Outlook Tip – Rules Rule!

Outlook rules are one of the oldest, most under-utilized productivity hacks in the business applications toolbox. They’re excellent for getting distractions out of your inbox.

Newsletters you only occasionally read? Make a rule to send them to their own folder!

System generated messages you never check? Mark them as read!

Let the computer do your work for you.

Today I want to share a set of rules I create when I start working with new customers to help me manage my inbox. But more generally, I just want to encourage you to use more Outlook rules.

Create Customer Category and Rules

When I start working with a new customer, I like to create an outlook category for that customer, and rules so that all customer-specific emails will be tagged with that category.
This works for me because I frequently work across multiple customer projects at the same time, though rarely more than a handful.

Create New Outlook Category

In the Tags group, Under the Categorize button, click All categories
Then click new, and create a category for the new customer

Create Outlook Rules

In the Move group, click on the rules button and select Create Rule
A rule to tag email from the customer.
A rule to tag email to the customer.
A rule to tag email that includes the customer’s name in the subject or body of the email.

OK, What’s the Big Deal?

Automatically categorizing email by customer visually organizes my inbox. I can quickly identify customer vs. internal emails, as well as recognize which customer they pertain to.

It also provides the same visual distinction when looking at meeting invites for the week.


How do you manage your email inbox? Do you use any practices or rules that are exceptionally effective? Let me know in the comments.

Outlook Tip – Time Blocker

Here’s a secret: I’m not great at planning my time.
Good news: A strategy I’ve found for dealing with this that has proven very successful.

Jesse J Anderson introduced me to a method he calls the Tactical Time Blocker, based on techniques in the book Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Everyday by Jake Napp and John Zeratsky.

Essentially, plan out your important tasks and schedule them at the start of your day. Then, track what you actually do during the day. At mid-day, revise your schedule based on what you still need to accomplish, new tasks that have come up, and revised priorities.

Jesse explains this better than me, as well as how he manages it on a sheet here:

I liked this format, but the sheet wasn’t working for me, so I recreated the experience in Outlook.

I created three new calendars, naming them Planned, Actual, and Revised.

In the Folder tab of the Outlook Calendar form, you can create a New Blank Calendar

I grouped them together to make them easier to manage

Right click on the calendars area, and they can be organized in a New Calendar Group

I made a Day view in the calendar section aligning my Work calendar with my Planned, Actual, and Revised calendars.

I also pinned my tasks in the todo bar on the right.

My Tactical Time Blocker workspace in Outlook

I like this approach for a few reasons:

  • At the start of each day, I fill my planned calendar for the day – transferring my work meeting first, and then figuring where I will insert time for the work tasks that I need to accomplish.
  • Outlook’s “current time” bar sliding down the calendar is a great reminder for me to keep my Actual calendar updated during the workday.
  • Having multiple calendars allows me to block out my day, while still giving colleagues visibility to actual availability in my work calendar (which is shared with them).
  • I can view and add to these multiple calendars from the Outlook mobile app (which works great with Siri for appointment scheduling, btw)
  • Maintaining my actual calendar facilitates easy time entry at the end of the day.

Do you have any good time management strategies that work for you? Do you think this will be helpful to you? Let me now in the comments.

Also, if you prefer the paper version of this technique, Jesse’s printable version is available for download on Gumroad.

FastTabs in D365 Finance

FastTabs are blocks in D365 forms that can be expanded or collapsed. Like a filing cabinet or library card catalog (remember card catalogs?), FastTabs allow lots of information to be compressed into a tiny space and opened for access when needed.

Below are some tips for navigating FastTabs in D365 Finance:

Personalization and Saved Views

If you routinely need access to certain field positioned lower on a form, the Move personalization feature can be used to move the more utilized field into a more prominent FastTab, or even to move an entire FastTab higher on the form.

Right-click and select personalize on a field and you can also select Show in Header, which will display that field attribute on the right side of the FastTab whether the FastTab is expanded or collapsed.

Expand All

If you are looking for a field on a form, but unsure which FastTab it is filed under, Expand all can be your friend. Right-clicking on the fasttab header gives you the option to Expand all FastTabs on the form. Used in conjunction with Ctrl+F, this can be a powerful method to quickly find the field you are searching for.

Less Words, Moar Video

I made a quick video of this. Let me know if this is helpful, and whether you’d like me to make more videos like this.

DynamicsCon Is Coming!

DynamicsCon is just 2 weeks away, happening March 16-18.

What is DynamicsCon?

DynamicsCon is the #1 Free, Virtual, Super-hero themed D365 conference in the world. Over three days, Microsoft Dynamics & Power Platform professionals across the globe will connect to learn, share ideas, and develop new skills.

I’m excited to participate in DynamicsCon, presenting a session of my own on Tuesday the 16th (Saved Views, Custom Fields & Developer-less Developments).

Why am I participating in DynamicsCon?

There are three reasons why I am participating in DynamicsCon:

  • Community – The D365 community is great. It is fun to meet and interact with the other D365 and Power Platform professionals. I’m grateful to the others who have helped me learn and apply new technologies and I’d like to be a part of improving the experiences of others.
  • Video – I have written on this blog for a couple years, but video is a new medium for me. DynamicsCon presentations involve 40 minutes of recorded video – committing to present stretched me out of my comfort zone, but this is a good thing. I hope to create more video content in the future.
  • Fun – DynamicsCon is fun. Just look at the super-awesome super-hero masks they made for Calvin and me! And don’t just take my word for it – check out this avid endorsement from Grammy award winning musical artist Kenny G

Why should you participate in DynamicsCon?

If you are a super-hero and/or Kenny G fan, I think the reasoning is self-evident. It is a harder sell if you are not, but the value is still there. DynamicsCon is a great opportunity to meet new people and learn new things around Microsoft’s D365 and Power Platform technologies. Even if you are unable attend the live event, it is worth signing up and watching the recordings afterwards.

Also, did I mention it’s FREE?!?

REGISTER HERE: DynamicsCon | Sign-up

My Favorite PDF Reader is Word

Long Live Clippy – Forever in our Hearts

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but Word is my favorite PDF reader.


Microsoft Edge?

Standard Windows 10 ships with Microsoft Edge as the default PDF reader. It’s nice not having to purchase or download extra PDF reading software, but for me reading a PDF in a web browser does leave something to be desired. First, it’s difficult to markup or edit a PDF in a web browser. Second, I don’t like getting the PDF I’m reading mixed in with all my other open tabs. Third…actually I don’t really have a third – two strikes is enough.

Usually, I read PDFs because they are documents sent to me from a colleague or a customer. I want my open documents grouped with my other open documents (WORD documents), not my endless supply of browser windows.

Make Word Default PDF Reader!

This is actually pretty simple. If you right-click on a PDF, you can choose how to open the file. If word doesn’t appear as an option, you can select choose another app.

From the choose another app screen, if Word does not appear you can find it by clicking more apps. Once selected, you can mark Always use this app to open ..pdf files to set Word as the Default.

As you can see below, setting Word as the default PDF reader creates a slightly different document icon to distinguish between .doc word documents and .pdf PDF documents, though both will be opened in the Word application.

Opening the PDF in Word has the same look and feel of opening a standard word document. As a user, you can make comments or edits like working with a Word document and then save those additions as a new document.

Apparently this functionality has been available since Word 2013. I’m just seven years late to the party. Better late than never, right?

Pin D365 Finance Workspaces to Your Taskbar

On the topic of Hunter Bars, a somber farewell to The Big Hunt in Washington DC.

Longtime readers of this blog know I’m a big fan of Workspaces. I’m such a fan, I gave an entire Workspace Presentation at last year’s User Group Summit.


Why Workspaces?

Here is my pitch for Workspaces:

If bookmarking the D365 Default Dashboard, in order to perform an action you need to 1) Open your browser 2) Go to D365 Default Dashboard and then 3) Goto the D365 form where you will perform your action.

(eg yourcompanyd365url.operations.dynamics.com/),

Bookmarking specific workspaces, utilizing the workspace’s tiles, listpages and links gets you straight to the action you want to perform. Your steps are now 1) Open your browser and 2) Go to the D365 form where you will perform your action.

(eg yourcompanyd365url.operations.dynamics.com/?mi=VendInvoiceWorkspace),

Default Dashboard

Vendor invoice entry workspace


Why Pin Workspaces to Taskbar?

Advancing this concept, Edge makes it easy to pin a workspace to your taskbar. If I click on the purple finance and operations logo on the far right of my taskbar, the vendor invoice entry workspace opens immediately.

The steps are now 1) Go to the D365 form where you want to perform your action and 2)…profit!


How to Pin Workspace to Taskbar

The Edge browser makes this easy. Go to your desired workspace and click the ellipsis on the top right of the Edge Browser. Select more tools, and then click pin to taskbar,

Pin Vendor invoice entry workspace to taskbar


Advanced Concepts

Limited navigation

If you add “&limitednav=true” to the end of your workspace URL, the menu item on the left disappears (zoom into the two Vendor invoice entry workspace screenshots above and look at the urls to see the difference). This gives you a few more pixels to work with (a small benefit), but also cuts down on distractions in the workspace (a larger benefit, possibly).

I like using this limited navigation with the pinned workspace because makes the D365 workspace feel more like a desktop application.

Change Icon

If you hold shift and click on the pinned shortcut in your taskbar, you can select properties to change the icon (the pinned website’s favicon is the shortcut’s default icon). This can be helpful if you want to pin multiple shortcuts to your taskbar and easily distinguish between them. The new icon image must be in .ico format – fortunately there are multiple sites that make it easy to convert standard jpg or png images to ico.


Happy Hunting…


Get Your Free Trial of Dynamics 365

Microsoft has made it simple to to spin up your own 30-day trial environment of D365.
Many thanks to Rick, friend-of-the-blog, for walking me through the steps.

– Trials.Dynamics.com –

Goto https://trials.dynamics.com, click on desired D365 product and provide work email/phone number.

You currently have the ability to startup a trial of D365 Sales, Customer Service, Field Service, Project Service Automation, Business Central, Human Resources, Retail, and (of course) Finance and Operations.

Agree to the terms and conditions, and decide whether or not to opt into marketing messaging.

Kudos to the restraint of the marketing team leaving the opt-in checkbox unselected by default. If your organization belongs to a Microsoft 365 tenant, you can proceed straight to spinning up your trial environment. The process may take up to 30 minutes from here. If your organization does not have a Microsoft 365 tenant, there will be a few more steps.

Once the environment is created, you will receive an email from Lifecycle Services.

The “Click here to start” link will take you to your new trial environment.

The environment will come preconfigured with D365’s legendary Contoso default data. Congratulations! You are now the proud owner user of a 30-day trial environment. Have any questions about what to do from here? Ping me in the comments:)

A Bicycle for the Mind

1895 tall frame Kenwood Path Racer cycle

In this interview with Stripe CEO Patrick Collison, he notes that technology companies are more frequently utilities (how do I get this car to show up now?) or entertainment (how do I get this show now?), and less a bicycle for the mind as early tech-visionaries dreamed for the future of computers.

I’m starting a new project, which has required a lot of new learning. As a result, I’m reflecting on the tools I use to augment my learning.


OneNote

I don’t have a photographic memory. To compensate, I use OneNote a lot. I have OneNotes for projects, I have personal OneNotes, I even have a big OneNote where I document new D365 functionality I’m learning. The process of notetaking helps me concentrate on the subject matter – as an added benefit it builds searchable knowledgebase. I like to think of well structured OneNotes as an investment in my future self.


Teams

I wrote about Microsoft Teams in April (see here and here), but the product has continued to approve this year. Teams are a great place to collaborate in groups, share files, and keep stakeholders up to date. Not to mention its power as a scheduling/meeting/video-conferencing platform.

Add OneNote to a Team

Following up on my love on OneNote, the only thing better than making OneNotes for yourself is making OneNotes as part of a group. In Teams, a OneNote can be added to a tab for easy group access. The OneNote can be edited within Teams, as well as opened for editing in the OneNote desktop app.

Click the plus sign to add a tab

Search for the OneNote application, then select the specific OneNote to be added

The OneNote can now be accessed through Teams

Clicking Open in Browser, the OneNote can also be opened in the desktop app.

Hooray.

I like having access to the OneNote through the desktop application because the features are a bit more robust and I can always bring up the OneNote application using the Win+Shift+N hotkey.

Sync Teams Files to Computer

As mentioned above, Teams are a great way to share files. As in many social situations, Teams can sometimes fall victim to oversharing. (I’m sorry, but I don’t want to discuss your foot fungus problems during the company holiday party, now suddenly I’m the bad person?). I’ve seen many Teams develop a file folder structure so complicated they require their own Indiana Jones map for navigation. However, no matter how large the file structure, usually the contents of only one or two folders are relevant to me.

Instead of digging through the folder structures every time I want to review those files, syncing the relevant folders or files to my computer is an easier solution.

On the Files tab of the Team, click Open in SharePoint

From SharePoint, click Sync

Select the particular files or folders to sync

The synced files and folders can now be accessed through File Explorer

File explorer can be quickly accessed using WIN+E. Depending on OneDrive settings, synced files can be saved to the computer’s hard drive for offline access. Changes to synced files will save on the files accessible to the Team.


Other Bicycles for the Mind

Two other tech tools I’m interested in right now are Tiago Forte’s Building a Second Brain knowledge management system and the Roam Research notetaking tool. I’m pretty busy studying for my current project, but I’m looking forward to exploring both when I have some available time in the future.

Speaking of studying – shoutout to Quizlet. Learning new terms from a glossary: boring. Learning new terms from flashcards: fun. I’ve found Quizlet makes it easy to upload and review new terms/definitions, and the mobile app makes it convenient to practice on the go.

Always open for editing – Personalization | D365 Platform

See the source image
“I took the [road] less traveled by, And that has made all the difference” ~ Robert Frost

In the middle of a twitter thread complaining about how food bloggers always tell long, unrelated stories before finally getting to their recipe, food blogger @DanielleEsposti points out: “Google forces us to provide context so we can rank, so we can get traffic, so we can make ad $$, so we can provide more (free) content. It’s not always as simple as shut up & blog.

Reading her comment, watching the autumn leaves turn golden brown outside my window, I was reminded of making butternut squash soup with my mother when I was little. It’s a simple recipe, lovingly made. The dish is the right balance of sweet and savory….and all of this is really a ruse to get ranked on “D365 for Butternut Squash Soup“.

Anyways, here’s some D365 content:


Always Open for Editing

D365 forms are either open for editing (in edit mode) or closed for editing (in view mode). When a form is in view mode, it can be opened for editing by clicking the edit button on the top left, or hovering the mouse over any editable field and clicking the pencil icon that appears.

View mode can help prevent accidental record changes, but can also be cumbersome if a user’s role requires them to make frequent form updates. In the Options tab, users can personalize their view of a form by clicking Always open for editing so that the form is in edit mode by default when opened by the user.

Notice that when saved views are enabled, activating Always open for editing creates an asterisk by the view name, reminding the user that a change has been made to the view. Users can save this view for personal use or publish the view, making it accessible to other users.


If you’ve come this far in your D365 reading and still can’t stop thinking about Butternut Squash Soup, I recommend you try Danielle’s PALEO BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP WITH POMEGRANATE – it really looks delicious. #D365forButternutSquashSoup


Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Uploading Project Categories

Part 1: Export Project Category Data

The School of Athens by Raphael

The whole is better than the sum if its parts.

~Aristotle, maybe.


In our previous posts in this series we looked at understanding project categories and using project categories. Completing the series, today we’ll look at uploading project categories through a package in the data migration framework.

Remembering our initial diagram, project category data don’t exist on a single table, but are on a set of related tables. To manually create a Project category, you need to

  1. Configure a Category group
  2. Configure a Shared category
  3. Create a Project category
  4. Update Expense or Cost category details (if necessary)

The same holds true when uploading project categories through the data management workspace. We will need to upload data through multiple data entities to successfully build our project categories.

Data management workspace

A quick refresher on the Data management workspace – The Data management workspace relies on data entities to pass data in and out of D365. An Import project can be created to pass data into D365. An Export project can be created to pass data out of D365. When examining data in an existing system, it can sometimes help to create an Export project to view the available data.

Above is an export project with the data entities related to project categories

  1. Project category group
  2. Shared category
  3. Category table
  4. Project category
  5. Expense category

Clicking export processes the data in these entities so they can be downloaded in a package. Refresh the following screen until the completed checkbox appears – you can now click Download package.

The downloaded package is a zip file containing excel files for your data entities as well as two .xml files – Manifest.xml and PackageHeader.xml. You can extract the contents of the zip file to examine the contents of the project category data. The xml files will be helpful when we make changes or additions to the project category data and are ready to import those changes back into D365. As we will see in the next post, the xml files tell the Data management workspace what data entities we want to upload and the order in which we want to upload them.

STAY TUNED FOR THE EXCITING FOLLOW-UP…

Part 2: Import Project Category Data