Monday, February 29, 2016

Easily RSVP to Unopened Calendar Requests from Your Inbox with Gmail

Happy Monday!

As I was processing my inbox this morning, a meeting invitation reminded me of a handy little feature in Gmail that lets you RSVP directly from your inbox (without having to open the email).

This is especially useful when I've been corresponding with someone and have been expecting a calendar invitation to come through.

Here's what it looks like:

I can click on the RSVP button and choose my response. It's a little feature that speeds up my inbox processing time.

Have you stumbled upon any handy Gmail features that give your inbox productivity a boost? Share in the comments!

Monday, January 25, 2016

How to Save 5 Seconds: Accessing Salesforce License Count for Admins

Whenever someone asks me "How many Salesforce licenses do we have available?", I start navigating through the admin panel and think to myself "I wish I had a speedier way to get to this information."

Today, I had a spark of inspiration. And for my fellow Salesforce Admin's benefit, I figured out exactly how much time this little spark will save me: 5 seconds.

But, this is about more than time savings... it's about freeing up my brain to focus on other things too.

I realized that I could bookmark directly to the related list that shows the number of user licenses.

Tools I Used

Chrome (my favorite browser)
Speed Dial 2 (extension for Chrome) - optional

Speed Dial 2 allows me to create bookmarks on the new tab screen. As an alternative, I can use the bookmarks bar in Chrome for easy access.

My current Speed Dial 2 bookmarks for work.


  • Navigate to the Company Information page in Salesforce (Setup -> Company Profile)
  • Right click on the User Licenses related list link at the top of the page and click 'copy link address'. This will give you the url to jump directly to that section.

  • Create a new bookmark in Speed Dial 2 or add the link to your bookmark bar.

And now, for the time-savings comparison:

Previous Method - Manual Navigation

  1. Someone asks: "How many Salesforce licenses do we have available?"
  2. I navigate to where I have Salesforce already open. 
  3. I click on the Setup link.
  4. I expand the Company Profile section and then click on Company Information. 
  5. I click on the User Licenses related list link to jump to the list. 
  6. I note the number of remaining licenses and hop back to my email inbox to respond.
Time spent: 11 seconds. This could probably be faster, but I'm still adjusting to the new setup side panel layout in Salesforce.

New Method - Bookmark

  1. Someone asks: "How many Salesforce licenses do we have available?"
  2. I open a new tab. 
  3. I click on my bookmark.
  4. I note the number of remaining licenses and hop back to my email inbox to respond. 
Time spent: 6 seconds

The time savings might not seem that significant. But, for me it's about more than the time. This method eases a minor frustration and enables me to move on with my day. It requires less thought and navigation. I like that.

Do you have a simple tip for automating part of a process that would normally frustrate you on a Monday morning? Share in the comments!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Simple Single Sentence Journal Using DO Note from IFTTT

[Update - 2/1/16] Here's a brief video demo that will walk you through the steps to create your own single sentence journal in Evernote using DO Note from IFTTT.

I love journaling.

Umm. Let me rephrase. I love the idea of journaling.

In the past (read: ages 10-23), I kept paper journals filled with my dreams, observations and silly sketches. But, writing on paper with an actual pen isn't something that I make time for anymore. (And when I attempt to, my hand cramps up after 4 sentences. Weakling.) Now, a bit of typing? That is a different story. That I can do! I don't need to carry around a paper notebook and a writing utensil, and then worry about misplacing the journal and who might happen upon my ridiculous rambling thoughts. All I need is my phone or tablet.

I switched to keeping a digital journal in the past year, relying on my favorite digital organization software: Evernote.

In my Journal notebook, I create notes and upload photos documenting memorable moments, blurbs from hilarious conversations with my husband and random thoughts about life that pop into my head. I can sit and type at my computer when I have a little time during the day, or I can use the Evernote app on my phone to record my thoughts in an audio format (or simply type them).

Using Evernote has made journaling something that I enjoy (on occasion) again. But, I've been considering how to motivate myself to maintain a more consistent chronicle of my life.

Everyday events, it turns out, make us far happier to remember than we expect. So while a simple coffee date with an old friend or a night in cooking for your better half might not seem worth remembering, thinking back on these simple occurrences actually can bring us great pleasure later on. - Jessica Stillman, 'Can Just a Sentence a Day Make You Happier?'

And I think I've stumbled upon a simple way to do just that. I'm going to give it a try for 2016.

It all started when I read this article on Lifehacker about keeping a 'single sentence journal', quoting this post from Jessica Stillman on where she shared the concept promoted by author Gretchen Rubin (PS - I'm currently making my way through The Happiness Project by Rubin. It's a wonderful read).

I loved the idea and knew I wanted to automate the process as much as possible, to increase the likelihood of me sticking to it.

Enter DO from IFTTT. (If you aren't familiar with IFTTT, check out my post about this wondrous tool.) There are 3 flavors of the DO app - Note, Button and Camera. Each allows you to perform an action by tapping on a widget on your phone.

In this case, I want to create a log of sentences for each day. I used this recipe to get started, and then customized it to add entries to a Google Document.

I created a widget on my homescreen that fires up my DO Note recipe with a quick tap.

I type my sentence for the day and click on the Drive (or Evernote) button.

The resulting document will be updated with each entry I add.

I customized the formatting a bit so that the date is appended after my entry and italicized. (Basic HTML formatting is supported.)

After I tested the recipe and found that it works well, I decided that it would make more sense to create the entries in Evernote, since that's where my main journal is. So, I'm going to create a new recipe to add each sentence to a note in Evernote.

I'm really excited about this elegantly simple solution. All I have to do is click that button each day and write one sentence. That sounds just easy enough that I might be able to stick to it.

Have you found a way to automate and simplify a process in your life with Evernote, Google Apps, IFTTT or other tools? Share your success in the comments!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Experiment: Drafting a Blog Post with Voice Typing in Google Docs

I often use voice typing on my phone when I want to take note of something while I'm out and about.

I’ve found that it's pretty accurate! And, it’s often easier than typing a lengthy idea or text message. Sometimes I have to go back and correct punctuation or wording, but that takes less time than typing all manually.
I recently watched a video from Google for Work about using voice typing in Google Docs. As an experiment I decided to give it a try in a very practical way - composing this blog post.

Here's a video demonstration of this experiment - complete with a few giggles. (Apparently, when I say 'new line' twice, it correctly puts in a line break the first time, but then types 'new line' literally the second time. This is insignificant, since I'm going to manually modify the content anyway to clean it up. But, it made me laugh.)

I can imagine using this for future blog posts, drafting chapters for the science fiction novel I'm working on or transcribing quotes from videos I'm watching, as shown in the video from Google for Work.

Have you tried using voice typing in Google Docs yet? If you have, I would love to hear about your experience in the comments.

PS - I've had a lot of ideas recently for brief video tutorials. So, I've created a Rather Geeky YouTube channel where I'll be posting content in the future. Subscribe if you'd like!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

How I Give Myself an 'Admin Out' in Validation Rules

I've found myself stuck a few times when I've created a validation rule in Salesforce but needed to update records that would trigger my rule criteria.

Example: I don't want to allow users to update a specific field after it's been populated upon record creation. But, occasionally as the system admin, I may need to update that field when a user makes a mistake.

In the past, I'd edit the validation rule that was preventing me from saving a change and deactivate it. But when you have multiple rules that you're 'breaking', this becomes rather cumbersome.

So, I've started adding an 'admin out' to my rules. There are several ways to do this (by profile id, user id, etc), but here's what's working for me:

I add in a criteria to not allow the change for anyone except a system admin, as defined by the profile name.

This has been working well for me.

Word of warning: I don't recommend doing this for all rules, especially those that prevent changes that could cause errors in reporting or data consistency. Be selective if you choose to allow yourself an 'admin out.'

Do you have an alternative method that works for you? Let me know in the post comments or share it with me on twitter - @rathergeeky.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Salesforce Report Challenge: Total of Opportunities for All Accounts Within a Hierarchy

I received a report request today that sounded something like this: I need to get a total of all won opportunities for any account in this account hierarchy, regardless of whether we worked directly for them or were subcontracted*.

Sounds simple, right? 

In theory, yes. But, if you happen to have a complicated account hierarchy (eg: you have any federal government accounts), this is not an easy task. In fact, it's not natively possible to run a report like this in Salesforce.

In my case, I was looking at 80+ accounts organized in a hierarchy that was five levels deep. 

Rather than tell the requestor that the report was impossible, I decided to get a little creative.

Step 1: Get a list of all the accounts to include

I clicked on the [View Hierarchy] link next to the account name. Because I had multiple parent/child relationships, I scrolled until I found the account name that I was looking for within the hierarchy. Then I highlighted all the accounts underneath that, copied and then pasted them into Excel.

This is what my spreadsheet looked like:

At this point, I needed to extract the record IDs from the account name url. I remembered blogging about this before and read through the old post to remind myself how to extract the record ID from a hyperlink.

My spreadsheet then looked something like this:

Step 2: Generate a list of record IDs to use as a report filter

After I extracted my record IDs, I created a formula to concatenate the record IDs into a format that I could use as my report filter. (I demonstrated this method in a previous post.)

Step 3: Create a report and add the filter criteria

I created the report in Salesforce and pasted the concatenated IDs in my filter. Since I wanted to filter by two account fields on the opportunity, as well as by the parent relationship, I had to add those three fields to my filter. (Note: Several of these fields are custom formula fields based on the lookup to the Account object.)

Because the filter criteria can include only so much text, I split the record ID list into two filters for each field that I wanted to apply the filter to.

Here's how it looked:

Final Thoughts

I'd much prefer an approach that is more dynamic, rather than hard-coding the record IDs to generate a report. But for now, it does what I need it to do.

If you'd like to see some improvements to functionality surrounding parent/child accounts and account hierarchy functionality, vote up these ideas on the IdeaExchange: Add more account hierarchy functions for parent/child accounts, Report on Account Hierarchy

Have you ever received a request for a Salesforce report that stumped you? Or do you have an idea to improve my workflow? I'd love to hear your suggestions and stories in the comments below.

*We have a Secondary Account custom lookup field so that we can track not only the direct client the opportunity is for, but also the account that may have hired them (when we are operating as a subcontractor).

Monday, September 21, 2015

Cleaning Up Extensions in Chrome with Context

I've been testing out some useful extensions for Chrome and in doing so, effectively cluttered up my browser.

When I did some googling about how to organize extensions, I found an article about Context, an extension that lets you group other extensions by context (aptly named!), such as 'Work', 'Online Shopping', etc.

You can choose which extensions will always be available, and which should only be shown when the context you've added them to is active.

Before customizing Context:

How it looks now:

Big improvement!

Here are the contexts that I'm starting off with:

I like that this gives me the freedom to continue comparing extensions but keeps my browser looking clean. It also frees up memory according to the article.

You can check out the Context extension for Chrome here.

How do you keep your browser organized? Tell me in the comments!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Simple TextExpander Snippet to Search Salesforce with a Copied Keyword

Here's a simple text expansion idea that popped into my head today and will save me clicks/time on a daily basis!

I often receive emails asking about a record in Salesforce by a keyword, such as Opportunity Name, without a link to the record.

My previous workflow involved:
  1. Highlighting the Opportunity Name in the email
  2. Using CTRL + C  to copy what I've highlighted
  3. Navigating to Salesforce
  4. Putting my cursor in the search box
  5. Using CTRL + V to paste what I copied
  6. Using the ENTER key to execute the search
  7. View the search results to find what I'm looking for
I realized today that it would be a lot easier to automate steps 3-6 using TextExpander. So, I created a new snippet comprised of the url of the page after I do a search in Salesforce.

My new process is: 
  1. Highlighting the Opportunity Name in the email
  2. Using CTRL + C  to copy what I've highlighted
  3. Opening a new tab in my browser (CTRL + T)
  4. Typing the snippet abbreviation, in my case:
  5. Viewing the search results to find what I'm looking for
The snippet is made up of three parts: 1) the Salesforce search url, 2) the value I've copied to my clipboard, and 3) the [ENTER] keystroke

Creating this simple snippet shaves a few clicks whenever I need to perform a search based on keywords I've received in an email. It might not seem like a big deal, but every click or keyboard stroke counts in my book!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sending a Link to Google Slides in Presentation Mode

When deploying changes to Salesforce, part of my process involves creating documentation and tutorials to explain the changes to users.

I've found Google Slides to be very useful for this purpose. I create a short slide deck with an overview of the changes, along with screen captures so they'll know exactly what to expect.

I generally send a link to the shared slide deck, but I realized recently that my recipients might not be sure what to do with that link, or how to view the presentation in an easily navigable format.

My previous method involved sending a link to the presentation, which opened in this preview mode.

So, to make the process easier, I've started sending a link to the slides in presentation mode.

To do this, I click on 'Present in new window' under the Present button dropdown, and then copy the url in the new window that opens.

Now, when I share the link, the slide deck will open in presentation mode and the viewer can use the arrows on the keyboard to navigate.

I'm always looking for ways to streamline and improve how I support end users. Have suggestions or ideas to improve the process I've described above? I'd love to hear them in the comments!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Back to BASICS: A Paper Notebook for Modern Life

I rely heavily on digital tools for keeping my life organized. Google Calendar reminds me of plans with friends, alerts me to life goal benchmarks that I've set up and prompts me to pay my bills in a timely fashion.

When expressing the benefits of using a digital calendar to family and friends, I've summarized the benefits this way: "It frees up space in my brain." Space that I can allocate to learning new things and seeking creative inspiration.

But sometimes I wonder if allowing digital tools to remember things for me has actually hampered my memory. I find myself wistfully recalling the paper calendar I used to carry with me everywhere, full of ideas for stories, quotes from friends and half-written poems. I used to flip through the pages, comforted by my lists of tasks and highlighted reminders. No battery required.

With those thoughts in mind, my interest in the blend of digital and paper organization was piqued by a new campaign on Kickstarter from BASICS: the BASICS Notebook.

  • Six month planner
  • Week planner
  • Lined paper
  • Blank pages
  • Goal tracking
  • Checklists
  • Whiteboard paper (a feature I love about my Wipebook!)
  • Pen holder
  • Elastic bands (for holding both sides open and bookmarking)
  • Side pocket

I like that it includes planners, but they aren't date specific. I don't like being tied down to specific start and end dates. The dual elastic bands are a great idea too, especially for jotting down ideas outside. And of course the whiteboard paper - such a great idea!

While I still love my digital calendar, there's something very appealing about this notebook. I can imagine incorporating it quite easily into my existing primarily-digital workflow.

The Kickstarter campaign was funded within 12 hours after launch! But, there's still time to become a backer. The campaign ends August 29th.

You can also download a PDF copy of their weekly/monthly sheets here.

PS - A representative from BASICS contacted me to after noting my interest in Wipebook. The thoughts expressed here are entirely my own, and I haven't been compensated in any way. Not that, for future reference, I'm opposed to being compensated for sharing my honest opinion about tech tools! :)

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