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I have a managed package that customers can download. However I want to add a few additional fields to a custom object for a few of my customers.

I was thinking I would keep the managed package the same and then just create an unmanaged package that has the additional fields only and then they download both packages but that doesn't work since when packaging it would pull in the entire object and I would end up with two custom objects one of which would have the additional fields.

Is there a different way to do this? Maybe a Metadata API call or something?

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    you can create an extension package. – Tushar Sharma Oct 3 '16 at 16:20
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You can create an extension package - as @Tushar says

You can find info about it here:

https://help.salesforce.com/apex/HTViewHelpDoc?id=publish_extensions.htm

The extension package would require the base package to be installed first and would solve your duplicate object problem

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