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I want to create a global action that is a way for staff to Chatter a simple weekly update about what they've been working on and what they're going to work on next week. Basically, all I want is to have a chatter publisher window pre-filled with some template text:

What did you do?

What are you going to do?

If I create a global action, I made a VF form and generate a Chatter post with the update text, but I lose the ability to create @mentions, which are really helpful in updates.

The simplest thing would be to generate a standard chatter publisher and pre-fill it with text, then let the user start modifying. I don't think there is any way to do that on the platform. I suspect the best thing I could do is create a Google Chrome extension that allows the user to pre-fill the publisher on the client, but that's less than ideal.

Any suggestions for how I might give the user some text in the publisher so they're not starting from scratch and don't lose all the good stuff of the standard Chatter publisher?

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I think VF is your best/only bet in this circumstance, but you can do @mentions if you use the ConnectAPI, and the Chatter team released a helper class to make it much easier to invoke - see this answer

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    While you can @mention using the API, you can't really replicate the interaction you get when you start to type @[Someone]. – Daniel Hoechst May 6 '14 at 19:58

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