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MME Technology Blog

Salesforce Triggers: Understanding Workflow Automation

Salesforce triggers are tools designed to automate and streamline your workflow within the Salesforce environment. In tech speak, a trigger is a chunk of Apex code that runs before or after you make changes to your records such as insertions, updates, or deletions.

These triggers keep your data squeaky clean, handle tasks on autopilot, and follow business rules to a T.

Whether they’re helping keep your data in check or respond to events in your org, Salesforce triggers make sure the right things happen at the right time – every single time. Let’s take a better look at how to make the most of them for quicker processes!

Understanding Salesforce Triggers

In Salesforce, triggers are essential for automating complex business processes like updating customer records, managing inventory levels, or processing sales orders. They kick in when certain events happen, making sure important tasks blend right into your Salesforce environment.

For example, when you create or modify a record, a trigger can jump in and do things like enforcing business rules or updating related records. Triggers wait for specific events to occur before they swing into action.

Interested in learning more about Salesforce Apex? Review our detailed guide here.

Salesforce Trigger Types

Triggers come in two types based on when they run relative to their event:

“Before” Triggers

These triggers leap into action before you officially save the record. They ensure data accuracy or tweak values before they’re permanently stored in the database.

“After” Triggers

These triggers kick in after you save the record. They’re handy for tasks needing the finalized values, like creating records in another object or keeping a log of changes for auditing.

Remember, triggers must be ready to handle bulk processing efficiently. That is, they need to be ready for the possibility of dealing with multiple records at once, as is usually the case with most Salesforce uses.

Trigger Syntax and Context Variables

In Salesforce, understanding the structure of triggers (as well as the data you can access during their execution) is crucial for effectively managing and optimizing your processes. Here’s a closer look:

Basic Syntax in Salesforce Triggers

The simple syntax of a Salesforce trigger starts with the keyword trigger, followed by the name you give it. You then connect it to a particular object and decide when it should act, like before or after you insert, update, delete, or undelete something. This is what a simpler setup looks like:

trigger TriggerName on ObjectName (trigger_events) {
// code_block

You can specify multiple trigger events by listing them separated by commas inside the parentheses. If you need more detailed rules, you can always check out the Apex Developer Guide.

Basic Syntax in Salesforce triggers

Context Variable Usage

In a Salesforce trigger, you get access to context variables that give you handy information about what’s happening at runtime, like which records triggered the action. These variables, part of the System.Trigger class, are:

  • A list of the new versions of the sObject records. You’ll find this useful in insert and update triggers, where you can tweak these records before saving them.
  • Trigger.old: This holds a list of the old versions of the records. It’s useful in update and delete triggers for comparing old and new values.
  • Trigger.newMap: Think of this as a map that guides you from IDs to the new versions of the records. It’s your go-to in various triggers like before update, after insert, after update, and after undelete.
  • Trigger.oldMap: Similarly, this maps IDs to the old versions of the records. It’s useful in the before update and before delete triggers.


Each of these variables has its own job, making data manipulation smoother and more efficient.

Implementing Business Logic

Incorporating business logic is vital for improving your CRM operations. Let’s explore how triggers can help with this, covering both before and after events, along with some tips for writing effective triggers:

Before and After Events

As you know, Salesforce triggers consist of before and after events to automate business logic.

For example, a before insert trigger can fill in or change fields using incoming data. After triggers come into play when dealing with related records or actions needing the record’s ID, which is available only after saving.

An after insert trigger, in turn, might create related records relying on the parent record’s ID.

Best Practices for Writing Salesforce Triggers

Follow these moves to keep your Salesforce triggers running smoothly:

One Salesforce Trigger, One Job

Keep things tidy by sticking to one trigger per object. If you need more complexity, call in other classes for backup.

Bulk up

Write triggers that can handle lots of records at once. It keeps things efficient when dealing with Salesforce’s bulk operations.

No Recursive Triggers

Use static variables to dodge recursive triggers. It’ll save you from those annoying loops.

Get a Handler

Separate your business logic from the trigger and into a handler class. It gives you more control and keeps your code tidy.

Test It Out

Make sure your triggers are ready for action by testing them thoroughly. Aim for solid test coverage that really puts your logic through its paces.

Speaking of testing…

Testing Your Salesforce Triggers

Making sure your Salesforce triggers are up to snuff is key to a smooth-running system. Here’s how to do it:

Writing Test Classes

When writing test classes for your triggers, you should first define test methods that perform DML operations, causing the trigger to execute. When it comes to testing your triggers, start by setting up test methods that mimic real-life situations.

For example, if you’ve got a trigger that kicks in when you add a new account, your test class should create some test accounts and see how the trigger reacts. Salesforce has guidelines on how to structure these tests if you need a hand.

Making Sure You’re Covered

Getting solid trigger coverage is a must for rolling out your code to the big leagues. Your trigger should hit at least 75% code coverage. Use methods like System.assert, System.assertEquals, and System.assertNotEquals.

Also, don’t forget to test for bulk operations and any worst-case scenarios to make sure your trigger can handle whatever comes its way. Tools like Salesforce’s built-in Developer Console can help you keep an eye on your code coverage percentages and ensure all your logic paths are put to the test.

Testing your Salesforce triggers

Deployment and Maintenance

Getting your triggers set up in Salesforce is key to keeping your custom processes humming along nicely. But to get there, you’ll need to ensure the deployment and maintenance processes are up to snuff.

Deploying Salesforce Triggers

To deploy your Apex triggers, make sure you’ve got the Author Apex permission first. When moving from a sandbox to production, gauge your triggers with some test methods to make sure they’re well-functioning in all sorts of situations.

You can use tools like Apache ANT or the IDE for deployment.

Change Sets

If you prefer, you can also create outbound change sets in your sandbox and ship them over to the production environment.

Just remember to deploy any dependent components like custom objects or fields that your triggers rely on.

Maintaining and Monitoring Triggers

Once your Salesforce triggers are up and running, you need to monitor and maintain them so they always perform as expected.

Use Salesforce’s built-in tools like the Developer Console or Debug Logs to keep an eye on how your triggers are performing and troubleshoot any issues.

If there’s a change in your business logic or processes, update the relevant triggers, too.

Stick to best practices like bulkifying your triggers for handling large amounts of data and only using recursive triggers when absolutely necessary.

Lastly, document everything. Detailed documentation of your triggers and what they’re meant to do makes long-term upkeep and future development a breeze, instead of a headache.

Frequently Asked Questions about Salesforce Triggers

In our conversations with Salesforce pros, we often come across the following questions about Salesforce Triggers:

Q: What is the significance of the context variable? is a useful context variable in Apex that holds a list of the latest versions of your sObject records. It’s useful for grabbing hold of records you’ve inserted or updated in your trigger.

Q: What are the best practices for writing bulk-safe triggers in Apex?

Writing triggers that can handle multiple records without hitting any limits? Avoid SOQL queries or DML operations inside for loops and use nifty collections like lists or maps. Dive into the Salesforce Trigger Frameworks Guide for more details.

Q: How do Apex classes differ from triggers in Salesforce?

Apex classes are like blocks of code you can call from anywhere, while Salesforce triggers are automatic and fire off based on specific database operations. Classes are great for writing reusable code, but triggers are all about managing data events.

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