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Nancy Powaga
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 |  August 13, 2020

formulas-blogBuilding custom apps can really streamline business processes, but where do you begin if you don’t have a technical background? While coding traditionally requires years of education and expertise, you can immediately start building custom apps using a no-code development platform — even with zero coding skills.   

If you need to build customized apps for complex business processes, consider the flexibility and robust functionality of a declarative no-code development platform such as AppSheet, which uses formulas to tell apps what to do. In AppSheet, these are called app formulas and expressions. Using formulas and expressions may sound intimidating, but they’re actually intuitive to master.

In fact, if you can use a basic spreadsheet, you can use the AppSheet no-code platform. In fact, AppSheet expressions are a lot like the formulas you use in Google Sheets or Excel. For example, if you have an app for job managers that contains data for every job your team does, you can use a formula to filter the view to display a specific result such as “jobs not completed.” 

That’s just a basic example; with formulas, you can build powerful functionality within your apps. Consider that same data set of jobs and the information captured about due dates and status. With formulas, you can have your no-code app highlight overdue jobs, jobs that are incomplete, and all jobs that have a due date before today. You can even configure your app to have a custom view that marks overdue jobs in red or displays a list of only overdue jobs. Using formulas, you can also create a more user-friendly experience that displays your data dynamically and doesn’t require job managers to manually filter tables to get the type of reports they need.

Taking formulas to the next level, you can create actions. For example, for each overdue job, you can have your app create a new email that’s pre-populated with a message that job managers can easily edit before sending an update to their supervisors. You can also have your app record the fact that the email was sent and save that data to the job record. 

The most powerful use of formulas in no-code apps takes actions to the next level with automation. In the example above, sending out the email required the job manager to spend time customizing and clicking to send and record the email. If you want to reduce this type of manual task (especially ones that might be repetitive) further, you can automate your no-code apps. For example, each morning your app could send the job manager and their supervisor an alert with all newly overdue jobs. The AppSheet platform excels at this kind of workflow automation by managing a complex scenario that triggers an action, helping keep your work moving forward on time and on task.

Automated workflows are a powerful feature of declarative no-code development platforms. With declarative no-code apps, you can filter results, display custom views, create helpful actions, and create automated workflows that reduce manual tasks and opportunity for human error. 

Here are some tips and best practices to take into account as you build no-code apps:

  • You might already be familiar with expressions if you're a spreadsheet user. Learn a few new rules and you'll hit the ground running. 
  • Filter data using expressions in Security Filters or Slices to make sure your app users experience the best performance and only see data relevant to them.
  • Use expressions as 'Show If' conditions on views, actions and data fields throughout the app to ensure specific app features only appear when relevant to the user.
  • Take advantage of app user details to influence app functionality and make it relevant to the individual app user:
    • USEREMAIL() for detecting who is using the app
    • CONTEXT() for understanding what type of device they're opening it with
    • HERE() to use their location to present nearby entries
    • USERSETTINGS() to apply their custom settings to their app experience (localization)

For more ideas on how to create your app using formulas, check out our App Design 101 guide, which walks you through the different types of formulas you can use to build and make the most of your no-code business app. Ready to build? Start AppSheet today for free.

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Nancy Powaga

Nancy helps app creators build and learn with AppSheet.

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