That’s right, get a sneak peek at what’s coming for developers in the Winter ’12 version. The preview versions of the Winter ’12 release notes and developer guides are now available.

To see the preview release notes, click here.

The preview versions of our developer guides are on the platform documentation page.  On that page, locate the guide you’re interested in and you’ll see links to the preview HTML and PDF.

There are so many new developer features in this release, I can’t possibly list them all, but here are a few highlights (in no particular order):

  1. Schema Builder (beta) –Use schema builder to view all the objects, fields and relationships in your org. No more clicking from page to page to view object details. This tool gives you the ability to diagram the objects in your org and manually adjust the layout. With this ability to diagram and document your installation, you will quickly become a management hero.
  2. Developer Console (GA) – This is actually a collection of tools that will make your life as a platform developer much easier. Some of the things you can do in the Developer Console are debug, view source code and how it executes, monitor various events, and edit and create triggers and classes. You can also use Developer Console to analyze your app performance by viewing the requests in the Debug Log.
  3. Streaming API (pilot) – Ever want to be notified when the state of some data in your org changes? This is a common request and something that’s useful in many different scenarios. Now, using the Streaming API, you can create a client application that subscribes to data modification events in your organization. In a nutshell, you create a push topic in your organization and then subscribe to that topic from your client app. This means you can get notified of data changes without having to poll regularly and using up API calls.
  4. Java SDK (beta) –With this SDK, you can build your own Java apps that use as the back-end. This means you can whip up your own Java app that uses to store your data or create a Java app that accesses Sales Cloud data (which already uses for data storage). Another benefit: you can use the security model to manage data access in your app.
  5. Plethora of Apex Enhancements – How many is a plethora, you may wonder? I don’t know for sure, but it’s a lot. Here are just a few:
    • Apex REST (pilot) – Enables you expose an Apex class as a REST Web service.
    • Test classes can now be public.
    • Governor limits have been increased for SOQL queries, executed code statements and heap size.
    • You can now parse JSON content and serialize Apex objects into the JSON format.
    • New annotation that lets you specify test methods that get executed during the installation of a package.
    • The @ReadOnly annotation goes GA. This handy annotation let’s you perform unrestricted queries against the database.
  6. (GA) – You can use as the back-end for any applications that you create, regardless of which language you use to write those applications in. In particular, is well-suited for native mobile and social apps. Here’s something you might not know: Salesforce already uses behind the scenes. At Dreamforce, I heard one developer explain it this way: “Think of as Salesforce without the CRM layer.”
  7. Siteforce (GA) – A new Web content management system (CMS) that you can use to build Web pages and manage your company’s sites. Publishers can create pages and add navigation menus, images and text areas while ensuring that your site matches the look and feel of your company brand. Contributors – marketing users, for example – can update website content directly. This feature’s coolness goes well beyond just developers; but once your users find out about it, you’ll probably have them lining up outside your door.
  8. Trialforce Branding – If you’re an ISV that distributes applications based on the platform, this one’s for you. With these various branding features, you can now deliver apps that reflect your company brand.
  9. Quick Start – With a nod to new developers, this feature steps you through the process of creating a basic working app.
  10. Quick Access Menu – Ever see the Jetsons episode where Judy gets “buttonitis,” a futuristic ailment brought on by the availability of all things by the touch of a button? If you suffer in a similar way from all the clicking required when customizing objects, the quick access menu may be just what you need. This menu provides shortcuts to customization features from object records and list views. Also new in this release is the option to make Setup your default landing page.

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