Google Cloud AppSheet: a code -free platform and extras

Google Cloud’s no-code generation service, AppSheet, offers to add functionality using spreadsheet formulas and expressions. It can also train and apply predictive machine learning models and OCR models.

Google Cloud AppSheet is a code-free application development platform. Its web -based design environment runs on Google Cloud, and it builds apps for the web (mobile or desktop browser), iOS (11+), and Android (5+). Although advertised as code-free, AppSheet supports spreadsheet formulas, expression filters, and robots defined using expressions and charts, giving it many spreadsheet makers functionality. low-code apps.

AppSheet aims to automate business processes such as order approvals and user notifications, and automatically generate actions and views based on user intent using Google Cloud AI and ML. The user can use AppSheet to build an application for use on desktop, mobile and tablet. It also offers the ability to connect to various data sources, as well as add data such as GPS locations, photos, drawings, barcode scanning and character recognition from devices. end users.

Bring IT and business together

Google doesn’t say “citizen developers” can build apps in a vacuum. Instead, the company said IT developers and citizens can collaborate effectively through corporate governance and policy capabilities. They also consider the integration of AppSheet and Google Workspace tools as a time saver. Like most app builders with no code and low code, citizen developers use AppSheet because it’s easy, and professional developers use it because they can build apps quickly. .

Most of the design work for AppSheet is done at the data design stage. Of course, it helps to know what the user is trying to do and why. The AppSheet process for inferring the goal from the data structure is pretty efficient. The app supports a lot of data and service integration, including some non -traditional data sources such as the Google Drive folder that is treated as a table. Power Apps, which are more mature, boast of having more integration than AppSheet. In addition to Microsoft Power Apps, Google Cloud AppSheet competes with Amazon Honeycode and approximately 400 other low-code or no-code app makers.

Making an AppSheet app

Google breaks down the process of building an AppSheet app into eight steps:

– Prepare your data;

– Connect its data to the AppSheet;

– Become familiar with the AppSheet editor;

– Specify how to use its connected data;

– Create views and customize the look and feel;

– Create custom buttons, actions and automation;

– Test, share and deploy its application to users;

– Improve its application and get feedback.

In essence, Stages 1 and 2 contain the intent-driven prototype generation phase. In some cases, the prototype will be good enough to use. More often than not, the user wants to refine the application to do more and include more data. Throughout the life of the application, as it grows within the organization, data from Google Sheets may need to be migrated to a more scalable database, such as Google Cloud SQL.

Step 3 requires more time and effort than it looks. AppSheet has a surprisingly large “surface” to support extended functionality. It’s worth getting acquainted with the app’s sheet editor so you don’t feel lost afterwards. Moreover, there are more than 50 app templates to start working on common use cases.

The user can start an AppSheet application with data, with an idea, or with a model. (Credit: IDG)

Above, the usual way to start with data is to connect to a spreadsheet through a cloud storage provider. It is also possible to connect to an SQL database table or some non -SQL data source. (Credit: IDG)

Once the application is generated, it is possible to preview it on a smartphone, tablet or full-screen emulator, as well as modify it if necessary. It is also possible to view it from its devices. The AppSheet editor suggests additions and also lets you make your own additions. (Credit: IDG)

The user can build an application from the data, and in addition, start with a model. AppSheet currently has approximately 50 introduction templates. (Credit: IDG)

AppSheet can take advantage of the many sensors built into smartphones and tablets. It can also be integrated into many applications and platforms. (Credit: IDG)

AppSheet currently connects to 17 cloud databases and tables, and integrates with 11 external services. However, these numbers are not compatible for AppSheet. For example, the platform works with Zapier, which integrates with over 3,000 other apps using a code-free GUI, and with the Apigee API, which lets you create proxies, flows, and API policies. for back-end services. (Credit: IDG)

Running the AppSheet app

In addition to the ability to preview your applications in the web emulator, visualization is available on supported devices. Just go to the Users pane and enter the email of the user you want to preview.

On the device, use the link in the email to download the AppSheet shell application, then follow the instructions to download the prototyped application. In order to take longer to load, it is possible to choose between data synchronization at startup or deferred (manual) synchronization.

Screenshot of the National Parks map view app taken on an Android phone. (Credit: IDG)

Specify how the data will be used

As mentioned earlier, most of the design work for the AppSheet occurs when itself generating and selecting data sources. However, refining how the application uses the data received from the source is very easy. One way to do this is to change the column details under Data | Columns, for example, to add virtual columns with formulas, such as the tax column that multiplies the state sales tax rate by price.

Another way is to make slices of the data source, which are essentially filtered subsets of the table. The filter is done by rows and by columns, for example by placing each category value on its own slice and including only the most important columns.

While AppSheet predicts columns and column names from the source table (here’s an Excel spreadsheet), it’s easy to control whether columns are displayed, editable, required, etc. Editing formulas for virtual columns is also available, and AppSheet helps create formulas.

Add data source, view, and screen

Once the application is running on one data source and on multiple views and screens as needed, the organization and/or its users may want to extend the functionality, usually by adding more data and more views and screens. For example, after setting up an inventory application, sellers can add an ordering function to this same application.

Create actions, bots, predictive models and OCR models

In the AppSheet Editor, three types of actions can be performed: UI Navigations (show a new view of it or another app), Data Changes (perform CRUD operations), and External Communications (send a push notification or text message). Additionally, system actions are created automatically. These actions must be configured to run in response to navigation events.

Bots are a more general type of action. In general, they follow the following pattern: “if an event occurs, perform a process consisting of one or more tasks”. In general, bots achieve process automation. They can run in the background, and activate on a data change or on a schedule.

Since AppSheet is a Google Cloud service, it’s no surprise that it can practice and run machine learning models. Currently, predictive models (e.g., sorting the purpose of a user feedback message) are fully supported, and OCR (retrieving text from images) models are in beta. Currently, AppSheet OCR templates work with documents with a fixed layout, and they require an internet connection.

Deploy your AppSheet application

It was previously mentioned that the user can view the apps on supported devices by sending users a link via email. This is called instant deployment. It is also possible to develop “white label” Android and iOS versions of its application and submit them to the Google Play Store and Apple App Store for approval. Once approved, users can download them from the appropriate public store.

In general, Google Cloud AppSheet offers more features than it first appears. Yes, it’s a code -free app builder, but the platform can also train and apply predictive ML models and OCR models.

Power Apps, Microsoft’s low-code app builder, is part of a larger ecosystem centered on Microsoft 365, OneDrive for Business, Power Automate, and Power BI. The Google Cloud AppSheet is part of a similar but less complex ecosystem centered on Gmail, Google Workspace, Google Drive, Google Maps, Google Sheets, Google Cloud SQL, and many Google Cloud services including machine learning, as well as Zapier. Amazon Honeycode, a slightly less capable app builder with no code, integrates with Amazon AppFlow and Zapier, as well as various AWS storage and data services. If a business already relies on Google for desktop functionality and/or data storage, AppSheet is an obvious way to make custom apps to improve productivity.

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