Trapdoor In The Sun

Alan Shanahan, Technician & Consultant


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Force.com Apex Test Assertions: It Must Be a Real Test

In the course of building automated tests, it’s always good practice to pepper your test code with Assert statements to ensure your code is functioning as you would expect throughout. But, as I’ve seen more than one example of the specific behaviour in the first code section below, I think it’s something I should point out.

On first glance, it looks like the assertion is doing the right thing. But if you think about it, it’s not a real test. It only tests that the in-memory variable testAcc.Name has the value originally assigned to it a couple of lines back.

// Example 1. An in-memory-based test
Account testAcc = new Account();
testAcc.Name = 'Testing 123';
insert testAcc;

System.assertEquals('Testing123',testAcc.Name);

What it really needs to do, so that it becomes a “real” test is for the test method to query the database record just inserted and to retrieve the Name value from the record, then check it against the expected value, as shown below.

// Example 2. A database-based test
Account testAcc = new Account();
testAcc.Name = 'Testing 123';
insert testAcc;

Account checkAcc = [SELECT Name FROM Account WHERE Id = :testAcc.Id];
System.assertEquals(checkAcc.Name,testAcc.Name);

This example is, perhaps, not a great real-world scenario but I feel it illustrates the problem well.

Happy coding, if it’s your thing.


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Force.com: Visualforce; slightly better field declarations

Soft coded = good. Hard coded = bad. That’s difficult to argue against and I doubt there’s much dissent in any programming community.

Define it once, use it many times; this is part of the reusability principle that applies to code segments and text literals. When you define an input field in a Visualforce page, more often than not it is based on a field that exists somewhere in the database. It makes a whole lot of sense to take as many attributes from the original field definition as possible, so below are some examples of how you might do that.

(1) When defining a field on a page, prefix it with its label. Use this syntax:
$ObjectType.ObjectName__c.Fields.FieldName__c.Label
…where ObjectName__c and FieldName__c should be replaced as appropriate.

(2) Use the field’s own help text by referring to the InlineHelpText attribute, as shown below in this syntax:
$ObjectType.ObjectName__c.Fields.FieldName__c.InlineHelpText
…where ObjectName__c and FieldName__c should be replaced as appropriate.

(3) Limit the field length in HTML during data entry by using this syntax:
$ObjectType.ObjectName__c.Fields.FieldName__c.Length
…where ObjectName__c and FieldName__c should be replaced as appropriate.

<apex:pageBlock id="searchPageBlock">

	<apex:pageBlockSection columns="2"
	 id="searchPageBlockSection" title="Global Search" collapsible="false">

		<apex:pageBlockSectionItem id="searchAirport"
		 helpText="{!$ObjectType.Airport__c.Fields.Airport_Name__c.InlineHelpText}">

			<apex:outputLabel
			 value="{!$ObjectType.Airport__c.Fields.Airport_Name__c.Label}" />
			<apex:inputText
			 value="{!wrkAirportName}"
			 tabIndex="2"
			 id="inpAirportName"
			 maxlength="{!$ObjectType.Airport__c.Fields.Airport_Name__c.Length}"
			 onkeypress="return noenter(event);" />

		</apex:pageBlockSectionItem>
	</apex:pageBlockSection>
</apex:pageBlock>

The above code works well for text input fields. If you need information on numeric or other input field types check out the $ObjectType schema information page.


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Force.com: Visualforce programming, position cursor at first input field

When building a custom Visualforce page with input fields, one common requirement is to place the cursor at the first input field on the page. You would think this would be a simple matter and Salesforce itself manages the task quite well. But when the platform’s default behaviour kicks in and overrides your page’s behaviour, it doesn’t always work smoothly. Or if you want to position on an input field that is not a text entry field it doesn’t always slide into place. Or perhaps you wish to show a dialog box where you wish to conditionally position the cursor to a Confirm or Cancel button depending on prior processing.

In this piece, I’m offering a foolproof way to enable your page to behave exactly as you want it to, in an easy, maintainable way. Here is the step by step way to do this.

First, download a copy of the JQuery library from jquery.com. The minimised (compressed) version is just fine.

Now, upload it to your Salesforce org as a Static Resource.

In your Visualforce page, add this line somewhere after the apex:page tag:

<apex:includeScript value="{!$Resource.JQueryJS}" />

…making sure to replace the JQueryJS text with the name you specified during the Static Resource upload step.

The code below assumes that the page is aware of a “mode” or action passed to it, perhaps as a querystring parameter and parsed separately into a variable called wrkAction.


...

	<script language="JavaScript">

	//----------------------------
	// JQuery initialisation
	//----------------------------
	j$=jQuery.noConflict();
	j$(document).ready(function() {
		initialisePage();
	});

	//-------------------------
	function initialisePage() {
	//-------------------------
		positionCursorToFirstField();
	}
	//-------------------------------------
	function positionCursorToFirstField() {
	//-------------------------------------
		if ('new' == '{!wrkAction}' || 'edit' == '{!wrkAction}' || 'copy' == '{!wrkAction}') {
			j$("[id*=':btnConfirm']").focus();
		}
		if ('del' == '{!wrkAction}') {
			j$("[id*=':btnCancel']").focus();
		}
	}
	</script>

The page buttons might be defined later in your page code, as follows:

	<apex:pageBlockButtons id="pbButtons" location="bottom">
		<apex:commandButton id="btnCancel"  value="Cancel"  immediate="true" onclick="return checkCancel();"  />
		<apex:commandButton id="btnConfirm" value="Confirm" immediate="true" onclick="return checkConfirm();" />
	</apex:pageBlockButtons>

Given that any page element will probably exist in the hierarchy of page elements, the Visualforce page is rendered with the implicit force.com naming applied i.e. the full “pathname” to the element is implied in the name, with colons separating each branch in the tree. For example, an HTML id such as j_id0:j_id1:j_id192:j_id193:j_id196:j_id230:j_id231:j_id232:4:j_id236 would not be unusual.

The above code brings a “best practice” tip to mind – always use page-unique ID values for input fields, buttons and all other page components. Specifying the ID tag also ensures that the force.com implicit naming conventions are not applied.

The JQuery code in the positionCursorToFirstField javaScript method above provides a major advantage: you are now effectively freed from having to worry about the naming hierarchy. The JQuery selector finds the field ending with a colon character followed by the specified unique fieldname. This also means you can move it around on the page and within the page element hierarchy (DOM) and not have to worry about this code failing or needing to be modified.

There’s just one more piece of code needed to ensure the force.com standard processing doesn’t happen i.e. that the platform itself doesn’t try to be too clever and preempt what you’re trying to do. This code masks the effect of the standard “first input field positioning” processing:

	<script language="JavaScript">

	//--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
	// This empty function overrides the SFDC standard function, and enables us to control initial field positioning
	//--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
	function setFocusOnLoad() {
	}

	</script>


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Force.com: Apex Styleguide, Part 5

Click for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 in this series.

Arrays or Lists?

With this post I am, strictly speaking, stepping outside of the pure topic of style. It’s one of those grey areas.

It’s that whole idea of whether to use Array or List data structures in your code. If, like me, you come from a background of programming languages where the first element of an array is element # 1, rather than element # 0, then you may also find List structures a little more intuitive because you usually don’t have to worry about element numbers when you iterate.

From the Apex language viewpoint, arrays and lists are interchangeable; you can declare a list and treat it as an array and vice-versa. Try it yourself if you don’t believe me:

public class BlogStyleGuide5 {

  // -----------------------------------------------------
  // The first method declares and populates an Array,
  // then iterates through it as a List.
  // -----------------------------------------------------
  void iterateOLI1() {

    OpportunityLineItem[] arrOLI = [
      SELECT Id, Quantity
      FROM OpportunityLineItem
    ];

    for (OpportunityLineItem iOLI : arrOLI) {
      Id      wrkId  = iOLI.Id;
      Decimal wrkQty = iOLI.Quantity;
      // Do something
    }

  }

  // -----------------------------------------------------
  // The second method declares and populates a List,
  // then iterates through it as an Array.
  // -----------------------------------------------------
  void iterateOLI2() {

    List<OpportunityLineItem> lstOLI = [
      SELECT Id, Quantity
      FROM OpportunityLineItem
    ];

    for (
      Integer i = 0;
      i < lstOLI.size();
      i++
    ) {
      Id      wrkId  = lstOLI[i].Id;
      Decimal wrkQty = lstOLI[i].Quantity;
      // Do something
    }

  }

}

If you were to adopt my preference for List structures rather than Arrays, you might end up having to re-code. That’s why I mentioned that this topic steps a little outside the realm of style. Therefore, please use care if you take this route. Ensure you test your changes thoroughly according to standard “good practice”.

Any comments on the above?


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Force.com: Apex Styleguide, Part 4

Click here for Part 1 of this series.
Click here for Part 2 of this series.
Click here for Part 3 of this series.

This one is a little easier on the brain.

From time to time, you will come across a scenario where one structure will need to be copied to another, and there’s no option but to do it “the hard way”, as in the example below. But do you want it to look good?

// Copy temporary record to database object structure
if (copyToRecord) {
  recordObject.Name = tempObject.Name;
  recordObject.Custom_Field_String_13 = tempObject.Custom_Field_String_13
  recordObject.Address_Line_1__c = tempObject.Address_Line_1__c;
  recordObject.Address_Line_2__c = tempObject.Name;
  recordObject.City__c = tempObject.Name;
  recordObject.Country_Code__c = tempObject.Name;
  recordObject.Postcode__c = tempObject.Name;
  recordObject.Contact_1_First_Name__c = tempObject.Name;
  recordObject.Contact_1_Last_Name__c = tempObject.Name;
  recordObject.Contact_2_First_Name__c = tempObject.Name;
  recordObject.Contact_2_Last_Name__c = tempObject.Name;
}

Figure 1, above, shows the raw code as many people would write it. Nothing wrong with that.

// Copy temporary record to database object structure
if (copyToRecord) {
  recordObject.Name                    = tempObject.Name;
  recordObject.Custom_Field_String_13  = tempObject.Custom_Field_String_13
  recordObject.Address_Line_1__c       = tempObject.Address_Line_1__c;
  recordObject.Address_Line_2__c       = tempObject.Address_Line_2__c;
  recordObject.City__c                 = tempObject.City__c;
  recordObject.Country_Code__c         = tempObject.Country_Code__c;
  recordObject.Postcode__c             = tempObject.Postcode__c;
  recordObject.Contact_1_First_Name__c = tempObject.Contact_1_First_Name__c;
  recordObject.Contact_1_Last_Name__c  = tempObject.Contact_1_Last_Name__c;
  recordObject.Contact_2_First_Name__c = tempObject.Contact_2_First_Name__c;
  recordObject.Contact_2_Last_Name__c  = tempObject.Contact_2_Last_Name__c;
}

Figure 2, above, is a “cleaned-up”, column-aligned version of the same code. It took very little effort, but suddenly there’s more clarity.

OK, call me petty, but what do you want your code to say about you?


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Force.com: Apex Styleguide, Part 3

Click here for Part 1 of this series.
Click here for Part 2 of this series.

Here, I’m going to take a look at the condition part of the if statement. In particular, how best to write a complex condition to allow for readability and easy code maintenance. Sometimes even just a small number of ANDs and ORs can be easy to write but difficult to untangle later. Add in some brackets for changes in operator priority and the picture becomes even worse. I will refrain from filling up this post with words because I think the example below will provide most of the colour and information I’m trying to impart on the topic.

if (conditionA || (conditionB && conditionC) || (conditionD || conditionE)) {
  doSomething();
}

Figure 1, above, equates to the following:

if A OR (B AND C) OR (D OR E) then do something

When you substitute the conditions for real-world variables, function/method calls or complex structure sub-fields, the results can be less than legible. But, apply a little indentation and split your conditions up and you suddenly have some clarity.

if (
       conditionA
       ||
       (
           conditionB
           &&
           conditionC
       )
       ||
       (
           conditionD
           ||
           conditionE
       )
   ) {
  doSomething();
}

Figure 2, above, is functionally identical to Figure 1. Do you think it’s more readable? Easier to maintain?

A little tip for those engaged in writing complex Force.com custom formula fields with if statements: try using the same method .


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Force.com: Apex Styleguide, Part 2

If you haven’t already seen Part 1 of this series, click here to go to it.

Example 2, if/then/else Statements in Apex:

This article deals with the humble if/then/else statement, specifically the executable part of the statement. As before, I’m writing in Apex code, so there may be minimal syntactical differences between this and similar, related languages e.g. C & variants, Java, etc.

We can start with a simple, common binary use of the if statement:

if (a == b) runSomething();
else runSomethingElse();

Figure 1, above, is a simple case of “if a = b then run something, otherwise run something else“. It looks perfectly fine.

if (a == b)
  runSomething();
else
  runSomethingElse();

Figure 2, above, is almost identical to Figure 1 except that the executable part of the if and else clauses are on separate lines and indented. A little better. More readable, perhaps, and functionally identical.

if (a == b) {runSomething(); } else { runSomeThingElse(); }

Figure 3, above, has expanded on Figure 1. The addition of block braces around the executable sections serve to demarcate the runnable parts of the code.

if (a == b) {runSomething(); andSomethingElse(); } else { runSomeThingElse(); andRunAFourthThing(); }

Figure 4, above, is an example of where the programmer has added some extra method calls into the two executable blocks. This would not be possible for Figure 1 and Figure 2 above without the addition of braces.

if (a == b) {
  runSomething();
}
else {
  runSomethingElse();
}

Figure 5, above, is where we FINALLY come to the version that I’m happy with. The if and else clauses are on their own lines, block braces surround the executable sections of both clauses and indentation completes the picture.

if (a == b) {
  runSomething();
  andRunSomethingElse();
}
else {
  runSomethingElse();
  andRunAFourthThing();
}

Figure 6, above, is a clear illustration of how easy it is to add two method calls without upsetting any of the surrounding lines of code in Figure 5. No braces need to be added because they are already there. The value of this style is that you may wish to add multiple lines within any of the code blocks; this makes it very easy to do and retains code legibility.

As ever, please feel free to post your comments, whether you agree with me or not.


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Force.com: Apex Styleguide, Part 1

Style, in any artistic or professional endeavour, is impossible to quantify, define or measure. It’s highly subjective and can often be controversial. So I’m going to push my own opinions in this, the first of several posts on the subject of coding styles. They won’t be complex articles, merely a look at what I think is poorly-written code versus how I believe it would be better presented. There will be no attempt to discuss whether the code in question is inherently “correct”; merely that it looks difficult to read and is hard to maintain. The aim is to turn both of these problems around, thus making the code easy to read and maintain.

In cases where there may be several variants, I will present them, and give a synopsis of how “stylish” I think it is.

Your comments, as always, are very welcome on this topic.

Example 1, SOQL Queries in Apex:

Let’s start with a common code segment whereby a SOQL Query is run and the resultant record set is returned into a list data structure.

List<Custom_Object__c> lstRecords = [select id, field1__c, name, number_field__c from custom_object__c where name like 'Smith%' order by lastname, firstname limit 100];

Figure 1, above, shows how an “undisciplined” programmer might put together a code segment that retrieves a record set from a SOQL query. In an IDE or other editor, this might well appear as a single line and you would have to scroll right to see the full detail.

List<Custom_Object__c> lstRecords = [select id, field1__c, name, number_field__c, an_additional_field__c, and_another__c from custom_object__c where name like 'Smith%' order by lastname, firstname limit 100];

Figure 2, above, would show the result of adding two additional fields to be retrieved by the query. Not very pretty.

List<Custom_Object__c> lstRecords = [
  SELECT
      Id
    , Field1__c
    , Name
    , Number_Field__c
  FROM Custom_Object__c
  WHERE Name LIKE 'Smith%'
  ORDER BY FirstName, LastName
  LIMIT 100
];

Figure 3, above, is how I would put this snippet together. I find this more professional-looking, much easier to read and far easier to modify. The following improvements have been made:

  • the outer data structure is separated from the inner SOQL statement
  • code is indented in a useful way
  • keywords are uppercase for readability
  • query clauses are split onto separate lines
  • fields are also split onto distinct lines and vertically-aligned to enable simple editing
  • field names have been retyped with appropriate letters in uppercase

You may not agree with the word “improvement”; please let me know if you don’t, and the all-important reason why.

List<Custom_Object__c> lstRecords = [
  SELECT
      Id
    , Field1__c
    , Name
    , Number_Field__c
    , An_Additional_Field__c
    , And_Another__c
  FROM Custom_Object__c
  WHERE Name LIKE 'Smith%'
  ORDER BY FirstName, LastName
  LIMIT 100
];

Figure 4, above, shows the result of adding the same two additional fields as in Figure 2. The results speak for themselves.

More code examples to follow soon. Why not follow the blog to get email notification of new posts?

Acronyms used above:
SOQL = Salesforce Object Query Language (a proprietary variant of SQL)
IDE = Integrated Development Environment (e.g. Eclipse, MS Visual Studio, NetBeans, JDeveloper, Xcode, etc.)


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The Transition To Force.com Developer

This is aimed at Java and C# developers who want to move into cloud computing and create demand for their skills.

One thing I regard as vital is to constantly keep an eye on your career progression. My aim is to make myself just that little bit more employable every year. It’s tough to combine this with a busy work schedule, but just because it’s tough doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile.

The last year has seen huge growth and even bigger projections for the future of Cloud Computing. The trends are all upward, there’s no doubt. Gartner’s recent report states that the areas of “social, mobile, big data and cloud” will experience growth as they are championed by new IT leaders. Forrester predicts patterns of growth that are also encouraging. Most pundits and industry commentators agree and many of the big players are positioning themselves along these lines.

Along with explosive sales in mobile and tablet devices, it’s clear that mobile applications (particularly those that are cloud-based) will feature strongly in a global IT context for some time to come.

Add social media to the mix and it’s clear that Salesforce.com (with its Force.com platform) has its bases well and truly covered. They’ve got Chatter; Facebook and Twitter integration is covered; Touch is their technology stack for mobile; mobile apps proliferate.

And at their heart SFDC are “Cloud”. They are pioneers in the arena, that’s an undisputed fact.

Getting down to nuts and bolts, if you’re a developer with Java or C# skills, there’s a definite path you can take to sharpen your skills to become a certified Force.com developer. If you have designs on such a career path, my advice would be to follow these lists:

Application & Configuration Skills:

  • Get yourself trained up on the (Sales Force Automation) SFA application and, optionally, get yourself a certification
  • Understand what Account, Contact, Opportunity, Pricebook, Product, Case, Lead are, and what they do
  • Understand how to use Reports & Dashboards
  • Preferably, attend at least one of the Salesforce Administrator courses
  • Learn how to configure custom objects, custom fields, page layouts, field sets, formula fields, validation rules, custom buttons & links
  • Learn about Security, Roles & Profiles, field-level security
  • Get acquainted with Workflow and Approvals, what they are, what they can do
  • Learn how to import data with the Data Import Wizard

Technical & Coding Skills:

  • Sign up for a free SFDC Developer org
  • Learn about coding on the Force.com platform: Apex Triggers & Classes, VisualForce, Components, Custom Settings, Custom Labels, Resources
  • Understand what Force.com Governor Limits are, how to apply them
  • Learn what SFDC API usage limits are and understand how they may affect any application you design
  • Learn the new coding paradigms for bulk processing (a large topic but here’s a useful starter blog post)
  • Understand Lists, Maps, Sets and when to use them to handle batches of data
  • Understand Test Classes & methods
  • Learn about Apex Batch and Scheduled jobs
  • Learn how to use the SFDC SOAP and REST APIs and Workflow Outbound Messaging options
  • Learn how to extend the API with your own custom web services
  • Understand how to process inbound emails in Apex
  • Use Eclipse and the Force.com plugin to maintain Apex & Visualforce code and to examine the database schema
  • Learn how to debug code and troubleshoot using the various tools on the Force.com platform
  • Understand all the places (or “hooks”) where you can plug into the SFDC application to customise it
  • Gain at least a cursory understanding of SControls (deprecated functionality) in case you need to modernise or maintain old applications
  • Understand how to use the Apex Data Loader
  • To help you on your way with the above, here is a link to all SFDC documentation (pay special attention to the Apex and Visualforce reference docs)

You can also take your existing skills with you, and these will be invaluable:

  • Database and application design skills
  • Data Migration skills
  • Data Integration knowledge
  • Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) and web service knowledge
  • Industry vertical expertise
  • Test-Driven Development (TDD) strategies
  • Source code version control tools and techniques
  • Multi-developer, multi work-stream development
  • Application testing strategies & methods

You can acquire all the training resources you need with little or no cost, but you can also accelerate your ramp-up time by attending SFDC formal training courses.

Anecdotal evidence would suggest that there are at least some Java developers out there who have a reluctance to extend their knowledge into the Force.com arena, primarily because of the more restricted nature of the environment. However, if you take the plunge, the rewards are there for the taking and you’ll join a growing army of technicians with niche skills.

Don’t be too quick to assume, however, that because you can instantly read Apex code (which a Java or C/Whatever coder can), your transition will be instant – there’s a little more to it than that. Most who took that path with that outlook fell foul of platform differences, a.k.a. the famed Governor Limits. But, learning the How, When and Why of these limits will help get you to the next stage in the transition process.

Acronyms used above:

  • SFDC = SalesForceDotCom
  • API = Application Programming Interface
  • SOA = Service-Oriented Architecture
  • SOAP = Simple Object Access Protocol
  • REST = Representational State Transfer
  • TDD = Test-Driven Development