Visualforce: A Visual Reference Guide.

When I started working with Visualforce I found it quite time consuming to figure out what the various Visualforce tags and their options looked like when actually rendered on the page; I really wished that the tag reference included screenshots.

So, to help you out, that’s what I have done. I’ve put together some basic Visualforce tags and accompanying screenshots so you can:

  1.  see what that tag combination looks like
  2. flick through the screenshots looking for the UI you need and then check the code sample to see how to create it.

This document will be continually improved with additional examples, in the meantime I hope you find it useful!

Visualforce – A Visual Guide  (Version 1.0 – 80 pages, 6MB PDF)

URL encoding URLs in a Report.

Recently I had a slightly interesting requirement.

A URL field needed to be url encoded so that the report export could be directly imported into another system that couldn’t handle an un-encoded URL.

I would normally have handled that requirement with a formula field that called the URLENCODE function that you have in Visualforce but it turns out that function isn’t available to you when defining a formula field.

So I had to resort to this rather terrifying use of the ‘SUBSTITUTE’ function in defining a new formula field.  I thought I’d pass it on here for those who have similar needs.

'%21') , '#', '%23') , '$', '%24') , '&', '%26') , '\'', '%27') , '(', '%28'), ')', '%29') ,
 '*', '%2A') , '+', '%2B') , ',', '%2C') , '/', '%2F') , ':', '%3A') , ';', '%3B') 
, '=', '%3D') , '?', '%3F'), '@', '%40') , '[', '%5B') , ']', '%5D')

Maintaining your Salesforce Certifications….

How do I maintain my certification?

  • Each track you hold a certification in requires you to undertake maintenance exam each release.

    Certification Paths
    Click to Enlarge
  • The maintenance exam is a simple 15 minute (5-15 question) multiple choice exam booked via Web Assessor and undertaken without a proctor (i.e. at your desk, no supervision)

The Schedule

Every 12 months you need to pay a renewal fee to unlock the next 12 months maintenance exams.

Certification Maintenance Paths
Click to Enlarge


  • If you fall more than two releases behind, you will lose all your Certification’s in that and have to re-sit them all!
  • The fee is due 12 months after you passed your first exam for that track (i.e. Administrator or Developer)

What is Salesforce1? (in 82 words)

It is the culmination of at least 18 months engineering to put Salesforce on an API and mobile first footing for future development.

It is a responsive webapp which is also wrapped in a native iOS or Android container and shipped as ‘Salesforce1′ hybrid app.

It is an umbrella marketing term for the collection owned platforms.  It encompasses the traditional ‘’ platform that Salesforce1 is built on and also the existing  API/Platforms underpinning Pardot, ExactTarget, Heroku and others.

8 pieces of practical advice for starting your Career

Thinking of getting into in the new year?  It would be a great time as it has never been busier – is growing their business over 30% in revenue year on year and this success is flowing into the partner and customer ecosystem; my employer Cloud Sherpas has grown by over 300 staff in 2013 (and we’re still hiring ).

If you are thinking of jumping in a career here are some practical tips I wish people had told me when I first started out 3.5 years ago:

  1. Get a password manager and use it.
    1. Lastpass or 1Password, you are likely to get a LOT of usernames/passwords for different Salesforce orgs, these tools will help you.
  2. Register a Developer Edition that is your ‘home base’.
    1. You will register more developer editions over time, but I’ve got one I use as the basis of my ‘official’ identity on and its the place I do most of my training and self education.
  3. Get Certified
    1. Spend the money yourself or take advantage of any incentives your employer may offer.  This will repay you both in the knowledge you gain and in the eyes of potential employers.
  4. Register for Web Assessor with your  personal email address.
    1. You can’t change your web assessor password once you’ve registered with it, don’t be like me and be stuck with a username from 2 employers ago :)
  5. Get on twitter and follow, follow, follow!
    1. The official accounts are the starting point but there are lots of lists around with MVPs and Salesforce staff on them, following these people on Twitter will give you useful insights into what the community is doing.
  6. Save up for Dreamforce
    1. Book early for both accommodations and flights if you are going (And you should hope to go at least once) …  and by early, think… 10-12 months early!
  7. Always be learning – Read the manual…. and experiment
    1. Salesforce publishes so much information so it can be overwhelming, but it is vital you know the platform.  Reading the manuals and watching the videos is a start but nothing beats experimenting in your developer edition org.
  8. Go to your local user group
    1. And if there isn’t one, start one :)  I can introduce you to the right people if you need be.


7 Deadly Sins of the Developer (Told with Memes)

I thought this would be a fun way to get a few points across so I put this together some feedback from colleagues.

Each slide links to a background or more detail.











Understanding the Sandbox Preview Window and Salesforce Release Cycle


Another month rolls around and its time for yet another Salesforce release Preview Window…. this time for Spring ’14.

Understanding the release windows and how they work can take a little bit of effort to get your head around.   You can find Salesforce’s explanation here, but what follows is my visual representation.

The lead up to a release for both Sandboxes and Production Orgs Seasonal Upgrade Cycle


How to decide what you should do

Decision Flowchart


I haven’t listed the Sandboxes here, you should refer to the official Salesforce blog for the list of Sandboxes which are targeted for Pre-Release updates.


My review of ‘Visualforce Development Cookbook’ by Keir Bowden

Early in my time with with Salesforce I found the blog of Keir Bowden (Aka ‘Bob Buzzard’) and  his list of Salesforce qualifications (all of them) and set it as a benchmark for myself to try to achieve.

I got the chance to meet him at the MVP summit and he turns out to be a great guy to boot,  so I was pleased to find Keir and Packt Publishing have been busy preparing a book in time for Dreamforce called ‘Visualforce Development Cookbook’.

The book is a concise summary of all the techniques you (eventually) develop yourself when working with Visualforce.  It’s not exaggeration that if this had been around when I’d started out  I would have saved myself a considerable amount of time and more than a few mistakes.  That said, the book still taught me a few tricks I didn’t realise you could do.  (Passing action methods to VF components? I must have missed that one…)

Containing 87 Recipes broken into 9 sections it covers pretty much everything you can do with Visualforce and then a little more (it branches out into jQuery Mobile toward the end.)

Titled a ‘Cookbook’ it should be read like one – that is, not cover to cover, but rather by checking the index for a recipe that suits your problem and then jumping straight to the solution.  This means that each recipe does contain a bit of repetition as it steps you through the common steps of creating VF pages or Controllers but you can always quickly switch to the ‘How it works’ section to get to the meat of the solution.

There are few books on Visualforce and even fewer resource devoted to providing specific advice on how to achieve the common things one needs to do in Visualforce.  That gap has now well and truly been fulfilled by the Visualforce Development Cookbook  I would recommend it for any VF developer (I learned a few things myself) but I would especially recommend it for those who want to advance a development team’s ability to quickly build best practice Visualforce pages.

It’s priced at $US25.49 for the ebook and $US49.95 for the Printed copy + ebook.  You can get it from Packt directly in the online store.