Archive for May, 2008

Shared Salesforce Clippings (via Evernote)

I’ve been messing around with Evernote as a personal solution for “clipping” various things I want to remember as I peruse the web. It’s a nice application and it’s free. Worth a try if you’ve been looking for a note taking / clipping application to store your memory.

It has a sharing feature, so I figured I’d try it. I created a notebook for shared Salesforce related clippings. You can check it out at There is even an RSS feed for the clippings I put out.

This is going to be a very casual thing for me, but is just another way to collect, consume, publish information and wanted to share it.

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Cross Object Formulas (wow!)

Following Steve’s lead, I tried my own cross-object formula using the Summer ’08 pre-release org I get to use as an AppExchange partner.

One of my (and probably your) pressing needs is the ability to display fields from related objects (e.g. show the Account Number on the Opportunity page). Before Summer ’08, you had to either use Workflow to copy a value over, embed an s-Control to pretend the field is actually on your object or tell users to use the hovers.

Cross Object formulas take care of this.  I decided to see how far it went. To start my test, I added a custom Lookup field from Accounts to Cases. I then created a Formula field on the Licenses custom object that I have in my org. My formula traversed the following relationship path:

  1. From License
  2. To Contact
  3. To Account
  4. To Case
  5. To Contact
  6. To Account – finally displaying the City from this Account

It worked! My resulting formula was:


I could’ve kept going through more relationships too.  The field selector that’s provided made this simple.  Just click click click and you’re done.

This fills a huge gap in the product.  This simple addition eliminates a big reason for having needed external reporting tools.  This handles the traversing “up” relationships (from detail to master), while the custom Report Types rolled out last release handled the traversing “down” relationships (from master to detail).  Combined, they solve a lot of reporting problems.

I can’t begin to tell you the headaches this bit of functionality will cure.

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Ribbit for Salesforce is Released

Ribbit has officially released its “voiceware” application that integrates with

I have been using Ribbit with Salesforce for ~3 weeks now and have been pleased. More important than anything for me was simply getting my voicemail digitally. Ribbit handles this for me. All I needed to do to activate it was call a special number on my cell, which sent AT&T a command to forward my voicemail to Ribbit (the Ribbit documentation says how to undo this change if you ever need to).

When someone leaves a voicemail, I can get it in a couple of ways:


I opted to have Ribbit notify me of my new voicemails via Email. This way, I get an attachment with the file and can play it right on my Blackberry. The voicemail is also archived in my Google Apps account for reference purposes should I ever need it (even if I am no longer using Ribbit, I can still have that voicemail. It’s just a WAV file.). The downside of moving voicemail to Ribbit is that I no longer have visual notification that I have voicemail on my Blackberry. Getting it emailed to me eliminates the need for me to call in and check it. SMS is another option, but I wouldn’t be getting the file attached that way.


When I log into Salesforce, I see a nice message window on my homepage. All my voicemails are right there. The audio file itself is stored on Ribbit servers, but a record of the call is in a Messages object in This has call information as well as a text transcription. From the home page, I am able to tag my messages for easy searching later and I can also associate them to a Salesforce record. When I associate it to a Salesforce record, Ribbit creates an Activity with a link to the message file and a copy of the text transcription.

On the sidebar is a small message window and a dialpad. One of the biggest benefits of Ribbit is that of a “cell phone backup”. When a call comes to my cell and I send it to voicemail, the sidebar softphone rings. I have a chance to answer the call right from the Salesforce UI and talk through my PC. Alternatively, I can let it go through to voicemail. I am able to make outbound calls too, which is nice in the event that I don’t have cell coverage or just want click to call convenience.


The benefits are all about productivity:

  • Digitize your voicemail – You have the data and can do with it what you please.
  • Cell Phone Backup – Use the Ribbit softphone in Salesforce and put your cell phone away.
  • Link voicemails to your Leads/Contacts – you get a nice record of the call with a text transcription
  • Voice to text transcription is above average. It is by no means stellar, but it’s good enough to use as a reference for what the call was about without having to listen to it. Accents and slang tend to mess it up.


  • Cost – If you compare the cost to Salesforce licenses, it ain’t cheap. $25/user/month. If you compare the cost to your cell phone bill and think of the added benefit you get, it starts to make sense. Individual purchasers will likely compare it to their cell phone bill and it’ll make sense for them. Enterprise purchasers will likely compare it to the cost of Salesforce and that will be a harder sell. If you want voice to text transcriptions (which are extremely useful), it’s even more money.  What’s harder to quantify is the productivity benefits you might get out of such an application.  Productivity improvements is an area of cost savings that should further justify the price.
  • Can Slow page loads a bit – Even with the flash objects cached in my browser, the experience of loading my home page is slower with Ribbit on there. In my install, I decided to keep the Ribbit components on the homepage only and not have them follow me around Salesforce on the sidebar.  On Lead/Contact detail pages, you have a choice of the Flash component or a Messages related list.  l opted to put the Messages related list on my Lead & Contact for performance reasons and also for consistency sake.
  • You give Ribbit your login credentials – In order to have your voicemails there when you login, Ribbit needs to do background processing. This makes sense, but it requires you giving Ribbit a login to your system. Many company’s can’t afford a new license just for Ribbit, so they’ll end of giving them the admin login. I trust Ribbit with the login info, but it’s a risk to hand anyone login credentials. Ribbit doesn’t have much choice, though, if they want to get the data populated and ready for users when they login.  I think this issue could be eliminated if Salesforce allowed for a special user to be created for this purpose that did not take a hit on the customer’s license count. This is how Salesforce does it with their License Manager application. This should be a benefit of being a partner with a certified application.

Ribbit is definitely a nice product and their thinking is beyond just Salesforce.  It’s really a new platform for “voiceware” applications. Salesforce was their first target for a specific application aimed at the Enterprise. I would expect to see more.

You can get a free trial on their AppExchange listing.

Have you tried it? What do you think?

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Summer ’08 Release Notes

Steve twittered today that the Summer ’08 Release Notes were published. More so than the Summer ’08 Ideas, the Release Notes provide exactly what’s happening in the next release leaving very little to the imagination.

(UPDATE: The Summer 08 Landing Page was published).

I suggest you check it out. Some new functionality that I find particularly intriguing:

Visualforce is Generally Available

Visualforce is now available for all organizations in Group, Professional, Enterprise, Unlimited, and Developer Editions.

This is huge. There is A LOT to learn in this area.

Analytic Snapshots

Analytic snapshots enable users to run a tabular report and save the report results to fields on a custom object … and schedule when to run the report to load the custom object’s fields with the report’s data.

It sounds kind of like exporting the data to Excel, but will instead let you export it to a custom object. This is cool because you can then report on data “at a point in time”.

MultiDay Events

Users can now create events that end more than one day (24 hours) after they start, lasting up to 14 days.

This is a new convenience for end users. Hopefully it syncs well with Outlook calendar.

Enhanced List Views

Inline Editing

If your administrator has enabled inline editing for your organization, you can now edit single records directly from a list view by double-clicking on individual field values. If your administrator has granted you the “Mass Inline Edit from Lists” user profile permission, you can also edit up to 200 records at a time with inline editing.

Custom Paging

You can now change the number of records displayed per page of list results by clicking the record count indicator in the lower left corner of the list and selecting the desired setting.

Drag-and-Drop Customization

You can now change the order in which a column is displayed by dragging the entire column heading with your mouse to the desired position.

Customizable User Object

Finally, we can have page layouts, set field level security and more on the User object.

Cross-Object Formulas

Refer to fields on related objects in your formulas. Even use the formulas to display fields from related objects right on the UI. For example, put the Account Number field on the Opportunity page.

Apex Enhancements

Lots of stuff here. Read the release notes for details.

Many-to-Many Object Relationships

In Summer ’08, you can now create two master-detail relationships on a single junction object to make it easier to represent a many-to-many relationship in your data model.

This will help in development. These junction objects have always been tricky from a user experience standpoint.

Lots of things to digest here. I only captured a handful of things that stood out to me personally. Go see for yourself.

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