Salesforce Tools of the Trade
Salesforce.com is billed as Software-as-a-Service: a complete software experience contained in the web browser. While regular users will never have to leave the warm comfort of their browsers, the reality for administrators and developers is much different. We depend on several essential tools to wrangle our data. Luckily, all the following tools are downloadable for free, and versions are available for both Windows and Mac OS X.
Apex Data Loader
Originally called LexiLoader (the Mac application is still called this), the Data Loader is the most essential tool for getting data in and out of Salesforce. The Data Loader connects via the Force.com SOAP API and understands the ubiquitous format of CSV (comma-separated values). When exporting data out of Salesforce, you’ll need to use SOQL, Salesforce.com’s SQL-like language for querying your data. SOQL doesn’t work exactly like SQL, and at times can be maddeningly confusing. But have no fear, as we have help.
The Explorer explores your data. With it, you can build and execute SOQL queries, view the results, and edit the data (one record at a time).
The Windows version includes a SOSL Tester, which let’s you play with results from SOSL, Salesforce.com’s search language.
The Mac OS X version, SOQLXplorer, doesn’t include SOSL support, but does include a nifty graphical view of your data schema:
Let’s say that a city changes it’s name from Raritan to Edison (it’s happened before). So your workflow for updating contact data using the Data Loader and Explorer looks something like this:
- Use the Explorer to figure out the correct SOQL query for all contacts in Raritan
- Using the Data Loader and your cool query, export the data to a CSV file
- Open the CSV file in Excel, and replace the City column with “Edison”
- Fire up the Data Loader again and update the fields using with the new values in the CSV
Three different applications, four steps. Whew! If only there was a tool that did all of that in one neat little package…
Mass Update Anything
Mass Update Anything, as the name implies, updates fields in bulk, based on a SOQL query. In addition, you can choose to delete fields in bulk as well. It’s a great little tool that does one job very well, and will save you from CSV hell.
Last but not least, the Force.com IDE, based on Eclipse, is essential if you’re going to write any custom code for Salesforce. It has more features than I could ever describe in one post, so your best bet is to just visit the page. The IDE also includes an integrated Schema Browser (like the Force.com Explorer), and I’ve found myself using that rather than the stand-alone app.
So there you have it. The Data Loader loads data. The Explorer explores data. Mass Update Anything does what it says. And the IDE provides you with an integrated development environment for Apex Triggers and Classes, S-Controls, Visualforce, and Metadata. These are the tools you need to kick ass, so get ’em and get started!blog comments powered by Disqus