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DevOps // Programming Languages
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6/12/2016
12:06 PM
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10 Cool Tools To Build Apps Without Code

Building an app doesn't always require skill in software development. All it takes is one of these tools and you too can create effective business-class apps.
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(Image: Unsplash via Pixabay)

(Image: Unsplash via Pixabay)

It's hard to imagine a world of enterprise IT without programmers. On the other hand, it's difficult to imagine a successful business that has time to turn every app project over to the IT department. There are tools to help bridge that gap -- tools that a growing number of professionals are using to build working applications without calling in the experts from IT.

Last August, I wrote an article about building applications without code. In the year or so since, no-code application development has evolved, and the tools available to professionals who want to make an app happen have continued to improve.

To keep things complete, I'll revisit a few tools highlighted last year, and add several options for your consideration. The most recent addition to the field was revealed earlier this week, when Microsoft announced Sprightly, a mobile app billed as a content creation tool that will actually allow for a bit more functionality than its marketing implies.

[What would you do if you had someone shadowing you all day? Read Adventures in Pair Programming. ]

That's part of both the charm and the price of this tool category. While several tools we're looking at here will build complete, powerful applications, many approach the app-building process from a particular point of view. If the POV is the same as yours, then these might well be the only tools you need for your apps. If the POV is radically different from yours, then you might well be in for a frustrating time.

One thing is certain. The 10 tools featured here will help you do cool things without having to write any code. Forget all the "C++ or Java?" debates. You won't need either one. All you'll need is a good idea and the ability to work with a relatively simple drag-and-drop interface.

Take a look and let me know what you think. Have you used one of these no-code options? Have you recommended one (or more) to your coworkers? What do you think about the whole notion of allowing people who aren't part of the IT department to run around building apps?

Let me know in the comments section below. I'm intrigued by all the possibilities, and a little bit nervous about how those possibilities might manifest themselves in real-life business environments.

Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Editor at Dark Reading. In this role he focuses on product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he works on audio and video programming for Dark Reading and contributes to activities at Interop ITX, Black Hat, INsecurity, and ... View Full Bio

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Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
6/18/2016 | 3:26:40 PM
Re: Canvas
Curt, 

Yes. And you have to consider that maybe some companies don't contact you to let you know about the list. Then you have to imagine that there could be even more since there are so many app builders. 

-Susan 
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
6/15/2016 | 4:15:57 PM
Re: What about line of business apps?
Thanks for that, @WallisB. I'll definitely have to take a closer look!
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
6/14/2016 | 2:04:49 PM
Re: Filemaker
@jastroff, you're absolutely right -- Filemaker has been around forever. Filemaker 15 is a much different animal in terms of capabilities than those old-time Mac applications, though: It's a serious tool that's still pretty darned easy to use.

Now, if I could just my flying toasters back...
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
6/14/2016 | 2:02:47 PM
Re: Surprised you didn't include Zoho Creator
@Bruce, thanks for both of these suggestions!

I've covered Zoho Creator in the past and have covered Zoho since they launched. It is, indeed, a very good system. I've got absolutely nothing against them and look forward to covering them again in the future.

Thank you for the pointer to the Oracle tool. I'll have to take a closer look at it; I also want to explore whether SAP offers anything in this space. Perhaps I'll be able to do a comparison sometime soon.

Thanks again -- I really appreciate all the suggestions from my readers!
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
6/14/2016 | 2:00:06 PM
Re: Filemaker
@Joe, I've used Filemaker fairly frequently during the last decade or so. I like it for my personal projects. It is massive overkill for many things (I miss their Bento product for simple database apps) but it will let you easily created very powerful tools for yourself or a company.
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
6/14/2016 | 1:57:55 PM
Re: Life Cycle
@TerryB you bring up some great questions, here.

When it comes to sharing the application you build, it depends on the system. Some, like Filemaker, have a server edition and a combination of free mobile app and web client, so the system looks a lot like the traditional client/server architecture under the hood.

Other systems, like QuickBase, are all in the cloud. The application you create and the database that supports it are both in the cloud, to be accessed by any folks who have access.

In general, there's a distinction between the edit/create function and the user function so you can keep the two separate. I can't imagine a database app that allowed anyone to change the code!

As for exporting data to use with a third-party report generator, that's highly variable. Some systems will happily export a file, others are riding on a SQL database that you can access from any app you'd like, and some are closed systems. It's definitely a question to ask aggressively when you're in the purchase cycle!
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
6/14/2016 | 1:51:33 PM
Re: Canvas
@Susan, to me the amazing thing isn't that there are these 10 no-code app builders -- it's that there are so many more. I often think that the easiest way for me to do research on a topic like this is to publish an article with a small list: Every company not included on the list will be in touch with me within a few days!

I got my start doing traditional programming but I love some of these tools. As an example, I built my database knowledge writing ISAM and VSAM routines using punched cards on a mainframe. I learned a lot about database internals, but I don't miss those days when I'm putting a form together on Filemaker!
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
6/14/2016 | 1:47:55 PM
Re: What about line of business apps?
@WallisB562, thanks for the suggestion -- I'm always looking for article ideas.

What do you like about Warewolf? Is it something you would suggest for other companies?
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
6/14/2016 | 1:28:43 PM
Re: Let's build 10 apps together!
@Michelle, thanks for your comment: I'm always pleased when I can bring companies or services you aren't familiar with to your attention.

I've used one of the tools fairly often over the years (FileMaker) and I'm looking forward to spending time with the others. As you say, it's amazing just how good the application produced can be -- faster CPUs are an application framework's best friends!
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
6/13/2016 | 12:55:16 PM
Filemaker
I was actually considering downloading Filemaker.  Has anyone else tried it?  Or any of the other tools on this list, for that matter?  And able to offer insight/opinions/advice?
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