I have a family of questions that I am piling into one post, because my suspicion is that they will all point to a short list of bad practices that cause these quandaries. The way I have been taught to develop for salesforce is just unbelievable to me, and I don't know what I'm doing wrong or what better options are available.

1) I think it's fairly obvious that we should all want more than just a "Last modified by" name and date. How do you get the metadata to play nicely with version control? Is there any way to do a merge without crazy stuff happening? Has anyone gotten a sensible system in place for using branches on their various sandboxes and developer organizations, and been able to actually use the VCS history in the way you would in a traditional development language? (e.g. to look at the code on production in "blame" view and learn anything useful from it). What parts of the metadata API do you enter into version control? I am asking all these questions because it seems like salesforce expects all version control to happen after the fact, making it more of an archaeological process than a "control."

2) The IDE, day-to-day: Is there a way to speed it up, or is this even necessary?

How long does "Refresh from server" take for you? It's a Loooooooong time with my organization, like 20 minutes or more. Compared to "svn up" or "git pull" this is just unbelievable. Do you just live with it, or is there something else?

Does it kill your PC's performance while you're using eclipse/the IDE? It eats up a ton of memory for what it is. We have about 100 megs of code and resources, object & profile definitions, etc . . . so maybe if it used 500 megs of memory, I wouldn't be surprised . . but I had to bump up the java heap size to a gig or two, and during a refresh from server the CPU and IO usage become very high and a system with 4 gigs of RAM starts acting wierd. Is there a way to speed it up, or should I just not be using this software?

3) Also about the IDE, but related to first-time per project setup. "Choose metadata components" is also horrifically slow, if I want to get the objects. Should I not even bother? Is there a better way to track changes to the objects?

4) Should multiple developers be sharing sandboxes? On one hand, it's nice to have your own environment to work in, but on the other, keeping sandboxes up to date appears to be a trial of its own.

When I say in the subject that "I am in disbelief" I'm not exaggerating, nor am I necessarily looking just at the IDE - it is self-evident that many salesforce customers have had great success, but the way I have been introduced to the system by the development team at my new job is blowing my mind, as an experienced (10 yrs) developer on other platforms. It's like this system was designed by people who had never seen the type of modern tools that developers have had for decades. So how do you all do it? Are the problems my team and I are having an indication that we are doing this all the wrong way?

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    +1! I'm worried this question will be closed as "not a question", but I hope it doesn't because these are real issues that I'm seeing even as we develop a tiny App. If mods push to close this, maybe a Community Wiki would be a better option for devs to provide feedback to Salesforce on current pain/limitations of developer tools. – tomlogic Sep 11 '12 at 18:09
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    -1 There are lots of questions in here, and only some of them will have any concrete answer, due to lack of specifics. It's clear that you are frustrated about the Force.com IDE, but you should think about separating support/use of the Eclipse tool from high-level team development best practices from version control perspectives. – Jeremy Nottingham Sep 11 '12 at 18:12
  • I have to agree with @JeremyNottingham on this. I think it has potential as a "best practices" wiki, but parts 2 & 3 are just griping with no question. I would suggest separating it into targeted questions; best way to integrate with a VCS (parts 1 & 4) and best way to setup a development environment (part 5). – Mike Chale Sep 11 '12 at 19:20
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    Let me rephrase #2 & #3 then - My instinct says it's basically unacceptable, so I need to know, do people actually do this, possibly multiple times a day? Is there a reason that people don't need to do it, or a way to circumvent the performance issue? – jejese Sep 11 '12 at 19:26
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    For front-end development speedup strategy take a look at: salesforce.stackexchange.com/a/100731/4617 – Daniel Sokolowski Nov 26 '15 at 19:26

See Team Development: Possible, Probable, and Painless and the Salesforce Development Life Cycle Book that are good references to developing in a team environment on the Force.com platform.

I come from a traditional web app background (Java, Spring, etc.) and use source control like SVN, git, CVS, etc. I have worked on traditional software where we have multiple branches going simultaneously and periodically merge and/or rebaseline, etc, etc.

I have tried the recommended best practice of each developer using their own sandbox, each one checking changes into a central repo (e.g., svn), and getting eachother's changes by updating from the repo; all along, merging changes. That simply did not work and was not feasible for a project based contracting company to implement given time and budget constraints. That being said, I will outline what the best practice was, in theory, and then tell you an alternative.

I'll just use svn as the repo in my illustration.


  1. Each developer has their own sandbox and their own svn account.
  2. Developer makes changes in their own org and pulls down all of the meta data to their IDE.
  3. A package XML file is set up and maintained (constantly) that specifies which meta data is being created by your project.
  4. Changes are checked into SVN.
  5. Manual changes (i.e., not supported by metadata) are tracked in a shared Google doc (the audit trail CSV can help as well, but the Google doc is the official record).
  6. Developers update from svn to get eachother's changes. They need to be careful about the order of pulling down data from their org vs. updating from svn.
  7. Developers will need to be very comformtable with the metadata XML file formats.

In theory, what is kept in SVN is just the changes that the developers make so that you could easily apply those changes to any of your sandboxes, rebaseline from production, look at revision history, reverse merge, etc.

Also keep a separate repo of data:

  1. Reference data that is needed to set up org: Think custom settings, portal accounts, product/event reference data, etc. This is data that would be considered a part of the installation or your org and/or project.
  2. Test data that can be used to populate an org: Useful for testing, getting orgs set up / recreated for development, etc.

Set up CI (Jenkins) to automate builds on check ins and/or nightly if the manual problems are an issue:

  1. Jenkins uses the ant migration tool to push changes.
  2. All unit tests are run
  3. Jenkins w/ Selenium plug-in runs suite of Selenium tests.


There were issues with setting this up.

  1. There were bugs in the metadata that prevented us from automating pushes.
  2. Metadata XML files frequently got "whacked" or out of synch.
  3. Developer's spent an inordinant amount of time resolving merge conflicts.
  4. Bugs in SF and the IDE such as the IDE mitakenly marking files as changed.
  5. Extra overhead of needing to know the metadata XML file format. All of that makes it cost prohibitive to set up development environments like this for short term (e.g., 3-6 sprints, etc.) projects.
  6. Frequently contract work is done on existing orgs with existing problems.

We've ended up developing in a less desirable way but it gets the job done and we honestly haven't had any real issues with it.

  1. Developers all work in the same office and/or have excellent communication with eachother w/in the project. Each developer has their own log in, so that who changed what can be tracked.
  2. One dev sandbox. All developers work in it. Unit test job (in Apex) is set up to run periodically.
  3. Jenkins job that runs nightly to back up the sandbox to git, in case someone accidently refreshes it.
  4. One qa sandbox. Change sets are periodically pushed to the QA env for the QA team to do their testing in a stable and controlled environment.
  5. One ua sandbox. Change sets are pushed here periodically (e.g., end of sprint) for the users to test.
  6. One staging sandbox. Change sets are pushed here in preparation for production deployments.
  7. The audit log CSV is used to track who made what changes and assist in change set construction when the Force.com IDE or ant migration tool isn't used.
  8. Data load CSVs maintained in a central repo.

All that being said, if I were working on longer term projects (2+ yrs), maintaining my own org, or maintaining an AppExchange app I would recommend trying to set up and maintain something more like the theoretical best practice.

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    Wow awesome explanation Peter! – jordan.baucke Sep 11 '12 at 20:06
  • Refreshing code from server took 17 minutes with eclipse, and only 2.5 with Ant. That is life changing! – jejese Sep 12 '12 at 21:52
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    Peter, how do you handle the following: 1) compile errors when multiple developers are editing related classes? 2) developers working on triggers which prevents any code that uses those objects from running. – Greg Grinberg Sep 12 '12 at 22:15
  • We have had the "dependent classes need recompilation" problems and have to synch changes more and try to write smaller classes or code logic in one class, get it working and move it to another (ick! see this w/ TestUtils classes/methods). Triggers: all of the logic is developed in separate Handler classes that can be worked on w/o the trigger. Complex validation rules might be refined in a diff org if it is blocking someone else. Worst is refactoring relationships (e.g., inserting a new object in between an existing 1-N relationship). If it is many days work then need another sandbox. – Peter Knolle Sep 12 '12 at 22:36
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    About 4 years after this comment, does it still stand? Specifically issues 1, 2 and 4 under "Reality ...". – Jacob Hacker Jan 26 '16 at 19:10

I've faced a lot of these same frustrations before.

I guess this question will probably be closed but if not, maybe this session can help at Dreamforce next week:

I'm doing a presentation at Dreamforce '12 on this exact subject: Team Development and Release Management for ISVs

In the session I'll outline going through a complete CI life-cycle (develop, version control, build, package, deploy to AppExchange).

This session is mostly geared to AppExchange releases but could easily be a good building block for anyone whom wants to do CI. I'm hoping to get the Github repo up which will include a link to the Amazon AMI preconfigured like the one we use to manage multiple devs and builds with Jenkins at Bracket Labs

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    There's another similar session at DF12: Team Development on Force.com with GitHub and Ant - this is a popular topic. Note also that all Dreamforce breakout sessions are recorded and released on YouTube within a few weeks, so I guess folks can post links here... – metadaddy Sep 11 '12 at 18:22
  • Oh dang, It really stinks that both of those are at the same time (Thursday 1:30). I'm going to be there and would like to take them. – jejese Sep 11 '12 at 18:37
  • @jejese Pick the one you like the look of most, and watch the other one on YouTube :-/ – metadaddy Sep 11 '12 at 19:57

A couple of other practical tips:

Remember that you can have more than one project in an Eclipse workspace. Separate the code and perhaps pages and other objects that are being touched frequently into their own project. Smaller projects refresh (and build) much more quickly.

The migration toolkit (which uses ANT) is much faster than the IDE and can handle much larger datasets.


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Salesforce IDE tools are very slow. In our team we worked on a large scale enterprise application with over 10 developers in the same sandbox - we ended up just coding using the HTML web interface as it was much quicker. We then setup a scheduled job to download the latest code each night and commit it to our local SVN. Not true branching or SCM but allowed us to revert changes if we needed. And was much quicker for us working from Australia then using eclipse plugins.

I also noticed that all the APEX code is just stored in the salesforce sObjects, I thought it would be cool if I could write my own database trigger on those tables to call a web service or make a backup etc. However the API does not allow access to create triggers in their internal objects.

A new tool http://www.brainengine.net/ would be your best bet. It gives you an IDE in the cloud which looks much better than what SFDC provide. I have not tried it myself.

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