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Feature Friday | Editor Refresh Q&A

  Welcome back to AppSheet’s Feature Friday where we showcase new and favorite features. This quick guide will help you build your apps faster so you can focus on what matters.  Editor UI Refresh Q&A with Carie Phon  Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. What is your current role at Google and what area of AppSheet are you currently working on?  I’m a UX/UI Product Designer. My main area of focus is improving the app creation experience for both new and existing app creators. At this very moment, however, I’m working on refreshing the App UI, the apps being created by app creators (more information to come!)  You've been working on refreshing an important part of the AppSheet experience. Can you tell us what that is?  Now that we’re a part of Google Cloud, there has been a huge effort across AppSheet to integrate. The Google UI refresh was no exception. To ensure an integrated experience without breaking existing functionality, we adopted Google’s Material design standards into the product. The refresh introduces accessible colors and contrast, recognizable Material UI patterns, visual hierarchy, and minor usability improvements to the Editor.  You worked closely with our Creator Community on this project, can you explain what that relationship is like?  The Creator Community was instrumental in how quickly we were able to deliver the refreshed UI to the public. From day one, I was thrilled at the number of people who volunteered to beta-test the product. The Editor refresh was a substantial change, so the fact that so many people readily opted into the new interface was incredible. Thanks to the beta-testing group, we got a lot of great, honest feedback and were able to correct a number of issues right before launch. If it wasn’t for these dedicated testers, I don’t think we would have felt as confident about rolling out to the public as soon as we did.  Was there a challenge you didn’t anticipate that ending up turning into something you really enjoyed?  At first, the Editor was intimidating. App creators use the Editor on a daily basis, it was a real challenge to incorporate Google design patterns into such an intricate interface using only CSS updates. However, what was intimidating at first quickly became a fun collaboration between cross-functional teams. Together, we were able to make AppSheet look and feel like a Google Cloud product and improve usability without any major functionality changes. It looks so different and yet it’s still the same AppSheet under the hood! What was your favorite part of the refresh experience?  It’s hard to pick just one part, I’ve learned so much from this experience, but one moment that really stood out to me was the first time I saw an AppSheet demo using the new UI. That made me really happy to see someone making an app, end-to-end, using the designs I created.  Any final thoughts you’d like to share?  This was a collaborative effort, a special shout out to the entire team who made this all possible: Nico, Seth, Maria, Arthur, Mike, Chris H, Josh, Morgan, Peter, Jeff, Christina, Lilia, Dallas, Devin, Chris B, Praveen, and Theirry. The refresh is but one of many improvements to come, stay tuned for more updates to the app creation experience!   Thank you again to Carie from our incredible engineering team for your contributions to this week's post. Be sure to follow along in the AppSheet Creator Community for additional updates and get started building your next app today.   

Event coordinator helps track mountain bike racers during COVID-19 with Google Cloud's AppSheet

An avid cyclist and mountain biker who studied industrial engineering, Hennie Scheepers found his dream job as Information Systems Manager at Faces Advendurance. The South African company organizes a wide range of adventure endurance sporting events including cycling, mountain biking, obstacle course racing, and trail running. The Nissan Trailseeker Series is one such event, known for its outstanding trails, scenic locations, family-friendly experience, and competitive field. Held in the outskirts of the capital city Pretoria, the race is open to both novice and professional mountain bikers and runners of all ages. For months, Hennie prepared for this highly anticipated event, which took place on September 4–6, 2020.  Since 2017, Hennie had been using Google Sheets to manage the Faces Advendurance registration process.  “An events company’s biggest asset is its database,” he explains. He says it became costly and time consuming to outsource registration to a third-party vendor. So Faces Advendurance took the function in-house.  “I built our registration system onto Google Sheets, which I liked very much, so we could do registration on our own,” he says. The solution worked, though he had to teach numerous volunteers, including many students, how to use the system on race mornings. Sometimes, mistakes were made. He knew he had to find an easier way to track race participants and update data on the fly.  Then, COVID-19 made everything even more challenging. The challenge: Rethinking race registration Hennie admits he’s not a programmer, though he enjoys keeping up with technology trends. As an info systems manager, it’s his job to find software and apps that keep his company’s services up and running smoothly. Bringing the digital and physical worlds together can be a logistical challenge, especially for events in remote locations.  When the coronavirus pandemic put new restrictions on sporting events — including how many participants could enter a race course at one time — Hennie started brainstorming easier ways to manage registration and participant activity. He needed to find something that could quickly and accurately pull in database records; track participants’ start, checkpoint, and finish times; and be easy for multiple event volunteers to update data in the field from their mobile phones.       “We started printing QR codes on timing boards in January 2019, but could never find a way to efficiently scan the codes and submit the number to a database,” he explains. “When we went into lockdown, I was searching for QR code scanner apps, and somehow, I stumbled across AppSheet's no-code development platform. At the time, I didn’t even know no-code existed. I liked that AppSheet could pull in data from Google Sheets. I’m such a nerd, I stayed up in bed at night watching AppSheet YouTube tutorials to learn what it could do. I thought, ‘I can do this. Let’s give it a try.’” Choosing AppSheet: Making course corrections “The Nissan Trailseeker is the biggest mountain bike series in the world, with six events per year attracting 3,000 riders per event,” Hennie explains. Some events, such as the Pretoria mountain bike race in September, span three days and conclude with a trial run attracting between 400 and 1,000 runners per event. That’s a lot of mountain bikers and runners, trail courses of varying distances, and time slots to manage and track.  “Now, our COVID regulation stipulates that we’re only allowed 300 people at an event,” Hennie continues, “and we must start them in batches of less than 50.” To foster social distancing and limit the number of people on the course, they broke the big race down into six smaller events, totaling 1,800 participants to register and time. Google Cloud's AppSheet enabled Hennie to build a quick-and-easy app that imports data into Google Sheets from race participants who have pre-registered online through their entry platform. He then installed his custom app onto 20 race phones and distributed them to students and other volunteers. Volunteers can use the app to register new participants as they arrive at the event, assign them race numbers, and plug them into available time slots. Faces Advendurance uses an RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) timing system, where race participants get a tag with a tracking code that is automatically scanned by RFID readers as participants cross the finish line. Participants’ results automatically update in Google Sheets and are then made available in the app in real time for race organizers. When mountain bikers and runners cross the finish line, the RFID system enters their race number and a timestamp is added to Google Sheets and Hennie’s AppSheet app. “I built the app in such a way that anyone can register at any time,” Hennie says. “I know when they start, I know which batch they start in – and compared to what we were doing before, no one can make a mistake now. So I can literally give the phone to a student and show them in one minute what to do.”  The app has also improved handling of event logistics. “In the past, everything had to be done on laptops,” Hennie says. “The challenge with that is we have to set up tables with generators and electricity and WiFi. When there are 3,000 people on the venue the [cellular] tower struggles to handle it. When I read that AppSheet-powered apps can go offline, it was a colossal plus. So I bought phones with dual SIM cards and two providers. Now, there’s no problem at all if there’s no connectivity.” Hennie’s new AppSheet race registration app was put to the test at the September 2020 event.  “It could hardly have gone better!” he says. “We received so many compliments from participants about the new registration system.” Thanks to the app, the company created a much faster registration process, a neater registration area (“no laptops, cables, or power supply units!”), improved timing accuracy, and offered greater convenience for racers in the field (no need to return to the registration table to make changes). Limited Internet access did not slow things down. Hennie also combined COVID-19 screening into the app’s registration process, cutting out an extra step.  And when the timing scanners hiccuped at the mountain biking finish line, Hennie “quickly built a backup timing solution in AppSheet, enabling our staff to scan each finisher's race number using the QR code we printed in the number board.” The app has also enabled event organizers to more quickly handle race participant queries after the event. The results: Getting out in front of the race With Hennie’s custom-built Google Cloud's AppSheet app, he and Faces Advendurance can now focus on running sporting events — often in remote areas — and on timing race participants, without worrying about connectivity issues and other technical difficulties.  “The results are fed directly from Google Sheets to WordPress,” Hennie says. “So when someone crosses the finish line, their result is posted online immediately. Our admin staff is incredibly impressed by this new functionality. It made their lives much easier. They are able to provide quicker and more accurate service to our participants.”  Hennie says the sky’s the limit with Google Cloud's AppSheet. He’s now experimenting with breaking down different types of relational databases into subsets (e.g., batches of participants, course lengths) and specific disciplines (mountain biking, trail running, and road racing), for even more precise event management and better customer service for participants. He’s even built a COVID-19 compliance app for his children’s school to allow administrators to take students’ temperatures and enter them into a Google Data Studio dashboard.  “In our world, this is a game changer,” Hennie says. “No one in South Africa is doing it this way because there are too many variations for a standard [off-the-shelf] app. Now I’m building an AppSheet-powered app for our obstacle races. Our two biggest events are a cycling event (Ride Joburg) of 20,000 cyclists and a running event (Cape Town Marathon) with 25,000 runners. And both of those have registration challenges. I think our apps are going to answer all of that.” Ready to become an app creator like Hennie? Start building for free on AppSheet today.

We Love App Creators

Millions of people use no-code development platforms like Google Cloud's AppSheet to build custom business applications that help improve processes in the workplace. To get a better understanding of no-code app creators, their goals, and their motivations, we recently partnered with TechValidate to collect more than a thousand responses from AppSheet app creators. What we discovered is a diverse set of app creators, with even more diverse goals and motivations, who have all embraced no-code app development as a way to optimize business workflows. Now, let’s take a look at the data. Let's start with technical ability. While 35% report having beginner’s knowledge of traditional coding skills like Java, Python, or C#, 39% reported having no traditional coding knowledge at all. This means that roughly 74% have little to no traditional coding skills when they start using AppSheet. This statistic helps provide insight into the results of next question. We asked app creators why they chose a no-code platform over a low-code platform. For context, no-code and low-code platforms represent different approaches aimed at different users. Low-code platforms involve coding and are intended for traditional developers to provide them with a faster development environment. No-code platforms require no coding (hence the name) and expand the definition of who can be a developer. No-code empowers anyone — even those without technical ability — to build apps. It’s no surprise then that our app creators, most of whom have little or no coding skills, chose no-code app development over low-code app development. Respondents said that no-code development is easier (57%) and more flexible (36%) than low-code development, affording problem-solving technology skills to anyone in an organization regardless of coding knowledge or ability.  And where do people use their no-code apps? The vast majority of people we surveyed use no-code app development on the job, either to build apps for their teams (47%), for other people or businesses (43%), or for their own business (38%), though a smaller number (24%) do use AppSheet as a hobby or at school (5%). Our survey found that 80% reported that they started using no-code development for “general business needs,” and a smaller percentage (14%) began to fill an educational or non-profit need. Regardless of where people use no-code application development, they’ve chosen to do so for a variety of reasons. Speed is the most common response, as 32% of respondents report the quick time to develop an app as the “best thing about no-code app development.” Other reasons people use no-code app development are flexibility (17%), the low barrier to get started (17%), ease of use (15%), low cost (7%), and the creativity afforded by the platform (8%). Saving time and money are top benefits for app creators: 82% say that no-code development saves them time, and 60% say that no-code development saves their organization money.  “The future is no-code app development,” says one app creator who works as a project manager at an independent retail business. “Creating an app from a simple spreadsheet opens up endless possibilities in making business processes seamless.”  We love app creators for their ingenuity, resourcefulness, and creativity. That's why this September and October, we'll be running spotlights of AppSheet app creators on our blog to showcase the various use cases for the no-code platform. App creators span the globe and work in various fields. However, they always have a few things in common: they want to jump-start digital transformations in their workplaces and bridge the physical and digital worlds. Read our first app creator spotlight on Hennie Scheepers, who uses AppSheet to build apps for his company, Faces Advendurance.  Ready to become an app creator yourself? Start building on Google Cloud's AppSheet today:

We Are Still All In This Together

Google Cloud AppSheet extends COVID-19 support to December 31, 2020 With disruptions related to COVID-19 still rippling across the globe, enterprises need to reimagine how business gets done. No-code development is emerging as an important tool in many organizations’ efforts to become more resilient, helping them extend the ability to create much-needed line-of-business apps and to optimize business workflows outside of traditional IT.  By enabling those closest to challenges to build apps or workflows without programming, no-code platforms can free up IT to work on more sophisticated strategic initiatives while also eliminating the backlog of line-of-business apps in IT’s queue. With more people able to harness a company’s valuable data for new uses, no-code platforms help accelerate the development of new apps while still maintaining administrators’ control over how and by whom data is accessed and used.  Earlier this year, Google Cloud offered AppSheet, our no-code platform, at no cost for any use cases related to COVID-19, and we’ve been inspired by the thousands of apps that have since been built and are in active use. The AppSheet team collaborated with app creators to create a multilingual app, for example, that supports more than 100 languages and can serve as a baseline for creators around the world.  Having heard from our customers and the market that no-code solutions are a pressing need, we are extending the COVID-19 promotion through the end of the year. These are uncertain times and like so many others, we are grateful to be in a position to help. There are, of course, countless other examples of how app creators have leveraged AppSheet’s no-code platform to respond to the pandemic, and while we cannot cover them all, here are two that illustrate the innovative ways in which app creators have risen to the tasks at hand. Tracking and managing critical medical equipment Under the guidance of USMEDIC, a provider of comprehensive equipment maintenance solutions to healthcare and medical research communities, AppSheet, along with other companies collaborated to build and deploy a  medical equipment tracking and management solution that would support healthcare organizations in their COVID-19 response. During the course of its work with various healthcare organizations, USMEDIC realized that hospital staff were often spending many hours a day trying to locate vital medical equipment which was often redistributed due to surging patient volumes. Traditional tracking options, while available, took months to develop and were expensive to implement. The challenge? Building an alternative solution that could be launched in days, without system integration or the need to purchase expensive equipment. Thus began a cross-functional collaboration and within two months, this team built a solution that can be used by hospitals that have not already implemented a comprehensive equipment management system or to augment existing ones. An app built on the AppSheet platform is what hospital personnel would use to manage and track emergency assets and we all hope that this solution will provide relief for hospitals struggling to locate much needed equipment Supporting needy individuals in the form of digital aid During the COVID-19 pandemic, South Africa has been in some form of lockdown now for some 137 days, preventing people from working and earning an income for basic necessities. It is estimated that 47% of households ran out of money to buy food in April coupled with a rising  fear that the traditional method of delivering food parcels would be overwhelmed. Enter the Mthunzi Network, a not-for-profit organization that delivers much needed assistance in the form of digital food vouchers directly to those most impacted populations: assisting mothers of young children, the homeless, refugees, and those not receiving support from the South African government. To manage this effort, Mthunzi built a simple, easy-to-use AppSheet-powered app that automated the beneficiary registration and digital aid redemption process. Development organizations in local communities would register individual households in need of support through the app and specify the type of aid needed — food vouchers redeemable at beneficiary selected corner shops or retailers. Mthunzi would then send those digital food vouchers to the registered beneficiaries and using the app, the development organizations would support beneficiaries with the redemption of the aid. To date, Mthunzi has helped over 25,000 beneficiaries with digital aid and expects to see this number grow to 60,000+ within the next three weeks. Lifting up app creators It is safe to say that every one of us across the global community has experienced a roller coaster of emotions as we come to terms with everything that has changed. But I hope that you, like me, are able to also see the helping hands that are doing their best to lift us up. We are so very proud and grateful for the help that our AppSheet creators have provided and we look forward to continuing to support them.

8 No-Code Sample Apps to Reduce Workplace Risk During COVID-19

Up until a few months ago, it was normal for workers to gather in conference rooms, around the water cooler, or on a job site, or to have impromptu chats in the hallways of an office building. This kind of real-time in-person connection helped make workplace communication and collaboration fluid and happenstance in a positive way.  Fast forward to today and the working world is pretty unrecognizable from that time. Nearly every aspect of the workforce has been transformed — in many cases, overnight. Conference rooms have been replaced with video conferencing software, businesses that relied on paper for record keeping have had to quickly transition to storing and sharing their documents online, and office chit chat now takes place over group texts. Long story short: businesses are relying on cloud services more than ever to adapt to the ever-changing landscape caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Cloud computing software has not only enabled work to continue, it’s also helped front-line workers stay connected (while keeping physically distant) and reduce potential risk factors in an increasingly harsh environment. And with so much changing on a weekly (or sometimes daily) basis, businesses are increasingly turning to no-code development platforms like Google Cloud AppSheet in order to quickly build and launch apps that are not only critical to keeping businesses running, but also keeping everyone safe. No-code app development allows anyone to build custom apps, even with zero coding experience. With no-code, workers on the ground who understand the day-to-day business needs, customer needs, and problems best are empowered to build solutions themselves. So businesses have naturally been turning to platforms like Google Cloud AppSheet during this Covid-19 pandemic to quickly develop and launch apps that improve communication across remote workers and allow teams to scale their processes safely. By empowering the entire workforce to build the solutions they need to get things done, businesses are able to bypass the hurdles of waiting on engineering or IT resources and the one-size-fits-all approach to purchasing and deploying off-the-shelf apps that often don’t fully meet workers’ needs. Here are several no-code workplace apps (also built with Google Cloud AppSheet) that you can copy and customize to address specific health and safety concerns during the pandemic. Building Inspections This sample no-code app makes tracking building inspections and safety measures simple. Using data from a Google Sheet, you can track, monitor, and take action to make sure your building is up to code and that you’re keeping up with all the latest recommendations and requirements for Coronavirus safety and prevention measures. Safety Reporting When it comes to safe working conditions, every team member has a responsibility to keep a watchful eye. With this sample no-code app, people working in construction or any workplace can report and track issues and accidents.Workers enter their job site and submit a report that includes a priority level, detailed description, and relevant photos. The site lead can then review new issues and track open tickets. Finally, the safety board dashboard allows select users to create maintenance tickets with priorities and deadlines. Building Management Because of Covid-19, some businesses are having to rethink their office spaces and building use to keep workers safe. This sample no-code app helps with building management. You can plot your floor plan, organize and maintain your office furniture supplies and costs, and so much more. As you think about returning to the office or factory floor, you can use an app like this to reorganize workspaces for social distancing and prepare for safe office re-openings. Approved Disinfectants Keeping workplaces fully stocked with necessary cleaning supplies can reduce the risk of virus spread and help your team maintain a healthy work environment. Using data from a Google Sheet, this sample no-code app provides a list of all the disinfectant products that meet the EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and lets you order them directly from the app. Surface Sanitation Having the right supplies is the first step, but making sure you clean and sanitize surfaces regularly is key to guarding against Covid-19. This sample no-code app makes it simple to manage a checklist of surfaces that need to be cleaned on a regular basis. The default frequency cleaning alert is set for every 24 hours, but you can easily update that timing. Users are notified when it’s time to get scrubbing. And here's a list of sample no-code apps built with Google Cloud AppSheet that you can copy and customize to assist with personnel, workplace, and health needs during Covid-19: Community Support During times of crises, our friends, neighbors, and coworkers can become trusted networks that help us get through challenging times and increase recovery efforts. This no-code app built using Google Cloud AppSheet allows community organizers to easily track, manage, and fulfill safety requests from people in their nearby areas by pulling data from Google Sheets. The app makes it easy for members within a community to make requests and helps organizers fulfill those needs. Team Alerts Staying informed and keeping information flowing in real-time is fundamental to remote work situations. The ability to alert your team to relevant news and updates is essential. With this sample no-code app, team leads can create groups, send alerts to their groups via push notifications and emails, and easily share helpful resources. Out of Office Ensuring coverage when colleagues are out of office is critical to maintaining efficiency and preventing gaps in work streams. Whether workers are out of the office due to a family emergency or a planned vacation, this sample no-code app makes it easy for employees to share when they’ll be unavailable by logging in and entering their out-of-office days. Anyone with the app can easily see everyone’s logged days in a calendar or table view. If you’re inspired to build your own no-code apps, use the apps above as a starting point. Just copy the apps and customize them to your business needs with AppSheet, using our support guide as a reference. And always be sure to consult the official CDC guidelines for office buildings and workplace safety, to ensure your measures meet the highest health standards possible. Ready to build apps from your own data sources? Try Google Cloud AppSheet today:

Feature Friday | August Recap

Welcome back to AppSheet’s Feature Friday where we showcase both new and favorite features. This quick guide will help you build your apps faster so you can focus on what matters.  August: Month in review  Here in the US the days are becoming shorter, nights a little cooler and as quickly as it began, August is coming to a close. During the month, our team has released new features, provided bug fixes, and began the process to migrate our infrastructure. Below is a recap of some of the key features and areas of focus we’ve been working on behind the scenes:  Apigee + AppSheet connector (in beta) We provided a demo and Q&A session in a recent Office hours webinar.   Deref updates including:  Table-column expressions where the column is a Ref now produces List of Ref List dereferences where the remote column is a Ref now produces List of Ref Column value expressions where the column is a Ref Deref expressions where the remote column is a Ref   Card view Support for price and percent formatting Scroll to the top of the onboarding view when switching from one page to the next.  Import CSV while taking into account UserSettings.  Show_If format rules respected when using the card view.  Finally, we would love to ensure your voice is heard during our UI refresh. If you’re interested in participating as a tester, please opt-in by responding to this post in our Creator Community.   Looking for more real-time feature release updates? Following along with our feature release notes in the AppSheet community and let us know!

IT’s New Machine Learning Strategy

At its core, technology exists to make certain tasks faster, cheaper, and easier to perform, all while delivering better results. Machine Learning (ML) is no different; the task it optimizes is identifying improvements and solving problems. From Netflix to Salesforce to Twitter, many of the world’s largest and most valuable companies are investing heavily in ML, betting on its value with their bottom lines. In fact, analysts expect corporations to commit $12.3 billion to machine learning by 2026, up nearly 5x from the $2.5 billion spent in 2017. But what about everyone else – all those companies that don’t have billions of dollars to commit to hiring ML engineers, developing proprietary AI, and building their own ML programs? How can we democratize ML so that even the smallest and most ambitious companies can get into the game and start using ML to improve how they do business? That’s where Machine Learning as a Service (MLaaS) comes in. Offering ready-made tools that can be easily adopted and fitted to various business needs, MLaaS removes many of the barriers that previously prevented smaller companies and their teams from tapping into the power of ML, including time, budget, and – most importantly – the ability to code. No-Code MLaaS democratizes the power of machine learning  No-code platforms like AppSheet are the backbone of MLaaS, and for good reason. With a no-code platform, anyone — regardless of their technological prowess or experience — can build robust applications that are driven by ML algorithms to solve problems, increase productivity, and deliver a healthier bottom line. These no-code development platforms extend the power of software development beyond the IT department to empower non-technical employees like business leads, employees who run on-the-ground processes, and subject matter experts to create customized business applications without writing code.  Equipped with no-code development platforms, “citizen developers” play pivotal roles in building apps that help move their teams and companies forward. Empowering non-technical workers to build their own solutions also frees up IT to focus on key strategic objectives, and helps eliminate the knowledge gap so that the workers closest to the problems are equipped to solve them directly, no matter their level of technical experience. 4 steps to unlocking your MLaaS strategy With the democratizing power of MLaaS and a no-code platform like AppSheet, you can embark on a new IT strategy that future-proofs your organization’s tech stack from the ground up and delivers continuous optimizations to every facet of your operations. Here are four key tips for unlocking IT’s new MLaaS strategy: Plan No-code MLaaS can optimize mission-critical processes across your entire organization. That’s a powerful prospect. The technology gives business leaders the insights and ability they need to revamp old tech stacks and future-proof companies from the ground up without re-starting at square one. No-code platforms make it easy for all employees to create custom applications that enable app creators and app users to tap directly into data sources. For example, data resting in a spreadsheet or database can be surfaced for strategic trends and predictive insights that can help shape that department’s strategy.  This direct connection between the data and the non-technical workforce enables citizen developers to transform the way work gets done, fully automating tasks and eliminating process gaps. But no-code doesn’t leave IT in the dark. Quite the contrary. The IT department establishes and maintains the governance guardrails for app building organization-wide. Without any coding experience, employees can create apps that not only extend the life and value of your legacy systems, but also bridge the gap between them, making it easier to connect  older systems with newer technologies so your organization can plan for the future and be prepared for whatever’s next. Invest A decision to use a no-code platform is an investment in your organization and IT department. MLaaS eliminates the pressure of developing ML systems and constantly creating and testing new business apps through the IT team’s workflow, relieving the strain on over-stretched developers. This frees up time for IT to focus on what they do best: Keeping critical processes and strategic initiatives humming at maximum efficiency. With MLaaS, the role of planning and execution moves from the IT and development teams to the people across your organization who know your company’s challenges best – from sales and marketing to HR and operations – all while supporting technical innovation and organizational growth. Evangelize The next step in any MLaaS strategy is to identify early adopters in your organization and get them on board. Who will see the most benefits from creating no-code apps? And how can you sell them on this solution? The key here is to help them understand the game-changing value of solving problems at an unprecedented scale by thinking creatively and building their own solutions. No-code MLaaS puts the control back in the hands of your employees, harnessing untapped problem-solving potential. Everyone across your company can perform better when they feel that leadership empowers them to make decisions and equips them with the tools they need to succeed. That’s exactly what we mean when we talk about the democratizing power of MLaaS. Iterate ML apps get smarter the more they’re used; that’s why it’s called Machine Learning. And the people who create these apps do, too. Perhaps the most important step in any MLaaS strategy is iteration. ML doesn’t just help your business run better; it continuously surfaces insights about your operations that you may never have even considered. As a result, app creators learn what’s possible and iterate more quickly using MLaaS. That means that your digital transformation isn’t a one-time event; it is a constant, ongoing process of improvement and optimization every single day so that your apps (and the people who create them) will perform even better tomorrow than they did yesterday.

Feature Friday: No-code vs low-code

Welcome back to AppSheet’s Feature Friday where we showcase both new and favorite features. This quick guide will help you build your apps faster so you can focus on what matters.    No-code vs low-code A common mistake is the grouping of no-code and low-code platforms as one in the same when in fact they are quite different. These differences vary greatly from audience type - no-code empowers citizen developers while low-code still requires technical capabilities- to how an application can be shared. In today’s edition of Feature Friday, we wanted to touch on three key differences in the feature offerings.   Data vs code No-code platforms use a data-driven approach to build applications. Simply connect your data source and you have the foundational component to build an application. There are of course helpful tricks that will help set you up for better success as an app creator when it comes to your data. Data design is an important one - the better your data design at the outset, the better you can reach your design goals for your application.  AppSheet takes data-driven app building one step further by baking in AI and ML capabilities that analyze your data and provide smart suggestions based on your data inputs. Have a date column in your spreadsheet? A calendar suggestion will appear. Are you using a series of actions in your behaviors section? A handful of workflow suggestions may be listed for you to select from.  Low-code applications on the other hand still require the use of code to build applications. Calendar views and the implementation of workflows are done so with the use of code. If you are a skilled developer, this process may be preferred simply because you prefer the use of code, but for those wanting to quickly build an application for scheduling employees, learning a new language on top of keeping your team running can be a barrier of entry.  Data driven UX vs custom CSS We just discussed the difference between data-driven development and code, but let’s drill down a bit more into one of the most important aspects of application creation- the end user experience.  Remember the calendar suggestion? That comes from what’s called a UX view type. View types are the way in which your data is displayed in your application. Much of this is dependent on the type of data captured in columns, also known as a column (data) type. If you’re working with addresses, your AppSheet editor may suggest adding a Map view type to interact with Google Maps within your application. Remember, this is all possible without writing a linie of code.  View types aside, making the app look and feel like your own is often what’s most important. For those with experience coding, low-code platforms may provide the upper hand as you can write custom CSS for your applications. To compliment the coding capabilities of low-code platforms, however, AppSheet has been expanding their branding offerings to include options such as a color picker and logo placement.  Expressions vs logic The last category to touch on is related to how one expresses facts and rules within their applications. This area can become rather complex rather quickly, so we’re going to keep it as simple as possible.  No-code platforms do not contain any code. There’s no code editors, no script to access, just data. That being said, there is a way to customize the look, the behavior, and more within your application based on certain rules. In AppSheet this is performed with expressions. In low-code, these facts and rules are created with logic. If you are a professional developer, logic (and therefore low-code) may be the preferred route to go. For those unfamiliar with logic programming, AppSheet’s expressions are going to be a great place to get started.    The above three categories are by no means exhaustive, but they are a great place to begin to understand what sets the two types of technology apart. If you want to learn more about no-code app development, start your free trial below and read Business Uncoded: An Introduction to No-Code App Development.  How will you use these new features in what you’re creating? Stop by the AppSheet community and let us know!  

Feature Friday | Deref Q&A

    Welcome back to AppSheet’s Feature Friday where we showcase new and favorite features. This quick guide will help you build your apps faster so you can focus on what matters.  Reference changes in expressions  In no-code, expressions are one way to enrich the performance and end user experience of your applications. The proper expression can display different information for different users, perform advanced actions or perform calculations based on data points. Our recent Office Hours covered some of the fundamentals of working with expressions, but we wanted to dive a little deeper into a particular area of the expression family with the engineer who built it,  Read my chat with Natalie, a software engineer who's showing some major love to our expression offerings.   Jennifer: Recently you’ve been working on a rather large project related to derefs. Before we dive too deep into the details, can you explain what a “Ref” is and how it differs from a “deref”  Natalie: A "Ref" (short for "reference") is a possible type for a data column. If a column is a Ref, that means that it holds a key to a row in another table. Refs are essential for connecting tables with related information. For example, we could have tables for Rooms and Buildings, where a Building has many Rooms. If we wanted a Room to record which Building it is in, the Room would have a Ref column to hold the key of a row in Buildings. A "deref" (short for "dereference") is an expression you can use with Refs. It allows you to access columns of a row in another table. Let's say the Buildings table has another column called "Address". If a row in the Rooms table wanted to compute the Address value, and it had a Ref column called "RefToBuilding", we can use the deref expression "[RefToBuilding].[Address]". Pretty cool, right? Jennifer: Very cool! There's already a lot of value in the refs we provide, why did we make the decision to invest in this engineering area? What benefit does it provide Creators or their end users?  Natalie: Before, it was hard to create Refs, since the AppSheet server often wouldn't produce Refs as the output type of an expression. By removing this barrier, it is easier for app Creators to do more with their data through derefs or other expressions that use Refs. Refs are also useful for the end user, who can use Refs to open or edit the referenced row without having to do anything with the raw key value. Jennifer: What changes will app Creators see?  Natalie: The main changes focus on more expressions producing Ref as the output type. This is currently in rollout, but all users should see this change by the end of this month. These include: Column value expressions where the column is a Ref Deref expressions where the remote column is a Ref Table-column expressions where the column is a Ref now produces List of Ref List dereferences where the remote column is a Ref now produces List of Ref To prevent breaking existing apps, I added the ability for expressions that expect a certain type to automatically convert Refs to the expected type. I also expanded derefs to work with Enums of base type Ref and list dereferences to work with EnumLists of base type Ref. Jennifer: With so many changes, do you have a personal favorite or change that you find really helpful?  Natalie: My favorite is the change for Ref column value expressions to produce Ref. It's an issue that is personal to me, since the previous behavior kinda bamboozled me when I was a first-time user. So, driving the change felt like a personal milestone! Jennifer: That's amazing! Before we close out our conversation, are there any closing thoughts you'd like to share?  Natalie: Just feeling proud to be part of a supportive team and tackling a fun and challenging problem. :) Thank you again to Natalie from our incredible engineering team for your contributions to this week's post. Be sure to follow along in the AppSheet Creator Community for additional updates and get started building your next app today.   

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