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What Coding Language is Used in Salesforce?
December 3, 2023
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What Coding Language is Used in Salesforce?

An overview of the Salesforce coding languages and their role in building applications within Salesforce.

I. Introduction

Salesforce is a cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) platform widely recognized as a top solution for managing all aspects of a company's interactions with customers. Launched in 1999, the platform has quickly become a go-to solution for sales, marketing, and customer service teams looking to gain deeper insights into their customers, improve communication, and drive growth.

Some of the platform's key features include customer data management, sales and marketing automation, analytics and reporting, and mobile access. With Salesforce, companies can gain a 360-degree view of their customer data, allowing them to understand their customers' needs and preferences better and tailor their communications and offerings accordingly.

Salesforce coding languages enable creating and customizing applications that seamlessly integrate with the platform. Using Apex, a Salesforce native object-oriented programming language similar to Java, developers can build custom objects, triggers, and classes that interact with the Salesforce database and automate complex business processes.

But Apex isn’t the only one. Other frameworks and languages are used in Salesforce, and we’ll discuss them below.

II. Overview of Salesforce Architecture

The Salesforce multitenant architecture is a unique design that allows multiple clients or tenants to operate on the same application while maintaining segregation between the different clients. The platform serves as a single application instance accessed by many users simultaneously, with each tenant having their isolated data and resources (see image below).

Source: Salesforce

When you use the Salesforce Platform to build a new application object or write some code, the platform doesn't create a table in a database or compile any code. Alternatively, it only saves certain metadata that it can utilize at runtime to materialize virtual application components dynamically.  The platform ensures that each tenant's metadata is secure, simple to update, and doesn't require locking or downtime so that each tenant can create and customize apps independently. Salesforce offers bespoke APIs, RESTful APIs, and web services (SOAP-based) interfaces, all of which use the same metadata for hassle-free app integration.

One of the primary merits of this metadata-driven design is the ability to provide a scalable and highly available system to its clients at a lower cost than traditional systems. This is due to the fact that the platform operates from a single infrastructure, with all the required resources allocated dynamically based on the demands of each tenant.

III. The Apex Language in Salesforce

Apex language in Salesforce is designed specifically for the platform. It is built to provide flexibility and ease of use for developers who want to

  • create customizations and extensions for their Salesforce applications
  • integrate seamlessly with Salesforce's interface to access and manipulate data through their applications
  • building complex enterprise-level applications that require large-scale data processing and manipulation
  • perform calculations and manipulations on data in real-time
  • develop custom security protocols and define user access and permissions
  • quickly identify and fix errors in their code with the help of powerful debugging and testing tool
  • and much more!

Apex resembles the syntax of Java, and it is built on the Java Virtual Machine architecture. It supports all the features you would expect from a modern programming language, such as variables, control structures, loops, and data types.

Apex's key features and capabilities include the following:

  • The language allows developers to extend the functionality of existing applications by adding new features and modules, creating robust, scalable applications that meet the specific needs of any organization.
  • Developers can use Apex to satisfy a variety of special application requirements. Developers can, for instance, make a method asynchronously schedule-able, offer it as a bespoke RESTful or SOAP-based API call, or set it up to handle massive operations in batches.
  • Apex supports multi-tier architectures and modern development practices, such as agile development and continuous integration/deployment (CI/CD) pipelines. This comes in handy for the development of enterprise-level applications.
  • The system's static DML methods for insert, update, and deletion have a straightforward Boolean parameter that programmers can use to specify the type of bulk processing they want (all or nothing or partial save). These methods also return a result object that the calling routine can use to determine which records couldn't be processed and why. The built-in email and XmlStream classes are two additional instances of the direct connections between Apex and platform functionalities.
  • It is a crucial part of the platform that enables the system to deliver dependable multitenancy. To avoid code that might otherwise fail at runtime, Salesforce automatically verifies any embedded SOQL and SOSL statements within a class. The platform then keeps track of related object dependence information for legitimate classes and makes use of it to stop changes to metadata from breaking dependant code.

IV. Visualforce

Visualforce is a markup language used by Salesforce developers for designing custom user interfaces in their CRM platform. It provides a set of tags, components, and controllers, allowing developers to create customized pages integrating with Salesforce's back-end database. Visualforce offers a wide range of design capabilities focusing on delivering a highly interactive UX.

How Visualforce is Used in Salesforce

Visualforce allows developers to create page layouts using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, which can be rendered dynamically based on user input and other factors. This means that developers can develop custom pages with a high degree of flexibility, enabling them to tailor the user experience to the specific needs of their application.

Visualforce pages can be tested using standard Salesforce testing tools, which ensures that the code is robust and functional. The pages can be composed of reusable components, which makes development easier and more efficient. These components can be shared across multiple pages, which reduces development time and improves code reuse.

Developers can use Visualforce’s variety of standard and custom components, such as input fields, lists, and buttons, or utilize standard styling and layout options, as well as custom CSS and JavaScript, to create rich and interactive user interfaces.

V. Salesforce Object Query Language (SOQL) and Salesforce Object Search Language (SOSL)

To extract meaningful insights and information from the data that resides in Salesforce, two important querying languages, SOQL (Salesforce Object Query Language) and SOSL (Salesforce Object Search Language) are used.

SOQL allows users to retrieve data from a single or multiple objects to meet specific requirements. The syntax of SOQL is similar to SQL, and it supports a wide range of filtering options, including WHERE, LIMIT, ORDER BY, and GROUP BY clauses. The language is commonly used to identify and retrieve records that meet specific criteria based on customer names, contact information, and important date fields.

SOSL, on the other hand, is designed to retrieve data across several different Salesforce objects simultaneously. It is ideal for situations where users need to access information that is scattered across multiple objects or where users need to search for data that might be difficult to find using traditional SOQL syntax. SOSL provides text search capabilities, which makes it possible to search for a user-defined string across multiple objects.

VI. Lightning Component Framework

The Lightning Component Framework is used to create dynamic and responsive web applications. Built on top of the robust and scalable Salesforce Platform, it offers a set of tools, APIs, and services that enable the development of user interfaces for any Salesforce app and web and mobile app outside of Salesforce.

One of the primary advantages of the Lightning Component Framework is its component-based architecture, which allows developers to create reusable and modular components that can be easily combined to form complex UIs. These components are self-contained and encapsulated, meaning they have their own logic, data, and styles and can communicate with other components through well-defined interfaces.

The Lightning Component Framework includes a powerful CSS framework, which provides a set of pre-built styles and components that can be easily customized and extended, as well as a wide range of built-in components, such as forms, tables, charts, and grids. Built with performance and scalability in mind, it leverages modern web technologies such as Web Components, ECMAScript 6, and the Salesforce Lightning Design System, to deliver fast and seamless experiences across all devices and platforms. It also offers a robust set of debugging and profiling tools, which help developers identify and optimize application performance bottlenecks.

Aura and Lightning Web Components

Aura is an open-source UI framework introduced by Salesforce in 2013, while Lightning Web Components is a newer framework that was launched in 2018. Both are built on top of the Lightning Design System, which provides a set of CSS, JavaScript, and icons that facilitate the development of modern UIs powered by Salesforce.

Aura is a model-view-controller (MVC) framework that allows developers to create high-performing and interactive web apps. It is ideal for developing complex applications with numerous components that need to interact with each other. Aura makes it possible to create reusable components that can be incorporated into various projects without having to rewrite the entire code. This model-based framework has a robust event-driven architecture that can handle concurrent users and deliver a seamless UX.

Lightning Web Components (LWC) is a lightweight framework that enables developers to build modular web components using standard web technologies such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. LWC emphasizes a standards-based approach to web development, providing a simpler and faster way to build high-performance applications. Since it is built on web standards such as Web Components, LWC makes it easy for developers to create reusable components that can be shared and deployed in multiple projects.

VII. JavaScript in Salesforce

JavaScript is a vital component of Salesforce Lightning and Lightning Web Components, and it plays a significant role in both aspects. Working seamlessly with compatible technologies such as HTML and CSS, JavaScript enables developers to create intricate and specialized features for handling customization, event handling, data storage and manipulation, and system integration, among others. In Lightning Web Components, for example, JavaScript is used to create a high-performance, scalable web interface that is easily customizable to meet the needs of specific users and organizations.

In addition to providing functionalities such as String manipulation, Math calculations, and Date management, JavaScript allows for communication between the different components of a web application, enabling the display of real-time data and updating of user interfaces without the need for page refreshes.

JavaScript complements Salesforce proprietary languages in several ways:

  • While Apex and Visualforce are primarily used for building backend functionality, such as data handling, logic, and security, JavaScript can assist in creating more engaging and user-friendly applications.
  • JavaScript has a vast library and framework ecosystem. React, Angular, and Vue.js are often used to build single-page applications that consume Salesforce APIs. They significantly reduce development time, improve code quality, and enhance the scalability of apps.
  • Salesforce has invested in supporting JavaScript in its Lightning Platform, which incorporates the Lightning Web Components (LWC) framework. LWC allows developers to build web components using standard web technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.
  • JavaScript's functionality extends beyond client-side scripting, as it can run on the server side through the Node.js runtime environment. Integration with Salesforce's platform is made possible through JavaScript Remoting, which allows JavaScript to interact with the Apex controllers on the server side.

VIII. Importance of HTML and CSS in Salesforce

HTML and CSS are critical in creating visually appealing UIs. They enable designers to create custom layouts and styles for Salesforce pages and components, including colors, typography, and layout positioning. This allows developers to customize the presentation of data in Salesforce by adding formatting, graphics, and other user-interface elements.

One key example of HTML use in Salesforce is the creation of custom web pages and landing pages. They often promote products or services and can include multimedia content such as images, videos, and interactive features. With HTML, visually engaging pages can be customized and branded to match the company's look and feel.

CSS can be used to define colors, fonts, and other visual elements of a page, as well as the layout and positioning of content. The creation of responsive designs that adapt to different screen sizes and devices is also possible via CSS. This is particularly important in Salesforce, where users may access the platform from various devices, including desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

IX. Integrating Python and Java into Salesforce via API

Salesforce APIs provide developers with access to the Salesforce data, functionality, and metadata necessary to integrate Salesforce with their applications. They come in three forms: REST, SOAP, and Bulk API. REST and SOAP APIs are used for real-time interaction with Salesforce, while the Bulk API is used for batch processing of data.

One scenario where Python and Java integration with Salesforce via APIs can be useful is when a business is using Salesforce to manage its customer data and wants to automate the data synchronization process. When a lead is created in Salesforce, it can be automatically synced with the company’s email marketing system and included in an email campaign list. Python and Java can be used to build custom scripts that implement this automation and reduce manual effort.

Another common use case for Python and Java integration via APIs is data migration or transfer between Salesforce and other systems. For example, a business may want to migrate contact data from its existing CRM system to Salesforce. Python and Java can be used to extract contact data from the source system and transfer it to Salesforce via one of Salesforce’s APIs. This can be particularly useful when there is a large amount of data to be migrated.

X. Learning Path for Salesforce Coding Languages

Learning Salesforce coding languages can open up many employment opportunities for software developers and IT professionals. Here are some critical steps of the educational process:

  • Establish an understanding of the Salesforce platform, its architecture, and its various components: objects, fields, relationships, and other core concepts within the platform.
  • Master the Apex programming language. Its similarities to Java make it a relatively easy language for experienced developers to learn and pick up quickly.
  • Move on to learning Visualforce to build custom pages, components, and widgets seamlessly integrating with the Salesforce platform.
  • Learn to work with Lightning Web Components to simplify the development of Salesforce applications in the future.
  • Complement Salesforce coding skills with additional knowledge of related technologies like Heroku (to deploy web apps on Salesforce), Agile, and DevOps.

The best resource for learning Salesforce languages is the official Salesforce Developer Documentation. It offers detailed information on everything from Apex, the primary programming language used for Salesforce development, to Visualforce, sample code, and API references.

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