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Peter

Peter

Recent Posts

Data Still Being Gathered from the Apollo 11 Lunar Mission

Fifty years after the Apollo 11 crew of Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin successfully landed the lunar module on the moon with the help from over 400,000 people around the world, experiments left on the surface by the crew are still helping collect valuable data for researchers back on earth. In addition to numerous photographs taken and equipment installed, a two-foot wide panel called the 'Lunar Ranging Retro Reflector' (LRRR) was placed on the surface about 100 feet from the lunar lander, and precisely angled back towards earth by Neil Armstrong. test Search for 'LRRR' to find the reflector location. (View 'Details' to see how this embedded app was made) The reflector consists of what are known as 'corner-cube' reflectors that always reflect light back towards the original source (instead of scattering the light in other directions like a mirror or other surface). This makes it possible for earth-based observatories, like the McDonald Observatory in Texas, to shoot high-powered lasers towards the Apollo 11 site and directly receive the returned signal for measuring precise distances between the two sensors. The distance measurements have been collected and used for decades for, among many things, precisely determining the moon's distance from earth to within a few centimeters, testing Einstein's theory of gravity, theory of relativity, and confirming Newton's gravitational constant. Business applications don't frequently rely on gravitational measurements, but many scenarios benefit from accurate environmental, weather, remote-sensing and GIS data, especially when managing data in the field. NASA's Data Portal is one of many growing, public data catalogs that are easily accessible for augmenting business data. The app embedded above relies on a single, simple table of images hosted by NASA, with locations plotted on a custom map layer (a map of the 'Tranquility Base'). To learn more about making your own custom maps, image galleries, and turning data into applications without writing any code, start building with AppSheet today.  

Feature Friday - Rearranging Workflow Steps & Automatic App Documentation

Rearranging Workflow Steps Workflows help automatically send notifications, change data & generate documents, as data throughout your app is added or changed. Some workflows are best created with multiple steps to ensure data is changed before files are generated or reports are delivered. To help organize these steps within a single workflow, app creators can now easily drag & drop each step to rearrange their order. To rearrange workflows with multiple steps, just look for the 'Rearrange' button in the upper-right section of the workflow, then drag each step to the appropriate order. Automatic App Documentation Every AppSheet app consists of a unique combination of data sources, table structures, customized interfaces, variable formatting, various types of actions & workflows (and much more). These attributes are contained within the app's 'app definition' that the app creator makes & maintains with the AppSheet Editor. An exportable summary of each app definition is now available to app creators as a quick reference of the composition of each app. Visit ‘Info’ > ‘Properties’ > ‘App Documentation’ to access the documentation page for each app.  

Digital Trends in the Mobile Workforce

Recent advances in cloud computing, mobile connectivity, and enterprise app development are making it easier than ever for companies to manage mobile workers. As such, the demand for a mobile workplace has never been greater. More specifically, it’s anticipated that 50% of the U.S. workforce will operate remotely by 2020. On a global scale, 70% of employees already work from home at least one day per week. Employees increasingly expect their employers to offer mobile flexibility—and companies are rightfully paying attention. According to Global Workplace Analytics, businesses can save as much as $11,000 per employee per year for each employee who works remotely on a full-time basis. At the same time, 77% of employees feel that they are more productive working from home than in the office. Managing a mobile workforce also comes with its own set of challenges challenges—such as maintaining data security and employee engagement, among others. However, companies that are doing it effectively are unlocking the full benefits of a mobile team. With that in mind, let’s take a look at today’s growing mobile workforce trends. Using software and apps to manage remote teams By digitizing and automating processes that were once paper-based—like employee time-card management, field service data collection, and productivity management—companies are not only saving lots of time and money, they’re also making it much easier for their teams to operate remotely. Harvesting this valuable data in the cloud also enhances data quality and accuracy, as human error is less likely to enter the mix when compared to keeping track of data by hand. Additionally, mobile workforce management (MWM) services help businesses manage teams that work outside of the office. Generally speaking, a MWM strategy assigns devices and software to specific employees, thereby enabling businesses to monitor activities like software deployment, procurement, and productivity management, among other things. SD-WAN infrastructure is playing a critical role in enterprise software performance Advances in software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) technology make it easier for companies to securely manage enterprise data, apps, software, and networks remotely. Traditionally, wide-area networks (WAN) were used to connect satellite offices to headquarters via Multi-protocol Label Switching (MPLS). MPLS is still being used in many networks, but SD-WAN is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative. By harnessing the power of private cloud or hybrid cloud infrastructure, SD-WAN—and mobile SD-WAN— enables businesses to bridge the gaps between data centers and branch offices over large geographic distances. This means that your business apps and software will operate faster, with less downtime, and with more security than ever before. And, thanks to its use of the cloud, SD-WAN lowers costs for most businesses, too. Expect to see more widespread adoption of the technology in the coming years, with the global market for SD-WAN predicted to reach $4.5 billion by 2022. Increased Focus on Security and Compliance As teams operate remotely, it’s important for management and IT to enforce strong mobile network security policies. Common sense strategies—such as requiring the use of strong passwords and biometric authentication—are helping keep accounts and devices secure as employees move from location to location. It’s also advised to conduct routine cyber security training to keep employees up to speed on the latest cyber security threats. On a more advanced level, security information and event management (SIEM) software enables business to remotely collect and aggregate security related incidents from their devices. SIEM also enables real-time monitoring of security threats from cyber attacks and data breaches. As data breaches become an increasingly common problem for organizations of all sizes, we expect SIEM adoption to continue to accelerate. Custom Apps Keep Mobile Workforces Connected As more and more companies adopt mobile workforces, they will need to use new tools and technologies to manage on-the-go employees effectively. While some of these tools can likely be found in out-of-the-box solutions, many companies are able to unlock additional productivity gains by using custom software designed to support their specific workflows. Instead of building these custom solutions from scratch or contracting an expensive agency to build one for them, leading organizations are increasingly turning to no-code development platforms that enable them to create their own custom apps without hiring expensive developers. Companies across nearly every industry—including real estate, construction, e-commerce and technology—are using AppSheet’s no-code platform to increase productivity and boost employee engagement across their mobile workforces. To learn more about how AppSheet can help you optimize your distributed workflows and streamline mobile worker management, check this out.

Feature Friday - Map Point Grouping, Performance Enhancements & Okta Integration

Map Pin Grouping & Formatting Map Views in AppSheet apps help visualize all sorts of lat/long or address locations for items like buildings, customers, inspection points, logged activities etc. Some scenarios call for mapping just a few locations, other times it makes sense to map thousands. When visualizing a large volume of plotted locations, app creators can now enable 'pin grouping' which consolidates densely clustered points into a 'grouped point' with a label showing the number of points in that group. Group sizes are determined by setting the 'Minimum Cluster Size' in each Map View. Format Rules can be applied to pin groups similarly to how they're applied to map points - simply create a rule that applies to the location value being displayed in a map (in this case, the 'lat/long' column value). The specified Format Rule color will be applied to the grouped pin, and the group quantity will display instead of any specified format rule icon. Map Performance Upgrades Grouping densely clustered points inherently improves the speed and load time of map views in apps because fewer points are required to load. Depending on the quantity of points displayed in the view and the 'Minimum Cluster Size' specified in the map view settings, the overall performance of existing app map views should improve dramatically. Besides the speed improvements associated with grouping points, other significant performance upgrades have been made to load and pan across a high volume of points in a single view more efficiently, whether or not grouping is applied. Okta Integration (Beta) Okta Authentication allows for user authentication for AppSheet apps. It is similar to using an OpenID provider but allows for Okta-specific features such as group controls to be used. For example, you may want to limit access to certain apps to the Sales Team and others to the Support Team. Using Okta as an authentication source allows this type of segmentation. To setup authentication, there are three steps: setting up an Okta application, configuring AppSheet to allow Okta, and let app users know they can use Okta to login.

Feature Friday - Adjustable Dashboards & Deck Grouping

A challenge all app creators face is balancing the right amount of information exposed to app users at any given point. Too much data & functionality in one place causes 'information overload', making it hard to focus on what's important and getting distracted by irrelevant content. On the other hand, making app users 'drill-down' through layers to find singularly relevant pieces of information can create just as much friction and result in important information being overlooked. A couple recent interface updates provide some more options for how to balance these priorities, and help ensure apps aren't just functional for users, but also more efficient.  Adjustable Dashboards Dashboards are useful for users accessing apps on devices with greater screen 'real estate', allowing the app to expose more relevant information & functionality in one place. The layouts are pre-determined by the app creator in the AppSheet Editor, but are now also adjustable by the app user within the app itself, allowing users to customize the content of dashboard views when viewing as a 'web app' in their browser. These customizations are remembered per user when they revisit the dashboard. Try customizing this dashboard. To create a dashboard view, first create a few independent view types, then create a 'Dashboard View' and select the other views to be consolidated within the dashboard. The example above consists of 7 separate views, combined into a dashboard that's opened as a browser web-app (5 pie chart views, a gallery view, and a detail view). Since the data in each view is related, enabling 'Interactive Mode' in the Dashboard view settings will allow dashboard content to change dynamically as data points are selected. Deck Grouping Similar to Table grouping, Deck views can now be grouped, making it easier to quickly organize a list (ideally one that has image thumbnails). This can be setup for each Deck view by modifying the ‘Group By’ and ‘Group Aggregate’ settings: By adding multiple group fields, it's easy to apply options for displaying group 'drill-downs' to help users focus on the type of record they need, but also making it easy to scan records similar to the one they're searching for.    

Feature Friday: Nested Views & Reset on Edit

Nested Views Within Deck Views, app creators have the option to select a layer of data to display as a secondary view. This 'nested view' provides a way to visualize lists of related data created by building references between tables.  The nested views can be other tables, decks, galleries or charts - for example, a quick snapshot of the live product inventory for each company displayed in a deck view: (This Inventory Management Sample App can be viewed & copied here) To enable a nested view, app creators can simply look for the 'Nested Table Column' field within the deck view to choose a 'related' list of items. Customize the UX of that related list by finding the corresponding 'inline' ref view that was automatically created when the relationship was created. Reset on Edit 'Reset on Edit' is a column setting that automatically clears the value of a particular field, any time that record is edited by a user, reducing the need to build separate workflows designed to change values. For example, a table in an app may contain 'Last Edited By' and 'Last Edited Date' columns, designed to track who was the last person to edit and when the edit occurred. In order to force those fields to be updated each time the record is updated, simply enable 'Reset on Edit' in each column definition. As an extra layer of automation, set the initial values of each column to 'USEREMAIL()' and 'TODAY()' in order to automatically pref-ill those fields with the user login email and today's date. Requiring recent comments from the app user is another useful scenario for 'Resent on Edit' - by making the column 'required' and also enabling 'Reset on Edit', the comments field will require an update from the user explaining the reason for a change.

Feature Friday: Scrolling Horizontally, Generating Files & Embedding Maps

  Horizontal Scrolling Tables Depending on your device screen size and number of columns you intend to display, your app Table Views may overflow off the right end of your view. To make sure your users can quickly reference data from larger tables (or on smaller devices), you can now scroll the table horizontally with a mouse or touchscreen.  To enable Horizontal Scrolling Tables, visit UX > Options > Table View. We recommend also enabling 'Column Headers' at the same time to more easily recognize the data from each column as you scroll.    Automatically Generating & Saving Files In addition to initiating notifications and PDF delivery from Workflows & Reports, app creators can now automatically schedule, generate & save new PDF, CSV, XML or JSON files from app data. These newly created files will be saved to your primary data source. Using filtered triggers (like new or updated data) or scheduled delivery at specific days/times, custom formatted files can be created and saved in the app data source. This makes storing and accessing historical analytics, reports, or data backups much easier than searching email inboxes.  To schedule or trigger new file creation, create a new Workflow or Report, and set your Action as 'Save File'. Embedded PDF Maps When creating workflows to generate custom emails, PDFs or other documents that include location values from your app, you can choose between including the text value (address / latlong) or a static, embedded map showing the location. By default, columns/expressions of type LatLong are shown as static maps with a pin, while columns/expressions of type Address are shown as text. By specifying a Format Rule (in the UX > Format Rules section of the app editor) app creators can control the size of static maps in workflow email content. In the format rule, choose the table, one or more columns, an optional condition, and the image size (Tiny, Small, Medium, Large, or Text).     

Feature Friday: Map Layers, PDF Archiving & Database Stores

Adding Map Layers Map views are be great for finding destinations, viewing territories, plotting locations & more. These maps rely on a data source table that contains latitude & longitude coordinates or addresses (that are geocoded with lat/long data). When building these views, there are a few ways to add extra layers to your map, including a new option of adding a 'read-only' KML layer. Additional Data Table Layer Apps with multiple tables connected with location data, enable 2 layers of plotted points in a single view by customizing the 'Data' section of your map view. XY Image Layer XY Map layers are great for apps designed to manage internal or small-scale spaces like offices buildings, construction sites, schools, or shopping malls. By replacing the base Google Map with a static image, users can view and plot points using XY coordinates associated with the embedded image, producing an interactive view. Learn More View Sample App NEW! - KML File Layer KML (Keyhole Markup Language) is a file format used to display geographic data, most commonly on platforms like Google Earth or Google Maps, that allows for embedding and displaying location points, borders and shapes with different styles. Learn More Some helpful resources for finding common, government boundary KML files include: U.S. Census Bureau DATA.GOV View Sample App PDF Archiving AppSheet Workflows allow for automatically sending customized emails, text messages, push notifications, as well as producing custom PDF attachments containing custom data fields. Previously, those PDF attachments were only available to be received via email, making it difficult to revisit those files over time.  Now, any generated PDF can be automatically saved to the app's data source (and also sent via email), allowing for easier storage and sharing options within the team.  Archive options include: Attach And Do Not Archive which attaches the PDF to the email but does not archive the PDF file. Attach And Archive which attaches the PDF to the email and archives the PDF file. Archive And Do Not Attach which archives the PDF file but does not attach the PDF file to the email. This option is useful if the PDF file is too large to include as an attachment. Instead, the email body can include the URL or Weblink to the archived PDF attachment. Learn More Data Stores Tables that use Image or File column types use cloud-based file storage to persist and retrieve this content.  By default, this file storage is co-located with the table data source (eg: with Google Drive or Office 365). In the case of database data sources, the default file storage location is the cloud file system used to create the app owner's account.  Now, AppSheet can be configured to store images or files directly to a data store, by first setting up a relational database data source and adding the database Object Store. From the Account -> Integrations -> Stores pane, choose Add and then choose "DB Content". This brings up a dialog where you can choose a database data source, a database table or view name, the label column name and the content column name. Learn More    

New UX View: Calendar View

  Introducing a new app UX view: the Calendar View provides your app users an intuitive way to view any events, project deadlines, reminders, daily routines, customer meetings & more. All that's required in your data table to build the view is a start date, end date, and ideally a start time and end time (along with some event details). Switch between daily, weekly and monthly layouts, across any device or screen size. With the automatically included 'add' action, creating new events is simple - and works with all the similar conditions used in other forms and views. To view an example of the new calendar view in action, reference the 'Local Events Calendar' sample app below (that also includes the new 'Quick Edit Table view').  

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