Evolution of the Dynamics CRM Toolbar

With the first glimpses of Orion being available (or Dynamics CRM 2013 as it is now called) I thought it would be a good time to look back at how the form tool bar has evolved over its history.

I've been working with Dynamics CRM ever since the first version (when it was just Microsoft CRM) and with great fondness I reminisce!

Microsoft CRM 1.0 (Released January 2003)
Microsoft CRM 1.2 (Released December 2003)

The tool bar was very much as you would expect for any application of this era. Drop down menus and 16x16 icons with optional text descriptions.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 (Released December 2005)

The toolbar remained very similar to the previous version, but with some groovy shading to give it a fresher look and align with the Microsoft Office toolbar style. Now part of the Dynamics family, this alignment with Microsoft office was an important step change in the product. As the window was shrunk in width, the text labels would disappear leaving only the icons to save space.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4 (Released December 2007)

The toolbar was again updated with the Microsoft Office style – and the dropdown menus were replaced with the Jewel menu. I remember many people using Dynamics CRM for many months before realising that you could click on the Jewel to get the 'File' drop down! Dropdown buttons were also introduced (e.g. Actions) to combine the dropdown menu bar with the button bar.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 (Released February 2011)

The Office Ribbon had been big news already, but its introduction into Dynamics CRM was again a step to align it with Microsoft Office. This was especially important for the Microsoft Outlook integration to give a consistent user experience. In Dynamics CRM, the ribbon introduced different sized buttons depending on significance, rows of buttons, split buttons and dynamic resizing based on the width available. RibbonXml provided a rich and powerful way of adding custom buttons that critically could be context sensitive so that they would dynamically show/hide, enable/display depending on what was selected or the data on a form. This was fantastic for XRM (Anything Relationship Management) applications but it was error prone to create due to the complexity of RibbonXml. The Ribbon Workbench plugged this gap!


With the release of the Polaris/UR12 update, a new style of user interface was introduced that was used on an opt-in basis. The UI was based around the new Modern 'flat' user interface that originated from Microsoft Zune, further developed by Windows Phone and later Windows 8. If the 'process' UI was selected, the ribbon was replaced by a simple toolbar that addressed the main criticism of the Ribbon in that it was 'too complicated'. The design principle of 'the content is the UI' aimed to reduce chrome and use simple typography in order to increase readability and usability. An interesting result of this simplification is the reduction to a maximum of 7 buttons on the toolbar before others are pushed into the ellipses drop down.

The main drawback with the Polaris process forms was that they were not customisable and so remained to many customers more of a 'preview' of things to come.

ORION/Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 (Release Fall 2013?)

… and so that brings us to Dynamics CRM 2013 which at the time of writing is due for release in October 2013.
It has been well publicised that the Ribbon will no longer feature in Orion in favour of the new Modern 'flat' user interface style, and indeed the style is very similar to Polaris but with coloured buttons and the return of the well-loved 'Save & New' button. I welcome the addition of colour as I often found the grey buttons hard to locate quickly on the form. The design principle of keeping the number of buttons to a minimum still applies and the ellipses overflow dropdown is still there. It has been confirmed that the RibbonXml will still be used to customise this toolbar/command bar – and I suspect that those icons are the same 16x16 ones we see in the CRM2011 ribbon. Naturally, a new version of the Ribbon Workbench will be released for Dynamics CRM 2013.

Thanks for indulging me and reading this far - I'm feeling a bit glassy eyed and nostalgic - but the question still remains – what do we call the new ribbon?
Toolbar? App Bar? Command Bar?

I'll keep you posted when I find out!

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Comments (1) -

  • That really takes me back!

    The question is whether I could still navigate around the older versions as easily as I once did. My guess is no ...
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