Dynamics 365 has used the Social Pane for almost a decade to show the ongoing or past activities for a given record, like email correspondence or meetings. The Social Pane has become a core part of the CRM experience and is a great way to understand how a record has developed over time. However, the Social Pane did not receive much attention until its move to the Unified Interface a few years ago, which included an overhaul along with a complete re-branding to become Timeline. This brought some major aesthetic improvements, along with a long-awaited feature: configuration of its appearance and behavior. Timeline has become even more compelling with the revamp it received in the Dynamics 365 October 2019 release wave 2, allowing for a great deal of customization and better usability.
A Common Concern with Timeline
A common concern with Timeline, especially for organizations that regularly run bulk jobs, is that it is sorted by the “Modified On” field by default. For many organizations, this is a sensible choice; however, if a bulk operation runs on an activity entity. This default setting can ruin the chronology of activities displayed when the modified dates change.
In previous versions of Dynamics 365, this issue was not resolvable in the legacy interface. With the new out-of-the-box configurations in the current version, this issue can be tackled easily!
Solution -- Configuration of Timeline
In the example below, Timeline is being sorted (descending) by the default field, “Modified On”. The email with a subject line of “Request for Quote” was created before the “Invoicing Issue” email, but because “Request for Quote” has been modified, it is displayed as more recent. To have the timeline display the records in the appropriate order, we would like the timeline to use the “Created On” field for sorting instead of the default “Modified On” field. This would order the list in a way that would put the “Invoicing Issue” on top.
To do this, we will need to modify the Timeline object on the form where we want to see the change. In this example, we will be working on the “Account” entity, but these steps can be applied to any entity that uses Timeline.
Changing the Sort Field
- Navigate to your environment’s customizations and open the main account which you would like to modify. In our case, this form is simply called “Account”.
- In the form, double-click on Timeline object. This will be in a section called “SOCIAL PANE” by default and will appear as a white box, as shown below.
- In the resulting window, click on the Activities We can select the activity types we would like to show in the Filter By section, I have chosen to leave this as the default. The “Sort timeline by” field in the Data section is what we’re after, and we can change its value to any date field shown in the option set. In our case, we will select “Date Created”.
When the change is published, you may notice that the timeline looks a bit odd on the account record. The sort order is now correct, with “Invoicing Issue” listed as the most recent activity, but the date/time field is out of order because it’s still showing the “Modified On” value instead of Created On.
To resolve this discrepancy, we will need to create a form in each activity entity we want to display, then use that form to change what is displayed on the account Timeline.
Changing the Display Field(s)
- Navigate to your environment’s customizations and find an activity entity for which you want to change the fields displayed in the timeline, Email in this case. Create a new Card Form for the entity.
- This new form will allow us to precisely configure the fields being displayed in the Timeline. In this example, we will be mirroring the default layout, apart from the date field we want to fix, but other fields can be added or substituted if you have different business needs.
- Add the From and Created On fields to the Header
- Add the Subject and Description fields to the Details
- (Optional) Click on the Form Properties button and change the form name to something more descriptive. In this example, we have chosen to call it “Timeline Card”.
- Navigate back to the main account form modified earlier and click into Timeline object as before. Change the “Display activities using” field from “Default fields” to “Card form”, and you will see two additional fields appear. Select an activity entity to which you added a new form (Email, in this example) and choose the new card form from the dropdown below.
Once this configuration is published, Timeline will use the Date Created field for both sorting and display as expected:
Overall, the Timeline has received major improvements both in terms of aesthetics and extensibility. Information is significantly more compact allowing users to consume information more quickly, and the way buttons are hidden away until hovering over a record is a major usability boost. Additionally, we are no longer stuck using its default configuration as we have been in the past! This allows us to design our sorting criteria and pick which fields we want to be displayed on a per-form basis.
I hope this blog brings clarity to your configuration needs! If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below!