Saturday, August 24, 2013

NetSuite vs. Dynamics GP: Navigation: Browser Tabs vs. Application Windows

By Steve Endow

For background, please see my introduction to this series, NetSuite vs. Dynamics GP: A Series

If you are familiar with the Dynamics GP client application, you know that you can navigate throughout it much like any other Windows application.  You have the main application window, and you use menus or shortcuts or other "navigation" methods within the application to open new windows and sub-windows or child windows.

Here I have four different Dynamics GP client application windows open.

In Dynamics GP, it is possible to open a bunch of different windows as you perform different tasks, but in my experience, most users tend to have a handful of windows that they work with regularly.  If you have more than 2 or 3 windows open at a time, it usually gets confusing and switching between them becomes tedious.  Some users keep a few of those key windows open all the time, while others, myself included, like to use one window at a time and close extra windows as soon as they are done with them, always keeping the windows to a minimum.

In NetSuite, things are a little different.  First, NetSuite is a native web application, so you only access it with a web browser.  You can use a single web browser tab, and always navigate within that one window, or you can right click on menu items or application "links" and select Open in New Tab.  Just as this feature is very handy when doing normal web browser, the Open in New Tab feature is very convenient within NetSuite.  If you are working on a transaction and want to open another window to lookup a value or perform some other action, it's simple to do in a new browser window, not too different than opening another window in Dynamics GP.

Here I have six tabs open, each with a different NetSuite "window".

What is different about the NetSuite browser tabs is that if you start clicking on links in those tabs, you travel down a path and can go just about anywhere within the NetSuite application.  So the tab that was a customer list now displays a customer invoice.  Or the tab that displayed a financial report now shows a journal entry.  When I have multiple tabs open and start clicking links in each of them, I quickly got lost in the different tabs.  I often click a link rather than right click, and before I know it, my tabs have completely different content than a minute ago.  Eventually, I have to close several tabs and start over, resetting the tabs to specific windows.

After using NetSuite for a while, I found that the navigation model between the Dynamics GP client application and the NetSuite browser-based navigation each had pros and cons.  In Dynamics GP, when you open windows, you eventually reach a dead end.  For instance, you might open a Sales Transaction window, then open the Customer window, then open the Customer Accounts window.  All of those windows stay in place until you close them, and eventually you reach an end point.  And you can only open one Customer window at a time--so if you try and open it again, it pops to the foreground.  This simplifies the user experience somewhat, since each window has a single purpose and unique name, so you can have multiple windows open and pretty easily know which is which.

With NetSuite, you have the nice feature of being able to right click on a menu item or link and open it in a new browser tab.  You can have multiple customers open in multiple tabs, or multiple invoices, or multiple reports or inquiries.  The navigation is very flexible and fluid, allowing you to go wherever you want from anywhere.  This is pretty appealing, but as I noted, you can quickly get lost in a pile of browser tabs.

And one downside of the NetSuite browser based approach.  If you encounter an error when submitting information, it tends to mess up the application "state" in that window.  So if you attempt to click on the Back button on the error message web page, or use your browser's back button, the page may not be current or valid, and may not work properly until you refresh or navigate to a new page.  When I was testing and debugging a custom SuiteScript solution and encountering errors, such "back" problems became very frustrating, since it required me to navigate back a few pages and start my testing over earlier in the process than I would have liked.  But, despite this, there was the plus that I can login to NetSuite from any computer with a web browser.

Obviously, GP 2013 now offers a web-based client, so for now I have only compared the original GP client application to the NetSuite browser based solution--obviously not a perfect comparison.  I haven't yet set it up on my test servers, so I'll have to revisit this navigation comparison once I get the GP web client setup.

Steve Endow is a Dynamics GP Certified Trainer and Dynamics GP Certified IT Professional in Los Angeles.  He is also the owner of Precipio Services, which provides Dynamics GP integrations, customizations, and automation solutions.

You can also find him on Google+ and Twitter

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