database dynamics

Understanding Dynamics 365 Apps

Craig SeymourJanuary 3rd 2019

Craig, our Dynamics 365 Practice Lead, sheds some light on the recent updates to Dynamics 365 and changes in terminology from v9.0 onward. If Common Databases, Apps and screenshots of admin menus are your thing, this blog is for you...

Dynamics 365 v9.1 is all about Common Data Service and Apps. Put another way: From V9.0 and beyond, when installing a D365 instance, instead of installing the functionality and database together they are now separated into Apps (the functionality) and the Common Data Service (the database). 

So what are all these things?

Common Data Service

The Common Data Service is essentially the database, application and web tiers that used to underpin older versions of D365/CRM.  In principle it has no native CRM type functionality at all.  However, it does include the Common Data Model (CDM) - a set of entities that encapsulate what Microsoft consider to be the minimum set to support business operations.  These include most (if not all) of the classic entities found in CRM - contacts, accounts, opportunities, etc.


Applications, Apps, Model-driven Apps

When you spin up a new D365 v9 instance, you can choose which 'applications' you want to install:


If we take 'Sales' as an example: if you choose to install the application, it actually installs a Solution called 'Dynamics 365 Sales Application' which includes a couple of 'Model-driven Apps’ ('Sales' is an 8.2 style app, and 'Sales Hub' is the modernized v9 version) and their associated SiteMaps, some icons and a security role.  I don't believe it installs any entities beyond those available in the CDM, but I have no doubt at all that it extends them and does add plenty of magic sauce which doesn't get shown in the UI.


You also, somewhat confusingly, get the 'Playbook App' which isn't an App at all - it's a Solution which extends the 'SalesHub' Solution.


You can install 'None of these (don't preinstall any apps)' , but despite its assurances otherwise, you will get the CRM Hub Solution, which includes some Apps and other gubbins :-)



Model-driven Apps

These are what used to be called 'Apps' in older versions of Dynamics 365 - they are essentially a filter applied on to the Dynamics UI which shows a specific SiteMap, Dashboards, Business Process Flows, and Entities (including their forms, views, charts and dashboards) to the user.  The Apps themselves are filtered by Security Role - so a user will only see the Apps you want them to.


In the past, you used to be able to choose between the 'Web Interface' (now called 'Classic UI') and the 'Unified Client Interface' (UCI) - but all new Model-driven Apps now use the UCI.



If you look on you will see 'My apps' - this is a listing of all the Model-driven and Canvas Apps to which you have access, which includes all the Model-driven Apps you see in Dynamics 365.  And also includes the 'default' app.


You will also see any Apps you have pinned as 'Pinned Apps'



(I'm going to ignore Canvas Apps for now - the waters are muddy enough, right?)


The Default App

The 'default' app is the name for everything that's in the Default Solution, but doesn't really behave like the installed apps - in particular, you can't enable it to use the UCI, which I think comes down to it not having a suitable SiteMap.


At the time of writing, you can tag 'forceUCI=1' as an argument onto the main.apsx link in your browser, and it will show the page in question in the Unified Interface; but as it lacks the SiteMap navigation menu, you're a bit stuck for getting around (short of following links from one page to another)


You can also turn off 'Open in Classic Mode' in the Power Platform Admin Centre



but this just makes matters worse: as far as I can tell, because the Default App can't really be enabled for UCI, then when you try and open it, the platform falls back to just showing you all the pukka UCI apps, which does not include the one you just clicked on the link for…


So, in a v9 world, the default app is a bit of a confusing dead end.



Luckily, you can turn off display of the default app.  Unlike the other 'real' apps, you don't do this by disabling all the Security Roles which shouldn't see it; there is a special Administration setting (shown here in the Power Platform Admin Center, but also available in the normal D365 Settings > Administration > System Settings > General tab.

'New Navigation'

Not directly to do with Apps, but I came across it during my investigations: if you have an App using the UCI, you can toggle on a different presentation of the sidebar.  There's a blog post by Magnetism Solutions on how to set this, but I've found that the 'Level Up' Chrome extension can do it as well using a single click.


App Launcher

There is even more Appiness to talk about...  When you are in a Dynamics 365 instance, you can drop down the 'App Launcher'.  Here is cloudThing's:



If you look on you will see 'My apps' - this is a listing of all the Model-driven and Canvas Apps to which you have access, which includes all the Model-driven Apps you see in Dynamics 365.  And this is across all your Prod and Sandbox instances; one customer I work with has 14 instances in their dev-test tenancy alone, and each has at least 4 apps in - so thats 56 apps, and that doesn't include the 'default' app which you also get with each one.


© Craig SeymourJanuary 3rd 2019



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