Spring Forward with Force.com

I sat through the Force.com Spring ’09 Release Preview Webinar yesterday. As usual, it looks like SalesForce has expanded the capability of their platform and improved some of their core administrative functions as well.

You can use the following link to go directly to the page with details and link to a 101 page Release Notes document: http://wiki.apexdevnet.com/index.php/Spring_09

At the Force.com/Administrative level, some of the new features that really caught my attention are:

  • Enhanced Page Layout Editor. I have to admit, I never liked the old page layout editor. I always found it cumbersome, and it never worked right for me in Google Chrome (which is my preferred SalesForce.com these days browser because of its JavaScript performance). The new editor and the ability to add blank spaces to the page layout should certainly help both the administrator and the end users.
  • Analytic Improvements.
    • The recently added Analytic Snapshots feature in SalesForce.com was a big plus for administrators; however it had some missing features. The newly added ability to create Snapshots using Summary reports is one of them. The problem with Tabular reports was that it had too much data. You had to filter down the datasets to under 2000 records to get the snapshot to work properly. Now, we’ll be able to create Snapshots on summarized data, for example Pipeline History by Sales Manager that could avoid the 2000 record limitation.
    • The second big enhancement is the two new Grouping functions for reports: ParentGroupVal() and PrevGroupVal(). These will turn out to be powerful tools for creating more meaningful reports and dashboards.
  • GetUpdated() and GetDeleted() API Methods on more objects. It’s great to see that SFC has added these two functions to more of their standard objects to further improve data-replication services for those who are using them.
  • Updates to the OfficeToolkit COM API. I’ve used the COM API heavily in some of the integrations developed at my previous company, particularly those that could not be done in VB.NET. The new properties and methods added to the key objects will make it easier to use the Toolkit with some of the newer features of SFC. If you are using the OfficeToolkit COM API currently, I recommend reviewing the changes to determine if an update to your code is warranted.
  • Cross-Object Workflow for Custom Objects. Workflow rules can now perform Cross-Object Field Updates on related objects. Could be helpful for updating a related Parent record when the Child is updated. It would be nice if it could do the reverse – update all related Child record when a Parent is updated.
  • Text() function. Finally!!! The Text() function allows you to retrieve the contents of a Picklist field. This is so much better than using a long nested set of IsPickVal() functions.

Some of the exciting new end-user features are:

  • Add/Remove Campaign Members or Status. Marketing users can now add or remove Campaign members individually on the Campaign screen. Be sure to add the “Campaign Members” related list to the Campaign page-layout.
  • Finding Similar Opportunities. Administrators can add a related list to the Opportunity screen that lists other Opportunities that share similar attributes to the Opportunity currently displayed.
  • Full Text Search on Documents. Seems to support most common document types, except ZIP files. Note that the release notes do not state that existing documents will be indexed.
  • Dashboard Finder. Users can now enter part of the name of a Dashboard in the Dashboard Picklist field to quickly find the dashboard they want. When an organization has dozens of dashboards, this will be a huge timesaver.
  • Firefox 3.0 Support? I’ve been using Firefox with SalesForce.com for years. They did not specify what specific areas were made to be Firefox 3.0 compatible, but I am curious.

I haven’t signed up for the pre-release trial, but I will be looking at the new features as they’re released into production.

Spring ’09 General Release Maintenance Windows
INSTANCE
DATE
TIME
CS0 (Sandbox), CS2 (Sandbox)
January 23
6pm to 12am PST
NA1, NA6
February 6
8pm to 2am PST
NA2, NA3, NA4, NA5
February 13
8pm to 2am PST
NA0, EU0, CS1 (Sandbox)
February 14
10am to 4pm PST
AP0
February 14
10am to 3pm PST