PrecisionForms – An introduction
In order to use the reports developed in PrecisionForms, you will need to activate the report from the System Administration module in Dynamics AX. Once the report is activated, a set of operations happen in the background. For example, when a user generates a sales invoice report from the invoice journal, the system creates an XML file which contains the header data, line level data, and print settings data. This XML file is then saved to a shared location. Based on the print settings (print to screen, printer, or email) selected by the user, a PDF file is generated to the respective print destination, which is later archived to a shared location.
Licensing and installation
PrecisionForms is a license-based tool that needs to be purchased based on the need for development. Once the administrator has access to the setup, the following components – each with its own independent usage - needs to be installed independently.
Developing reports using PrecisionForms
Want to begin developing reports using PrecisionForms? Listed below are a list of tasks that you will need to perform:
Enabling report and PrecisionForms defaults
Since enabling PrecisionForm reports requires some mapping/settings that has to be configured in Dynamics AX, Bottomline provides custom forms which come within the Dynamics AX model received after purchasing the license.
The first form is the Defaults form which is present at path System Administration → Setup → PrecisionForms → Defaults
The Defaults form contains the following basic fields which must be set.
- XML Output location – This field describes the path of the print queue which gets automatically created in the Control Panel when an administrator installs the tool.
- Screen preview temp location – This indicates the temp path for the PDF file generation. When you generate a report, the PDF file will get stored in this location and the system will open the PDF file from this location.
- Default testing parameters – The generated XML of the report gets stored at this file path location.
All the values in the above fields must be shared among the users using the AX system and the path entered must be of UNC type.
Once the above parameters are set, you need to enable reports for which default instead of SSRS opening, custom reports developed using PrecisionForms should open.
To enable any report, navigate to the following path:
System administration → Setup → PrecisionForms → Enabled reports
The form will not contain any data; PrecisionForms by default doesn’t configure the reports.
The AOT object name will contain the AOT name of the SSRS report and the second column will indicate whether this report is enabled for PrecisionForms. The list of enabled reports will appear as follows:
The Setup tab will contain the document process name which specifies the name of the Director file which decides what to do with report generation.
If you click on View details for document process, the document processes form will open which describes the name of the Director.
The above highlighted field specifies the Director name.
The Destination tab in Enabled Reports form gives a list of options to select the report destination such as Screen, Email, Printer, or SharePoint.
The list shown on the left indicates the several destinations assigned to the report; you can select any of the destinations for report generation.
To create new print destinations, navigate to the path System administration → Setup → PrecisionForms → Delivery destinations.
The list will appear like this:
By default, PrecisionForms supports the following print destinations:
For the purpose of this blog, we will only focus on Screen, Email, and Printer.
Once you create your desired destinations, all of them will be listed in the Enabled reports form and you can select the destination according to the business requirement.
The last tab in Enabled reports is a Free form label where you can add extra labels which can later be used inside the report development.
Creating a Director file using PrecisionForms Director application
The PrecisionForms Director application gets installed automatically when you run the PrecisionForms setup. You can find this application under the Windows Start menu.
The PrecisionForms Director usually contains a flowchart, which decides the flow of report generation; you can use built-in nodes to design the program flow. For example, when a user generates a report, the system needs to decide where the report should be printed, and that conditional logic needs to be created inside the Director application.
Search for the PrecisionForms Director application in the Windows start menu as shown below:
Once you open the application, you can open an existing project as shown below:
Creating a Designer file using PrecisionForms Director application
You can find this application under the start menu of Windows.
PrecisionForms Designer allows you to design the layout of your report; you can use the built-in controls and sections for designing the report. Basic sections such as Page Header, Report Header, Body, and Footers are available by default.
You need to import the XML file which was created while generating a report into this designer file as a source to start the development. The vertical pane on the left displays the list of available controls. The pane in the center is the design window, and the one on the right displays the input window.
The screenshot shows the nodes present in XML which contains standard nodes of PrecisionForms - Label nodes and table nodes which are used in the report. The table nodes contain all the Header and Detail level fields of the Temp table. Based on the nodes present in the XML, sections are automatically created in the designer file, when any XML is imported.
Administration or the PrecisionForms Server contains the management of report output destinations such as screen, printer, and email. You can manage the following functions for each destination type:
- Enable/ disable the queue
- View and edit queue properties
- View execution log
- Configure log file settings
All printer queues need to be installed under the Control panel → Devices and Printers. Only then you will be able to see the printer in the PrecisionForms Server.
For Destination type email, you need to set up the SMTP configuration under the PrecisionForms email application.
Displaying additional information using X++
Sometimes, apart from the standard report logic, you may need to display some more information in the report. Instead of changing the standard behavior/logic of report, you have the option to create display methods which can be used directly in the report.
The display methods can be written directly on the Temp tables used in the report. These display methods need to be added to the report through PrecisionForms setup in AX so that the method is included in XML node.
Benefits of PrecisionForms over SSRS reports
Instead of adopting the standard SSRS reports, reports developed using PrecisionForms has the following advantages over SSRS.
Reduces implementation and migration times
Instead of manually deploying the reports to each AOS server, if you need to migrate reports between servers, you just need to copy the respective files from source to target environment.
Enhances Dynamics AX reports in terms of output time
In terms of viewing and output time, PrecisionForms reports have less execution time; SSRS calls its service every time a report is generated which is eliminated in case of PrecisionForms.
Simplifies designing of branded quality output
Designing becomes much easier in the PrecisionForms Designer application as you can add or remove any section with a single click, whenever needed.
Combines multiple reports to one
Combining multiple reports becomes a lot easier as you just need to add the AX logic of two different reports into one report. Since this is automatically handled for creating a single XML file for both the reports, you can easily use them later in the Designer application.
Is quick to set up
Since you have an EXE file to execute, which will install all the relevant applications, configuring PrecisionForms application takes less time.
Simplify document design and management
In a world where employees end up spending a lot of time creating and managing reports and documents for various everyday tasks, PrecisionForms is like a breath of fresh air. A simple and secure way to automate the creation and management of documents within Dynamics AX, PrecisionForms is an easy to deploy and automatically captures information from interactive workflows to improve business processes and customer experiences. This efficient, customizable, low-cost, high-quality business solution is all you need to simplify document design and management.
About the Author - Angna Thakkar
Angna Thakkar is a competent Senior Project Manager, Microsoft Dynamics AX Technical at Indusa with over 10 years of experience in managing multi-disciplinary teams of varying sizes and complex programs of work. She is always committed to professionalism, highly organized, able to see the big picture while paying attention to small details.