Dynamics GP (The GP stands for Gutenberg Press)



  • I'm sure a few of you guys have worked with/put up with MS Dynamics GP before. And I'm sure there's further subset who have worked with the included Report Writer. That subset probably knows exactly where I'm going with this.

    The Dynamics GP Report Writer has got to be one of the most poorly conceived pieces of software I've ever used. It has a number of problems, one of which being that there is no zoom functionality whatsoever. The worst problem by far is that you have to do the typesetting manually. Anybody under the age of 80 who has ever touched a computer probably thinks I mean there's no snap-to-grid; there is. No, in Report Writer, if you want to have a static block of text, you have to manually typeset it - alignment, wrapping, even spacing. This is because the "static text" object is limited to a single line, with a maximum of 79 characters. Want to put shipping instructions on the bottom of your PO form? Have fun chopping it up into 79 character static text fields, wrapping the text by hand, and getting everything spaced just right. Oh, and it's all WYSI(NotQuite)WYG. Report Writer will automatically size the static text fields for you, which is pointless, because when printed, the text then runs past the right edge of the text box and is clipped. You have to resize all the text boxes with a bunch of dead white space on the right. And then because of this quirk, you also have to guess how far to space the neighboring text boxes on a single line, so the word spacing looks natural.

    Then when you're ready to test the layout, you have to switch back to standard Dynamics GP mode (that and Report Writer are mutually exclusive), pull up a PO, or whatever you're modifying the form for, and test print it. And of course it still gets worse - the typesetting of "print to screen" looks different from "print to an actual printer", so if you want to see what it'll really look like, then you get to waste a bunch of paper. If it doesn't look right (which is pretty likely), you get to switch back to Report Writer mode and nudge some text boxes around again.

    And that's why it took an hour and a half to update three fucking lines of text on the bottom of a PO form.



  • Lordy. I thought Crystal Reports was bad! Wait: is this Crystal you're talking about; or do you mean MS Management Reporter? I was aware MS bought Dynamics by swallowing Great Plains Software, and though I've never used Great Plains, I know people who have and have pronounced it 'okay … sort of.'



  • @db2 said:

    And of course it still gets worse - the typesetting of "print to screen" looks different from "print to an actual printer", so if you want to see what it'll really look like, then you get to waste a bunch of paper.
    Umm, PDFCreator.



  • @Cad Delworth said:

    Lordy. I thought Crystal Reports was bad! Wait: is this Crystal you're talking about; or do you mean MS Management Reporter? I was aware MS bought Dynamics by swallowing Great Plains Software, and though I've never used Great Plains, I know people who have and have pronounced it 'okay … sort of.'

    I would be thrilled if I could use Crystal Reports instead. That's how awful this thing is.



  •  Remind me what's so bad about Crystal Reports?  (I've asked this before, but it's been a good long while.)




  • I don't consider Crystal Reports to be WTF territory, but I definitely find it a lot clumsier than SSRS. It's like they designed it to work well with dumb data sources, so a lot of data-tier functionality was built in to compensate, and it feels rather unwieldy as a result. Layout is sort of cumbersome, but not anywhere near as awful as Dynamics GP Report Writer.



  • @emurphy said:

    Remind me what's so bad about Crystal Reports?  (I've asked this before, but it's been a good long while.)

    Report deployment sucks - Microsoft got this right with SSRS. There's also a few iritating bugs in it, with grouping and conditional logic. The inbuilt ODBC connectors are shite. Erm... ah...

    In all, it's not a bad tool. Most detractors are those that expect to pick it up wizard-style without proper training and moan when it bites them back. Few detractors have used something else - they can probably give a more indepth report on its shortcomings.



  • @Cassidy said:

    and moan when it bites them back
     

    I weep for software to which the metaphor "bites back" applies. That's not making light of it, that's plain acknowledging that it's bad software.



  • I work with GP all the time - I'm actually on site now deploying some SSRS reports that look at GP project accounting. The problem is that the client wants to be able to drill-through then click the back button to go back to the previous page (where they drilled from)...

    IE does not like this.

    Firefox works fine with the history (you can go back/foward to your hearts content) but the reports look like shit.

    I've searched and searched and I can't find anywhere that has any insight into why IE is removing the browsing history - must be something to do with iframes

    The real WTF is IE. GP is great (apart from the horrifying table and column names which are as inconsistent as IE's browsing history!)

    Don't even get me started on report writer...

    oh and to the OP - at least you aren't working with Microsoft Dynamics Nav native report writer.... shudders



  • @db2 said:

    The Dynamics GP Report Writer has got to be one of the most poorly conceived pieces of software I've ever used. It has a number of problems, one of which being that there is no zoom functionality whatsoever. The worst problem by far is that you have to do the typesetting manually. Anybody under the age of 80 who has ever touched a computer probably thinks I mean there's no snap-to-grid; there is. No, in Report Writer, if you want to have a static block of text, you have to manually typeset it - alignment, wrapping, even spacing. This is because the "static text" object is limited to a single line, with a maximum of 79 characters. Want to put shipping instructions on the bottom of your PO form? Have fun chopping it up into 79 character static text fields, wrapping the text by hand, and getting everything spaced just right. Oh, and it's all WYSI(NotQuite)WYG. Report Writer will automatically size the static text fields for you, which is pointless, because when printed, the text then runs past the right edge of the text box and is clipped. You have to resize all the text boxes with a bunch of dead white space on the right. And then because of this quirk, you also have to guess how far to space the neighboring text boxes on a single line, so the word spacing looks natural.

    Wow.  They managed to make MSPaint look actually quite advanced and user-friendly.  I'm not sure that's been done before.




  • @DaveK said:

    Wow.  They managed to make MSPaint look actually quite advanced and user-friendly.  I'm not sure that's been done before.

    Funny that you mention MS Paint. Gaze upon this stupefyingly awful workaround: Oh god what

    I actually tried that. But this being Report Writer, you have to use an uncompressed BMP, and it can only be 32KB.



  • @db2 said:

    @DaveK said:

    Wow.  They managed to make MSPaint look actually quite advanced and user-friendly.  I'm not sure that's been done before.

    Funny that you mention MS Paint. Gaze upon this stupefyingly awful workaround: Oh god what

    Now they have two WTFs! 

    @db2 said:

    I actually tried that. But this being Report Writer, you have to use an uncompressed BMP, and it can only be 32KB.

    This thing is called "Dexterity" why?  Because it sure isn't good at handling anything.



  • @DaveK said:

    This thing is called "Dexterity" why?
    Because using it makes you want to murder someone?



  • @cconroy said:

    @DaveK said:

    This thing is called "Dexterity" why?
    Because using it makes you want to murder someone?

    Good catch!



  • @dhromed said:

    @Cassidy said:

    and moan when it bites them back
     

    I weep for software to which the metaphor "bites back" applies. That's not making light of it, that's plain acknowledging that it's bad software.

    No, it's acknowledging that if a dog bites you back, then it may not be a bad dog - it could be something you are doing bad to said animal.



  • I haven't touched Great Plains since about 2007 when I had to install it on some new computers in the Accounting department of my last job. If I recall, it was one of the few (complex) Microsoft programs that didn't touch the registry on install. Made install and configuration a snap. Is it still like that?



  • I've worked with that abomination before. As I recall, the database design had a nice, built-in system for dealing with concurrency. Unfortunately, its designers apparently came from some distant planet unfamiliar with all other aspects of relational database theory. Or, maybe they were accountants. In any case, I have seriously never seen any system built using "GP" do anything that could not be done better and more quickly using Excel and/or legal pads. I'm not saying Excel and legal pads are the right way to do corporate accounting... I'm saying that they can at least be made to do corporate accounting in a rational way (or, at least, to support the people doing accounting), whereas GP cannot.



    As for using its built-in reporting tool... are you mad? Just select the data from the database and print it using whatever technology you actually like. If you're willing to settle for manually wrapped text, STDIO.H can accomplish that... there's no need for the configuration nightmare and abject humiliation that no doubt accompany "GP Report Writer".



  • @Cassidy said:

    No, it's acknowledging that if a dog bites you back, then it may not be a bad dog - it could be something you are doing bad to said animal.
     

    But software isn't dogs!



  • @dhromed said:

    @Cassidy said:

    No, it's acknowledging that if a dog bites you back, then it may not be a bad dog - it could be something you are doing bad to said animal.
     

    But software isn't dogshit!

    Some of it is.

    Okay, back to my original observation: Alex put it better than I did: blaming gravity for the fact that they can't fly. Sometimes the problem isn't the package itself, but the user of said package, or rather their limited knowledge of how that package works.



  • @Cassidy said:

    Sometimes the problem isn't the package itself, but the user of said package, or rather their limited knowledge of how that package works.
     

    I agree! Why didn't you just say that in the first place?



  • @dhromed said:

    @Cassidy said:

    Sometimes the problem isn't the package itself, but the user of said package, or rather their limited knowledge of how that package works.
     

    I agree! Why didn't you just say that in the first place?

    And spoil your fun? Playing hard to get is all part of the game, you tease.



  • @Cassidy said:

    And spoil your fun? Playing hard to get is all part of the game, you tease.
     

    CHOP





  • @Scarlet Manuka said:

    @dhromed said:
    CHOP

     

    BAKE

     

    NOM



  • @db2 said:

    I don't consider Crystal Reports to be WTF territory, but I definitely find it a lot clumsier than SSRS. It's like they designed it to work well with dumb data sources, so a lot of data-tier functionality was built in to compensate, and it feels rather unwieldy as a result. Layout is sort of cumbersome,


    Having used Crystal Reports for years and just recently (as in "this week") started working on SSRS, I disagree with this in several areas:

    • Header (report/page/group), detail, footer sections are clearly marked and targetable on the left (SSRS makes you hunt around for an empty spot to click)
    • Data fields are clearly marked (in SSRS, if I drag and drop fields from the dataset to the canvas, then it leaves Label blank and they just look like "<<Expr>>" in design mode)
    • Data fields can be dragged by clicking anywhere on them (in SSRS, if I click on the label text, it assumes I want to edit; Crystal reserves this for double-clicks)
    • Snap-to-grid is available (you can turn it off if you want; SSRS has some align-with-X functionality, but how do I get a bunch of side-by-side 1-inch-wide fields instead of a bunch of side-by-side fields that are sort of in the ballpark of 1 inch wide and look sloppy?)


    SSRS has tables, which are nice and have no obvious equivalent in Crystal Reports (the closest seems to be cross-tab which is indeed cumbersome), but:

    • Drag handles are fiddly
    • Changing the width of a column does weird things to the width of other columns
    • Adding a row or column group does weird things to the grid
    • "Repeat headers on new page" has weird problems, especially if you don't have any groups and are just doing a straight data dump (I looked up and tried about four "this totes fixes it" workarounds before giving the hell up and hiding those headers and creating my own labels within the page header section). Hell, even the descriptions of the options-with-weird-problems are confusing: does "row headers" mean "the names of rows which are in the left column" or "the top row which contains the names of columns"?


    Then there's SSRS presenting element properties as a long list with inline section titles (as usual for Visual Studio) vs. Crystal's tabbed dialog with a bunch of various controls on each tab.  I think this just comes down to what you're used to (my work developing GUI apps started out with a VS-esque toolset that also presents element properties as a tabbed dialog).

    SSRS gets points for letting you define the dataset by typing in a snowflake-schema query (Crystal requires using drag-and-release to establish table links), but loses some for the wizard having no obvious way to define the dataset as the output of a stored procedure with parameters.

    Okay, that seems like enough ranting. I'm also probably glossing over some things in Crystal that are only obvious to me because I've designed hundreds of non-trivial reports with it already.

     



  • @emurphy said:

    • Snap-to-grid is available (you can turn it off if you want; SSRS has some align-with-X functionality, but how do I get a bunch of side-by-side 1-inch-wide fields instead of a bunch of side-by-side fields that are sort of in the ballpark of 1 inch wide and look sloppy?)

    Use "guidelines" rather than a grid. Drag handles will snap to a guideline - it's more sticky than a grid point, since moving the guideline will yank ALL handles attached.

    @emurphy said:

    "Repeat headers on new page" has weird problems, especially if you don't have any groups and are just doing a straight data dump (I looked up and tried about four "this totes fixes it" workarounds before giving the hell up and hiding those headers and creating my own labels within the page header section).

    Apparently there's a known issue about repeating headers - I know of someone that couldn't get a page total to display at the bottom of each page despite the fact it showed clearly in Design view. It seems a patch fixed this.



  • @Cassidy said:

    Use "guidelines" rather than a grid. Drag handles will snap to a guideline - it's more sticky than a grid point, since moving the guideline will yank ALL handles attached.
     

     

    Crystal has guidelines too, in fact it auto-creates vertical ones sometimes, which can work for you if you pay proper attention or against you if you don't (or your predecessor didn't; I'm used to modifying stock forms with a huge mess of guidelines all over the place, and am thus accustomed to just nuking them from orbit).  Anyway, I'll try them out during the next round.

     

     



  • @emurphy said:

    Crystal has guidelines too, in fact it auto-creates vertical ones sometimes, which can work for you if you pay proper attention or against you if you don't (or your predecessor didn't; I'm used to modifying stock forms with a huge mess of guidelines all over the place, and am thus accustomed to just nuking them from orbit).  Anyway, I'll try them out during the next round.
     

    Sorry, I meant Crystal (I don't know SSRS).

    And yup - adding any object to a report creates a guideline, removing said object doesn't clear the guideline, so reports become a right chequerboard if not well-maintained. I also highlight that this is a symptom of the report passing through several different maintainers, and the nuke option is an easy choice.


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