This entry is part of our Feature Review Series. These short, to the point blogs strive to provide a quick snapshot of information to a user looking for a quick overview of a feature, how it's managed or configured, some insight into how a business / organization would use it, and provide links to resources or tutorials for a deeper dive.

In the previous post, we provided an introductory overview of the Advanced Find feature of D365.  In this article, we're diving into how to build your query and take a look at the various considerations a user would make as they navigate the process.

How to Get Started Using Advanced Find

As outlined last time, to launch Advanced Find, tap the icon to the right in the command bar.  (It looks like a funnel.) This will launch the Advanced Find tool in a new window.

At time of writing, the Advanced Find window still resembles the classic interface.  Below you can see how Advanced Find has looked for many years.

For a detailed breakdown of the buttons you see in the image above, see the blog: What Is Advanced Find in Dynamics 365?

Your First Query

As with many things, the best way to start is simple, and that's with no query logic at all.

Follow along in your own environment.

By default, Advanced Find will load the query logic of the view you're looking at, if you're in an area where one is loaded.

For example, in the image below I'm set to the Accounts table, and the My Active Accounts view is loaded (as shown in the background).  As such, Advanced Find has loaded the query logic of that view.

To clear this logic and begin with the most simple approach, click the "New" icon to clear any query logic.  What you're effectively asking the system to do is show you ALL records stored in the table because you've not given it any attribute parameters to filter by.

If you hit results at this point, you'll get a return of all records.  Note that the view limits its count in the lower left to 5,000 records.  If more than that exist, it will simply read 5,000+.

The query logic will now look like it did in the earlier image, shown again below:

Give it a shot and click the Results icon. Just for fun, write down the number of results you get (if it reads 5000+ then write that; we're about to filter it way down in a minute).

Working With Query Logic

If you've ever filtered an Excel table, you're well on your way to understanding how this works.  Advanced Find makes the various attributes of the record available so you can insert query logic against them.

For the purposes of this 'keep it simple' example, all we're trying to do is demonstrate how this works.

Let's look for those accounts that have a City entered in the address field.

Sidebar: The Importance of a Data Dictionary

We need to take a little sidebar before we dive into that though, as this is where many people start to stumble.  To effectively work with Advanced Find, you are going to need to understand the fields you have in your system.

You probably have many tables and each table has a host of columns (or 'fields').  Remembering every single one is more than a chore!

One of the best tricks someone taught me when I was first learning the system was to study the records I use most often.  Not just look at them, but get really familiar with them.

  • Which fields are on the record?
  • Which fields are auto-populated (think Created On or Modified By).
  • What is the layout of the form?
  • Which fields are located where, and what are they all for?

This is where having a data dictionary comes in handy, but very few organizations go so far as to maintain one!  Having a breakdown of each record and the relevant fields including what the fields means to the company, what it's values are, any logic around them.

Example: if field A is set to value 1, field B will appear, but if field A is set to value 2, field B will be hidden, and any other note-worthy details users should know is incredibly handy.

Failing that, at the very least, open the record you are trying to query and look for the field you want to query by to see what it's called on the form. (For the record, even this isn't failsafe as the display name may not match what you see on the form since the field label can be customized by form; even more reason to have a data dictionary as noted above!)

The point is, know your system and the data formats.  If you aren't sure, reach out to your administrator who can provide insight.

Back to The Advanced Find Example

As stated earlier, we're going to look for Accounts that have a value in the City field.  We know the city field is actually titled Address 1: City, so we'll look for that in the list of options.  Click the world Select (shown in previous screenshots) to expose the list of fields to choose from.

We're now presented with options based on the type of field we've selected.  In this case, Address 1: City is a text field, so we can select options as shown below:

Note: had we selected a date field, our options would have included different parameters.  For the sake of the length of this post, we're not showing them here, but feel free to add a date field (Created On or Modified On will work great) and check out the options.  Also, look for other types of fields such as numerical fields which will present a different list as well!

In this example, we'll use the EQUALS parameter.

Now, we simply give it some text.  In this case, we'll add the word Redmond.

If thinking about this in natural language format, we're essentially asking the system the following: "Show me all Accounts where the City equals Redmond"

Give it a try, but note that I'm using a trial system for these images and the trial data includes Accounts from Redmond, so the example works, but you may need to use something from your dataset.

Assuming you select a city that only a fraction of your Accounts have in the field, the list of results should now look different.  In my case, I went from 107 Accounts in the results down to 9.

Arranging Your Columns

With our query logic set, now we can add in the various columns we'd like to see.  To do so, simply tap the Edit Columns button within the Advanced Find ribbon, as shown here:

This will open a new window aptly named Edit Columns.

The default view will display.  Your administrator may have customized this, so I can't speak to what you'll see here, but suffice to say you'll see a few columns laid out in front of you.  You have creative control here, so you can adjust these as you see fit including deleting the ones you don't want.

For this example, let's leave the fields we see, but add two more.  We'll add the Street address (Address 1: Street 1) of the account, as well as the Industry.  Click the Add Columns button on the right and find the fields you wish.  Place a checkmark beside them.  Once you've selected the fields you want to add, click "OK".

This will add the columns to your view.  They will default to the standard 100 pixel length, but you can adjust this by double clicking the column header and adjusting the width as shown below.

The results will now show with the new columns in place:

Note: clearly we have some data entry issues and we need to get the Industry field updated.  This highlights a great use of this kind of feature - it can help bring issues of this nature to light so you can (A) fix the data and (B) ensure users are trained to enter it in the first place!

There you have it.  A super high level overview of how to build a query.

Play Around in Advanced Find to Learn How It Works

Now you have a super simplistic example of how Advanced Find works at the most basic level.

Start playing around with your data to get familiar with how the different fields types work.  Getting real, hands on experience is one of the best ways to learn for many people.  I'd also encourage you to keep notes as you go for those lightbulb moments you'll have.

You're well on your way to having an in-depth knowledge of the Advanced Find feature.  Next time, we'll start to explore how to interact with related tables, and touch on things like saving and sharing the views you create via Advanced Find.