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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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Michelle
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Michelle,
User Rank: Ninja
6/12/2016 | 5:35:18 PM
Let's build 10 apps together!
Wow, this is a great list of services I haven't heard of before now! I expected to see a few familiar brands, but I saw none. If I had a reason to rapidly build an app, I would certainly consider some of these platforms. I'm always so impressed with the quality of many of these app builders that don't require code.
WallisB562
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WallisB562,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/13/2016 | 3:07:20 AM
What about line of business apps?
These are great! I would like to see something like this for building line of business applications. We use Warewolf for doing this - little to no coding required, all pretty much drag and drop for creating microservices.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
6/13/2016 | 9:13:01 AM
Canvas
Curt, 

Thanks for the nice list of cool tools. I am surprised there are so many tools to buid apps without code. Not that I think it's a bad thing, but just surprised. I also imagine there are plenty more, which would be signaling a trend. 

You ask if we have used any of these platforms. I am not sure about Canvas. Time ago I downloaded a "Canvas" which I sadly have to confess I never used and went forgotten, just like so many apps I have downloaded. :( 

I checked the Website from the link you provide, but I couldn't remember. I should check. It all sounds like it's something I could have downloaded when I was frenetically wanting to transition to a more paperless life --something that, to my regret, I haven't accomplished so yet. 

-Susan 

 
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
6/13/2016 | 12:47:02 PM
Life Cycle
It will be interesting to see how they support backwards compatibility as time goes on and they create new versions and functionality. 

Also a little fuzzy to me where all this code is kept when apps generated from a phone and database is automatically created. Simple when you have one user using app but what about 100 users? And one of them decides to make a little tweak?

Third question would be what tools can read these "databases" if you need a report? SQL? ODBC drivers? REST API's?

As you hinted at, line gets very blurry comparing things like this and what we traditionally think of as IDE/WYSIWYG. For example, something like Sencha Architect generating Extjs/Touch code. 
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?
BruceB360
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BruceB360,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/13/2016 | 1:50:26 PM
Surprised you didn't include Zoho Creator
Great list, and there were two I didn't know about, so thanks for the diligence. I'm surprised that you missed Zoho Creator, though. Zoho has a pile of tools for SaaS-type leanings, including CRM and so on, but one that seems to be under appreciated is Zoho Creator. It's very similar to Quickbase, in that you can quickly build data-centric apps around a simple form, and then customize and enhance as you need. I built a database system for a non-profit (via Taproot assignment) using Zoho, and then when it quickly gained steam, was pleasantly surprised at how powerful and feature-rich Creator turned out. I was able to build a rich application with many different views, reports and forms, tracking multiple parts of their business, and even include workflow capabilities, email notification and web forms. Zoho Creator was far more powerful than I originally thought, and since then I've now created dozens of applications solely within their toolchain. Best of all, they offer a free tier (up to 3 apps) that works perfectly for small businesses. This one should definitely be on your list for the next time...

Second, I would put a plug out for the Oracle Application Express (Apex). It's a RAD environment that is focused on building great Oracle-based applications. It's also free for up to 5GB (or 50GB? can't remember!) databases, using Oracle XE. Apex is the development tool, and is totally free. Anyhow, if you have on-prem needs and want a solid database, then Apex is an excellent option. You can keep it very simple, or go very deep, depending on your needs on both the UI and backend side. They have a very active support community as well, and ODTUG also sponsors an active training and forum-based community for Apex. It's a bit different from the other offerings in your list because it's more like Filemaker (from the perspective of on-prem hosting and app dev), but still something that many small businesses may find to be a perfect fit.

Thanks folks! -Bruce
jastroff
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jastroff,
User Rank: Ninja
6/14/2016 | 10:53:34 AM
Re: Filemaker
@curtis -- great list. Filemaker was the only "old" application - if its the same one that was on the MAC years ago. Worked great then, btw.
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!
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 | 1:51:33 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!
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