Multi-Select Option Sets (Choices) in Dynamics 365 CRM Solutions

Multi-select option sets, now known as choice columns, in Dynamics 365 CRM solutions can streamline data entry. They allow users to pick multiple values from a list for any data that can be captured within a set of options.

Microsoft has changed the interface and naming for multi-select option sets, now calling them choice columns, and placing the controls within the Power Platform. Below you’ll find instructions for both the new and the old interface.

Note: There are now 5 different Dynamics 365 apps that serve various CRM needs. In some contexts, you may also see those products referred to as “Customer Engagement” or “CE” apps. Multi-select option sets, now known as choice columns, work the same no matter which of those apps you’re using.

How to Create a Choice Column

This is the new, correct way to create choice columns in D365. It replaces the old method of multi-select option sets. You can also jump to the video version of these instructions.

If you can create columns in your CRM, you likely have the permissions to create choices. If not, check with your system admin.

  1. Sign in to Power Apps.
  2. Select your solution.
  3. Locate the table (previously called an entity) that you wish to add your column within.
  4. Select Columns, either through the left pane, or on the info page itself.Selecting columns in Power Apps.
  5. Select “New column.”Clicking New column in Power Apps.
  6. Enter your data details.Pane for data details, including data type, behavior, and required.
    A few notes on those data details:

    • Data type: Select “Choice.”
    • Behavior: Choose “Simple.”
    • Required: You can choose “required,” “recommended,” or “optional.” Choosing “required” means your user must enter data in this column to create a record. This is generally good for reporting, and prevents the risk of the user forgetting to enter it.
      Choosing “Recommended” means that the system can a create a popup to remind the user to enter it, but will allow the user to bypass it.
    • Searchable: Generally, choose “Yes” (this makes the column appear in Advanced Find).
    • Selecting multiple choices is allowed: Choose “Yes.”
    • Sync with global choice: Generally, global choice is the right answer. For an explanation of why, see below for more advice on global vs local choice.
    • Click “+New Choice” instead of “Sync this choice with.”
  7. Within the new choice screen, enter a display name and add the choice values. Then click Save.Adding options to the Hobbies choice column: bicycling and motorcycling.
  8. Back in the previous screen, type the newly created choice’s name into the “Sync this choice with” field.Entering the choice name into Sync this choice with.
  9. Under Advanced options, we can change the schema name. It defaults to the display name.
  10. Enable column security if desired to prevent users from viewing or editing the column on a form.
  11. Select the “sortable” option if you want the column to be sortable within interactive dashboards.
  12. Finally, click Save.

How to Add a Choice Column to a Form

  1. Navigate to forms, either through the left pane, or through the dropdown under “Columns.”Dropdown and sidebar menus showing how to navigate to forms in D365.
  2. Click on the form that you want to edit in the list shown on the next screen.
  3. Select the Abc icon in the left-hand pane of the form, search for the form you created, and select it.Searching for the new column name in the Form page.
  4. Then drag and drop the new column to where you want it on the form.A form for Contact with Hobbies in its new place.
  5. Click Save and then finally Publish.

Video Instructions for Creating Choices (aka Multi-Select Option Sets) in D365

How to Create a Multi-Select Option Set

We no longer advise that you use the old multi-select option sets approach described below. It can result in problems with deployment. Instead, we advise you to create a choice column.

Use the information below with caution.

  1. Open the solution you would like the new multi-select option set to be a part of.
  2. Expand the entity to add the field to, select “Fields,” and “New.”
  3. Define the field how you normally would, but make sure to set the Data Type to “MultiSelect Option Set.” Once that is defined, create the values as you would for any option set.
  4. Decide whether or not to use a Global Option Set. These are useful if you are going to apply this option set across multiple entities (contacts, accounts, etc.)
  5. Then save and close.Functioning multi-select option set for hobbies in Dynamics 365.
  6. Add the field to your entity form(s), and publish the customizations.

Now, when working with the multi-select option set, you will be able to select multiple values from that option set.

What Are Multi-Select Option Sets (aka Choice Columns) Useful For?

Multi-select option sets, now called choice columns, simplify data entry and reporting for certain kinds of data.

Before this functionality was added natively to Dynamics 365, many companies used custom JavaScript on the form. That’s no longer necessary.

For example, imagine you want to track hobbies for contacts. Previously, without using anything other than standard configuration, you may have had to enter this type of information as a long series of multiple two-option option sets (Yes/No).

Staying with our hobbies example, you would have had to include a separate Yes/No option set for each possible hobby a contact could have: Bicycling, Motorcycling, Skiing, etc. As this list of hobbies expanded, the number of Yes/No fields would become very cumbersome for data entry and reporting.

The multi-select option set (aka, choice column) solves this problem.

New Interface and Naming: Multi-Select Option Sets vs Choice Columns

Choice columns are the new name for multi-select option sets in Dynamics 365. This change is part of Microsoft’s overall modernization of Dynamics, putting more controls into Power Apps.

Multi-select option sets created in the past will still work fine, and will be automatically controllable as “choice columns” if you ever need to edit them. There’s no need to “migrate” old fields to the new interface.

Option sets, including multi-select ones, were also sometimes referred to as “picklists” in the old interface. You may still see that naming in some cases. option sets, picklists, and choices are all different words for the same feature in Dynamics 365.

There was also another previous naming for this functionality, where a “choice” allowed only 1 selection, and a “choices” column allowed multiple selections. Both are now called a “choice.”

Global vs Local Choice in D365

The difference between global and local choice has to do with whether any extra options added to the choice column will be reflected everywhere.

For a global choice column, if the choice column is applied to more than one table (like leads and contacts), and if your user adds an extra option to the column on one of the tables, that extra option is also added to that column in all the other tables. For a local choice column, any added option only applies to the table where the user added it.

For example, if you have a column for “hobbies” on both contacts and leads, and you want users to be able to enter new options within that field, and have those new options apply to both contacts and leads, you want a global choice.

Global choices are much easier to maintain and report on. Generally, if you’re considering applying a local choice column to two different tables, you should consider making it two separate choice columns instead.

Limitations of Multi-Select Option Sets (and Multiple-Choice Columns)

While multi-select option sets and choice columns do streamline data entry, there are several limitations on them. These limitations do not apply to single-choice columns.

  • Processes/Workflows: Multi-select options sets and choice columns can be used as trigger events for processes/workflows, but they cannot be updated within the process/workflow logic, nor can they be used in a conditional statement to perform some other branching logic condition. Ask your internal developer or partner if you can fulfill any such need via Power Automate Flows instead.
  • Business Rules: Multi-select option sets and choice columns cannot be updated within the business rule logic, nor can they be used in a conditional statement to perform some other branching logic condition. However, your Dynamics Partner or developer may be able to use JavaScript to give you the same functionality, such as exposing or hiding fields based on multi-select option sets.
  • Import Values for New Records: You can import multi-select field values and choice columns to existing records, but you can’t import them for new records.
    The workaround is to import your new records without the multi-select/choice values, and then do a second import to add the multi-select/choice values.

As long as you do not need to leverage process/workflow or business rules, choice columns are a great feature to use within your Dynamics 365 applications.

To learn more about more ways of configuring Dynamics 365, try these articles:

If you have any questions about creating fields or other aspects of Dynamics 365, please contact us.

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