7 best practices around custom settings in Salesforce

Custom settings in Salesforce are a useful tool for developers and administrators to store and manage settings and preferences that are reusable across the organization. Understanding how to use them effectively can greatly enhance the functionality and user experience of your Salesforce applications. Here’s a detailed guide on best practices for custom settings, complete with thorough explanations and examples for each point:

1. Choosing the Right Type of Custom Settings

Salesforce offers two types of custom settings: List and Hierarchy. Selecting the appropriate type based on your specific needs is crucial for optimal use.

  • List Custom Settings: Ideal for storing and managing a set of static data that doesn’t vary by user context, such as regions, office locations, or department codes. For example, if you need to store a list of warehouse locations and their capacities, list custom settings allow quick access to this data across various components of your Salesforce org.
  • Hierarchy Custom Settings: Best suited for settings that vary with the user’s role or profile, such as user-specific preferences or settings that need to be different for each profile like enabling a specific feature only for managers. For example, you might want to control the visibility of certain sensitive account information, enabling it only for profiles at the managerial level and above.

2. Use Cases for Custom Settings

Understanding the diverse applications of custom settings can help maximize their effectiveness.

  • Feature Toggles: Use custom settings to manage feature releases. You can enable or disable features for different user groups without needing to deploy new code. For instance, you could use a hierarchy custom setting to pilot a new feature among a select group of users before rolling it out organization-wide.
  • Configuration Values: Custom settings are ideal for parameters that may change over time, such as thresholds, limits, or external API endpoints. This prevents hard-coding values in your code, allowing for more flexibility. For example, if your application integrates with an external service, the endpoint URL can be stored in custom settings, allowing easy updates without code changes.

3. Accessing Values in Apex

Efficient access to these settings in Apex is a key benefit, as they are cached and don’t count against SOQL limits.

// Access a hierarchy custom setting for a specific user
MyHierarchySetting__c userSetting = MyHierarchySetting__c.getInstance(UserInfo.getUserId());
System.debug('User-specific timeout value: ' + userSetting.Timeout__c);

// Access list custom setting
MyListSetting__c setting = MyListSetting__c.getValues('NorthRegion');
System.debug('Warehouse capacity: ' + setting.Capacity__c);

These examples show how to retrieve values directly from custom settings, which can be used to dynamically adjust application behavior without additional database queries.

4. Security of Custom Settings

While custom settings provide a convenient way to store configuration data, securing this data is paramount, especially when it contains sensitive information.

  • Ensure that only authorized users can access sensitive settings by controlling who can view and edit these settings via profile and permission settings. Additionally, consider using encrypted fields if sensitive data must be stored in custom settings.

5. Deployment and Data Migration

Because custom settings are part of the application metadata, they can be included in deployment packages. However, moving data, especially for list custom settings, can require additional steps.

  • When setting up a new environment or updating an existing one, you might need to migrate data for list custom settings. This can be achieved through data export and import tools like Salesforce Data Loader, ensuring that your settings are consistent across different environments.

6. Considerations of Limitations

Despite their benefits, custom settings have limitations, such as storage limits and their inability to trigger workflows or processes.

  • Evaluate the use of custom metadata types if you need functionality beyond what custom settings can offer, like triggering automation or deploying both the metadata and data of the settings.

7. Maintaining Custom Settings

Regular maintenance and documentation are essential to ensure that custom settings remain useful and manageable.

  • Regularly review your custom settings to remove obsolete entries and update documentation to reflect changes. This helps new and existing team members understand the purpose and use of each setting, ensuring they are used correctly and efficiently.

By implementing these best practices, you can leverage custom settings to enhance the configurability and efficiency of your Salesforce applications, ensuring they are adaptable, secure, and easy to maintain.

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