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5 Best Things about the Unified Interface for Microsoft Dynamics 365

The latest version of Microsoft Dynamics 365 moves most of the core functionality of sales and customer service to a new user interface - The Unified Interface client.  This user interface is not completely new as it was gradually introduced for the Hub features such as the Customer Service Hub in recent versions of the product.

The new interface is quite different from the previous interface which was used from Dynamics CRM 2013 to 2018 with a few incremental changes. 

This is the Unified Interface, using a form from InfoStrat's Grants Manager Plus Solution.



Here is the same record shown in the previous interface which Microsoft calls Classic.



Here are the top 5 features that I like best about the Unified Interface:

  1. Better menus and navigation. The sitemap on the left is more helpful than the classic menus for larger, more complex solution. Lefthand menu shortcuts are a great use of space and help users access the most popular areas. 
  2. Better subgrids.  Subgrids are important for entering rows of data, such as product line items or budgets.  Now they are more functional than before, allowing sorting, selecting and custom configurations. 
  3. Better use of space.  Space is a precious commodity in a user experience, and the previous interface was not thrifty in using it. Now entity forms seem to have less white space and accommodate more fields and more data. For instance, business process flows take up less vertical space on the form header.
  4. Reduced learning curve.  Users were often puzzled by the layers of menu in the top navigation, especially navigating to related entities.  Having menu options that would appear and disappear created training and support challenges, especially for new users.
  5. Richer dashboards. The unified interface offers enhanced dashboards that are more compact and more closely resemble PowerBI.  The graphs seem to scale better in small and large views and the scales are more legible. 
Let's take a closer look at these improvements.  For those who are familiar with earlier versions of Dynamics CRM, such as 2011, some of the characteristics of the Unified Interface will be familiar.  The 2011 version had left navigation similar to folders in Microsoft Outlook, as well as tabs across the top of the form to navigate to different form sections.  These are both back in version 9.0.

Top Navigation in a Form
Grant applications are complex forms that are several pages long, so this navigation option is much more helpful than unfolding sections and scrolling over many pages.

Navigation shortcuts on the left navigation allow users to access commonly needed pages from nearly anywhere: 

Left navigation shortcuts
Finally, the site map which is accessed on the lefthand side of the form is more legible and usable than previous sitemaps and menus.  This is most important for solutions with large numbers of entities and other objects.



Graphs in the Unified Interface seem crisper and are animated when you zoom into a graph from a dashboard.  The legends are crisper as shown below:

Sample Graph
For now, Microsoft allows users to access the Classic interface with "forceClassic=1" embedded in the URL.  The Unified Interface is the only option for mobile users. 

The Unified Interface is a work in progress and still has some gaps as of this writing, such as Advanced Find, bulk edit, merging, and record sharing.  If Microsoft sticks to the apparent plan, the Unified Interface will replace the Classic interface completely in a future release, so developers and users should learn it as soon as possible and benefit from the productivity enhancements that it brings. 

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