Salesforce Winter ’18 Platform Highlights

It’s that time of year again where summer is gently transitioning to autumn and the winter (in salesforce release terms) is on the horizon. Winter is coming – seems familiar as a phrase – starting late September (for instance details refer to http://status.salesforce.com/status). Now more than ever before there’s no excuse not to be fully prepared, the available release readiness resources are considerable, including a Trailhead badge, videos, webinars etc. a great place to start is the customer success community. Those of an inquisitive mind can also participate in the Winter ’18 treasure hunt where release explorers are encouraged to post discovered features to Chatter and Twitter with the #Winter18Treasure hashtag.

This post briefly outlines selected highlights related to the Force.com platform (in no order of significance).

The new release is available now for pre-release preview.

The release notes are available online here.

– features are GA if not indicated otherwise

Lightning Experience UI Changes
The Lightning Experience UI has evolved in the Winter ’18 release, no doubt in response to customer feedback and usability studies. The main issue that has been addressed is the sense of snow-blindness resulting from a lack of contrast between the page content and background elements. Other improvements include increased list density (more on a page) and page legibility (typography changes). In recognition that work will be required to align custom Lightning components to the new look, a new setting is provided to control activation (Setup > User Interface > Themes and Branding).

The screenshot above shows the new contrast between the background – now a blue image – and the foreground content.

SFDX
Salesforce Developer Experience (SFDX) will move from Beta to GA status for the Winter ’18 release (specifically mid-October 2017). This includes the Visual Studio extension “Salesforce Developer Tools for Visual Studio Code” which provides a VS code editor for developing on the Salesforce platform using the Salesforce DX development flow.

I don’t see any new DX functionality specific to the Winter ’18 release, however there is a new beta for Second-Generation packaging; where the artefact=based (not org-based) model is extended to a new packaging approach – I assume.

Einstein Language API Beta
The Language APIs form part of the Einstein Platform Services API set and support natural language processing use cases such as intent (product interest, case/lead routing etc.) and sentiment (positive, negative and neutral) analysis.

The technical detail for the Einstein Platform Services APIs can be be found here.

New Base Lightning Components
Base Lightning Components are pre-built SLDS versions of common elements (buttons, labels etc.) intended to streamline and accelerate lightning development. Since release in Winter ’17 new base components have been added to extend the library. Winter ’18 adds an impressive 30 new components examples being accordion, data tables and notifications.

Salesforce Shield – Deterministic Encryption Pilot
Shield Platform Encryption has been extended to support filtering scenarios such as reports, list views and where clauses in SOQL queries. In addition to the existing Probabilistic encryption scheme, fields can now be set with the new deterministic encryption scheme which allows such encrypted fields to be filtered.

Lightning App Builder – Dynamic Pages
Filter conditions can now be set on Lightning Page to determine when a given component is rendered.

As the screenshot above shows individual Component Visibility can be controlled using compound filter logic driven dynamically from the record attributes.

Platform Events; Process Builder and Flow
Previously invocation of a Process Builder Process was limited to chaining and object data events, with Winter ’18 this is extended to include Platform Events.

Platform Events are part of the Salesforce enterprise messaging platform intended to support event-driven (or messaging) architectures. In simplistic terms a Platform Event is defined as a special type of custom object with a __e suffix. Events are inserted to the object from external publishers via API or Apex. Event records in a Platform Event can’t be edited, deleted or viewed in the Salesforce UI. Triggers on the object then consume the event and apply the required logic. With Winter ’18 Process Builder and Flow can now perform the event consumption instead of Apex.

Business Contact Sharing
Prior to Winter ’18 activation of Person Accounts (for B2C implementations) required that the Contact object inherit sharing from the parent Account. For a Person Account this makes sense, logically the records are unified. For Business Accounts however this approach can be problematic as often Contact sharing behaviour is required to be more granular. With Winter ’18 this sharing constraint is removed and Business Contacts have a distinct org-wide default setting when Person Accounts are activated.

Apex isParallel Annotation
The new @isTest(isParallel=true) annotation overrides the default “disable parallel test execution” setting and provides greater control over the level of concurrency applied during test execution. In many cases locking conflicts on Custom Settings can require the full set of unit tests to run synchronously where only a subset are affected. This new annotation will allow unaffected test classes to run in parallel.

ISV – Feature Parameters
Feature Parameters will be GA mid-October 2017 on. The Feature Management App (FMA) extends the License Management App (LMA) to allow control over individual features within specific Subscriber orgs. New features can be introduced and enabled for select customers before general release etc. Feature Parameters are defined in the packaging org (via Metadata API types) and referenced by packaged Apex code using the System.FeatureManagement namespace methods.

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