We will be releasing shortly a beta (please don´t use it in production yet!) of our AlineaSol Forms package, supporting SugarCRM CE and SuiteCRM (support for Sugar Professional will follow). What? Forms what? And is the title not about Forms AND Views? Indeed…
So, lets start with the “challenge” and then explain what we are doing at AlineaSol.
First stop: Studio and the “not to be”
Studio was and is a very useful tool to define how your different “views” (detail, edit, …) should look like. If you know Sugar Professional, you are aware that the Studio there can do considerably more. And SuiteCRM users have also benefitted from some extensions in that release-branch. But… is this sufficient? We clearly think: not. Are we the only ones believing so? Not really. So…? Well, there is a reason why discussing “Studio” is a bit of a tabu. To start of with, we are directly hitting “compatibility” aspects. And you know how for example SuiteCRM claims 100% compatibility with SugarCRM: modules built for SugarCRM should still work with SuiteCRM. But, we all know what the SugarCRM CE roadmap is...Can this be a mid long-term strategy? Again, we think not.
So, are we starting a revolution? Not really, but we are putting a stake in the ground. And…although we maintain compatibility with standard Sugar, some work will be necessary to get 100% benefit out of what you already may have.
So far the long introduction. What does forms&views try to achieve?
You can see AlineaSol Forms, as an enhanced studio. More about these enhancements later. But we go further: We allow you to define any number of “Forms”, and even facilitate that these forms can be invoked from a new menu item from any given module. And forms are the building stones of what we call “views”. Our “views”, which we expect to beta around years-end, go beyond the views in SugarCRM CE, and actually go beyond what you can find for example in SugarCRM Professional 7. You will be able to create complex views, using multiple forms (“form-dashlet”), and the forms will be able to intercommunicate. But more on AlineaSol views at a later stage. Let´s go back to AlineaSol Forms, and what they currently can do, to finish after that with what we still have in the roadmap on short term.
Enrich the user-interface for SugarCRM
Be able to construct a more intelligent interface, using colours based on conditions, graphs that show you the context of an item that you are analysing, support wizards, etc.
Supporting ajax based transitions, pre-loading elements, etc.
And how does it look like?
With forms, you can create a…form! that can be built from different datasources. This form can then be viewed or edited. If it is editable, the form information can be sent to an external application or to… AlineaSol WorkFlowManager! so that you can create more advanced validations, wizards, take specific actions, etc.
Let´s start from the beginning: AlineaSol Forms is another Sugar module.
As you can see from the picture above, forms is just another module that can be made accessible e.g. to selected roles for edition, or just usage.
Users of AlineaSol Reports will recognize the familiar interface. So, when you create a new Form, you have to define where the original data should come from. Currently we support:
Free (no specific source)
Directly from a Sugar module
External DB (for enterprise customers)
WFM global variables (if you have Enterprise WFM)
As it is not the intention for this to become the user manual, I leave it up to your imagination what you can do with each type of datasource.
Note though that you can define the scope of the form: another level to control access.
Once you define the datasource, you can start defining the actual form using a drag&drop interface
Let´s quickly go through the main functionality. The Forms edit screen is divided into 2 main areas: datasource area (left side) and work-space (right side).
The datasource area is straightforward. It shows the elements you can use to set-up a form.
The workspace is divided into a header, and panels that can be added dynamically. Though the header you get to the “submit” editor which is a small but useful tool to create your own form processing code. You can also toggle between “PHP” and control by WFM. The association of form with a WorkFlow is done through the WFM. The form submit editor will show you if there is an association (click on PHP button on top right side).
Using the drag and drop facilities, fields from the datasource can be added to the form. Note that there are some button facilities (only “edition” supported for the time being) available by default.
For each individual panel, you can:
define a title
the number of colums to display (from 0 to 4)
what roles can see the form
specific visibility rules (e.g. only show this filed if a parameter has a certain value)
add new rows
Each field gets a number of action buttons:
Left (property buttons):
visible for roles
Right (edit buttons):
Once you define a form, you can go to the admin section, AlineaSol Forms, Menus management
And add dynamically new menu items to your modules-menu using your forms!
As you have probably figured it out, we are supporting a client-server architecture. The client currently supports the following actions:
"load form": transition from form1 to form2
"reload self form": short-cut operation.
"hide self" & "show self": only relevant for “views” mode.
It also handles basic validation and error messaging.
So, is this “almost finished”?
Alas, we will need a bit more time before we release a production version. We expect that this will happen around years end. We have quite some new facilities planned till then:
New format support
dependent enum (make an enum depend on another)
form-report button (to show a new form or report)
Definable CSS for each form
Support Forms within dashlets, and within estándar UI from Sugar (as now supported for reports)
Predefined values within forms
Easier validation rules
New event types: on_init, before_submit y after_submit
There are various aspects that we are addressing with this new set-up
The most important one for us is that we move to move towards a richer and smoother User Interface for SugarCRM. Note that we are not talking about a new skin… this is a change in concept. We do plan to support a fully packaged standard CE UI rewrite using AlineaSol Forms&Views, most probably asking support from the community.
SugarCRM Enterprise versions have introduced a good forms editor, and it was about time that a forms editor became available for SugarCRM CE.
As you are used from us, we are introducing both a community and paid version. The differences are in line with AlineaSol Reports philosophy.
Looking forward to your feedback!