Stay current with RSS

For a definition of RSS

RSS is a great way to have web content centralized so that when you have catch-up time you don’t have to visit numerous websites. There are many feed readers available and I have chosen to use the extension available for my browser.

To find an RSS feed reader that works for you, Google “RSS feed reader.”

I use the Chrome browser and the RSS Feed Reader plug in.

How to Follow an RSS Feed

Time needed: 5 minutes.

The steps below provide instruction on how to find and follow RSS feed(s) using a Chrome browser and the RSS Feed Reader plug in. This instructions assumes you have already installed both .

  1. Find the content to which you want to subscribe

    If, while visiting a website, you decide you’d like to stay up-to-date with new content, copy the URL. Or, if you don’t know an exact URL

  2. Click the RSS icon found in your Chrome browser

    This opens the RSS Feed Reader window.

  3. Click the + sign in the right corner of the RSS Feed Reader window.

    This step opens the Feed Reader website.

  4. Enter website URL or a search word/term to which you want to subscribe

    In the Search field enter either the URL of a website, or a specific RSS url, or you can enter a search term, or browse curated categories.

  5. Click the Follow button

    Click the Follow button for one or more sites you’d like to follow. The site will take a moment to gather what it needs and, if successful, the button will change to “Following.”

How to Review & Edit Transactions Are Posted to the Correct Accounts

Quickbooks Logo
Online Version

Scenario: You want to review all accounts to confirm the transactions are posted to the correct account.

  1. Click Reports.
  2. In the For my Accountant section select Transaction Detail by Account.  The report is generated displaying all transactions by Account.
  3. At the top of the report, confirm the Report Period is correct.  If it isn’t, fix it, then click the Run Report button again.
  4. If you need to move a transaction from one account to another, click the transaction date.  The transaction detail screen opens.
  5. In the Account column, select the correct account.
  6. Click the Save button.  The report is refreshed and re-displayed with the transaction grouped under the new account you selected.

How to Create a Deposit

Scenario: You have a stack of checks to deposit. These instructions assume the following:

  • no Sales Receipts exist, and
  • no unpaid Invoices exist.
Online Version
  1. Click the + in the upper-right corner.
  2. Click Bank Deposit.
  3. Click the Add funds to this deposit heading to expand a grid beneath it for each amount to be included in the deposit.
  4. Select the appropriate value in each column.
  5. Repeat step 4 for each item you have to deposit.
  6. When done, click the Save and Close button.
Bank Deposit

Be sure to select the correct Account so the income is posted properly!

Controlling Dynamics Offspring

Dynamics_200If you have a requirement to limit the number of child records possible in a 1:N relationship, the Dynamics Rollup field is a handy way to achieve the restriction.

This solution has three parts:

  1. Two entities with 1:N relationship to each other.
  2. Rollup whole number field on parent entity configured to use the COUNT function which counts the child records.
  3. On create workflow on child entity with a condition to evaluate the value of the rollup field and stop record creation if it exceeds the allowed record count.


To Implement

(1) Create the rollup field on the parent entity.

Data Type = whole number

Field Type = rollup












Click the Edit button to configure the rollup.

You can also add a filter to limit the function to only count child records which meet a specific criteria; like, have a certain eye color.

(2) Create a workflow on the child entity. Configure it to run “on create” and as the very first step evaluate the value of the rollup field.  If it exceeds the number of records allowed, “Stop” the workflow as CANCELLED and configure an error message to display to the user.

note TIP: Add a step to call a forced calculation of the rollup at the end of the workflow.  This ensures it has the correct value at all times.  A plug-in to force a calculation can be found in Dynamics 365 Workflow Tools.

Understanding Activities and their unique powers


This post is about technology related to Microsoft Dynamics CRM and contains facts as they relate to the 2016 Online version, but may also apply to earlier versions.  In the previous post on this topic, Dynamics CRM Activities, Activities were introduced. In this post, we review the implications of making an entity an Activity.

Implementing Activities

My first foray into Dynamics began last October with 90% custom entities. I was a babe in the woods with no Dynamics experience or training.  I figured things out as I went along.  All the while I had this nagging concern that I would make a decision that would have downstream implications.  So far, there have been a few gotchas, and the most recent one relates to Activities.  This type of contextual information is where the Microsoft help is so wholly deficient.

Two truths:

  1. A entity can be a type of Activity. This causes the entity to be created with some default functionality related to activities; like start time, stop time, duration, resources involved, etc. as outlined in Dynamics CRM Activities.  See 1 in the screenshot below.
  2. An entity can have related Activities.  See 3 in the screenshot below.

Both of these configuration choices are made during Entity Definition and are permanent. Once you save the entity you cannot change this configuration option.


What does this mean?  Here’s what I’ve discovered:

An entity can be an Activity

When creating an entity, you have a choice to make it an Activity type by checking the Define as an activity entity checkbox.  Checking that box is final.  It cannot be changed, which means more than I realized at first.

First:  The entity is created with a handful of default attributes with special powers. One of them is a Regarding lookup attribute. This lookup is populated with all records from all entities which can have related Activities.  Out of the box, that’s Account, Cases, Contacts, and others.

If you create a record for this entity from a parent, like a Case, the Regarding attribute is automatically populated with the primary key from the Case record.  If, however, you create the entity outside of a parent, the Regarding attribute is not pre-populated.

Like mentioned in the previous paragraph, the Regarding lookup is populated with all records from all entities which can have related Activities. This is problematic if you intended for the Regarding to always be one record type.

For example, I created a File Room Request entity that should only be related to Cases.  When a user is creating a File Room record from a Case, Regarding is pre-populated with the Case’s primary key.  However, if the user creates it from a View or a Dashboard, the Regarding is not pre-populated and the user can select anything.  They could make the mistake of associating it with a contact.  


You can filter the list of entities defined as Activities so they make the right choice, but that requires Javascript.

Second: As an Activity entity, the View ribbon displays a button for each entity defined as an Activity. In this screenshot you can see Task, Email, Phone Call, Fax, Campaign Response, and under Other Activities are the custom entities you’ve created as Activity types.


Third:  Where Activities appear in the user experience is different and you must consider this as it relates to the overall user experience.  Because I checked the Define as an activity entity checkbox when creating the File Room Request entity, I now have File Room Requests launched from the Activities ellipsis on the Case form; whereas, I have other case-related related entities launched from sub-grids.  I could add File Room Request to the a sub-grid as well, but can’t remove it from Activities.  Too many ways for a user to skin the cat creates confusion.

Activity component within Case form

Note:  You can prevent the entity from appearing in the Activities menu shown in the screenshot above by unchecking the Display in Activity Menus checkbox during Entity Definition as shown in the first screenshot.

Fourth:  The icon you select for the 32×32 dimension (you can specify a 16×16 and 32×32 icon for a custom entity) must be designed to appear on a white background; otherwise, it will blend into the background on the form it’s on.  You can see it working correctly in the screenshow above.

This is the same 32×32 image used on the Site Map as the sub-area icon; so consider its design carefully.  Related Site:  Free simple icons that can be downloaded in pre-specified sizes and colors.

I now wish I could figure out how to change all the OOTB icons because I like my white background better. 😉


Fifth: If an entity is defined as an Activity, it appears in the Activities View which is filtered on entity type.  Not such a big deal; but consider the user experience and what appears there vs. doesn’t appear there in the context of all of your solution’s functionality.  If they see Tasks, Phone Calls, Appointments, and records from any other activity defined as an Activity type, they may have stop and think why something doesn’t appear that that “feels” like an activity.  If your user has to stop and think, you’ve failed in your UI design.


An entity can have related Activities

During Entity Definition you can also specify whether the entity you’re creating can have related Activities. You choose this option by checking the Activities checkbox in the Communication & Collaboration section of the Entity Definition dialog as shown in the first screenshot of this post.

The downstream impact is as follows:

First:  The ACTIVITIES section is available for displaying on the entity’s forms.  Each item with a red dot is an example of an entity configured as an Activity type described in the first section.


Second: The Activities icon appears in the related navigation section when clicking the down arrow to the right of the record’s name.


In the second installment I’ll explain all of the unique attributes of an Activity entity.

Dynamics CRM Activities

DynamicsThis post is about technology related to Microsoft Dynamics CRM and contains facts as they relate to the 2016 Online version, but may also apply to earlier versions.

What is an Activity?

Activities are types of records in Microsoft Dynamics related to things having the dimension of time and involve people performing the activity.  These include things like:

  • Telephone Call
  • Task
  • Email
  • Letter
  • Appointment

There are OOTB Activity entities, as listed above, and when creating a custom entity you can specify it as an Activity entity, which causes it to include unique attributes.


Attributes Unique to an “Activity” Entity

  • Party – the people involved in the Activity
  • Subject – the subject of the Activity.  This is the primary key.
  • Regarding – the entity to which the Activity is related.  This can be any entity which has been configured as an Activity; such as, Account, Contact, Case, etc.
  • Dates
    • Scheduled Start
    • Scheduled End
    • Actual Start
    • Actual End
    • Scheduled Duration
    • Actual Duration
  • Parties
    • To
    • From
    • CC
    • BCC
    • Organizer
    • Resources
    • Customers
    • Required Attendees
  • Left Voice Mail 
  • Status Reasons
    • Open
    • Completed
    • Cancelled
    • Scheduled


Other than the unique attributes, there are other downstream implications when creating an Activity entity.  These are detailed in the next post Understanding Activities And Their Unique Powers.

Creating a Logo for Your Dynamics CRM Theme


Below you learn how to create a custom logo for your Dynamics CRM instance using a layered Photoshop file. I have provided the DynamicsLogo.psd below in order to make quick work of it so you can get back to the fun of customization.

I use the word instance with great intention as opposed to Solution.  The reason is that the Theme applies to the entire instance, not just one Solution within the instance

Modify Text in Photoshop

1.  Open the DynamicsLogo.psd file provided below.

2.  Click the eye icon on the left side of Layer 1.  The layer’s black background is now displayed so you can see the white text you’re creating.  We’ll turn it off before saving so the image can be displayed on any dark background.




3.  Click in the middle of the text you want to change.  You must click within the text; otherwise, you will create an additional text box, which is not what you want.


4.  Change the text to display what you want to show in the logo.

5.  When done making the change, click the checkmark from the button bar.


6.  Repeat steps 3 thru 5 for the Line 2 text.

7.  When done making your changes, Save As a PNG file.

Upload to Dynamics

1.  Click Settings > Customization > Themes.

2.  Select the theme you want to change.

3.  Click the search icon in Logo field.




  • One Line?  If you don’t want two lines, drag the Text 2 layer to the trash can shown at the bottom of the Layers panel, then center the Text 1 layer so it fills the space you desire.
  • Image with or without text?  To insert an image, simply place it and size it within the size of the image.

download168Download DynamicsLogo.psd 




If you need help modifying this file, consider hiring my son who has an undergraduate degree from one of the top art schools in the country and isn’t earning a living wage.  He’ll do a quick tweak with the font of your choice for $25 USD.  Send me an email if this is your desire.

From Chaos to Order using OneNote – Part 1

~ managing a Microsoft Dynamics project using Agile and OneNote to capture and bring order to your brilliance ~

Microsoft’s OneNote has saved me from myself.  I am slightly ADD and have brilliant moments at inopportune times.  I manage my self-induced stress with order and structure, and this blog series will detail how I’ve done it using OneNote on my laptop.

Here’s a quick overview of the process; details to come later:

During requirements gathering …

customer input explodes into a fireworks burst of more questions, ideas, and things I need to remember to do.  Dear G_d, the chaos and the sleep loss.

After requirements gathering …

the chaos (er — details) are brought to order into a product backlog of stories and tasks I need to accomplish.  The priority of the items are managed on a regular basis both with and without my customer by simply dragging and dropping to re-order.

Along the way, if order can’t quite be achieved, items  (stories, tasks, random notes in no particular place) are tagged for follow up with other resources, as needed.  When a resource is in front of me — either by invitation or accident — I quickly locate all tagged items needing their input. How sweet it is.

When a story is Done …

it’s status is changed and it’s moved to the Demo area.   As Demo Day approaches, the stories in the Demo area are combined into a cohesive set of business scenarios grouped by User Role. Momentum rules. Distractions distract.

During the Demo …

another round of chaos begins (er — feedback) and everything is documented in a “scratchpad” area.  Once the Demo is done, each story’s status is changed to Done and it’s moved to the Done area.

After the Demo …

the recent round of chaos is processed back into order by transferring from the scratchpad area to the backlog and reordering priorities accordingly. Pick up next on the list and keep moving forward.  The cycle continues and sleep prevails!

Ah, the beauty of order and structure brought about by OneNote.

The back story:

This series is focused on how I use OneNote to bring order to a ridiculous yet exhilarating Microsoft Dynamics project managed using pieces of the Agile methodology.  I perform in the roles of business analyst, project manager, scrum master, and Dynamics configuration specialist (with no prior Dynamics knowledge or training).  That’s the ridiculous part.  The exhilarating part is seeing the final solution come to life and delight the customer.

Agile purists would argue this isn’t Agile done well; and it’s not. It fails on many of Agile’s principles, including establishing a sustainable pace.  Not many could sustain the pace I’m working at for any length of time, but I have tons of flexibility with when I can work both from my personal and work life perspectives.

It is what’s working for now to get feedback early and often given my unique circumstances; my time with the customer is limited; funding is limited; tolerance for change is limited; and technical understanding by the customer is limited.  My customer (and employer) is a US governmental agency, so I either I jumped in and took it on or it wasn’t going to get done — for a very long time.

Given these circumstances, one either figures out a way or comes to their senses and bails out when presented with such a challenge.  I chose the former, and am blessed to be supported by an incredibly awesome manager who stands back and steps in, as necessary.   As well as a husband who gets it when I’m in the zone and has become quite the “Call of Duty” warrior as a result.

Oh, and the Microsoft Dynamics Community.  Go there — early and often as they say in testing circles.  The resources are gracious with their time and swift in their responses.

Taking donations via your URJ Web website – Part 2

Joomla!In the last installation, you were introduced to Joomla’s Payment Form Component and how to configure it to accept online donations on your congregation’s website.  It’s relatively easy with the instructions I provided.

In that article, I briefly mentioned there are  three Components to be used for online payment functionality:

  1. Payment Form (by Ossolution Team) [does not support Campaigns]
  2. Joom Donation (by Ossolution Team) [similar functionality as Payment Form, but has extended functionality for Campaigns]
  3. RS Forms Pro (by RSJoomla) [fully customizable, requires creating from scratch and having URJ Admin install the PayPal Plug-In if you’re using PayPal),

Payment Form was covered in the last installation, so now let’s look at Joom Donation.

Do you need to manage donations by Giving Campaigns?

If no, then you can skip this article and use the Payment Form Component.  If you do, then Joom Donation is the Component for you.  Here is a diagram showing the intersections of functionality between those two Components


Things to Know

  1. The default layout of the form (order of fields and heading text, etc.) has some inconsistencies in sentence case and grouping of fields, of which you have no control without access to the PHP.  The developer’s native language is not English and it is obvious by some of the typos in the default form, which you will have to fix.
  2. Custom fields can be ordered to your choosing.

Taking donations via your URJ Web website – Part 1


As of this writing there are three Components available inside the Joomla! installation provided by URJ Web,  used to stand up an online donation feature on your website.  The features intersect and overlap, making it a challenge to figure out which meets best meets your needs.

Note: Capitalized words represent terms within the Joomla! lexicon
Intended Audience:  Beginning Joomla! Administrators

Step 1 – How Do I Get Started?

Start Simple.  Start with Payment Form.  You can get fancy later if there is a need for Campaign fund management or any other of its minor features.

From the button bar in the Admin module, click Components, then select Payment Form.  The Payments management Component opens.  The fact that the name in the heading doesn’t match the name on the Menu Item is just a little hit of the frustration to come.

Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 6.11.12 PM

Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 6.15.09 PM

Step 2 – The Configuration Tab

The Configuration Tab has two sub-tabs; General and Messages.

  • General – Not much here you need to change.  I left it as-is.
  • Messages – This is where you enter the text for emails sent at the close of the transaction loop, as well as text which appears on the UI!!  That second part wasn’t readily obvious until I studied it for awhile.   Read the descriptions to the right of the text editing areas carefully.  This will tell you whether the text is for an email or whether it’s displayed on your website’s UI.  This is a really poor design in my humble opinion.  There should have been one tab for “email text” and one for “website text.”  Other than that rid-bit, the rest on the page is self-explanatory.
    • Tip: Form Message is a key one since it’s the text that appears on your donation page right above the payment information.

Step 3 – The Fields management Tab

I’m going out of order here because the fields have to be created before you create the Form.  Again, not a real bright design of the Payment Form Component.  I think the Fields tab should appear before Forms.  Anyway …

This is where you define the fields to appear on the form.  A few notes:

  • Name – name of the field in the backend.  Don’t change this!!!
  • Title – what the user sees on the website.   You can change this.  I changed Address2 to “Address Line 2”.
  • Notice the Show Core Fields in the upper right corner.  That was initially perplexing, but then I realized there were “core” fields to appear on every form.  Anything else you add are categorized as “Custom.”    ** This is also an intersection with Joom Donation.  The two Components share the same Core Fields.  I added one customer field named “Fund.”  I defined it as a drop-down list and included all the Funds in our congregation.  This allows the user to specify which Fund should receive their donation

Step 4 – The Forms management Tab

Now you can move on to the actual Form.  Lots of work goes in this area.  This is where you actually set up your donation form.

To create a new form

  1. From the right toolbar, click the orange New button.  The Form is comprised of three configuration areas:
    1. Basic Information – The Title field is the only one I changed on this tab and it is key!!  The Title of the form is included in the payment details at the end of the transaction.  If you want to create different forms for different types of donations, then giving each a recognizable name will help in the congregation operations area.
    2. Messages – These are the same Messages you saw when you were on the Configuration > Messages tab.  You can leave all of these blank if the new form can utilize the same messages as the global configuration.
    3. Fields Setting – Here you set the order the fields are displayed to the user.   Any custom fields you created in Step 3 will appear here as well.

Step 5 – Configuring PayPal

This is s0 easy I had to stop and rethink it a couple of times, thinking I must be missing something.  It’s true; it’s really easy.  All you need is the email address associated with the PayPal account into which the funds will be transferred.

  1. Click the Payment Plugins tab.  Notice there are four payment methods by default.  You can add any that are unique to your organization.  I will only discuss PayPal and Offline Payment


  1. Be sure the item is “Published” as indicated by its green check.
  2. Click the os_paypal name.
  3. On the right side of the screen is the Plugins Parameters section.  Enter the email associated with the PayPal account into which the funds should be transferred.
  4. When you’re ready to “go live”, change the Paypal Mode to “Live Mode.”  That’s all there is to it!!!!

Offline Payments

Nothing to do here, just be sure it’s turned on if you want users to be able to fill out the form and mail in the money later.

Step 6 – Set Up a “Payment Form” Menu Type

  1. On the Menu where you want your donation form to appear, create a new Menu Item.
  2. Click the Select button and in the pmform section, select Payment Form.
  3. On the right side, select the form you just created.

You’re done!!!!

In the next installation, I build on this information and explain Joom Donation.  For now, another Margarita, please!  And here’s a look at our congregation’s first online donation capability!!!

In a Nutshell ….

  • If you don’t need to manage donations by Giving Campaign, like a campaign to erect a new sanctuary, then use the Payment Form Component to implement online donation capabilities.  It’s the simplest and the most robust.
  • Payment Form has a set of “core” fields to which you can add “custom” fields.
  • Set up your fields first, then set up your form.
  • Set up PayPal simply by providing your congregation’s PayPal email address.
  • And finally, create a Menu Item of the “Payment Form” type and select the form you create.