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Use Quick Actions, Custom Buttons, or Apex

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:
  • Create quick actions (instead of using JavaScript) to validate fields, create records with prepopulated values, and redirect to a Visualforce page.
  • Describe how to use custom URL buttons to fulfill the same navigation and redirect functionality as JavaScript buttons.
  • Use a Visualforce custom button instead of a JavaScript button to work with multiple records in lists.

You Have Buttons? We Have Alternatives

Previously, we explained why it’s time to migrate to Lightning Experience, where great new features let you move past JavaScript buttons. Next, we’ll explain how you can easily migrate your custom JavaScript button functionality using solutions that work in both Salesforce Classic and Lightning Experience.

This table maps use cases for JavaScript buttons to alternate—and in most cases, better—solutions in Lightning.

JavaScript Button Top Use Cases Lightning Alternatives Declarative/Programmatic
Validate fields (presave) Quick actions (using default values and/or formulas) D
Apex triggers P
Create records with prepopulated values Quick actions (using default values and/or formulas) D
Redirect to a record page Custom URL buttons D
Redirect to a Visualforce page Visualforce quick actions P
Lightning actions P
Prefill values based on inputs Lightning actions P
Confirmation pop-up screens Lightning actions P
API calls (Salesforce and third-party) Lightning actions P
Feedback pop-up screens Lightning actions P
Third-party integration Lightning actions P
Mass actions on list view records Custom Visualforce buttons on list views P

As you can see, Salesforce offers several declarative tools for converting the functionality of your JavaScript custom buttons.

Quick Actions

Quick actions support many of the common uses of JavaScript buttons. Quick actions can be based on a specific object or can be global, meaning that they’re more generic and accessible from any record or the Chatter feed. There’s a quick action to do just about anything in Salesforce. Here are some examples.

Validate Field Values

Sometimes you want to make sure that certain fields are filled in or populated with specific criteria when your users create or update records.

Let’s say you want to create an action for closing a task without requiring users to go to a full edit page. But you also want to make sure that the task has a due date before it can be closed.

You can fulfill all these requirements by creating a quick action for the Task object.
  1. From the Object Manager in Setup, click Task, then click Buttons, Links, and Actions.
  2. Click New Action.
  3. For Action Type, select Update a Record.
  4. For Label, type in Close Task.
  5. Click Save.

Now we select the fields that we want to appear on the Close Task quick action. You can easily make a field required or read-only through its field properties.

Action field properties

After you set the fields on the action layout, you can add predefined field values for any of the fields on the task record. In this example, we marked the Due Date field as required. We also added a predefined value for the Status field to be changed to Completed.

Set predefined field value for Status

Now that we’re done configuring the action, we add it to the Task page layout. Then users can access it from a task record page in both Lightning Experience and the Salesforce mobile app. Here’s an example of a Close Task action on the Tasks page.

Close Task action on the Tasks page

Clicking Close Task brings up the action, which the user can quickly act upon and save.

Close Task action overlay

Here’s what it looks like in the Salesforce mobile app.

Close Task action in the Salesforce app

Prepopulate Fields with Values

A more advanced use case is when you want to let users create a record, but you also want one or more of the fields to be populated automatically based on values in a dependent field.

For example, let’s say your inside sales team’s typical quarterly quota is one fourth of their customers’ revenues from last year, increased by 10%. Because that simple formula doesn’t always apply, you want to prefill the opportunity amount with the value, but also let the user modify it. Create an action so your users can modify the field quickly and efficiently without going to the full opportunity record page.

To create this sample action, you follow the same steps as before for creating the opportunity quick action.
  1. From the Object Manager in Setup, click Account, then Buttons, Links, and Actions.
  2. Click New Action.
  3. For Action Type, select Create a Record.
  4. For Target Object, select Opportunity.
  5. Pick the appropriate Record Type.
  6. For Label, enter New Oppty.
  7. Click Save.
Once you’ve picked the fields for the action layout, you can add predefined values for the Amount field. In our example, we’ve used this formula:
Account.Last_Year_Revenue_Generated__c  * 1.10  / 4

Add this action to the Account page layout. When users invoke it, they see a value prepopulated in the field that they can accept or override.

New Opportunity action overlay

The cool thing about this action is that you can pull data from the opportunity’s account to use when creating the opportunity. Salesforce also supports record traversal, so if you have hierarchical accounts, you can pull the revenues from the parent account like this:

Don’t worry about remembering the formula formats; quick actions are declarative and use the Salesforce formula builder.

Redirect to a Visualforce Page Based on Input Values

You can create Visualforce pages to enhance your business processes. Users can navigate to these Visualforce pages in various ways, such as with custom buttons, action overrides, and tabs.

One benefit of Visualforce pages is that by using the standard controller, you can create customized record pages and add prevalidation, prepopulated fields, formulas, and much more.

JavaScript buttons are commonly used in Salesforce Classic to read and pass values from a record into a URL that then redirects users to a Visualforce page. You can also give your users access to Visualforce pages via quick actions. Creating Visualforce quick actions is easy, and a similar process to what we’ve already covered. The only difference is that you select Custom Visualforce as the action type.

Create a Visualforce action

For object-specific Visualforce quick actions, you must include the standardController for the object in your Visualforce page to gain access to the record data and have the Visualforce page appear in the quick action picklist.

Maybe you use JavaScript buttons for navigation, redirecting users to another page with the command and some variables. In most cases, you can use custom URL buttons or links in Lightning Experience instead.

Here’s a list of different URL buttons and links, and their redirect behavior in Lightning Experience.

Custom URL Button or Link Lightning Experience Behavior
External URL
URL opens in new tab
Relative Salesforce URL, View
Record home page opens in existing tab
Relative Salesforce URL, Edit
Edit overlay pops up on the existing page
Relative Salesforce URL, List
Object home page opens in existing tab
$Action URL, View
{!URLFOR($Action.Account.View, Account.Id)}
Record home page opens in existing tab
$Action URL, Edit
{!URLFOR($Action.Account.Edit, Account.Id)}
Edit overlay pops up on the existing page

Apex Triggers

You might be familiar with Apex triggers; they’ve been supported on our platform for years. Apex triggers can be configured to execute before or after a user clicks Save on a record.

When you need presave validation, calculation, and population of fields, consider using Apex triggers. They’re especially useful for third-party integration, because the rules are enforced through the Salesforce API across Salesforce Classic, Lightning Experience, and the Salesforce mobile app.

For more information on Apex triggers, check out the Apex Developer Guide or earn the Apex Triggers badge.

Custom Visualforce Buttons

Another great feature in Lightning Experience is support for using Visualforce buttons on list views. With this feature, you can use existing Visualforce actions in Lightning and work with multiple records in lists. Here’s how.
  1. Create your Visualforce page. Here is sample code for editing the Stage and Close dates for multiple opportunities:
    <apex:page standardController="Opportunity" recordSetVar="opportunities" extensions="tenPageSizeExt">
          <apex:pageBlock title="Edit Stage and Close Date" mode="edit">
             <apex:pageMessages />
             <apex:pageBlockButtons location="top">
                <apex:commandButton value="Save" action="{!save}"/>
                <apex:commandButton value="Cancel" action="{!cancel}"/>
             <apex:pageBlockTable value="{!selected}" var="opp">
                <apex:column value="{!}"/>
                <apex:column headerValue="Stage">
                   <apex:inputField value="{!opp.stageName}"/>
                <apex:column headerValue="Close Date">
                   <apex:inputField value="{!opp.closeDate}"/>
  2. Create a custom button that references your Visualforce page.
  3. Add the action to your list view. Note Mass actions aren’t supported on the Recently Viewed records list. They are only available on list views.


Here’s how that action shows up in Lightning Experience.

Visualforce custom button in Lightning Experience

As you can see from our examples, Salesforce has a great set of features that allow you to migrate your JavaScript button functionality and move to Lightning Experience.

Now, you may have a lot of JavaScript buttons that have accumulated in your org over the years. You might expect that the migration or conversion process will take a long time. But the job might not be as hard as you think. We did an analysis of JavaScript buttons in the internal Salesforce org that all our employees use. We found that many buttons were obsolete or rarely invoked by users. Others were simply duplicates—the same button but on different objects. After going through the list, we discovered that many of the JavaScript buttons could be converted to the solutions we’ve looked at so far. For the remainder, we could address quite a few with the new Lightning Actions.

You probably noticed Lightning actions in the list of programmatic solutions as a common replacement for many of the JavaScript button use cases. Lightning actions are easy to build, because they’re based on the quick action framework. You set them up similar to Visualforce quick actions. We’ll cover Lightning actions more in depth next.

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