Changing custom entity icons already published in CRM 2011

This is a follow-up from my previous article about how to add your own new icons for custom entities in CRM 2011.

Once you have published your web resources and linked to them from your custom entity maybe you want to change your mind and use a different icon instead. Some people use the same “placeholder” for all their custom entities (such as a plain brightly coloured square) to remind them to fix them later, in other cases maybe you think of a better metaphor for the icon, or users simply don’t take to it during testing. Note that you can’t change the icons for a built-in system entity at all.

Whatever the reason for wanting to change your icons, you have two options:
Read on to find out swap your custom icons for new ones»

Creating icons for Custom Entities for CRM 2011

As described in my article about how to add your own new icons for custom entities in CRM, for each custom entity you will need two icons at 16 and 32 pixels square. These should be png, gif or jpg files, and I would strongly recommend png for preference, gif as second choice (as they at least support transparency) and jpg as last resort (areas of uniform colour often end up no longer being uniform but “noisy”).

Buy or find free icons online

There are various libraries of general-purpose icons you can buy such as the V-Collection from Icon Experience (they also do a more “modern” posterised style M-Collection which complements them well for different scenarios). I have also found others which you can download and use for free individually or as a collection. These often come with a requirement to cite the source if used commercially, which is easy enough to do by including some text and a URL in the description field of the web resource. The free collection of icons at FatCows has some good quality icons and useful ideas (downloadable individually or as a big zip file) amongst lots which seem far too “fun” for a serious application like CRM.

Another good source of icons is the CRM 2011 SDK which contains all the icons used in the application in the folders \resources\images\formentity and \resources\images\imagestrips n particular. Very often you can repurpose an icon from an entity you are not using, with a bit of lateral thinking. Modifying and reusing for commercial projects is probably not strictly allowed since these icons are Microsoft’s.

Draw your own or customise from a close starting point

Occasionally I get creative enough to draw simple icons from scratch, or at least to modify other icons to suit my needs more closely (if the original allows for derivative works, of course). Sometimes you find a great icon at 32 pixels and need to do a resize down to 16 (or vice versa) and then hand-retouch it to get the best effect – a resize alone is almost never a good finish.
Read on to find out more about resizing and editing icons for CRM »

How to add icons to custom entities in CRM 2011

I discovered a couple of weeks ago that one of the things Microsoft did get right in the recent Polaris release was to finally fix the dialogue box for adding your own icons to custom entities in CRM. This prompted me to finally get round to writing a proper article about how to do this.

Why use custom entities which need new icons?

As you develop your CRM system there will very likely come a point where you decide to create your own custom entities (record types) to store business data which is specific to your needs. You might also choose to create a custom entity to store data which you need to control access to, separately from other records. A new entity allows you to control through security roles which users can do what with these records independently of their security privileges relating to other entities.

In fact this kind of customisation is very often a fundamental part of the original design plans for many new CRM systems. This extensibility and versatility of systems such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM is arguably the whole point of a so-called xRM platform rather than a locked-down application which only works in the way the original developer thought up.

In order to make your system as easy as possible to use, it is very helpful to use your own custom icons for these entities so that users learn to recognise them rather than having to read loads of text labels. I have seen CRM systems with several custom entities all just left with the original sad little picture of a gear wheel (or a notebook and gear wheel for custom activities). In CRM 4.0 this may have been because the people who had the rights to customise the system did not have direct access to the server to publish their own icons, in CRM 2011 On-Premise or Online the only reason is not having the know-how to do so.

Read on to find out how to add new icons for your custom entities in a few simple steps »