2015 Update 1: Theming

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 Update 1 (code named Carina) brings a lot of new great functionalities, in this post the new theming functionality is presented.

Event though not essential when customizing CRM to the customer’s specific needs (traditionally getting they’re business specific processes up and running would the main thing), I lost count on how many times this was requested by customers.

It seems theming plays a key role for customers to feel they have something of their own, rather than just another standard OOB solution.

On previous versions changing CRM “css” was highly unadvisable, not to bluntly say unsupported.

Well, now the functionality is there.

Setting a new Theme

There is a new “Themes” option available in Settings > Customizations:

Users can set new themes, clone from existing themes and finally publish themes.

Only one theme can be set as default, and AFAIK there it is not possible to define different themes for different users, but the customization options are pretty much aligned to make this a reality, probably it will come out on a “Update 2”.

Previewing: Users can also preview the theme they are setting, as per button in image above:

  • This will set a cookie that allows the user to use this theme for a set time before it reverts (how long is the “set time”? It seems to be a secret of the gods for now. If anyone knows the answer feel free to share it in the comments area).
  • Previewing or publishing a new theme resets it. Erasing cookies will erase this as well.

Last, but not least, a theme allows for the following to be configured (more details on each configuration option can be found in the next section):

What Changes can be done to the UI?

  • Navigation Bar:
    • Logo
    • Logo Tooltip
    • Navigation Bar Colour
    • Navigation Bar Shelf Colour
    • Header Colour: This affects main navigation bar as well as view and form navigation bars, as per images below:


  • UI Elements
    • Global Link Colour: The colour for links, such as email addresses or lookups.
    • Link: This is not for Global Links, this is the colour that commands or lists will use when you hover over the items.
      • Selected Link Effect: The colour that commands or lists will use to indicate selected items.
      • Hover Link Effect: The colour that commands or lists will use when you hover over the items.

    • Process Control Colour: The primary colour for process controls.
    • Default Entity Colour: The default colour for system entities if no colour is assigned.
    • Default Custom Entity Colour: The default custom entity colour if no colour is assigned.
    • Control Shade: The colour for controls to use to indicate when you hover over items. and
    • Control Border.

More details can be found here (this link is actually on the theme entity itself (useful if a developer wants to query / further enhance themes with automation, but also provides a god description on what each configuration setting means).

Example Custom Theme

Below are some example images on how a custom theme could look like in CRM 2015 Update 1.

  • Navigation Level:

  • Form Level:

  • Field Level:

Tips, Tricks and Recommendations

Below some tips, tricks and recommendations on themes:

  • Primarily for Branding:
    • Logos, Main Navigation.
    • Adjusting Accent colours only: Hover colours, Selection colours.

  • Not designed to alter CRM UI drastically: The theming is designed to make colour changes and not to drastically alter the CRM UI.
  • Core CRM Icons are not exposed to theming this release, and some are legacy (i.e. still are 2011 icons and will continue to use the default colour for hover effects.
  • Entity Colours (they can also be adjusted):
    • They are part of Entity Metadata.
    • Limitations: The same entity must be the same colour even if under different Sitemap nodes (e.g.: Cannot make all Service entities one colour and all Sales entities one colour because they overlap).
  • Contrast
    • Beware of colour contrast. The OOB theme has the correct contrast ratios to ensure optimal usability, consider them as a basis for your custom themes.
    • High contrast mode will always be using the default colour settings.
  • Don’t over-use colours
    • Every entity can have a different colour if necessary, but the recommend is using one of 2 patterns:
      • Make all entities neutral and highlight the key ones.
      • Make all entities that mean something with similar or same colour. Keep the total number of groups low.
  • Theming across environments:
    • There’s are set as records of a new “Theme”, as such it is not possible to bring them across as part of a solution. A traditional post deployment data “sync”/”migration” is advised it this is intended.
    • As an alternative themes can be exported and re-imported into another environment (details on this can be found in Manage configuration data). Then they must be published to become active.

Ohh…and one more thing… 🙂, Microsoft has a nice little video on all the above here: Theming with Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online 2015 Update 1.

Stay tuned, more posts to come on 2015’s Update 1 and its new functionalities.