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Get in on the Action: Introduction to Salesforce.com Publisher Actions

Written by , | Oct 02, 2013

If you know little or nothing about Publisher Actions in Salesforce, don’t worry. You haven’t missed the boat; at least, not yet. Publisher Actions are still relatively new, when considering the rate of new functionality coming out of San Francisco.

If you are in the aforementioned group, however, it may be the time to get on board and familiarize yourself with Actions.

Actions are a powerful way to provide Users with an additional interface for data entry (record creation) that reeks of simplicity, efficiency, and flexibility. Extraneous fields? Gone. Excessive scrolling? None. Page Load Delays? Irrelevant.

I’ll cover two primary areas in this post:

  • What are Publisher Actions and what can they do?
  • How do I configure / set up Publisher Actions?

I will likely have a follow-up post in the next few months covering the following:

  • When should I use Publisher Actions?
  • What are some of the specific parts of Actions, in depth?

What Are Publisher Actions and What Can They Do?

Publisher Actions let you create standard or custom actions (e.g., create a record) and place them in the Chatter Feed section on the home page, Chatter tab, in Chatter Groups, and on record detail pages.

Why is this a big deal? You can create records without even being on the corresponding object’s record detail page! For example, you can create a Case from your Home page:



You can create an Opportunity from the Case page:



Powerful stuff! But Actions aren’t limited to creating new records. You can also Log a Call or take any standard Chatter Action (Post, File, Link, Poll). Probably the most exciting aspect of Publisher Actions is that you can build a completely custom VF page to use as an Action. It may sound cliché, but it’s true that the options are essentially limitless when taking the Visualforce route.

From Salesforce:

  • Create actions let users create records. They’re different from the New button on object tabs and the Quick Create and Create New features on the home page. Create actions respect your validation rules and field requiredness, and you can choose each action’s fields.
  • Log a call actions let users record the details of phone calls or other customer interactions. These call logs are saved as completed tasks.
  • Custom actions are Visualforce pages or canvas apps with functionality you define. For example, you might create a custom action to let users write comments longer than 1000 characters, or one that integrates a video conferencing application so support agents can communicate visually with customers.

Each object, along with both the Home Tab and Chatter Tab, can present configured Actions to the User. A set of Global Actions can be used across any objects via inheritance as a default setup. However, your org can be customized to contain Actions specific to each object/tab.

Certain standard objects allow for object-specific actions. You can see each objects built-in Actions by going to Buttons, Links, and Actions for each object.

How Do I Configure / Set Up Publisher Actions?

The first key to success with Publisher Actions is understanding what you want to achieve with them. Like with any technology solution, using Actions for the sake of utilizing a new feature is not a good idea. Build a clear set of use cases that need to be satisfied, then assess whether Publisher Actions make sense as the means to deliver that solution.

First, let’s divide up Publisher Actions into two pieces:

  • Actions
  • Layouts

The Actions themselves serve as the mechanism to take a Create Action, Log a Call Action, or Custom Action. The Layouts are object-specific and will determine how exactly the configured Actions will be presented to the User within the Chatter feed.

Let’s start with Global Actions. Global Actions are Actions that can be used across all of the objects within your org. Some of the Global Actions that come out-of-the-box include:

  • Log a Call
  • New Account
  • New Case
  • New Chatter Group
  • New Note
  • New Task
  • Many More…



You can create a New Global Action by clicking on the “New Action” button:



As you can see above, I decided to make an Action to create a new record based on a custom object I created, called “TestObject”. Wild name, I know. You can define the Label (w/ some pre-built Labeling options or with free-form text), the API Name, description, and icon.

Once I create this action, I’m immediately taken to the Action layout screen:



I don’t have much in terms of available fields, but I add both of the fields from this object to the layout.

I have now created a Global Action. My next step? Add this to one of the available Publisher layouts.

Go to Setup > Chatter > Publisher Layouts > Global Layouts

Here, let’s add our new “New TestObject” Action to the standard Post, File, Link, and Poll Actions:



Now we’re ready to see this in Action. Let’s go to the Contacts tab:



And there it is! We went to the Contacts page and can now create a TestObject from there.

The next level of configuration takes things from the Global level to the object level.

First, you can create Actions specific to an object. Go to Setup > Customize > [Object] > Buttons, Links, and Actions and create an Action just for that object (this Action can only be used on that object’s tab).

Second, you can override the Global Publisher Layout for a specific object. You can use a combination of Global Actions and Actions specific to that object to come up with the desired Actions for that tab.

Keep in mind – If you have more than 4 Actions for an object, only the first 3 show on the page; the rest will be available in a drop-down field on the right:



Let’s see our work in Action…

Let’s go to a Case and Create an Opportunity from there!



After clicking Create…



And there it is! I never left the Case page, yet I created an Opportunity and can see the new Opportunity details from the Case page.

There’s quite a bit more to Publisher Actions and we’ll dive into them at an even deeper level in an upcoming post. Stay tuned…

As always, you can find me on Twitter (@PhilWeinmeister). Let me know if you have any thoughts/feedback!

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