An ERD is Worth a Thousand Words: Schema Builder in Winter ’12

Lots of you can’t wait to get your hands on the new Schema Builder that will officially become available in the Winter ’12 release of Force.com and Database.com. This post is a quick preview of the new tool.

Visualizing and documenting Force.com and Database.com schemas just got a whole lot easier with the Beta availability of the new Schema Builder tool that’s accessible from each product’s primary console. To access the tool from each product’s console, click the new Schema Builder link in the App Setup menu and your off and running.

Click to enlarge this image.

Displaying Objects and Relationships

The controls in the left sidebar let you select the objects that you want to display in the canvas to the right. Use the sidebar option list to control the objects to display for selection below, and then just check the ones you want to see on the canvas. Once you pick the objects that you want to see, use the Auto-Layout button to visually reorganize them on the canvas.

Schema Builder also represents relationships among objects that are on the canvas. Lookup relationships are blue lines while Master-Detail relationships are red lines. When you hold you mouse over a particular relationship, a pop-up appears to reveal more information about the relationship.

When you close the Schema Builder with the Close button, the tool automatically saves the view of the objects you have selected for display.

Refining Your View

There are a few ways to refine the view of the objects on the canvas.

  • Above the left sidebar there’s a View Options list. Use Display Element Labels/Names to toggle between field labels and API names; use Show/Hide Relationships to toggle relationship connectors on and off; and use Show/Hide Legend to toggle the display of the legend for canvas symbols.
  • On the right edge of the canvas, use the zoom control to increase or decrease the field of focus of the canvas. I also found that I can use my mouse’s scroll wheel to accomplish the same task.
  • On the lower right corner of the canvas, drag the focus window to the area of the canvas that you want to display.
  • In the canvas itself, click a blank area and drag the canvas to pan your display.

Drilling Into Objects

While the first version of Schema Builder is read-only, we’ve provided easy methods to get to your field and object details so that you can modify them as needed. For example, you can quickly drill down into a particular object as follows.

  • In the upper right corner of an object, click the icon and then View Object in New Window to display a new browser window/tab with the object’s detail page.
  • Click a field label/name to display a new browser window/tab with the field’s detail page.

In either case, use the normal console techniques to modify the object or particular field.

Printing Your Diagrams

I’ve talked with many users that are looking forward to using Schema Builder as a tool for documenting their schemas. Currently, there’s no built in printing function. As a workaround, just use your favorite screen capture utility (my favorites are Shutter on Linux and Skitch on Mac).

Sending Us Feedback

This is the first release of Schema Builder, and we want it to meet your needs. So please use the link in the upper right corner above the canvas to provide us with feedback via IdeaExchange.

Published
October 3, 2011

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An ERD is Worth a Thousand Words: Schema Builder in Winter ’12