In the October 2018 release of Business Central, the ribbon was replaced with the action bar to provide a modern and less cluttered experience in the user interface. Introducing the action bar is a step to align Business Central with the commanding pattern that users find in latest Microsoft Office updates.

Based on feedback from customers and partners, we are now making a number of improvements to make the action bar more efficient to use. Already in Business Central Update 22, improvements are visible in the common sales and purchase documents (see the full list below). With subsequent updates, and completing with the April 2019 release, Business Central will have action bar improvements implemented across all frequently used pages.

In the following sections, we’ll describe the principles of both the ribbon and the action bar, clarify the background for why Business Central is adopting the action bar, and detail the enhancements we are making.

Ribbon vs action bar

A ribbon organizes actions into tabs. Within each ribbon tab, actions are placed in groups. The first tab in a ribbon is always the ‘Home’ tab holding the most prominent actions that the user needs quick access to. To the right of the Home tab, other tabs hold actions with less importance or a lower frequency of use.

With the Business Central October 2018 release, we introduced the action bar in place of the ribbon. The actions that would previously go to the ribbon Home tab—based on their importance—are now placed equally prominent in the action bar. Here is an example of the prominent set of actions on a sales order page, as the actions appeared in the ribbon and now appear in the action bar:

Ribbon showing the ‘New Document’, ‘Request Approval’, and ‘Customer’ groups of actions

Action bar showing the ‘New Document’, ‘Request Approval’, and ‘Customer’ groups of actions

As the illustrations show, the action bar is structurally organized the same way the ribbon was, which is important to preserve the functionality of existing solutions designed for a ribbon. However, even if based on the same structure, the illustration shows the difference between the ribbon and the action bar when it comes to how actions are presented in the user interface.

The benefit of the action bar

Behind the scenes, in the Business Central page objects, the prominent set of actions on a given page is known as the promoted action set.

First and foremost, the difference between the ribbon and the action bar is that the action bar has a stronger emphasis on the promoted action set than the ribbon has. With the action bar specifically, only the promoted actions are available right away on a page, whereas all non-promoted actions are shown when the user chooses ‘More options’ in the page’s action bar.

The benefit of showing only the promoted action set, when a user first enters a page, is a simpler and less cluttered view. Because fewer actions are presented up front, the user is better able to overview the information in the page. This is confirmed by our tests with Business Central users, where we have found that the action bar strongly reduces the overwhelming effect the ribbon has for some people.

Feedback and planned enhancements

The feedback on the action bar, as it is experienced in the October 2018 release, is mixed. From new Business Central users, we have positive reactions, but from experienced users and from users who have previously used Dynamics NAV, the feedback is that the action bar organization is challenging.

The main issue is that the actions users need are often not promoted. Also, some common actions are promoted inconsistently, that is, appearing in different places across pages, which makes it difficult to memorize the location of actions.

To improve everyone’s experience with the action bar, we are implementing several enhancements:

  1. Promoting common actions in a consistent manner across pages (for example, Dimensions and Statistics)
  2. Promote more of the most frequently used actions on individual pages (based on telemetry)
  3. Remember the state of the action bar (pinning and expansion) between visits to the same page
  4. Better handling of the pinned action bar to avoid overflow of deep menus
  5. Better handling of pages with few promoted actions to allow quicker access and discoverability

The enhancements will be available in the Business Central April 2019 release. Together, these enhancements will address the productivity concerns we have heard from customers and partners, and make sure we go forward with a user interface that presents actions in a simple way that does not get in the way of users’ productivity.

Pages with the improved action bar (Business Central Update 22)

  • Sales Quote (page 41)
  • Sales Quotes (page 9300)
  • Sales Order (page 42)
  • Sales Order List (page 9305)
  • Sales Invoice (page 43)
  • Sales Invoice List (page 9301)
  • Sales Credit Memo (page 44)
  • Sales Credit Memos (page 9302)
  • Posted Sales Invoice (page 132)
  • Posted Sales Invoices (page 143)
  • Purchase Quote (page 49)
  • Purchase Quotes (page 9306)
  • Purchase Order (page 50)
  • Purchase Order List (page 9307)
  • Purchase Invoice (page 51)
  • Purchase Invoices (page 9308)
  • Purchase Credit Memo (page 52)
  • Purchase Credit Memos (page 9309)
  • Posted Purchase Invoice (page 138)
  • Posted Purchase Invoices (page 146)