Monthly Archives: April 2019

C/AL to AL, but better & faster

At the airport of Copenhagen (CPH) eating my favorite burger. (Aamanns Burger). Then writing a blog.

This is an awkward blog, a blog that was asked for by my colleague Jan when I spent a few days at our office. He asked if I could blog something about converting from C/AL to AL with the ForNAV converter based on the series of blogs by Freddy. (https://freddysblog.com/tag/c-al-to-al/).

Off course, at ForNAV, converting code is our bread and butter. But our converter from C/AL to AL is free of charge. Everyone can use it and when they find an issue enter a support ticket. Why should we promote that? It’s just more work…

But here we go!

Skipped Step 1 – Upgrade to the latest C/Side

This is an obsolete step when using the ForNAV converter to convert to AL. This saves you a lot of time because you can create an extension directly from any 2013 or newer database.

The reason Microsoft needs to you first merge in C/Side is that they did the preparation for the conversion in FinSQL.exe. The ForNAV converter does that natively in the process.

Skipped Step 2 – Change Codeunit 1 event subscribers

I blogged about this yesterday. Microsoft has removed codeunit 1 and you have to change all your event subscribers.

The ForNAV converter takes care of that for you. We convert all your subscribers. (This is off-course useless if you are on 2013…)

Skipped Step 3 – Usage Category

Menu Suites are dead, and that is not a bad thing. They are replaced by a new property called Usage Category.

The ForNAV converter populates the Usage Category for you based on the menu suite. A lot less manual work

100% Automated Conversion

It is possible to have 100% automated conversion and keep one codebase. Thousands of customers will keep running C/Side for years and as an ISV you want to serve them.

My recommendation to ISV’s is to achieve 100% automated conversion so you can keep downgrading and upgrading.

You can download the free ForNAV converter to AL here. https://www.fornav.com/download/

The benefit you get for free is that you get to use C/Side for many more years and you can probably get to Visual Studio Code once it is stable and equally productive as C/Side.

YouTube Video…

This video shows what you can do with the ForNAV conversion tool. It’s free to use and will save you a lot of time compared to the Microsoft tooling.

Eternal Refactoring | Are you ready?

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central is the best and most customizable ERP that ever existed.

There, you have it.

For some people it’s hard to understand that in one blog I am trying to protect our ecosystem from loosing C/Side and in the next I am praising Business Central to be miles better than any other cloud ERP.

The reason is honesty and reflection.

If you don’t know NAV/Navision then Business Central is an ERP from Venus. The Web Client’s interface is next to nothing you have seen and no other cloud ERP has so many events and extensibility possibilities.

But if you are a Navision partner you are looking at your product and you see Microsoft killing it in favor of the cloud.

I said more than once that I wished that Microsoft had picked GP to be the cloud baby and put NAV in maintenance mode. That way we would have two choices. Keep running our current business OR move to the cloud.

Now Microsoft is killing C/Side and giving us no other option than to move. I am not saying move forward. In some ways, many ways, it is a step backwards.

Business Central is essentially a fancy shell over and old product. Two parts of our product are old. The code base and the language. And I think this will haunt us.

If you start programming for Business Central it looks nice and cool, but you don’t need more than 15 minutes to find out that AL is not in any way like other programming languages.

As Navision developers we know why and yet we don’t. AL is not object oriented. It does not know classes and inheritance. No polymorphism. Our base app is full of code cloning and everything that goes against clean coding principles.

Good people with great intentions at Microsoft want to change that. Which is great! They intend to refactor our base app in favor of a decoupled architecture.

Nobody could be more happy than I am.

Yet Microsoft made a promise. With extensions our lives would be easier. They made a promise that an upgrade would not be replacing an engine anymore. They promised an oil change.

The prerequisite to the oil change is extensions.

OK.

Let’s imagine I am a customer, and with NAV 2018 I had choosen for extensions. Now my live is easy right?

Is it?

What did Microsoft change in NAV 2019? (Sorry, Business Central). They removed codeunit 1. Eh… Ok. Wasn’t that a codeunit with like a million event publishers that everyone was using?

Hmmmm. So If I am subscribing to that I have to change all my events?

YES!

Bye, bye promises.

So what is next? What is the next part they will change? (If you can call one codeunit a “part”).

Roumours say the TempBlob table will be an extension on it’s own wrapped in an API.

Hands up who uses the TempBlob table? (people raising hands).

Hands up who has to refactor their code? (people raising hands)

So Microsoft refactored two large portions of the base application (2 out of 7000 objects).

What can we expect if they REALLY separate Manufacturing from the base?

What can we expect if they REALLY separate Jobs from the base?

Let’s take it one step further… the retirement from C/Side

… (three dot’s anticipating you as reader to get impatient)

If you have an ISV solution and you want to move to AL, you have to first migrate to the last C/Side version…. Then you have to move to extensions OR do customizations in AL.

After Microsoft moves to AL they will start refactoring the base app. So this means your AL solution get’s separated from your C/Side solution. And all of your existing customers, the customers that pay the salary of your employees, the rent of your building, the retirement funds and your sports car (which they don’t know about), are on C/Side.

Hmmmmm…

Refactoring forever… are you ready? How is Microsoft going to communicate what they change?

Questions…

Why C/Side will last another decade… at least…

The move by Microsoft from C/Side to Visual Studio Code is a bit like Brexit. At first everybody thinks it is a great idea, until they realise the consequences. And then there is no way back.

Why? Please let me explain…

With C/Side we have issues, everybody knows that and these issues have to be solved. Issues like integration with source code management and other issues like… well… hmmmm.

Visual Studio Code is the new kid on the block and it’s cool, it’s the most popular source code editor of this moment. However when you combine it with AL code it’s not always an improvement.

Microsoft claims partners have been demanding a more modern coding experience but let’s compare it to PowerBI. Does PowerBI have source code management? PowerBI has a native designer just like C/Side and PowerBI is very popular.

The reason C/Side is going away has nothing to do with partners demanding anything. It has become very hard to maintain C/Side and it’s preventing Microsoft from moving to the cloud.

It’s impossible to compete with the Microsoft Marketing machine. No matter how much feedback the product team is getting they make their own decisions.

I spend my time 50% in C/Side and 50% in Visual Studio Code. I know all the VSCode shortcuts, snippets etc. but going back to C/Side just makes me happy every time I switch.

Programming anything in Business Central involves mostly defining Meta Data. As programmers we write surprisingly little code. Visual Studio Code is horrible at defining Meta Data. Most other programming languages use templates for this.

Have you actually tried to create a report in Visual Studio Code? OMG… please don’t.

It seems like the Business Central teams are not yet at a point where we can easily juggle with Meta Data. We cannot yet create a listpage & cardpage for a table which would be an easy example of this.

Extensions

In our community Visual Studio Code is synonym for Extensions. This is just wrong.

With relatively little effort Microsoft could have made Extensions work in C/Side. It would have meant adding Table Extensions and Page Extensions as object type. Not much more than that.

Many partners, actually the vast majority, have issues moving to Extensions. Not because the concept is wrong, but because the base code is not designed to be extended. The Business Central code base is from the late 1980’s and is not object oriented in any way. Not even close.

The solution that Microsoft is now proposing is that we can make raw source code modifications in Visual Studio Code.

This is horrible!

Visual Studio Code is not optimised for this. Not even closely. C/Side is.

It looks like we are getting into a worst of all options kind of scenario where nobody wins.

At NAVTechDays Microsoft announced that they would rewrite the Business Central code and break it up into extensions. I have not seen any progress on this, not any session at Directions ASIA, no blogs, nothing. Complete silence.

Get comfortable on the Spring release

It looks like the Spring release of Business Central will be the golden release to get comfortable on. Just like NAV 2009R2 was.

We can use the best of both worlds. C/Side for the majority of the work and Visual Studio Code where possible and where it adds value like using JavaScript Add-In’s or making UI changes to the core UI.

As a community we need to make Microsoft understand that this release must be maintained for at least five years, or possibly ten until Business Central is completely rewritten and object oriented.

Until then, for most partners it’s simply not worth the effort. They will burn money and resources getting only disappointing results.