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Spreadsheet App Builders: 3 Amazing Ways to Turn Spreadsheets Into Apps

Need help building a powerful app without hiring a developer or learning to code? Learn about all the ways you can achieve this using spreadsheet app builders.

Sebastián, Marketing / December 2021
Spreadsheet App Builders: 3 Amazing Ways to Turn Spreadsheets Into Apps

From coordinating remote workplaces to tracking student attendance to helping users take charge of their personal wellbeing, mobile apps empower you to make smarter decisions by putting all the relevant data at your fingertips.

But building apps from scratch is no easy feat, especially when you can’t code or design.

Luckily, that’s where no-code tools come into play. You can easily turn the data in your spreadsheets into launch-ready applications for web and mobile — making it both visually appealing and fully interactive. In this article, we take a look at all the different ways you can make a powerful app out of a boring spreadsheet using spreadsheet app builders.

Why Turn Your Spreadsheets Into Apps?

Spreadsheets are indispensable — whether for managing leads for an enterprise sales team or helping you plan out your projects. But staring at a boring table every time you need to check for new information can get real old, real fast. If you’re still on the fence, here are a few great reasons why you may want to turn your spreadsheet data into an app:

  • Spreadsheets may be easy to create and maintain, but they don’t offer much in terms of user experience. You can’t, for example, click on an item on your table to view more details on that data point. Compared to apps, spreadsheets are clunky and difficult to navigate, which can prove really annoying when they’re a part of your regular workflow.
  • Spreadsheets aren’t particularly appealing on the design front, either. While you can technically add an image to your spreadsheet in Google Sheets, you can’t zoom in or interact with the image. The visual element is completely missing from spreadsheets, which is why using them feels like such a chore.
  • Also, they aren’t very useful when it comes to automation. Sure, with a bit of elbow grease, it’s possible to make your spreadsheet pull data from third-party apps. But those kinds of operations require programming knowledge, which is why it’s easier to just turn your spreadsheet into an app using a no-code builder.
  • Storing sensitive customer data using spreadsheets is a big no-no. That’s because data security isn’t a spreadsheet’s strongest suit. Microsoft Excel, for example, has long been targeted by hackers, who once used the platform’s own vulnerabilities to steal information from unsuspecting users.

Spreadsheet App Builders: How They Really Work

So, how do no-code app builders really work? It depends on the platform, but they all have one thing in common:

No-code app builders are based on the same programming principles that coders use. What that means is that they don’t magically eliminate the need for code. Instead, they use visual interfaces that allow developers to create apps using drag-and-drop — while generating the actual code for the app automatically behind the scenes.

Most no-code app builders use a library of custom components that you can just drag and drop onto a screen to design an app. As for the spreadsheet, it serves as the primary data source from where the app pulls all its information. Together, they combine to deliver a proper interface that enables app users to view data in a visually compelling way.

 

3 No-Code Ways to Build Apps from Spreadsheets

Of course, with the number of no-code app builders available in the market right now, there’s more than one way to turn a spreadsheet into an app. Let’s take a look at the top three ways you can build your own app using a spreadsheet app builder:

Import an Offline XLS File

Microsoft Excel’s default file format for spreadsheets is .xls or .xlsx. Most app builders let you upload your .xls spreadsheet directly onto their platform to start building your app. The data will be imported as-is, so you should double-check for any errors or formatting issues.

The issue with this approach is that once you upload your Excel sheet to your app builder, the original spreadsheet is rendered obsolete. You can’t keep your original spreadsheet in sync with your app, so any changes made inside the app builder won’t reflect on your offline spreadsheet.

That’s why Glide comes with its own Data Editor that lets you maintain a spreadsheet for every app you build. We’re even working on new functionality that lets you sync your spreadsheet directly from Microsoft Excel so that any changes you make are updated across both platforms.

Use Google Sheets or Airtable

Google Sheets is arguably the best way to create a spreadsheet to serve as a base for your new app. It’s lightweight and totally cloud-based. It’s also supported by most no-code app builders, including Glide. Just link your spreadsheet to the app builder, and you’re good to go.

Airtable, on the other hand, is an advanced low-code database platform for business users. It features a steeper learning curve but allows for creating more complicated spreadsheets thanks to its advanced operations and powerful integrations.

Glide already lets you easily pull your app data from Google Sheets. All your data is synced in real-time, meaning that any changes you make to your spreadsheets are instantly updated in your app and vice versa. We’re also working on adding support for Airtable very soon.

Build Natively Using App Builder

If you don’t already have a spreadsheet to base your app on, worry not. Some no-code app builders come with a built-in spreadsheet management tool. You can create and edit your spreadsheet directly within the app builder, without using an external spreadsheet application.

Once you’ve built a spreadsheet to pull your data from, you can just use drag-and-drop to structure and design your app within the app builder. App builders come with a variety of components, or modules, that you can use to display data on your app.

Glide’s Data Editor is a great example of a built-in spreadsheet management tool. It comes with its own computed columns that let you add complex data without using formulas or writing code. We also have a sizable collection of components and templates for designing your app.

 

Spreadsheet App Builders: Is Coding Really Necessary?

If you’re a business owner or professional building your very first app, you might be wondering if you should invest in learning how to code. The truth is, there’s no right or wrong answer.

Manually coding your app has several advantages — mostly because they allow limitless customization and complete portability for the apps that you build. However, coding takes time even when you have a dedicated team of developers at your disposal.

It can take months or even years to build a fully-functional app that works the way you want, but app builders let you achieve the same outcome in a few days. As a tradeoff, app builders don’t offer as much flexibility when it comes to customizing your app.

Another thing to consider is that if you code your app from scratch, you’re the one responsible for maintaining the software and releasing regular updates. With a no-code app builder, these things are typically taken care of by the app builder itself.

When it comes to app development, there are significant advantages to both no-code and code-based approaches. The right choice for you will depend on your budget, requirements, time constraints, and use case.

Meet Glide: Your New Favorite Spreadsheet App Builder

No matter how you look at it, if this is your first time building a mobile app, using a no-code spreadsheet app builder is a much easier approach than acquiring new coding skills.

However, there are a few legit concerns to keep in mind as you choose the right app builder for the job. You’ll want an app builder that offers ample flexibility and ease of use, while also coming from a trusted team of developers who can be relied upon to issue regular updates.

Glide is a no-code app-building platform that lets you create powerful, data-driven apps within minutes. Your app is based on the data you already have, whether it lives on a Google spreadsheet or an Excel document. Just pick a spreadsheet and Glide will automatically turn it into a launch-ready mobile or web app, without any extra fuss.

However, easy doesn’t mean limited. Glide comes with plenty of rich visual components to structure and design your app just the way you want. You can also use our extensive collection of pre-built community templates as a starting point. Once done, your app goes live instantly and you can easily share it with others by sending them a download link.

With Glide, the possibilities are endless. Ready to turn your ideas into a fully-functioning app? Sign up for a free account today! We can’t wait to see what you build.

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