Blog Posts

Spreadsheet Wars! Microsoft Excel for Mac 2011 versus Goggle Spreadsheets

A comparison of the newest version of Excel for Mac and Google spreadsheets with a few tips for users of the Salesforce.com APEX dataloader.
Spreadsheet Wars!  Microsoft Excel for Mac 2011 versus Goggle Spreadsheets

I love spreadsheets, but which one?

I always was an Excel guy when it came to spreadsheets but recently I was introduced to Google spreadsheets and began using them with some of our clients. I also recently got my hands on the latest version of Excel for Mac and thought it might be a good idea to do a little comparison. So here it goes, and for you Salesforce.com APEX Dataloader users, look for a few tips!

Speed Test

The old version of Excel for Mac was super slow. It would literally take 10 seconds to boot up. I started to use Google spreadsheets to do some quick work based soley on speed. Though Google is based on how well your internet connection is it still was way faster then opening Excel. In Excel 2011, 1 click on the icon and I am up and running in a second. The speed doesn't stop there, the calculations are much faster as well. So since Excel is an installed application, I have to give the leg up to Excel.

Look and Feel

The worst thing Microsoft did to the newer versions of Excel was take away the formula toolbar in the menu. Well hallelujah, it's back! That toolbar being as a floater literally wasted hours of my time. Google Spreadsheets have a pretty classic Excel look to it which holds close to my heart. Google gets the leg up here for 2 reasons. First, most people don't need anymore then the formula bar and drop-down menu which in Excel's case, can get a bit overwhelming when all that is displayed. Secondly, even though Excel put the formula bar back, I'm still bitter that they removed it in the first place!

Collaboration

Google wins hands down on this topic. I can easily share spreadsheets with clients and colleagues in real time and truly collaborate with them. Excel is not even close, even though they say they can in their awful "To the cloud" commercials. Google spreadsheets can be shared and viewed with 2 things, an internet connection and an email address. That simple.

Functionality

From a functionality perspective, I go with Excel but that is based on the type of work I use it for. I don't think Google's first intent was to tackle the hardcore Excel users or programmers for that matter. Google provides all the same standard functionality that a regular spreadsheet user should need like standard calculation formulas. I have used Excel for years and years and from a functionality perspective, I get more. I cannot live without the "text to columns" feature and for you Salesforce.com dataloaders, this is a great way to correct formatting issues. Curious, shoot us an email and I will gladly provide more details!

Conclusion

All in all both are great spreadsheet tools and the release of Excel for Mac 2011 makes me very happy. Google docs are good but for now, I will use them for collaboration purposes only. I love Google, so in a way, I guess I challenge you to take me from my Excel island that I love so dear...

Salesforce.com Dataloader Tip #2: For data migration with complex owner hierarchy, use a master spreadsheet to hold all your ID's and then Vlookup formulas to pull them in.

3 Things I Love About the 2010 Dreamforce Application

For 2010 Salesforce.com put together an outstanding conference application called the Dreamforce App in order to manage their annual Developer and User Conference both pre-conference and during the conference. These are the top 3 things I love about it.
3 Things I Love About the 2010 Dreamforce Application

Dreamforce 2010 Global Gathering Logo

    There is nothing better then Dreamforce for a cloud computing junkie like me. All the people, the keynotes, the Cloud Expo, and breakout sessions all make for an outstanding few days of fun and professional development. This year Salesforce.com has taken their annual conference to the next level and it's in part thanks to a Cloud App that was built to manage the conference called the Dreamforce App. The App allows conference goers to organize everything they want to do while at the conference but with a few little twists - it's completely social and in my opinion a groundbreaking new way of running an event - see our earlier blog post about how the App is changing the conference experience alltogether.

    Here are my 3 favorite things about the Dreamforce App:

    The Agenda Builder:


    Every breakout session, special event (like the Stevie Wonder concert), individual learning session, networking opportunities, and keynotes are available to add to your agenda using an intuitive agenda builder tool. You can search or use filters to find relevant things that you want to accomplish at the event and add them to your personal calendar. The tool is smart enough this year to recognize when you are double booking yourself and even better the conference is smart enough this year to save you a seat when you book yourself into an event.

    Access:


    Since the Dreamforce App is meant to be social in nature everyone who is using it seems to have more access to the event this year then ever before. You can converse with the organizers of the event itself (Tom Wong), the Salesforce employees who are running breakout sessions, or even Marc Benioff. Thanks to the Dreamforce App I feel the most prepared I have ever felt going into a Dreamforce.

    Chatter:


    Of course the number one reason why the Dreamforce App is amazing is the use of Chatter throughout the app. As already mentioned access to the event is amazing this year and Chatter is the glue that is keeping it all together. There are Groups built up that are specific to verticals like the Higher Education Group or just plain communities of people that want to communicate and collaborate before the conference starts like the Awesome People Group. There are even groups built specifically to help other users with issues in their Salesforce instances acting as a quasi help desk called the Challenge Us Group. Personally I am enjoying the groups that are put together for people to have fun in like the Football Fanatics Group. I honestly feel like I've already met a large number of people and the event is still 3 weeks away! The notion of being able to collaborate and communicate with people from all over the world about a conference far in advance of the event actually taking place is stunning and extremely powerful. Chatter is persistent throughout the application - it exists as not only a personal profile and groups but also on sessions themselves so you can have a pre-discussion about a session topic with the leader of the session itself lending an opportunity to mold the session into something that you are really interested in learning about. It also exists on all the Cloud Expo vendors and partners so conversations can occur around them as well. Chatter really makes the application a destination for me - I enjoy logging in every day and conversing with fellow attendees.

    I can't wait to see what the next release of the application is going to bring on November 23rd and 24th which is later this week. It should hopefully include Chattalytics and an update to the Campground Hero Theatre.

    To sign up for Dreamforce head on over to www.dreamforce.com and make sure to read our previous post about the top 10 reasons to go to Dreamforce. If you want to give me some feedback or lend some thoughts about why you think the Dreamforce App is so #Awesome then shoot me a tweet at twitter.com/justedelstein OR if you are attending Dreamforce login to the portal and post something on my profile by searching for Justin Edelstein.  

 

Good & Bad Use Cases for Force.com Sites

Taking a look at different uses for Force.com Sites and some of the decisions as to whether to use the feature or not.

Almost two years ago Salesforce.com released a new piece to their cloud computing platform, Force.com Sites. This new functionality allows for Salesforce customers to build externally facing websites on the platform using VisualForce for the design and APEX for the logic. The unique thing about Force.com Sites is that it allows customers to expose parts of their Salesforce.com instance. Both data and logic can be exposed as part of the website and then distributed over the Salesforce.com content delivery network (CDN).

The question is, what is the right use case to use Force.com sites? These are just some of the good and bad uses cases.

Good Uses

Small Landings: One of the first and most common uses is small landing pages for marketing campaigns. These can be easily connected to a web-to-lead form and Google Adwords tracking. This allows companies to measure the success of their online campaigns without dual entry of data.

Low Function: Force.com Sites are great for low functioning websites, meaning mostly serving up templated content and tracking that use. Things like images and documents benefit from the content delivery network built in and is something that most small to medium website never get to take advantage of.

Salesforce Connected: There is no better way to expose the data housed in a Salesforce instance to the web then through Force.com Sites. With some small bits of code, objects and fields that are tracked in Salesforce can be built into content rich pages and seen by anonymous visitors. It is also a good choice if you are extending the Salesforce.com portal.

Out of the Box: Using products such as Ideas and Knowledge or exposing data to social networks is a great use case for Force.com Sites. The Dell Ideastorm and Starbucks My Ideas are great examples.

Bad Uses

Highly Complex: Websites that range from hundreds to thousands of pages with highly dynamic features are not really well suited for Force.com Sites. While the platform allows for tools such as Eclipse, it is bound by functions of Visualforce and APEX and the hosting parameters of Salesforce.com such as the complexities in sourcing certain types of data. This could limit both development resources and complex functionality that could be had in other systems and languages.

Content Management: While content can be surfaced through Force.com Sites from Salesforce and can inherit workflow and approval processes, it would require a lot of development work to do so. For websites that are creating boat loads of content with a variety of different users, a traditional (if not Open Source) CMS would be a better bet.

Community Based Widgets: The creation of websites with high functionality including such features such as polls, social networking, forums and chat is still best left to the mature market of website creation software where adding in that type of functionality is just a click away.

Takeaways

Overall Force.com Sites offer a great new way to publish anything from landing pages to full websites and the product continues to grow as the platform evolves. Also keep an eye on the AppExchange as partners develop new Force.com Sites products to catch up to the rest of the website market.

Top 10 reasons to go to Dreamforce '10

The top 10 reasons why you should register for Salesforce.com's Dreamforce 2010. "The cloud computing event of the year!"
Top 10 reasons to go to Dreamforce '10

I'll be there, will you?

    In about 4 weeks time, over 20,000 people will be attending DreamforceSalesforce.com's yearly user and developer conference that has been labeled "The cloud computing event of the year." This year it will be better then ever and for those out there wondering why they should go I figured I would share my top 10:

    #10 Chance to visit San Francisco

    I know this isn't something you can bring to your boss to justify the cost but its worth pointing out. San Fransisco is a beautiful city that offers a lot to do. If you can plan to get out there a little earlier or stay an extra day or two, the city has many attractions like a tour of Alcatraz, Fisherman's wharf and the home of the 2010 World Series Champs the San Francisco Giants.

    #9 Hands-on Training

    Salesforce offers more then 30 hands-on training sessions from building custom applications, how to create valuable reports and dashboards to trying out the new features from the latest release. Its a great opportunity for administrators as well as general users to try something new that could save your company time and money!

    #8 "Wonder"-ful Entertainment

    Not only does the city have nice places to go after your busy days but Salesforce and some of its partners provide some very exciting entertainment! For starters, Salesforce always has a concert and this year you get to see a legend in Stevie Wonder! On top of that, there are always a slew of parties and sponsered events to attend where you can mingle with the experts and fellow clients.

    #7 Networking Goldmine

    It is literally impossible to not meet someone at Dreamforce. With 20,000+ people and a setup built to encourage conversation you are going to meet someone worth your while and not necessarily for business reasons. Some very good friends of mine today started with a conversation at Dreamforce. Add the Dreamforce portal which can help you setup meetings and get introduced to new people before the conference, you are foolish not to take advantage of this opportunity!

    #6 Inspiration and Motivation

    One of the biggest things I get from the conference every year is the insane amount of motivation. Whether it's CEO Marc Benioff talking about the future of the cloud and how we are all apart of it or the guest keynote speaker talking about our country, you feel inspired. This year's guest speaker is Bill Clinton and whether you like him or not, he is one of the best speakers I have ever heard. To give you more prospective, Marc's keynote last year was a major contributor to the creation of Arkus.

    #5 The Cloud Expo

    The Expo is a great place to meet new people and hear about new products that can potentially save you time and money. The biggest names in cloud computing are there to speak to you directly and in most cases gave you great takeaways to bring back to your office to share with your colleagues. Some of the previous names that I enjoyed talking to where HTC, Echosign, Informatica and Motorola. I will also mention Salesforce being on the floor because it's another great opportunity to get hands-on experience with new features like Chatter.

    #4 The Keynote

    The Keynote is something I particularly love. I know you can watch these on Youtube but there is nothing better then sitting live hearing Marc or other industry experts speak about the future of the cloud and actually showing you what is in store. To go back to the motivation piece, it really makes you feel like you are part of something special. And I will also say Marc always has some kind of surprise to share.

    #3 Free Stuff

    There is no conference or expo that you go to without coming home with some free stuff from a vendor. This conference is no different. I am not the kind of guy that looks for this kind of stuff but I will say the pair of crocs I got last year are pretty comfy. I will also mention, even though you paid for the conference, Salesforce always give you a nice little package. Last year, everyone got Marc's book, "Behind the Cloud" which is a great read.

    #2 Arkus will be there

    If you havent had a chance to meet us already, here is a great opportunity. We will not have a booth at the expo but we will be there and would be glad to spend a couple minutes talking about how we can help your company. You can reach us on the Dreamforce portal, tweet us at twitter.com/arkusinc or just look for the guys wearing the Arkus logo.

    #1 Education

    The most important thing you will get from the conference is an education on the cloud. Whether its hands-on training, client success stories or just walking around the expo, you are going to learn something new about the cloud. I look at this as the largest focus group your company could ever put together. You are exposed to what works and what doesn't, what products you didnt even know existed and potential vendors that help you succeed. It doesn't get any better then that!

    Conclusion
    So there is my list. I can't wait to go and hopefully my little points here can push you over the top and sign-up. If that wasn't enough, or if you need to convince your boss to let you go, Salesforce has a nifty little tool that can help you justify your trip - give it a shot. Whether its networking, learning or shopping for vendor, you will get it. I look forward to seeing you there and feel free to come say hello.





 

College Students Take to the Clouds

Higher Education institutions around the country have a lot to gain by adopting cloud computing technologies - their students may have even more.
College Students Take to the Clouds

Tying a bow around the cloud and higher education

Over the last couple of weeks we have been writing about a few topics that pertain to the cloud, education, and consumer entertainment. In this post I plan to tie it all together like a ribbon around a diploma. Higher Education institutions have a lot to gain by using cloud computing technologies and by enabling their students with Cloud Tools.

Here's What We Know About College Students

 

  • they all have mobile devices
  • they have all grown up on the Internet
  • they use social networks to communicate


Here is where the interesting secret sauce happens - students using Salesforce.com to manage their activities at a University. I must shout out to Ed Schlesinger who is a leading proponent of college students using Salesforce to manage their daily lives using a product he has named StudentForce. There are a few things in play here - students are of the age where they would adopt a Chatter 2 enabled Salesforce.com application built out specifically to suit their needs of tracking classes, assignments, classmates, teachers, and documents. Add a Cloud TV type of scenario whereby students could access their lectures on demand via this service as well and you have a nice platform for learning where students can both access and post their assignments with their teachers all in a safe and secure environment.

I know that when I was in college I missed out on the Facebooks and the Friendsters and Twitter but I know for sure that I would have used a tool like this regardless. Students today have the advantage of already knowing how to use it and they more or less expect that a tool with the collaborative underpinnings of something like Chatter would be available for them to do their work. They likely can't imagine any other way of getting work done. Who would want to email a teacher when you could post something on their wall? Who needs a paper syllabus when you could have it online and in context of the work that you are doing within the course.

Straight A's For Everyone!


With the movement of more and more applications, entertainment, and communications to the cloud why wouldn't a University decide to pick up on this idea and run with it? It seems like a win win for everyone - students get to work the way they want to and are used to working, teachers get to engage more deeply in conversations with students, and the University gets the peace of mind in knowing that the environment is safe, secure, scalable, and audit-able.