like when opening it from the same edit.aspx:
Expanding the left elements display the details of the CRM form in an easy to read format. On the right, displays the styles applied to those elements, Trace Styles, Layout, and the Attributes on the selected Element. Selecting an element also displays a border on the actual page for where the element is on the form. This is similar to the IE developer tools of the past. In the screenshot below, the div with an id of areaForm is selected to the left which highlights the main form area (tabs and fields for the contact) on the page to the right.
After selecting the element/area that you want, you can then manipulate that area directly in the Developer Tools. In this example, I’ll use the 2nd tab, which is the Details tab. By default, it’s labeled Details and has the styles to the right applied to it. I’ll change that tab to say Ross and make the font bold and yellow.
To do this, select the element and then choose Attributes on the right. Here you can add a new attribute and assign a value to it. For this demo, I’ll add a style attribute and give it the value of “color: yellow; font-weight: bold”.
Here is the Html before the change:
Here is the Html after the change:
To view the details of the CSS files that are being applied to the form we are looking at, the Developer Tools provides the CSS tab. This tab enables you to view all the CSS files associated with the selected form in a dropdown menu and view the details of each file without the need to jump on the server or navigate to the CSS file directly. A great feature for convenience.
Using these feature makes it much easier to modify CRM forms and also find the styles you are looking for. Finding these styles eliminates the guess work when developing custom pages that you want to mimic in CRM and give a “seamless” interface.
IE8 brings greatly enhanced performance and a myriad of new features. The Developer Tools piece I touched on today is only a small fraction of the tools available. Additional features include, debugging script, profiling, etc that I will not touch on today but highly recommend checking out yourself. IE8 is a very powerful browser that I highly recommend downloading and using for your day to day CRM and for your CRM development needs.