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I attended Salesforce's Dreamforce conference last month because I'd heard that Salesforce has been making a big effort to build a platform that was friendly to developers. I expected to be confronted with a pile of corporate-speak and a lot of vaporware, but what I found was much more surprising. Six different keynote presenters talked about mashups, and one-third of customers in attendance talked about wanting to build or purchase mashups. There was some corporate-speak, which these articles should cut through. The technology, however, was powerful and easy. Two main things set Salesforce apart from other companies building development platforms. The first is that their platform is entirely "on demand", meaning there's no installed software, it runs across the internet in a software as a service model. The other is the directory of Salesforce applications called AppExchange. You can build apps and keep them within your organization -- if, for example, you work in a corporate IT department. But if you want to share your application with the world, for profit or otherwise, the AppExchange directory is the answer. It's integrated directly into all Salesforce accounts. If you build an application inside your own account, you can package it directly to the AppExchange directory. Customers who find your application on AppExchange can install it directly into their accounts. Salesforce wants to remove the burden of customer acquisition and distribution so that developers can focus on what they do best: finding and solving problems. I met a number of small companies and individual consultants who all said that Salesforce is making it easier to sell software to the corporate world. This series of articles will show you how to build and distribute an application on AppExchange. If you're not familiar with Salesforce, then there's some basic information that you should know. I'll lay that out in this article, as well as the process for setting yourself up as a Salesforce developer, the interfaces available for building applications, and the major sources of news and reference. The next two articles will lead you through the steps of building an application and distributing it on AppExchange.
What Is Salesforce.com?
If you're not in sales, you might not even know what Salesforce.com does or even what Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is. Salesforce started out primarily offering software for sales groups to manage their customer relationships. This included simple tools like address books, which are called contacts in the Salesforce world, and more complicated processes to track potential customers from lead to sale. Sales people also like reports with charts and graphs, so those are part of the package. The interesting point from a developer's perspective is that the underlying technology is based around database concepts, with default actions and views. Salesforce has almost completely opened up this infrastructure. Even novice users can create custom objects that are the equivalent of database tables, and add or remove fields from the default objects.
customize templates. There seem to be some other limitations--you can't send mass emails. It has also been flexible enough to allow customers to build their own applications in areas like financial services and human resources. This will also serve as a sandbox for developing your own applications. built-in distribution through the AppExchange directory. but signing up for a developer account from the AppExchange Developer Network will give you an account that never expires. Following the link in the email will give you your first look at your new Salesforce account. This functionality is available in the Setup area.This infrastructure includes a built-in customer base. You might be tempted to sign up for the 30-day. Click for a larger view. Here users can add and remove fields. customizing their Salesforce account is a common and exciting experience that feels like application building. and even create new . built-in data and authentication models. Customizing For most Salesforce customers. After you sign up for an account you'll be sent a confirmation email. one an admin account so that you can build and install applications and the other a normal user account so you can test your work from the perspective of a normal user. Browse the tabs to get a sense of the default functionality that comes with a Salesforce account. developer support on the AppExchange Developer Network. That means developers can focus on solving new problems and not reinventing solutions to old ones. The account does come with a few limitations. The account has a 2MB data limit. you need to sign up for an account. for example-but I didn't notice any that would hinder development. You can only have two users. and a slew of programming tools. which is enough space to add roughly 1500 contacts. This infrastructure has been flexible enough to allow Salesforce to branch out into other business applications like marketing and customer support. free trial offer that is prominently advertised on their home page. Signing Up To get a feel for what Salesforce customers experience.
Salesforce provides a web UI for all of this functionality. The name is what you're going to use to reference the field when you're writing code. we'll be using this area to install an application from AppExchange. Click for a larger view. however. Start by choosing Customize -> Contacts -> Fields in the left navigation bar. You will need this familiarity if you want to extend the data schema. The label is shown on displays and reports alongside the field contents. The first step is to select a field type. know how to use these. I was expecting to make this a text field. . install AppExchange applications. or package your own AppExchange applications. Don't worry. At the bottom of the list of fields is a list of custom fields and a New button. but found that Salesforce has an explicit URL field type that ensures that the URL will be displayed as a link.database tables that come with automatically created forms and views. Start by clicking the Setup link located above the tabs. This will show a long list of the standard fields for the Contacts object. The second step is to give the field a label and a name. Choose the URL field type. as many of our friends have their own websites. I chose "Website" for the label and "website" for the name. You should. Clicking this button will start you on a four-step process for adding a field to the Contacts object. For now let's get a feel for how the Setup area works by adding a Website field to the Contacts object. as a developer you're going to be able to build applications much more powerful than what most users are creating using the Salesforce customization forms. Later in this article.
visit the Contacts tab and click the New button. If you see a Get It Now button then you can install the application directly into your Salesforce account. If that were the case. For our purposes.The last two steps are important if you're managing a Salesforce account with thousands of users. Other applications have Download buttons instead. It's a good example of a mashup that combines an external service with the database and reporting features of Salesforce. But many are completely free applications that run entirely in your Salesforce instance. . There are over 400 applications in the directory so far. Some of the applications require that you pay for them. Some require that you install software on your own server. You should see that your field has been automatically added to the form. you would want to spend some time setting the access controls and templates. we need to figure out how to install other people's applications. Installing an AppExchange Application Before we can build our own application for the AppExchange. The first step is to visit the AppExchange. To see your handiwork. These are applications that you run on your desktop or server that access your Salesforce account through the API. Let's install Salesforce for Google AdWords. The Pricing section of each application entry will let you know if the application is free or not. an application that lets you create and track Google AdWords campaigns from within Salesforce. you should just choose the defaults and then save your changes.
It turns out that you still have a little more work to do once you've finished the install process." since we're installing into an account that doesn't have any users. . in my experience the next step is usually the same. and security settings. It would be nice if applications came with a help document that walked you through this process.Click the Get It Now button to start the installation process. Click for a larger view. choose "Grant access to all users. Most applications come with their own tab. Choose Search Campaigns from the Available Tabs list and move it to the Selected Tabs list. the contents of the package. On step 3. This will give you a form for moving available tabs to your selected tabs. which takes you to the All Tabs tab. In this case click the arrow on your last tab. However. which you need to add to your visible tabs. This will take you through a series of confirmation screens asking you to review legal terms. Then click the Customize My Tabs button. You need to customize your account through the Setup area so that the new application is visible.
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