Book Review: SugarCRM Developer’s Manual

SugarCRM Developer's Manual

This is a review of the book – SuagrCRM Developer’s Manual by Dr. Mark Alexander Bain. Click on the cover image to see the publisher’s page for the book. The book is published by PACKT Publishing – an active supporter of open-source projects.

Disclaimers / Disclosures

  1. This review represents my independent opinion.
  2. I have not been paid for this review.
  3. The publisher has provided me with a free copy of the book for writing this review.


This review does not attempt to provide information about SugarCRM outside the context of the book. The review focuses on what the book offers, what it does well, and where it could have done better. Content outline and information about the author is present on the publisher’s page for the book.


Before I start the review, I must admit that I have not worked much with SugarCRM but I do have significant development experience. As such, I might call myself a “beginner-level developer” as far as SugarCRM customization is concerned. Therefore, my review should probably be qualified for beginner-level SugarCRM developer rather than an experienced one. I make this qualification because I have seen some other reviews which are harsh on this book with regard to certain development aspects that seem to be inadequately covered.

As a first-time SugarCRM developer, my feeling after reading the book was that customizing SugarCRM is easy. It is in large part due to the excellent work by the author . The author’s style and the organization of content made it a breeze to go through most of the book. Before I could put the book away thinking that the book addressed only simple scenarios I ran into the last four chapters of the book. These chapters alone could make the book a worthy buy.

This book is a blend of gentle introduction, reference material, and real-world advice. I am always looking for real-world experience and recommendations in a book since the introduction and reference material are often available from other sources. Some of the advice in the book goes beyond SugarCRM and applies to PHP-mySQL applications in general.

Good introductions can also be valuable and this book is certainly a good choice if you are looking for one. The book also devotes 60 pages to database dictionary, which I mostly skipped. For such information, I like to directly query a database instance but I can see how these pages can provide a useful reference while reading the book.

The book has plenty of code samples and screenshots, which make it easy to follow. It is also helpful that the book uses a single business scenario and builds upon it throughout the book. It helps to see natural progression from simple to complex in some cases and interrelationships in others.

The book uses version 4.5 and the latest one is 5.2. The next version after 4.5.1 was 5.0, which became available in early 2008. A quick look at the release notes for 5.0 did not seem to indicate huge differences between 4.5 and 5.0. However, another reviewer has indicated that there are several important differences between 4.5 and 5.x. So you may need to do your homework to figure out whether this book can serve your needs.

The book starts with some quick and easy customizations of look and feel as a warm-up. Then it shows how to add custom tabs, dashlets, and custom fields. Next it describes the architecture of the application followed by the details of the database structure. I love the material that comes after this point. Some good advice about development, testing, and upgrades. The knowledge shared here is sometimes applicable to other PHP-mySQL applications as well. This is followed by the advanced topics of writing custom modules and workflows. The book concludes with tips on tuning SugarCRM and writing reports. I feel that it is the last 4 chapters that will add the most value in any real-world customization of SugarCRM.


This is an excellent handbook for beginner-level developers customizing SugarCRM version 4.5. For other situations, it may or may not be what you need so you need to do some analysis before selecting this book. Also note that this is not a book about making the best use of SugarCRM. That is not a shortcoming of the book because the book clearly identifies its audience and purpose – customization for developers. If you are looking for a book about using SugarCRM then maybe you should look at Implementing SugarCRM.


One thought on “Book Review: SugarCRM Developer’s Manual

  1. I bought this book, and rate it pretty poorly, The majority of the book just lists table schemas, but without adding anything of use to the listings (e.g. without telling you what each table actually represents).

    The depth that the coding goes into is so shallow that that it gets left behind by real Sugar development very early.

    A book that described the file structure, the way the cache works, the difference between the business rules implemented in the database and in the PHP scripts, would be far more useful. I am just finding that having been dumped into a situation where I need to make some *trivial* customisations to a Sugar installation, the book is proving of no practical use, which is a great shame.

    Shame on the author for padding the book out with 60-odd pages of data dictionary listings.

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