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What’s Lightning?

Very good question, with multiple answers. If we ask a meteorologist, they would probably say “Lightning is a sudden electrostatic discharge during an electrical storm between electrically charged regions of a cloud, between that cloud and another cloud, or between a cloud and the ground”.

But since I am not a meteorologist, I do not think that we are going to talk much about this definition here in this blog.
On the other hand, considering that I am a Salesforce Developer and Trainer delivering the new class DEV601 (Programming Lightning Components and Applications), I’m going to answer this other question: In terms of Salesforce, what’s lightning?

I have many people ask me, “how can I learn Lightning?”, “Is there a course on Lightning?” Unfortunately, that question is as close as to asking, “How can I learn computers?” or  “Is there a course on Salesforce?”

Lightning is a lot of things in Salesforce, all the way from a new UI (Lightning Experience) to a new development framework (Lightning Components) passing by a graphical way to work with your metadata (Lightning Schema Builder).

This is the list of things that I know are called “Lighting something” in Salesforce:

•    Lightning Connect: An Integration tool that makes it easier for your Force.com apps to consume data from any external source that conforms to the OData specifications. My good friend Barry Hughes, has a great blog on this topic. [Update: They are now calling this Salesforce Connect]
•    Lightning Schema Builder: Point and click tool that helps you view and model your metadata in Salesforce so that you can create or modify your objects, fields and relationships. [Update: They are now calling this Schema Builder]
•    Lightning Process Builder: Declarative visual workflow tool (based on Flows) to automate your business processes. Think of them like advanced Workflows. [Update: They are now calling this Process Builder] 
•    Lightning Experience: Modern user interface optimized for speed. Salesforce UI Across Screens of Every Shape and Size
•    Lightning Design System: Style guides and modern enterprise UX best practices to build pixel perfect apps.
•    Lightning Community Builder: Point and click website builder for Salesforce Communities.

Last but not least, we have the Lightning Framework, a component based web application development framework created by Salesforce and for Salesforce which allows you to develop dynamic SPA (Single Page Architecture) web applications for mobile and desktop devices.

This framework allows you to build reusable components to customize the Salesforce1 Mobile Application, Lightning Experience and build standalone applications.

The framework also allows you to easily communicate with Salesforce servers (to work with data stored there or even make calls to external web services). This is possible because the framework uses two types of controllers: Client-side controllers built in JavaScript and Server-side controllers built in Apex.

The lightning Framework is made of these parts:
•    Lightning Components: These are the actual components, applications and interfaces, events, etc which are based on Aura
•    Lightning App Builder: Drag and drop technology for fast and easy app building & customizations.
•    Lightning Pages: This is what you build with the Lightning App Builder
•    AppExchange for Components: Salesforce partners publish components in the AppExchange, which you can leverage in the Lightning App Builder or inside the components you develop in code.

So next time somebody asks you: “Do you know Lightning?" You can say “Yes, last summer there was a big storm!” or “Well, it really depends on what are asking…” Any Salesforce user can answer affirmatively to this question as long as they have used Lightning Experience to close their deals or work with their cases.

In this blog, I am going to focus on working with the Lightning Framework.

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Andrés Pérez