Users can create data-driven mobile and web apps to handle event scheduling, customer relationships, surveys, to-do lists, and inventory tracking, among other tasks.
Organizations that need to manage ongoing data-driven tasks and projects often turn to one of two options: Either they create and share spreadsheets with the required data or they hire or wait for a developer to create the right type of app. But, spreadsheets are limited and not designed to work as fully functional apps. Unless you have a team of in-house developers, hiring an external programmer for every app you need can be expensive.
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A new solution from Amazon is aimed at organizations and individuals who want to create data-driven apps but don't have the coding expertise to do so. Now available in beta through Amazon Web Services, Amazon Honeycode is a cloud-based interface through which people can visually design interactive apps, purportedly without any background or training in programming.
Honeycode is geared toward people who need web or mobile apps to track such tasks as process approvals, event scheduling, customer relationship management, user or customer surveys, to-do lists, reporting on employee activities or task progress, and content or inventory tracking. The apps can vary in complexity from those that track tasks for a small business to ones that manage large projects for multiple teams or departments. For easy access, the backend data is stored in AWS.
"This new fully-managed AWS service gives you the power to build powerful mobile and web applications without writing any code," Amazon said in a blog published on Wednesday. "It uses the familiar spreadsheet model and lets you get started in minutes. If you or your teammates are already familiar with spreadsheets and formulas, you'll be happy to hear that just about everything you know about sheets, tables, values, and formulas still applies."
To attract customers, Amazon has adopted a freemium model for Honeycode. People can build apps with up to 20 users for free. Those who create apps that require more users or greater storage pay only for what they need.
To get started with Honeycode, sign up for free at the beta site. Sign in to your account. Your first step is to create a workbook, which houses your apps and data. You can then import data from a CSV file or start from scratch to enter the necessary data. If you have a specific task in mind, you can more easily choose from one of the built-in templates, including ones for to-do lists, customer tracking, surveys, inventory management, task management, or PO approvals.
A template comes with a spreadsheet already populated with data, which you can then modify based on the type of task. Beyond changing the actual values in the sheet, you can play with the formatting, column order, and other attributes. When your data is set, it's time to create the app (Figure A).
Building an app is a process of adding the data, designing the app screens, and arranging the layout. You can either try to maneuver your way through these steps on your own or get help from Honeycode's built-in wizards. If you're brand new to visual programming, you may stumble through these steps before you get the hang of it. Amazon conveniently offers Honeycode help at the bottom right of the screen where you can learn how to use the app builder, how to customize your apps, and how to personalize your data and displays.
After you've finished your app, you can share it with other people on your team or throughout your organization. Simply select the other members to send them an email with a link to your app. The web version of your app is easy enough to access online. For people who prefer a mobile flavor, a Honeycode Player is available to use your custom apps on iPhones or Android phones.
Creating software programs was once considered a job that could be handled only by programmers. But a greater need has arisen for customized, internal apps that people can create without the requisite programming skills or training. That move has led to a niche for. AWS is also an enticing platform to host these data-driven apps as it's one of the leading cloud computing platforms among businesses worldwide.
"Application creator frameworks like Honeycode are like what Excel and Word were when they emerged," Rachel Roumeliotis, vice president of content strategy for online learning provider O'Reilly, told TechRepublic. "This is going to be standard. There are not enough developers to create what is needed, and actually general, simple code like this is being abstracted away and being created by AI. I see this growing quickly once it catches on, which may or may not be in the next 12-18 months. The fact that this focuses on a type of application will help its adoption."
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