Great WPF applications: Lawson’s Smart Office

Jaime Rodriguez
On Windows Phone, Windows Presentation Foundation, Silverlight and Windows 7

Great WPF applications: Lawson’s Smart Office

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Earlier in the year, you might have seen screen shots of Lawson’s Smart Office application.  Now, thanks to Adam Kinney and Matt Allbee (from Lawson), you can actually see it live in this 9 min interview/walk through!
I recommend the high quality video for the interactivity, but for those not patient enough, I have sprinkled lots of screen shots below with a brief (not all-inclusive) summary around the usage of WPF.

Smart Office is a front-end to Lawson's suite of applications -which includes Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Supply Chain Management (SCM), Enterprise Performance Management (EPM), and Custome Resource Management (CRM).
The best description I have heard for Smart Office is Matt calling it an "information workspace".  A typical user can spend all day inside the app, as such it is a full-screen applications that simulates a shell -they call it a "Canvas"-. It has everything inside the app, window management, quick task switching, sidebar, drag-drop, shell and office integration, and of course lots of screens or apps to interact with the Lawson back-end. Smart Office aims to make an organization's people more effective, their processes more efficient, and the end-users happier. Smart Office focuses on the user's needs, and focuses on simplicity and meaningful collaboration to improve user and group productivity. 

Here is how they 'get it done':

An impeccable, comprehensive and incredibly effective user interface.
Welcome

Smart Office has it all:
3D for navigation and for charting.

Floating,translucent windows that blend well and allow users to take quick actions with out concealing the other user interface.

Video for user tutorials and walk-throughs.

Flow Documents are used for help files, to create an adaptive, high-quality reading experience.

Uses VisualBrush(es) to implement previews in their taskbar -similar to Windows Vista's Alt-Tab-. It reuses this technique for data entry to preview forms before you open them. . 

 

Figure 1. You can see the video player (bottom left) showing a recording of the application with a different theme.  Notice the rich windowing behavior and the translucency on the widgets and the widget library itself.  I could not fit all features in a window, click these links for missing features: 3D navigation, XPS help files, Visual Brushes in taskbar, detailed 3d chart.

 

Personalization Nirvana!!
DataEntryValidation

Smart Office goes far beyond basic application skinning (where you can select the theme/color for your app).

Smart Office allows you to create custom styles to effectively visualize your data; end-users can create client-side presentation rules with out writing any code!

Rich windowing behavior; 100% customizable and adaptive.

Most of the screens use “smart, dynamic layouts”. The user determines the size and position of a screen,  which of course the application automatically remembers; beyond positioning and sizing, the window dynamically scales its content to take advantage of the real-estate available and if you do not like it, no problem, you can manually control the scale of each screen.

Figure 2. The pink field is a custom ‘trigger’ created via client-side wizard.
Notice the windows all have a zoom icon to apply a scale to the window’s content. If content scales to larger than available space, scrollbars will appear. More screenshots: Styling wizardZoom/Scale Windowing, theming.



Office and Shell integration as a productivity booster
Excel02
The application integrates with the OS allowing operations like drag & drop.

It also integrates with Office allowing to send data from Smart Office to Outlook, Word, and Groove.

Excel integration allows for seamless exporting and editing the data within Excel and immediately synchronizing it with the application; edits in Excel run through Lawson’s security and validation layer before being stored. 
Figure 3. Excel integration. Imagine you need to edit 10 rows of data, maybe apply a formula; these tasks are easier to do in Excel.
To see Outlook integration, click here.


Overall, the application is brilliant. Huge kudos to the teams involved in creating this amazing productivity suite.  
I am looking forward to other companies –including Microsoft- creating more applications like this one..

Geeking it out (with non visual details):
The application is a great S+S showcase. The client is a Full-Trust Click Once deployment with autoupdate functionality. 
The back-end is a Java Service Layer talking to all kinds of code (.NET, Java, main-frame, you name it).
The Office Add-ins are installed on demand or based on user preferences.
The application is huge! Over 8000 screens and growing.  This is of course meta-data driven but  as you can tell from the stunning visuals they do a great job at leveraging styles, data and control templates, to create a great UX.   
Will try to get the technical folks next time they are in Redmond to share all the lower-level details!

More write-ups and showcases coming
There are lots of other great WPF applications out there; but little time do record every one… I am hoping to showcase at least one video per month.  If you want to be in the list for showcases drop me an email, we always love to see how others use the technology.

ttfn. Huge thanks to Matt for stopping by to record this and to Adam for doing the interview!.

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