Salesforce Trailhead: Approach with Caution

Proceed to the Salesforce Trailhead with caution

As a former member of the Trailhead team, I am hesitant to write this, but I think it is an important thing for people to be aware of. If you have been using Trailhead for longer than a year, then you need to be aware of these pretty serious limitations.

While you can retake challenges for badges and projects, you cannot do so for Superbadges. More importantly, once you complete a badge, you have no way of knowing that the content for that badge may have been significantly updated. As in, all the content you understood when you completed the badge, is no longer relevant.

As I am sure you are aware, Salesforce does major releases three times a year. When they do, they prepare comprehensive release notes and the Trailhead authors are instructed to review these notes and update their content as necessary. That part is great. What is not great is that you as a consumer of Trailhead content have no way of knowing that the content was updated (without revisiting EVERY badge you have earned to examine the content).

The badge itself just indicates that it was completed on a certain date. As in the image below of a badge I completed in 2015. This badge has since been significantly updated and the content that was once relevant when I completed the badge is VERY different.

Trailhead badge completed in 2015 that now has VERY different content

How do you know that you are aware of the latest features and updates to the platform? Well, it is up to you to pick through the release notes and then cross reference any Trailhead content that you may have completed. Nice, right?

Just wanted to make sure everyone was aware of this (what I consider to be) serious limitation. I hope the team is actively addressing it. I would say I know, but they don’t talk to me since I left the team.

Top 5 Tips for Working with Salesforce Extensions for Visual Studio Code

After spending quite a lot of time working with the Salesforce Extensions for Visual Studio Code and discovering many hidden gems, here is a list of my top 5 tips. Hope they help you in your development journey.

#1 – Install the Expanded Extension Pack

This VERY handy version of the regular Salesforce Extension Pack, includes not only all the core SFDX plugin’s, but all the third-party ones you might need, like Prettier, ESLint, etc.

Salesforce Expanded Extension Pack
Salesforce Expanded Extension Pack

#2 – Run Update as Often as Possible

This is perhaps the MOST important tip I will offer. Unlike the rest of Salesforce software, the SS Salesforce Extensions are updated every week. That’s right. And they are constantly adding really cool features, so if you have not run…

sfdx update

in a while, you are probably wayyyyy behind and need to do it immediately!

#3 – Use the CLI Help Feature

For all of you that depend solely on the Command Palette, you really need to start using the built-in help that is offered. Come on, the Terminal is not that scary.

Not only will you get access to some really helpful info, but you will learn a heck of a lot about the CLI in general. Start by just typing sfdx help.

Go even further down the stack, but use –help past the first level. For example, to see the help for the project create command, so the following:

sfdx force:project:create --help
Use the built-in help feature
Use the built-in help feature

#4 – Use Code Completion and Snippets

If you do a lot of work with Apex, then you definitely want to check out using the Code Completion and Code Snippets features. This can be really helpful when creating Apex classes or triggers (especially if you are like me and do not do it that often).

#5 – See all SFDX Commands

When you are first learning how to work with the extensions, it can be helpful to see a list of all the available commands. This is accomplished by entering the following command: sfdx commands

See all the SFDX commands
See all the SFDX commands

Check out the Salesforce API Explorer

In an attempt to make things easier for us developers, the Developer Relations group has created a nice little tool called the Salesforce API Explorer.

Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 1.48.18 PM

What It Includes Now

The first thing you should know about this tool is that it is still in Developer Preview and the team that created it is actively seeking feedback on how it can be improved. You can submit feedback right from the Send us Feedback link at the top.

As of this writing, there are only the following two API’s featured here:

  • Force.com REST API
  • Marketing Cloud REST API

How You Can Help

Remember when I said this was still in Preview mode? Well, you can easily vote on which API’s will be included next by clicking the like button underneath the API’s listed in the “Which API’s would you like to see here next?” section. Please take the time to go through the list and vote for which ones you would like to see appear next. Come on. You can’t complain about a lack of good documentation without taking the time to be part of a solution.

Why It is So Cool

This Explorer tool is not only cool because of the fact that it will list all the API’s in one place in a nice readable way. But, it is VERY cool when you consider the nice “Try it now” feature that lets you see the results of executing any of the API calls against your developer org.  You just need to provide credentials for your org.

You will then select a Resource, such as Account and then an endpoint, such as FindAccountById. Not only does this show you all the documentation you need for that endpoint, but you can try it out by doing the following:

  1. Click Try it Now
  2. Enter any path parameters (if needed), such as the Account ID
  3. Click Execute
  4. A Live response appears on the right

Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 6.35.09 PM.png

Boom! You don’t have to go into workbench. You can do everything you need right here in the explorer tool. Cool, right?

Come Check out Managing Application State with SPA’s at TDX18

I am very honored to be participating as a panelist asking questions about Managing Application State with SPA’s. The session will be on Thursday, March 29, 2018 from 1-3:00 pm and is titled, “The Extracurricular: “Why Did That Do That?” Managing Application State w/ SPAs”.

It is a really cool format and one I think will be very fun and interactive (with lots of audience participation), so if you have any interest in this topic, I highly encourage you to attend. The main speaker is the incredible Matt Lacey and he will be talking about the challenges he has faced building a Visualforce application that used VF Remoting and React + Redux to manage application state.

The best part of this is it is not just your typical session in which the speaker just tells you a bunch of stuff and shows a bunch of boring slides. Not, this one is special. It will involve Matt briefly telling and showing us his app and then the rest of the time will be a very interactive discussion about managing application state that will involve not only the panelists and myself, but you the audience member as well. How super cool is that?

Ok, so if you are going to TDX18 and have some time on Thursday, please stop by.

And also be sure to check out Camp Quick Start  (that is where I will be most of the time), as well as the new and incredibly fun Robotics Ridge.

See you there…

Goodbye Force.com IDE Beta…Hello Visual Studio Code

Back in 2016, I wrote a post here about how the Force.com IDE was making an epic comeback, with support for Lightning.  At the time I was very excited to see that Salesforce was refocusing it’s efforts towards improving that tool in the form of a Beta. Even though the Force.com IDE was the original tool that Salesforce offered and it had a long history with the development community, it had failed to keep up with the bevy of tools now being offered by third-parties.

Fast forward to today and the recent announcement by Salesforce that the Force.com IDE Beta has been officially discontinued.

So where does that leave Salesforce developers?

Well, not as bad as you might think. Salesforce is not giving up on supporting a local IDE. Nor are they giving up on the original version of the Force.com IDE (at least not just yet). So far, only the new Beta will be discontinued.

It is just that they are focusing their efforts towards improvement of the Salesforce Extensions for Visual Studio (VS) Code. It just made no sense to support two tools and after analyzing feedback from the Beta of the Force.com IDE, the team had to make a clear choice and Salesforce Extensions for VS Code came up the winner.

I personally prefer Visual Studio Code and there is no question that it is easier to install than Eclipse (which was always a bit of a nightmare imho with all the required Java installs it required). I also like how intuitive it is and that I can use it to do all sorts of other modern development. If there is a popular modern language out there, you can safely bet that VS Code supports it.

If you have not had a chance to check it out yet, I highly suggest you do so and just remember to keep an open mind.

Also, be aware that Salesforce Extensions for VS Code does not yet support everything that the Force.com IDE does. Like I said earlier, the original Force.com IDE is not going away, just the newer Beta version which included support for Salesforce DX and Lightning. It is going to take some time for the development team to get all the features that the Force.com IDE offers into Salesforce Extensions for VS Code.

But keep in mind, that VS Code is where they are headed, so if you have not yet checked out Visual Studio Code, now is the perfect time to do so. I think you will be pleasantly surprised and impressed with it.

And let me know what you think…

Salesforce Play By Plays on Pluralsight

Screen Shot 2017-07-15 at 11.24.33 AMMy good friend Don Robins has been hard at work putting together a new series of Play by Play Pluralsight courses that are all about Salesforce development. This is all part of a deliberate attempt by Pluralsight to greatly expand the Salesforce portion of their library. Which, in case you have not noticed, has grown quite a lot in just the past year – with lot’s more good stuff to come.

If you are not familiar with them, courses in the Play by Play series are not your typical Pluralsight courses. They are more of a dialogue or open-end discussion in which the host, Don Robins interviews Salesforce MVP’s about topics they are the most knowledgeable and passionate about. Don does a great job of channeling all the best talk show hosts, as he playfully challenges each MVP, asking all the questions the viewer themself might ask. It is not so much of a “watch me do this” as it is a “so this is why I am thinking of doing this particular thing and here are a few ways I might do it”.

There are currently 4 Play by Play videos available and they cover the following topics:

Moving Visualforce Code to the Lightning UI in Salesforce

Featuring non-profit guru and certified developer and administrator Bonny Hinners, this Play by Play walks you through things to consider when moving your legacy Visualforce code to the new Lightning Experience. This is a topic I also cover in my course and is one that I think many Salesforce developers will be pondering over for years to come.

Managing Data in Salesforce Using Apex

In this Play by Play, Don sits down with Dan Appleman, Salesforce MVP and author of Advanced Apex Programming, to discuss all the gotchas you need to consider when working with data in your org. He will alert you to the common pitfalls that most developers make and lead you towards a better way of approaching your trigger code and unit tests.

Knowing When to Code in Salesforce

This is perhaps one of the most important topics for Salesforce Developers and one that is covered in depth by Don and Salesforce MVP and new Pluralsight superstar, David Liu. David introduces a common scenario and then talks through all the different ways the solution could be achieved. Beginning with custom fields and then moving on to Workflow Rules, Process Builder, Flows, and finally when there are no other options, Apex code.

How to Mobilize Your Salesforce App

Featuring mobile expert and Salesforce MVP, Gaurav Kheterpal, you will learn about all the different ways you can approach mobilizing your Salesforce apps. Starting with the easiest but least flexible alternative, Salesforce1 and then moving on to the more complex, but robust alternatives of going hybrid with the Android or iPhone mobile SDK’s, you will learn the pros and cons of each. Finally, you will learn how to build Hybrid apps, where you get some of the best of native, without all the complexity native brings.

And if you do not already have a Pluralsight subscription, now is the best time to get one (but make sure you hurry): Get up to a $30 Visa gift card when you sign up for Pluralsight by June 30!

Lightning is to Visualforce what .NET was to Visual Basic

When I began my programming career, Visual Basic (version 3.0) was just emerging as a popular alternative for creating Windows-based applications. Ironically, it was a component-based approach to development that brought forth an army of programmers developing third-party components. Programmers could quickly spin up applications by simply dragging and dropping components onto a form design surface and then wiring everything together with events.

Visual Basic grew in popularity and for a few wonderful years, it was the hot new kid on the block. It brought about a sort of programming renaissance and lowered the barrier to entry for many up and coming developers.

Of course, the reign of Visual Basic was not meant to last. No programming language (or platform for that matter) stays golden forever. In 2002, Microsoft launched the object-oriented successor to Visual Basic called VB.NET. I can remember being so excited when it was released and I dove head first into learning all about the new Framework.

I have a confession to make. In all my excitement over the introduction of the .NET Framework, I hurriedly convinced one of my clients to let me rewrite one of his VB applications using VB.NET. Unfortunately, I made a mistake that many developers at that time did. I assumed that rewriting an application like this would be a simple conversion process. That I would just go in and simply swap one set of code for another and magically everything would work wonderfully.

That did not happen. In fact, the application I rewrote started to fall down in production almost immediately. It experienced huge performance problems. In short, it was a disaster. I had actually taken something that was working quite well and turned it into soup.

The problem was that VB and VB.NET were so fundamentally different. Design patterns that worked well in VB, failed miserably in VB.NET.

What I should have done was to start slowly.  Rather than try to convert an existing VB application to using the new .NET Framework, I should have looked at what I needed to do to make the .NET application perform well from the very beginning. I should have learned about best practices and really understood how different the new object-oriented approach to application design would be.

Eventually, I did do all those things, and also switched to using C# (which is much better imho), but only after I messed up my poor clients original VB application. Live and learn, I say. No one is perfect and we all make mistakes. The trick is to learn from them.

I feel like I have learned from mine. But the funny thing is that I can see a familiar pattern emerging now in the world of Salesforce development. I can see how the introduction of the Lightning framework will bring about some of the same challenges for Salesforce developers transitioning from Visualforce as there was for Microsoft developers transitioning from VB to .NET.

VBToLightningSmaller

Some VB developers transitioning to .NET were never able to make the transition successfully and their careers suffered as a result. I imagine this might happen in the Salesforce world too and there will be Visualforce developers that stay Visualforce developers.

Of course, Visualforce is not going away anytime soon. But, anyone that believes it will not go away eventually is just kidding themselves. Salesforce is firmly committed to Lightning and it is no doubt the future of Salesforce development.

So, what should you do if you are a Salesforce developer that knows a lot about Visualforce?

You should embrace the new Lightning development framework and seek to understand how it differs from traditional Visualforce development. It really is like comparing apples and oranges. Begin by checking out this excellent Trail called Applying Visualforce Skills to Lightning. It helps to warn you about some of potential pitfalls you may encounter.

Just like with VB and .NET, design patterns that worked well in Visualforce, will fail in the world of Lightning. You could easily make an application perform worse if you just attempt to swap one set of code for another.

And so this is a good time for me to tell you about a new course I just started to design for Pluralsight. It will be titled Lightning Component Development Best Practices and I hope to release it before the end of the year.

In the meantime, you can also check out my latest course on Pluralsight titled,  Customizing Salesforce with Lightning Components. I have an entire module dedicated to Working with Lightning Data Service and using Base Lightning Components, which are definitely best practices Lightning developers should be using now.

And stay tuned because I will be covering many best practice topics (such as this one about Conditional Rendering in Lightning) on this blog in the months to come.

 

New Customizing Salesforce with Lightning Components Course Released

SecondCourse.pngI am proud to announce that yesterday my new course for Pluralsight titled, “Customizing Salesforce with Lightning Components: Getting Started” was released.

Here is the long description:

In this course, you’ll learn how to easily customize Salesforce with the new Lightning Component framework, which includes all the tools and technologies needed to build responsive and efficient components for any device. First, you’ll cover the basics of building Lightning Components, and how to work with data using built-in components such as the Lightning Data Service. Next, you’ll explore Lightning alternatives for the traditional JavaScript buttons that so many orgs have now. Finally, you’ll learn about the most efficient way to migrate from Visualforce to Lightning. Although, many things have changed during the evolution of the Lightning Component framework, don’t worry, you’ll learn what you need to know to get up to “lightning” speed. By the end of this course, you’ll be well on your journey towards customizing your org with Lightning components.

Specific topics I cover are:

  • Base Lightning Components
  • Lightning Data Service
  • Extending SLDS
  • Lightning Actions
  • Migrating from Visualforce to Lightning

Hope you like the course. I worked really hard on it, dedicating every weekend for the past 7 months. I wanted each module to be special and I hope my efforts show.

If you see the course, I would be really interested in your feedback – good or negative. All of it helps me to create better courses.

Top 5 Lightning Tips for Visualforce Devs

#1- Transition does not have to be all or nothing

For Visualforce Developers, when it comes to transitioning to Lightning development, it does not have to be an all or nothing deal. Very few development shops/companies will go from doing all Visualforce development to doing all Lightning development overnight. That is just not realistic, nor a good idea, in my opinion.

The introduction of Lightning Out offered a lot of options for Visualforce developers wanting to slowly transition to Lightning. If you want to learn what options are available in terms of a transition plan, I suggest checking out this post and blog series by Salesforce Architect, Mike Topalovich. Mike does an excellent job, not only of giving a lot of background, but of detailing 5 specific migration paths that you will want to consider.

#2 – Watch your Casing

JavaScript is Case sensitive!!!

This is so important, I am going to write it again, “JAVASCRIPT IS CASE SENSITIVE”.

If only I had a nickle for every time I ended up discovering that the odd error I was getting in Lightning was actually caused by a casing error of mine. Seriously, I cannot tell you how many times this has tripped me up. More times than I would probably like to admit.

So anytime you are working with Lightning and you get an error that makes no sense, the first thing you should do is return to your JavaScript code and make sure you did not make a casing error. It really is VERY easy to do. Embarrassingly so.

#3- Security Works Differently

As Visualforce developers, you have been spoiled as far as security is concerned. Visualforce apps operate out of the Force.com domain, which is not shared with Salesforce code. But, Lightning apps and components run in a special domain that is shared with Salesforce-authored Lightning code.

This means that the security for Lightning components are subject to a Content Security Policy (CSP). The rules surrounding what is and what is not allowed with these components will just tighten as time goes on. Go here to learn more about all the concerns regarding Lightning Security.

One important thing that you need to know is that any of your AuraEnabled Apex classes must do an explicit check for CRUD and FLS permissions. This was handled automatically for you in Visualforce pages, but in Lightning, unless you are using the new Lightning Data Service, you will need to do this check manually. You can do so using the isAccessible(), isCreateable(), isDeleteable(), and isUpdateable() methods. You can learn more about how this is done here.

#4 – Install and Use the Lightning Inspector

For Chrome users, there is an excellent plug-in called Lightning Inspector that every Lightning developer should check out. One of the most useful features it offers is a component tree tab, which shows you how the Lightning Framework sees your component. You can use this as a tool not only for debugging components, but learning more about what some of the built-in ones are capable of.

#5 – Check out newest components/features added

The Lightning Framework has been out for a while now (over 2 years actually) and in that time there have been many new releases and lots of new features added. Building Lightning components today is not the same as it was when you may have run through a tutorial or article a year or two ago. If it has been a while since you took a look at what features and components are available, it is time to take another look.

In the last release (Winter 17) many new features were added such as the Lightning Data Service, which you can kind of think of as the equivalent of a Standard Controller for a Visualforce page. Currently this feature is still in developer preview, but using it allows you to eliminate the need for Apex code and also those manual security checks that I mentioned earlier.

I strongly believe that component-based development, such as what you do with the Lightning Framework is the future of web and device-based development. If you have not already dipped your toes in Lightning Development, it is not too late. Things are just getting really good for this modern development platform.

Free Videos from Improving Visualforce Performance Online Course

I just found out I can embed videos from my course for Lynda.com about Improving Visualforce Performance. So, I thought I would do a post and embed the free videos for that course.
https://www.lynda.com/player/embed/428848?fs=3&w=560&h=315&ps=paused&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=embed+video&utm_campaign=ldc-website&utm_content=vid-428848

https://www.lynda.com/player/embed/428871?fs=3&w=560&h=315&ps=paused&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=embed+video&utm_campaign=ldc-website&utm_content=vid-428871