Microsoft released an updated version of the MSN Search Toolbar and it includes the ability to use tabbed browsing in Internet Explorer!
Tabbed browsing is one of the key reasons why some users were switching from Internet Explorer (IE) to the FireFox web browser. Microsoft said the next release of IE would have tabbed browsing, but now you don't have to wait until IE 7 ships.
Of course, we decided to install the MSN Search Toolbar to try tabbed browsing with Microsoft CRM 1.2 to see what the experience would be like. Here is what we found:
First, you MUST launch Microsoft CRM using the loader.aspx page. If you don't know how to do that, simply add /loader.aspx to your CRM server address in Internet Explorer. So if your CRM server web URL is http://crmserver, then you must launch CRM using this URL: http://crmserver/loader.aspx to try tabbed browsing. If you do not use the loader.aspx page you can simply forget about using tabbed browsing at all.
After you launch CRM, you will see the inital tab:
If you click the folder with the green arrow icon in the MSN Search Toolbar, all the links you click will open in a new tab. After turning this setting on, I clicked Opportunities, Accounts and Contacts. Here is the result:
As you can see, we now have tabs! There is one tab for each link that I clicked. But right away, you can see a problem. There are no page titles in Microsoft CRM so you can't tell which tab is Opportunities or which tab is Accounts.
If you click on one of new tabs, you will see another issue:
Several key elements of the Microsft CRM navigation are missing! The missing items include: the left side, the top menu bar and the bottom buttons. I think most users will find the system difficult to consistently use without these navigation elements. Of course there is a perfectly valid technical reason to explain this behavior (which I won't bore you with), but it still doesn't eliminate the issue.
A few additional issues/comments about tabbed browing in Microsoft CRM are:
- The keyboard shortcuts do seem to work correctly which is very nice. So you can click CTRL + T to launch a new tab. Or, you can click ALT + a hyperlink to open the page in a new background tab.
- You can also use the CTRL + Tab or CTRL + Shift + Tab to toggle left and right between tabs.
- Microsoft CRM changes the "default" menu when you right-click a hyperlink in the application. This prevents you from accessing a few additional MSN Search Toolbar options.
- Switching from tab to tab seems to cause a screen "flash" that is somewhat annoying.
In summary, tabbed browsing from the MSN Search Toolbar will work with Microsoft CRM, but there is still some room for improvement. I would recommend installing the MSN Search Toolbar and evaluate it for yourself. I personally found that using ALT + clicking the link was very nice to open just certain CRM pages in a new tab.
Of course, who knows what the tabbed browsing experience will be like with IE 7 and the next release of Microsoft CRM? Maybe Microsoft can address a few of these minor issues to deliver a truly killer user interface experience.