The inVigor team used TrackVia's tools to build forms they'd need to collect data, charts and tables that'd display their data, and used Zapier—and app integration tool—to connect to their other software. And before long, they had their own database-powered internal tool that did everything they needed. Coding your own custom software is difficult, time consuming, and expensive—it's far more trouble than most teams can justify. But with a database builder like TrackVia, Knack, or even Microsoft Access, you can make something that works like that app you've always wanted for your business without touching a line of code.
Start listing the apps you currently use or need for your business—the tools that track your customers, inventory, and finances—and you'll quickly realize that most of them, at their core, are built to store data. Each one has an interface that makes it easy to add, view, and manage that data, but they're all built on a database that keeps things organized.
That's the basic framework for most apps: Your CRM, inventory manager, and even social network apps are all—on a basic level—a database with a pretty face. If you ever tried to make your own app on a PC in the '90s or early s—or if you worked at a small store that had their own custom in-house programs—there's a good chance you used Microsoft Access. That's the database program that was bundled with professional versions of Microsoft's then-ubiquitous Office suite, and it promised the ease of Excel with the power of a database-builder.
Let's not dwell on whether or not Access lived up to that promise. Today—through newer versions of Access and other online database builders like Knack and Zoho Creator—it's even simpler to make your own software tools. When I imagine a database, I picture a giant, searchable server farm that stores billions of data points—the kind of thing that the cast of CSI would tap to cross-check a fingerprint fragment against thousands of criminal profiles. Like most Hollywood depictions, that's a little overblown, but it's not totally off base.
A database "DB" for short is a structured collection of data. The key word there is "structured": In most database systems, each piece of data—everything you save into the database—is related to other pieces of data. A contact, for instance, may be related to all other contacts from the same company, or all others that live in the same state, or all others that have shown interest in the same product you sell. And a good database will make it easy to surface those related pieces of data.
Of course, databases aren't the only way to store your data. For things like personal finances of a list of contacts, a spreadsheet should do the trick. Even a plain text or Word document could work if you enjoy tormenting yourself. In a spreadsheet, you could sort your addresses by state, or your contacts by company—or perhaps you could use your app's search tool to dig a bit deeper. In a database, though, you'll be able to make queries that show those specific, related pieces of data. And, unlike the data that compiles inside your form app, you'll be able to update the data that's been entered over time, and reuse existing data in new forms.
It's that ability to update data that led the Lotus Gardens team to use TrackVia , a simple online database tool, after having trouble manually updating spreadsheet info with new data from Wufoo form submissions. Switching to TrackVia and using its integration with Zapier—an app connecting TrackVia to hundreds of complementary apps —to keep things up-to-date simplified their work immensely.
Before you dive into making your own internal tools with a database builder, though, here's a quick primer on the terms you'll need to know as we dissect the available options for simple online databases. There are other database terms, including those for their related apps and tools, but these are the ones you need to know to use the following database builders in this chapter, and then some. If you really want to learn more about databases, the Wikipedia article on databases is a good place to start. You likely already have some idea of what you want your own internal tool to include—the things your team will need to track, the reports in which you'll need to find those things again easily, and more.
You've likely used or seen apps similar to what you want, and have a list in the back of your head of aspects that you'd like to be different, just like the inVigor Law Group did. Before you dive into one of the app builders below, however, you should stop and list your team's requirements from the internal tool you need. Start asking broad questions.
What data do you need to collect? How do the piece of data relate to each other—do you need to sort products by category or contacts by company or industry, for instance? If so, those will make up the "tables" and "fields" in your database, and you'll need form fields to make it easy to add each of them. Then ask the team: What do you want to do with the data?
List each answer and keep that document handy as you'll want to check over it when evaluating the database builders below. These answers will become the "views" and "pages" in your internal tool. Once you've planned what you'll need from your tool, you'll be ready to actually start building it while you're trying out apps below. Now that you're ready to build your own database-powered tool, here are the best database builders we've found for the job.
Each one makes it easy to make forms, collect data, and sort through that data. Plus, they each have their own features to make them unique. Each database builder's name and screenshot is linked to a full review of the app, so be sure to click through to the review to learn more about the details that might sway you towards one app or another. You'll also find extra screenshots, features, companion apps, and detailed pricing info in each review. If your business has already been collecting data for some time, you've likely been using spreadsheets as a manual database.
There's no need to reproduce your work, though, since TrackVia can turn that spreadsheet into a database-powered app for you. Just upload your spreadsheet, and it'll turn sheets into tables and columns into elements, and import the data automatically. Better yet, get started quickly by using one of TrackVia's pre-made apps. You can import inventory tracking, project management, CRM, and other app templates, and customize them as you want. And if you want to make your app a bit smarter, you can add formulas and logic flows from simple drop-down menus that let you code without typing in any text.
Then, when you're working on the go, TrackVia has you covered, as well. Most web apps will work OK from your smartphone and better on your tablet, but they're not not ideal and you'll often find yourself constantly zooming and trying to tap the right button. That won't be a worry with TrackVia, since it includes iOS and Android apps that let you add data, view and sort through it, and more all from your phone. It won't be exactly like your full-featured internal tool, but you'll get most of the features from wherever you are.
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our TrackVia review. Knack is another simple take on a database builder, one that's focused a bit more on your database itself. When you first open Knack, you'll be asked to add the database objects or tables where you'll store the data, and the fields that each table needs along with the type of data the field is for.
That'll help you make sure you are collecting all the data you want and storing it in an orderly manner. Then, Knack does the rest of the work for you. Click the form button to add a form, for instance, and Knack will ask you to select a database object and then will automatically create a form that includes all of the fields you already added. It'll do the same with views, giving you simple ways to sort through and visualize your data based on the work you already put into your database. If you want to add more features to your internal tool, Knack includes Workflows that'll automatically run whenever data is added.
You can use them to sort data, verify it, send notifications about new entries, and more. Then, if you're using your app to collect data for your website, you can embed your Knack views into your site to share your work with the world.
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For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our Knack review. The first thing you'll think about with a new app is the data it needs to collect—something you'd likely gather in a form.
Zengine starts right at the basic, having you build forms for your app that it then turns into a database. It's as simple to use as a form builder app, with a drag-and-drop interface to add text, number, date and other fields to your forms, each with advanced options if you want to, say, limit a text field or validate data. You'll never haver to worry about how the database itself works, as Zengine will create it for you automatically based on your form fields. Then, each form entry will include tasks and events, which you can then view together from all of your apps on the Zengine dashboard for a simple way to make sure you never forget anything urgent, no matter how many apps you add to your account.
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our Zengine review.
Want a way to keep all of your team's work together, and also make your own apps? Podio might be the best option for you. It's a business social network, with a live activity stream of what everyone's working on, individual and team chat, and workspaces to keep everything organized. And, it also includes hundreds of pre-made apps to manage everything—project, accounting, marketing, news, files, and so much more—along with a simple app builder to make anything you want.
You can install a tool from the Podio App Market and tweak it for your needs, or make your own internal tool by dragging in simple form fields. Then, your team can add data from the form, organize it in tables, boards, lists and more, have data automatically added to apps via RSS, email, Podio Extensions or from other apps via Zapier.
It's incredibly simple to start using, and will make nice looking simple internal tools—though perhaps without as advanced of features as you could script together with more database-centric tools. For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our Podio review. For custom apps that work even when you're offline, Transpose is an app builder that pulls in features from mobile data collection apps.
You'll build apps in your browser with form fields, linking fields to create a relational database and pulling in documents, images, and locations for a full-featured experience. Then, you can visualize your items in table, calendar, card, or kanban views, or download individual records in PDF format. Then, when you're on the go, you can use your Transpose app from your mobile device, adding new data and viewing entries even when you're offline. And to keep your team working together, you can assign database entries to anyone on your team so nothing gets forgotten.
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our Transpose review. Databases don't have to be so complicated. Airtable is a new online database tool that feels much like using any standard spreadsheet app—albeit a spreadsheet with far more features. You can just list data in rows and columns, and quickly calculate sums. Then, you can add photos, filter your data, and more. And for even more power, you can reference data from other tables, letting you link entries and build powerful databases without ever getting outside your spreadsheet comfort zone.
Everything's graphical and easy to understand, and you'll never have to worry about how to do anything. Even making a form to let others enter data into your app is simple, as Airtable will automatically generate forms with appropriate fields for each of the columns in your table that you can customize as you want. You can even take your data on the go with Airtable's mobile apps, so you can pull up records or gather data when you're away from the office. You're reading through this list of database builders so you can build your own tools without coding—but Zoho Creator might convince you that a little coding isn't so bad.
It's a form-and-database-focused app builder just like the others, but it also includes simple workflows that'll help beginners write code. Start off by adding form elements to your Zoho Creator app, and it'll make the appropriate database tables from those fields. Then, you can add custom actions to each field to verify data, show or hide fields based on what's entered, and display data from your database. Each of these actions can be hand-coded, or you can click buttons to add the code directly and then tweak it yourself.
Then, when you're done with your database, you can code your own pages to display the data in the same way. Zoho Creator can still be a simple app for building internal tools—you could just make forms and use its pre-made views to quickly put together your own tool—but it can also let you make much more advanced tools if you want to dig a little deeper. For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our Zoho Creator review. From the same team as QuickBooks, Intuit's QuickBase is another great way to build internal tools, either with a template from the QuickBase Exchange , a spreadsheet your team's already been using, or by hand-designing your database.
You'll define every database field, then QuickBase will automatically make forms for adding new entries, and you can use QuickBase's quickly customizable dashboards and reports to analyze your data. Then, if you're working in a team, QuickBase's best feature is its detailed permissions and workflows. You can set exactly what everyone on your team is allowed to see, add, and change, and then get QuickBase to do the heavy lifting with workflows that can automatically move and update data, and more.
There's also extensions to add data from Google Maps, integrate document signatures and file uploads, and more. For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our QuickBase review. This chapter started off by telling you why a form isn't enough—and it really might not be on its own.
But a form can be the first part of a series of apps that, together, can help you do a lot more. You'll want to make your form first, adding fields for everything you need to collect, and possibly making more forms for other things you want to save. Then, you'll need to save your data to another app where it's easy to access—you could copy it to a Google Docs spreadsheet , or to Smartsheet where you can also update entries.
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You could even use Zapier to connect a form to a MySQL database, sending each new entry into the database. Alternately, if you use Google Sheets to make your form, your data will already be in a spreadsheet—and if you use iFormBuilder , you can push updated info back to your form's own database. Then, you'll need a way to view and sort through your data—that's where the spreadsheet comes in.
You can make new pages in your spreadsheet that let you visualize your data in charts and graphs, sort it with Pivot Tables, and use the simple filter and search tools to organize your data. And if you want to do anything else with your apps—send email notifications, publish blog posts, etc. Scriptcase is also a web system and runs within a browser , this allows the collaborative development , in other words, more than one person working at the same time with the same environment through local networks or in the cloud.
Make sure your projects are continually improved. Scriptcase evolves continuously by adopting major innovations in the technological market. Manage your versions and keep a history of changes. This helps you create new versions with the same design that uses a native versioning resourse offered by Scriptcase. Scriptcase can be installed locally or on a web server intranet or internet , it can be accessed from a browser and allows concurrent use with several developers working simultaneously on the same project.
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The course goes through the main features for the initial steps. Join our weekly panel for the live webinar to discuss what you need to know to increase your development with Scriptcase. Check out the next events. I, like most developers, am typically inundated with constant requests for new, enhanced and ever changing software apps. I would generally not even have time to write a review, but using Scriptcase has made my workflow of providing solutions so efficient, I now have time for other tasks. Scriptcase is a must have for anyone developing web-based internal and external apps in a rapid fashion.
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