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Increase user adoption in Dynamics 365 with custom help panes

Updated: Feb 15, 2021

When Microsoft introduced the new Unified Interface, not all of the previously available functionality made the cut. One of the features left behind was Learning Path, a way of adding help panes and guides tailored to your organisation to help users navigate and use Dynamics 365.

As of November 2019, Microsoft announced Custom Help Panes, a reboot of Learning Path for the Unified Interface.

Before we can get started adding our custom help panes we need to enable a couple of things. Firstly we need to make sure we have organisation level access across the board to the Help Page privilege.

Help page privilege

Next we need to enable custom help panes in our environment, we can do this in the System Settings which you can find in the Advanced Settings area, go to Settings -> System-> Administration and on the Administration page select System Settings.

On the General tab, under the "Set custom Help URL" section, select Yes for Enable Custom Help Panes and Guided Tasks, and then select OK.

Enable custom help panes and guided tasks system setting

To start adding our custom help pane, open up your custom model driven app of choice and navigate to where you want to add your custom help, the custom help panes are context sensitive and are unique to each app, language, entity and form.

To open up the help pane, click the question mark in the top navigation bar and the help pane will expand from the right hand side. If you have yet to add any content, the pane will be empty, but by clicking the ellipsis and selecting edit, we can start adding our custom content.

Edit custom help pane

We can start by adding a title and some free-text content to the body of our help pane, at the top of the pane you can see some formatting controls that will allow us to format our text and add numbered or bulleted lists.

Formatting controls for custom help pane text

By clicking the insert tab, we’re also able to add additional elements to our help pane.

Sections allow us to group similar content into a collapsible area, the content of the section can itself be any of the other types of available content types, except for another section.

Insert a section into a custom help pane

Images allow us to insert a link which will display an image from the internet in our help pane. The image file itself isn't stored in the help pane, but instead is loaded from the source when the help pane is opened.

Insert an image into a custom help pane

Videos, like images allow us to provide a link to a video hosted elsewhere on the internet that will play in our help pane. The supported video sources being Microsoft Stream, YouTube, Facebook and Vimeo. The control also allows us to define whether to allow users to play the video full screen, whether to auto play the video when the help pane is opened and when in the video we should start playing from.

Insert a video into a custom help pane

Links allow us to embed a link in our help pane, which the user can click to navigate to another website. By default, clicking the link will open the page in the current browser tab. If you want to force the link to be opened in a new tab then make sure you check the "Open in a new window" checkbox when adding the link.

Insert a link into a custom help pane

The last two elements, allow us to add prompts into the user interface to help guide the user around the app.

The first of these are coach marks, which allow us to define a link which when clicked will highlight an element in the user interface. We can select the element to highlight by dragging the "drag to an element" control over the element in the user interface that we want to highlight.

Drag and drop a coach mark onto a UI element from a custom help pane

Now when we click on the link, the highlighted element will ping drawing the attention of the user.

Custom help pane coach mark

The final element we can add is a balloon, like coach marks, we can add a clickable link to highlight an element in the user interface using the draggable control. This time, however, we are also able to add some content, so that when our link is clicked, the user is presented with some text describing the user interface element.

Custom help pane balloon

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