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Dynamics 365 - Learning Path Authoring Sidebars

In a previous blog (Learning Path Authoring Basics), we introduced Learning Path Authoring and the Content Library.  As stated previously, Sidebars slide out from the right side of the application, and provide more information for users to quickly and easily get access to additional content.

Sidebars can include links, videos and other content to help users become familiar with a specific page or form that’s displayed.

There are two main steps for creating a Sidebar:

  1. Set the sidebar properties and assign security roles (that the sidebar should be displayed for).
  2. Add content to the sidebar.

Set the Sidebar Properties

You first need to go to the page in Dynamics 365 where you want your Sidebar to appear.  This is a small but very important step you must take BEFORE going to the content library to create your Sidebar.

For example, I wanted to create a Sidebar for Contacts.  To do this, I navigated in Dynamics 365 to the Contacts main grid and went to Settings –> Training –> Content Library (or display the Sidebar and click on the Content Library icon from the Sidebar that pops out).

After the Content Library loads, click on image_thumb80 to open the dialog to start entering in your Sidebar details

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The following pieces of information should be collected as you start creating your Sidebar:

  • Disable:  If checked, this Sidebar will not appear to users.
  • Make this an error sidebar:   If checked, this Sidebar will only appear to users if there is an error with other Sidebars associated with the page from being loaded (e.g., lack of security permissions for the logged in user).
  • Make this home sidebar:  Home Sidebars are shown when a user clicks the home button, or if the page the user is on does not have a Sidebar associated to it and the user clicks the Help question mark icon.  Each page can only have a single Home Sidebar.
  • Name:  This is the name for the Sidebar.
  • ClientWeb client, Mobile apps, or Interactive Service Hub are options you’ll see based on whether you’re connected to the mobile app interface or Interactive Service Hub when you’re creating the Sidebar.  Remember, it mattered where you came from before you clicked Content Library and image_thumb97 as that’s where the task will appear.
  • Form factor:  This depends on the Client you selected.  Web will allow you to select Desktop or Tablet.  Mobile apps will let you select Tablet.  And Interactive Service Hub will let you select Desktop.
  • Sidebar opens when:  Select whether you want the Sidebar to appear when a Link is Clicked on a page (including buttons), when the Page Loads, or Help Button is Clicked.
  • Lifecycle stage:  This is an internal use only setting and can be ignored.
  • Dynamics 365 security role:  Select the security role(s) that you want the Sidebar to be displayed for.  If a user is assigned more than one security role, the Sidebar will appear only for the role with the highest precedence (as described in our previous blog Learning Path Authoring Basics).
  • Template:  Sidebars can be in a Single Column or Two Column format.
  • Status:  The status which remains at Draft until you publish the Sidebar.
  • Advanced Options:  Note: These only appear after you save the Sidebar:
    • Disable Sidebar Header:  Disables the sidebar header.
    • Disable Sidebar Title:  Disables the sidebar title.
    • Disable Sidebar Footer:  Disables the sidebar footer.
    • Supported Languages:  Languages that this Sidebar supports, as well as used for import and export.
    • Author:  The creator/author of the Sidebar.
    • Tags:  Tags can be added to assist with searching for content in the Content Library as well as categorizing your content.
    • App Version:  The Dynamics 365 application version associated with the content.
    • Control Version:  Sets the version of the content.
    • Authoring Repository:  The Authoring Group (organization) for the content.
    • Publishing Environments:  The publishing group(s) (organizations) for the content.

When you’ve completed defining the how the Sidebar is triggered and details of the Sidebar, click on Save to move onto the content editor.

Add Sidebar Content

After clicking Save on the initial Sidebar properties page, you’re presented with a blank slate to start adding content to your Sidebar.

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In the top box, you can enter a title for your Sidebar that will appear for all users.  By default, you can see 4 sections added automatically, but you can add additional sections via the Add Section button, or you can remove sections by clicking the section header, and then clicking the trash can icon that flies out to the left.

You can have at most 12 sections in a Sidebar, and each section can have different content types (videos, text, external links, buttons, links to Guided Tasks, links to Sidebars, or links to pages in CRM) to help your users become familiar with the specific page or form that’s displayed.   Note that the Button content types give you the same 4 options as the List of Links content type, but by using buttons instead of hyperlinks (Guided Task, Sidebar, Page in the app, or External Webpage).

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Just like with Guided Tasks, you can click on Preview to preview what your Sidebar will look like before checking it in and publishing it.

Here’s a Sidebar that I created around Contacts and how it looks in the designer.

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When you’re done creating your Sidebar, click on the Save icon at the very top left of the Sidebar in the designer.  Then navigate back to the Content Library, and select Manage –> Check in to make your Sidebar visible to all Learning Path Authors, and then click on Publish –> Publish so that the Sidebar changes can be visible to end users.  You can check in and publish multiple pieces of content at once from the Content Library.

After checking in and publishing the Contact Sidebar, it looks like the following when a user navigates to the page you set it up for (remember when I mentioned the page you navigated to the content library is important).  In this case, that’s the Contact main list view. 

Note that the Sidebar comes with a search bar that allows users to search for additional help and training.  This searches across Learning Path Content you’ve created, as well as external content outside of your organization that is publicly available.

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Considerations

With this great feature allowing users to add customized help throughout the application, there are still some limitations / considerations to be aware of.

  • Learning Path is not supported in the native Dynamics 365 mobile app for phones.
  • When designing a Sidebar for the Web Client, the Tablet form factor refers to running the Sidebar in a web browser on the tablet (not the native tablet mobile app).
  • Sidebars can have at most 12 sections.

Final Thoughts

Learning Path has great potential, and the addition of the ability to create your own content makes this feature much more valuable.  I can see the need to create custom content for most of our customer deploys.

For more information on this topic, please see the other posts we’ve made about Learning Path:

Topics: Microsoft Dynamics 365 Microsoft Dynamics CRM Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online