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The (Super) Quick Guide to Getting Started with Salesforce Reports


If you (or your org) is using Salesforce for the very first time, then you’re probably itching to dive into reports.

Why? Because Salesforce reports are flipping awesome. And they’re often THE perk that convinces an org to sign onto the chaos that is implementation. 😌

Now, this post won’t teach you how to build or manipulate reports. There’s lots of great instructional content out there already, especially on Youtube.

But this post WILL help those who literally don’t know where to start. Let’s cover a few logistics and set some expectations.

1) First, reports work best (albeit more slowly) in Salesforce Lightning

If your org has a newer Salesforce setup, skip to step 2. You’re probably set on this one.

To the rest of the orgs still on Classic – the legacy interface for Salesforce customers – keep in mind that report enhancements only happen in Lightning. For your org to take full advantage of Salesforce’s reporting capabilities, you’ll want to eventually make the switch.

The instructions below assume your org is either on Lightning, or moving there soon.

2) To build reports, you need the right permissions

Before your users go try to build reports, make sure that they actually can.

You can find the required permissions in the “User Permission Needed” section of this Help Article. For users who need to create reports, make sure those specific permissions are checked off within their Profile (or Permission Set ) settings.

Go to Setup > Profiles or Users > click into the desired Profile > search for the permissions & check the boxes

In the “User Permissions Needed” section, find the specific permissions to enable on the right (for ex. “Create and Customize Reports”

3) Next, look for the Reports tab

Locate the Reports tab to see existing reports, folders, and the button to create a new report.

If the tab isn’t already visible on your Salesforce homepage, click the App Launcher grid and search for “Reports”.

Open the App Launcher and search for the Reports tab

If your users don’t find it, make sure their profile has access to the Reports tab (aka that it’s not set to “Tab Hidden”). To do this, go to Setup > Profiles > choose the profile > find the Tabs section > look for “Reports” > confirm that the dropdown is set to “Default On”. Official instructions here if you need them.

4) Consider your folder system

Every Salesforce report must be saved to a folder. The Public Reports folder will be visible to all your Salesforce users. The Private Reports folder is only visible to the report creator.

To fall somewhere in the middle, you’ll need to 1) create your own report folders, 2) share them with your desired users, and then 3) save your reports into those folders.

By the way… If users are trying to access a report but can’t see it, it’s almost always a folder sharing issue. Make sure you’ve granted them ‘View’ access to the folder that houses the report AND confirm that the report isn’t saved to someone’s Private Reports folder.

5) To create a report, first choose a Report Type

Report Types tell you which records appear as results in the report. (If the Report Type you need is missing, you can always create a new one in Settings.)

This next part will become obvious with time. But to explain how Report Types work:

  • an ‘Object’ report will show records for that object (For ex. an “Accounts” report shows only Account records)
  • a ‘Parent Object with Related Object’ report will show the related object’s records. But you’ll be able to include all fields from the parent object too (For ex. an “Accounts with Activities” report shows Activities primarily, but can include data from the parent Account)

6) In the Report Builder, focus on learning the Outline & Filter tabs

If the Report Builder looks overwhelming, it may help to know that most functionality really only lives in two tabs.

The Outline tab is where you decide which columns (fields) should be visible in the report. Search for & add your desired columns at the bottom. (If your goal is to create a chart, you’ll need to add at least 1 field to the Row grouping section. This effectively buckets your results. Try it out, because it’s easier to see than it is to explain!)

The Filter tab is where you decide which records/results should appear (aka your report criteria). Add fields from your chosen report type to the Filters pane, and then use the operators to set your criteria.

Note the circled tabs on the top left. Outline lets you decide which fields appear as columns (or rows) in the report. Filters are where you set the logic for *which* records should be included.

7) Save & Run

Save the report to save your changes. Run the report to see the full list of results. From there, you’ll be able to export to Excel/csv or subscribe.

p.s. Want more guidance on how to build those reports? The Reports & Dashboards for Lightning Experience Trailhead module is one of the best ways to learn. It’s provided by Salesforce, it’s interactive(ish), AND it’s totally free.

Happy reporting!


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