Cleo Espiritu

Farewell, App Maker. What Now?

Today Google has announced App Maker will be shut down on Jan 2021. TL:DR version:

  • Any current App Maker apps will continue to function until Jan 19, 2021, when App Maker will be completely turned off
  • You can no longer create new App Maker apps as of Apr 15, 2020
  • Your apps’ data (if you are using the SQL data models) is stored outside of App Maker and will only be deleted if your G-Suite/GCP admins decide to delete the Cloud SQL instance used by your apps
  • No-code/low-code alternatives to App Maker includes: AppSheet and Google Form/Sheets + Apps Script. More complicated apps will require full stack development on App Engine.

Goodbye, My Low-Code Friend

App Maker has been my ‘companion’ for the past couple years. I’ve never used anything like it in the past, and it certainly opened my eyes for what ‘citizen developers’ can do. I never had the freedom to be able to create software applications to solve problems and challenges, without having the backing of an engineering/IT team, and to compete for time and resources – I just hop over to App Maker and build it myself! It has also been such a rewarding journey to be able to show and teach non-“classically trained” developers how to create these applications, and be able to speak about it on Google Next and DevFests across North America.

Was App Maker perfect? No. There are times where I bang my head because I couldn’t quite achieve what I wanted, compared to coding an application from scratch. Beginner developers find the learning curve very steep (easy to get started, but gets exponentially hard when you want to code certain behaviors). But with the right use cases and the right guidance, people were building extremely valuable apps that truly changed how they did things.

You will be missed, my friend!

What Do I Do With My App Maker Apps Now?

Within the G-Suite/GCP ecosystem, there is no true 1:1 replacement of App Maker. You’ll have to re-build your apps using something else; however, not everything is wasted – here’s what you should be able to re-use from your apps:

  • Data – I always believe one of the gains of App Maker is that it forces you to create structured data, which is very portable to other tools. Whatever you choose to be your replacement solution, it shouldn’t be too difficult to port your existing data to it.
  • Apps Script – Server-side App Maker scripts lends itself well to other Apps Script based solutions. Things you learned on App Maker like how to automate sending of email or generation of Docs? Those scripts will be re-usable in other G-Suite tools such as Sheets and Forms.
  • Business Logic/Rules – An indirect benefit to building App Maker apps to automate your process is that it also forced developers (who are generally process owners as well) to formalize business rules and logic that aren’t always so clear-cut when it was a manual process. This is still valuable knowledge to retain as you move to a different solution.

I believe the biggest loss is the user experience side of things – I think App Maker’s biggest benefit was how easy it is to build your own custom screens; also, how easy it is to iterate on it, once you learned what worked for your users, and what didn’t. To find another low-code tool that can replicate the experience & UI behavior can be difficult, which means your users will need to learn a new tool all over again.

Google’s blog post gave some suggestions on possible alternatives for your App Maker apps based on the purpose of your app. AppSheet has started the conversation to help App Maker users migrate.

To keep things low-code and within the G-Suite ecosystem, I will be posting a number of articles in the coming weeks to talk about some common use cases/functions I’ve seen with App Maker and how we could create a similar solution using mainly Apps Script on Google Sheets/Forms. The user experience may not be as good as an App Maker app, but there’s definitely some things you can still do with minimal code. So stay tuned!