Friday, January 21, 2011

DAXCONF - Extending the Reach of the application with the new Office Add-ins

I've really seen some cool  things in this session. Here we go:

Copying data from Ax to Excel is not new, but it wouldn't be Ax2012 if it wasn't improved: now only the actual columns you're seeing on the screen are copied. But that's nothing compared to the fact that you can actually create, change and delete Ax data from within Excel. In an Excel workbook, you can 'add data' and pick one of the availabe services (these are webservices). In design mode you can bind the fields from your datasource to the cells in your worksheet.

You can then:
- Add new records (of cource all mandatory fields need to be in place)
- Even create new linked header/line records
- Update existing values (data is validated!)
- Delete records
- Add (non-bound) calculated columns
- Format your data as you want
- Use lookup-values (just as with the drop-downs in the Ax client)
- Add 'matrix fields' to create aggregate views
- Changing the value of an aggregated field automatically updates the original values (proportionally)

All modifications that you do on bound data stays within Excel until you hit the 'publish' button, this sends the data back to Ax.Actually this can be used as a new way to bulk-insert data (think data conversion).

Is it limited to MS Excel?
No it is not: you can use MS Word to create nice looking documents based on Ax data.
Again: formatting can be applied, columns/tables can be created and populated, calculated columns can be added, support for multi-language using the Ax labels, the document handling feature can pick up templates from a SharePoint library and use these to produce customized documents, … 

Allright! Can I replace the reporting in Ax by Word documents then?
That's not the intention since you will be missing features like batch support , your hardcoded template texts will not be language-sensitive, the paging of the generated documents is not guaranteed, ...

Also: Ax2012 now support copying data from an Ax running in a remote desktop to an Excel running on your local machine. This saves you an Office license on the terminal server.

So this actually is a nice feature to read data securely into Office so that end users can see live data, refresh, modify, add and delete data in a way that's convenient for them and publish the data back to Ax. It is an easy way of creating re-useable reports (Excel) and documents (Word) without any development.

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