App Maker – Build engaging custom apps on G Suite with minimal coding

What is App Maker

App Maker provides a ‘low code’ way to create professional looking G Suite custom apps without having to try too hard. You can drag and drop widgets on a form canvas, bind data from a spreadsheet or a database to fields in your app, and create a user experience leveraging the best of Google’s material design approach. It introduces a new built-in datastore, and of course the capability to connect to external databases and APIS. It really is nicely put together, and it is fairly straightforward to create something really impressive.

Previous deprecated capabilities

We’ve seen capabilities such as the UIApp, the UIApp designer (I can’t remember now what that thing was called), and of course ScriptDB, all come and go in the Google Apps Script environment. Google made the right decision in deprecating these services which were not really up to scratch. However, this means that today, creating a nice looking App means you have to know not only Apps Script, but also be comfortable with HTML, CSS and JavaScript, as well as the concepts associated with synchronizing Client and Server activities , and perhaps maintaining an external database. All this is a big learning curve and barrier to entry for many – especially those coming from the Microsoft environment, and can be even more off putting  if all you want to do is collect a few pieces of user input.

Coding as a last resort

App Maker enables anyone to make beautiful apps with a consistent look and feel, without needing to know those things. Scripting is  of course available too, but it’s the last resort, rather than the first.

To be honest, I’ve never been a huge fan of ‘apps to design apps’ – think of the form designer in Excel, or the kind of apps that can be designed using Microsoft Access. They miss out the vital learning curve behind how your app was constructed and therefore how it can be modified or extended. My first impressions of App Maker are that although it is ‘low code’, you do build up an understanding of what’s going on, and the artefacts it creates are relatable to what’s being built. In this respect I really do think App Maker is a game changer for G Suite.

App Maker University

For more information on App Maker, see this post, and the documentation.

My fellow GDE,  +James Ferreira is running “App Maker University” to get you started – I recommend you take a look at some of his introductory videos for an overview.

 

Author: brucemcp

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