After a year and a half of gestation in its Early Adopter program, Google's low-code application development environment App Maker has been delivered into the hands of its corporate customers.
App Maker allows G Suite Business, Education and Enterprise subscribers to create artisanal apps tied to searchzilla's cloud-based, G-branded application suite without much coding.
It's similar to the no-code approach pushed by Salesforce, by which applications can be assembled through menus, buttons and drag-and-drop actions. And it's intended for the same purpose – automating or simplifying business processes like form-based data input, sorting and filtering sales prospects, data visualization and so on.
It frees those interested in taking control of cloud-focused workflows from worrying about git repos, server images, security hardening, containers and all the other complexities faced by professional developers and operations personnel.
At the same time it may make life a bit more complicated for IT admins. Just as the emergence of shadow IT and bring your own device (BYOD) a decade ago forced companies to deal with user-driven demand for cloud services and personal hardware, low-code/no-code platforms invite organizations to rethink how business applications get developed, adopted and managed.
That reckoning is already at hand. Microsoft has similar services, in the form of PowerApps and Flow. Salesforce has App Cloud. There's also Appian, Mendix, OutSystems, Quick Base, and Zoho Creator, among others.
Coding for dummies, and smarter folks
App Maker exposes some capabilities through widgets – forms, charts, UI elements and the like – but it can also incorporate client-side scripts that run in users' browsers and server-side scripts that run on Google's App Maker servers.
App Maker is built atop App Script, Google's system for programmatically accessing data associated with G Suite services (objects and methods for interacting with G Suite apps), Advanced Google services (a wrapper encompassing Google APIs) and Script Services (utility capabilities not tied to a specific product like logging and user account info).
The two aren't quite the same, however. App Maker is more of a design tool for wiring up widgets, assigning their properties and attaching App Scripts.
Google's app tool comes with a variety of templates to help businesses jumpstart the development process. They encompass functions like document approval, employee finding, and project tracking, to name a few.
The latest release adds built-in support for Cloud SQL, for those who have Google Cloud Platform (GCP) accounts, an expanded list of samples that demonstrate platform capabilities, and G Suite administrator oversight of organizational apps.
App Maker and App Script are not a route around GCP fees, however. Google imposes a variety of quotas on the amount of time scripts and functions can run, on the number and size of email attachments that can be handled, on the amount of data that can be fetched with a web call and on other resource usage.
If you need to build an financial trading website capable of handling millions of transactions a second, there are better tools for the job. But if you want to automate Gmail archiving, App Maker may be just the thing. ®