Grant non admin developers limited application and update set access

It used to be problematic to give limited access to developers from other teams. There wasn’t an easy way to limit access to change specific scripts or specific workflows, because everything used to be in a global scope or under a custom scoped application. Users would get access to everything or none, unless you wanted to spend a lot of time building heavy custom ACL’s.

This issue was solved by ServiceNow with Delegated Development. Now it is a good practice build everything under scoped applications, for example new features come out as their own applications (Agent workspace, GRC, Change management, Spoke applications).

Note, generally, based on new license subscription model, there are no license implications and you can build as many scoped applications as you want.

1) Go to sys_store_app.list where you can see all available applications.

2) Under related links click on “Manage developers”.

3) Choose a user and select limited access to only what they need from this application by application file type: script, workflow, service portal, update set access etc.

4) Now user will have access to application and update set pickers after they enable it from their developer settings. Also, whenever he will open any application file type, the filter with his allowed applications will be automatically set. Other files will be hidden under ACL restrictions.

Note: to enable configuration of update set rights you have to set up com.snc.dd.manage_update_set_enabled system property to true first. Users will have access to update set module and they will be able to choose update sets from there. To enable update set picker access set up glide.ui.update_set_picker.role property with the application role name.

Also, there is a simple way to change the scope programmatically:

$http({
method: 'PUT',
url: '/api/now/ui/concoursepicker/application',
headers: {
  'Content-Type': 'application/json',
  'Cookie' : document.cookie
},
data: { app_id: sys_id_of_application }
});

Call UI actions with REST using ServiceNow OOTB way – UPDATED

Note: this out of the box method is only available from Madrid version and up, if you are using prior versions click here.

Ever since Agent Workspace was introduced work has started to lose dependencies from interacting with Jelly and Java pages which led to introduction of GraphQL and other OOTB REST functionally.

One of them, which was previously only possible through some what complicated scripting, is calling UI actions.

A new way is simple and straightforward.

There is only one endpoint to do POST call for UI actions.

POST @ /api/now/ui/ui_action/${sys_id_of_UI_action}

Additionaly, there are same 3 mandatory body parameters:

  1. sysparm_table – table name of UI action.
  2. sysparm_sys_id – sys_id of the record you want to run UI action against.
  3. api=api (this has to be static).

If your UI action is designed to take additional parameters, you can pass them as well.

Note, if this is not working, you might need to set up Request header with Content-Type application/json and pass body parameters as following:

{
    "fields": [  { "name": ""  } ]
} 

How ServiceNow is updating it’s Tech Stack and is using GraphQL

One of the biggest complaints ServiceNow receives is that it is running on old technology. It is true that most of ServiceNow is running on Java, Jelly, AngularJS, which comes with poor performance, but ServiceNow is working to change that.

New ServiceNow features introduced in Madrid and enhanced in New York comes with more modern technology stack.

  • The core component of newly designed pages is not a Jelly UI page anymore (it still is for Service Portal – $sp.do), but it is done with modern JS frameworks like React or ServiceNow JavaScript UI Framework. That means no Java and no Jelly.
  • To access other specific components, there are at least 50 new OOTB undocumented REST API’s to perform ServiceNow functionality which was only possible by old school HTTP requests only (history, favorites, breadcrumbs, filters, date, impersonation, UI action, etc.). This means almost all the required functionality is accessible in the front end.
  • However, not everything is upgraded to new stack yet, there are still some iFrames that call Jelly pages and some REST API’s are missing. Those too can be called using REST API’s, but it’s complicated.
  • More API’s and more components are coming to ServiceNow. A lot of performance optimizations happen when you move away from Java and Jelly.

But the natural problem arises: if we have so many different REST API’s to call to fill our page with everything we need, it becomes too complicated to continue developing and grow. We need some way to perform BATCH REST API operations.

Here is where GraphQL comes to ServiceNow.

As REST replaced SOAP, it is believed by some, that GraphQL will replace REST due to handy benefits:

  1. You only call one endpoint to get all the date instead of calling many – you do not need to call 20 different REST API’s to get all information into one page
  2. You only get the data you ask for and not what REST API developer wanted you to get – you only get what you ask for, so you can limit the transaction size to be as little as possible – hence performance increase

It iIt is also possible to use GraphQL for your ServiceNow integrations and ditch REST API’s.

  1. You only need to call one endpoint with POST for everything you need.

/api/now/graphql?api=api

2. All the parameters are in request body.

How do I call ServiceNow using GraphQL?

For example, if you wanted to get encodedRecord, sys Id and record values for specific incident:

We can also retrieve any other elements from the page (related lists, UI actions, formatters, etc.) or perform GlideRecord equivalent operations, like  isValidRecord, lastErrorMessage, canReadRecord.

To get all incidents, it looks more complicated, but way less complicated than the old way. Remember this is all done from client side and you have access to anything you ask for.

Also, as this is fully undocumented yet, I haven’t spent much time around to find the ideal queries. This probably could be optimized a lot.

What are other tools in ServiceNow to support GraphQL?

1 ) You can debug GraphQL execution by opening “Debug GraphQL” module. Session debugger was greatly enhanced with New York release, but is possible in Madrid as well the same way you debug service portal. More can be found here.

You can do some ‘mouse clicking’ in ServiceNow UI while session debugger is running and copy your GraphQL queries.

2) GraphQL subscription feature might enable you to build modern pub/sub message queues for client-side application solutions. Same as for AMB and AngularJS record watchers you could define subscriptions (ServiceNow calls them ‘Channel Responders’). With GraphQL you can do the same by utilizing sys_rw_amb_graphql_action table, which extends sys_rw_amb_action.

3) All transactions using GraphQL have “Batch REST” type and cannot be tracked separately. Logging can only be enabled at node level enabling advanced REST debugging.

How to cancel script, update or plugin rollback when it’s stuck and is breaking ServiceNow

A useful roll back and delete recovery feature was released to ServiceNow. With each script execution you can track all the database changes with possibility to recover everything with Rollback Executor.

It sounds very useful and seems like it will fix all your oopsies. However, it has flaws, does not always recover everything and might take days or weeks to finish.

One resultant flaw is that RollbackExecutor is being counted an as ‘upgrade’ activity. While it’s running you will not be able to use preview and commit update set functionality – “Update set preview and commit are unavailable because the system is currently upgrading. Click here for the Upgrade Monitor”.

As well as scheduled jobs with upgrade_safe=false parameter will not be executed while rollback is running.

Usual way to stop any transaction is by following:

  1. Go to “Progress workers”, locate the running worker and change its state to cancelled.
  2. Go to “Active Transactions (All Nodes)” or “Active Transactions”, locate the transaction you want to kill, right click it and select kill.

This is what you must do, however, both steps are not enough to kill RollbackExecutor process. You can verify it’s still running by going to xmlstats.do and looking for background_progress_workers:

<background_progress_workers count="1" size="16">
  <running_background_progress_workers count="1">
    <background_progress_worker created_on="2019-08-14 20:38:40" executed_time="19:21:08.698" processor="glide.scheduler.worker.6" progress_worker_record="ebbefa45db97bb00c3e6294d0b96196d" queued_time="0:00:00.154" schedule_job="e7befa45db97bb00c3e6494d0b961970" total_duration="19:21:08.852">Executing Rollback</background_progress_worker>
  </running_background_progress_workers>
</background_progress_workers>

Luckily, we can figure out next steps based on the node logs:

The upgrade system is busy because the GlideSystem is Paused

GlideSession message was modified by sanitization. [message=Update set preview and commit are unavailable because the system is currently upgrading. <a href="$upgrade_client.do">Click here</a> for the Upgrade Monitor][sanitized=Update set preview and commit are unavailable because the system is currently upgrading. <a href="$upgrade_client.do" rel="nofollow">Click here</a> for the Upgrade Monitor]

Now we simply use undocumented GlideSystem API functions.

First, we can verify if GS is paused with gs.isPaused();

Then we simply resume GlideSystem with:

gs.resume();

Finally, our rollback activity is cancelled and we can use our update sets and scheduled jobs!

How to use ServiceNow platform system diagnostics debugger in Service Portal

Note: this is only applicable to Madrid or older ServiceNow versions. Since New York upgrade session debugging is done in a separate user friendly window.

NOW platform and Service Portal shares a lot of common utilities that are used in many places thorough the platform. For example, ACL’s, user criteria, text search are used in both parts of ServiceNow. We know we can use system diagnostics debugger tool on the platform, but what about the portal?

When we enable the debugger in the platform, at the bottom of our page,we can see what is happening under the hood of SNOW. For example, how are the database records we are trying to reach are processed, how ACL and user criteria rules were evaluated, what was the text search score for each returned item generated.

However, when we enable the debugger, this same information is not available at the bottom of our portal page.

So how do we debug platform-shared features in Service Portal?

You have to have 2 windows open. One must have Service portal opened and another one must have the platform.

  1. On platform under ‘Session debug’ select ‘Enable all’.
  2. Reload the current page you are on the portal or load any other portal page.
  3. Go back to the platform and in the filter navigator type any non existing table/UI page name and add .do in the end, for example, isthisreal.do, or if you just want to get done with it faster something like ‘asdf.do’.

That’s it. Because this ‘ isthisreal’ page does not exist, it loads debugger information of the last page that was loaded successfully, which is in our case, the Service Portal.

Apply effects of User Criteria without the need to log out and back in – ServiceNow

Have you ever had a need to apply the effects of user criteria immediately, after the user performed some actions? For example, he changed his location or his language, therefore he must see different items in the catalog or the knowledge base?

The out of the box way to apply User Criteria is tedious. First, the user needs to log out, which is something that everyone hates. The user has to go through multiple SSO white flashing screens or he has to re-enter his password. Overall, it might take up to 20 seconds till he can use ServiceNow again (for example, user has to open his KeePass to find his SNOW password).

Secondly, users want the effect to happen immediately. If you have changed your location from Norway to Sweden and you are still seeing only location specific requests for Norway employees, you might think it’s not working as expected. Everyone hates situations when they call Service Desk complaining something is not working and they are presented the same old question – ‘Have you tried logging out and in?’. There are no winners here.

Log out requirement is done for performance reasons: User Criteria is cached and is only build once, when the user has logged in.

There are some drawbacks in OOTB UC set up:

1) User needs to log out and back in which can take some time.

2) Complete user cache has to be rebuilt from 0. I would think this has quite some performance impact compared what I will suggest next.

Let’s say the criteria is based on user’s language and the user is using service portal. Let’s make sure he has no need to log out to see his language-based catalog items.

Now let’s create some Scripted user criteria records which would confirm the user criteria was applied immediately. Do this for Sweden and Norway. As in example:

Add the user criteria to some catalog items. Let’s say iPad’s can only be ordered if your language is Swedish, and iPhone’s if it’s Norwegian. Now let’s open the Service Portal:

You can see both criteria’s were evaluated and Sweden one was applied, however, when we change our language to Norway, this is not re-displayed and the criteria is not re-applied until we log out or clear server cache.

So how can we do it without logging out or clearing all server cache?

By clearing user’s private user criteria cache object whenever he changes his language.

If we use cache inspector tool (more on my previous article), we can locate the UC cache object name: criteria_cache.

To add it to the portal let’s modify the ‘User Profile’ Service Portal widget by cloning it and adding the copy to our page. Modify the server code whenever user language is changed to clear his UC cache with this code:

gs.cacheflush(“criteria_cache”);

That’s it! No more need to log out and back in. Effects are immediate once you go back to the catalog.

Does this kind of scripted user criteria have performance implications?

No, because there is another user object cached which holds all user profile specific information, including his language setting. Therefore, user criteria scripts are only looking for the value in the cache and not performing any database queries.

How to modify ServiceNow customer hidden UI Pages

Have you ever ran into a business requirement that you thought could not be done?

I’m talking about the cases when your answer was something between these lines: “We are the customers of NOW platform and we do not have access to the source code, there are limited things we can do and modify with SNOW”.

But how limited are you actually? How much is that related to the lack of knowledge?

I want to share the findings that allowed me to make a breakthrough as a SNOW developer to support integrations that are not supported officially by ServiceNow, like corporate mobile and other restricted applications related to security requirements.

So what can you do with the information below?

  1. Find undocumented system properties and use them
  2. Modify customer hidden UI pages – modify designers, fix role issues
  3. Fix compatibility issues for SNOW unsupported unique corporate applications

First you will need to modify one ACL rule. Elevate your role to security_admin, go to ACL’s menu, find the cache_inspect UI page read ACL rule and select the “admin overrides” checkmark and save it.

Now go to the cache_inspect page by typing cache_inspect.do in the filter navigator. You will be presented with the cache inspector (v2) tool.

Here you can browse through the Shared and Private cache. Shared cache is what is put to cache for use by all SNOW users. Private cache is something that is unique to the user’s cache. For example, his recently viewed UI pages, user criteria evaluations. If the user just logged in, his cache would not have as much information loaded as if he browsed through SNOW for an hour. This means that you will only see cached items here only If you visited it through the UI first.

Now select cache type: Private and locate “syscache_jelly_template” property. This contains all cached jelly templates (UI Pages).

Jelly is language used to connect java, javascript, HTML, CSS, angular,js code together and display the contents to the user. Every single page you open in SNOW is essentially a jelly page. Even if the service portal is mostly angular.js and HTML, the initial layer for the page is jelly. Without jelly SNOW does not work.

Jelly files have .xml extension, so you will see a list of xml files in your cache inspector and the name of the plugin it came with. Now, if you click on each of them you will find the source code for each of the page in the details tab.

Let’s take $sp page which is page for any service portal. It loads $sp.xml to figure out doctype compatibility, then loads the sp.xml to figure out which portal you want to go to and does the rest. Let’s do a short POC to show this actually works for this article’s sake.

In the filter navigator go to UI pages and create a new one. Name it exactly as it is named in the cache without the .xml: $sp.

Paste the source code and modify it :

First remove the first line: java.lang.String (1112):

Next we can see that when opening any portal it first checks your browsers doctype compatibility, if it is fine, then it starts loading service portal, otherwise it redirects you to /ess page.

So, let’s just try the POC and do the opposite, if the doctype is compatible, do not load the portal, but redirect to /ess page.

Now we save it and we go to /sp and there it is, you get redirected to /ess. From the transaction log this is what we see (view_content.do is the UI page for /ess):

So why does it work and what is actually happening?

Because every time you try to load any type of resource it always first try to look in the database, if the database cannot be found for the record then it looks into application node files, usually in the JAR files or other non-compressed XML files.

All we need to do is put this in the database!

By creating a UI page, naming it $sp, the same name as it is named in the JAR file – $sp.xml, it will always load the file from the database first if it exists there.

But this is not supported by SNOW and is a customization?

Exactly, that is the reason why we would want to do it – to support something we have to support in our unique corporate environment that ServiceNow does not support officially. This can be labelled as a customization as well and could become maintenance issue if not handled properly. But if you are customizing in the right way then there is no problem modifying customer hidden content.