25 simple tools for building mobile apps fast

Low-code and no-code development tools give business users and developers a fast track to mobile app success

25 simple tools for mobile apps slide opener
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Low-code and no-code mobile development tools

The debates over mobile web, native code, and hybrid mobile apps may never end, but one thing everyone can agree on is that we can’t build mobile apps fast enough. Low-code development platforms take a visual, drag-and-drop approach to building apps, allowing developers to deliver applications faster at lower costs. So-called no-code tools even promise to put app building within reach of nondevelopers.

The difficulty and cost of mobile app development have not escaped the notice of innovative companies. We present here 25 low-code or no-code builders for mobile applications. Some of them target more than one mobile platform; some target web applications as well. Many have a business process orientation. All are aimed at getting your mobile application development project up and running quickly.

 

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appgyver
AppGyver

AppGyver

AppGyver Composer 2 is a web-based builder and hosting service for hybrid iOS and Android multipage apps. Based on the Supersonic UI framework, AppGyver offers native UI elements -- page transitions, modals, navigation bars, tab bars, drawers, and more -- to achieve a native look and feel in a hybrid app.

You can create apps starting with one of a half-dozen templates, or from scratch using modules and components. If you want to write code, you can create custom modules. Your app can receive numeric and text data from a variety of sources.

When you are ready to publish your app, you can build and deploy it in the AppGyver cloud. A companion app can be used for previewing and testing your work on an iOS or Android device. When the app is ready for prime time, you can submit your builds to Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store.

AppGyver, free for developers, $199 per year for Steroids Add-ins, $11,000 per year (for 10 apps) and up for small businesses, negotiated annual contracts for enterprises.

salesforce experience screens
Salesforce

Salesforce Lightning

Salesforce developers at all skill levels can find good options for building mobile apps based on their Salesforce site. At the most basic level, you can configure compact layouts and both global and field-specific actions for the Salesforce1 mobile app from Force.com setup pages.

At a much more advanced level, Salesforce Mobile SDKs make it possible to access Salesforce data from native and hybrid apps, and Mobile Design Templates enable developers to create decent-looking mobile app pages. In between these options, Salesforce’s Lightning App Builder, Components, and Design System allow for easy creation of modern enterprise apps for desktops, tablets, and mobile devices.

Salesforce Platform, from $25 per user per app per month.

Microsoft PowerApps
Microsoft

Microsoft PowerApps

Microsoft PowerApps is an easy-to-use but simplistic builder for web apps that can also run on mobile clients for iOS and Android. PowerApps Studio for Windows is the design tool; account and app management happen in a web interface. You can start with a sample app or allow PowerApps to automatically generate an app from your data source using heuristics based on the data fields. Then you can customize your app design and publish your app.

Data sources include Excel files stored on OneDrive for Business, Dropbox, or Google Drive, SharePoint Online lists, Salesforce objects, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online records, Azure SQL Database tables, Office 365 Exchange data, Twitter, Microsoft Translator, and your custom Swagger APIs. You can also add formulas to your app. You can only share apps within your domain.

Read my full review, “PowerApps first look: Create mobile apps without coding.”

PowerApps, Microsoft, free tier and paid plans available starting at $7 per user per month.

OutSystems Platform
OutSystems

OutSystems Platform

OutSystems provides a low-code rapid application development and delivery platform that generates .Net or Java code, depending on your choice of platform. OutSystems allows you to develop web applications that support both mobile devices and desktops. The OutSystems development environment runs on Windows; the platform can run on Windows and IIS or Linux and a Java application server. OutSystems can integrate with major databases, SAP, Amazon RDS, email, SMS, and cloud systems such as Facebook and Dropbox.

OutSystems is a complicated system with many moving parts. There is a lot to learn before you can use OutSystems effectively. On the other hand, once you do learn it, most of what you need will be at your fingertips, available in the Forge, or available from the Cordova community. Overall, it is a very good low-code mobile hybrid development platform, and worth evaluating. 

Read my full review of the OutSystems Platform

OutSystems Platform, OutSystems, free development environment; subscriptions start at $2,100 per month for one environment.

alpha anywhere
Alpha Software

Alpha Anywhere

Alpha Anywhere is a database-oriented, rapid app development tool that shines at creating Web and hybrid mobile apps that work offline. It allows developers to build good apps quickly, with surprisingly solid performance and nativelike look and feel.

Alpha Anywhere’s SQL database support is especially strong because it allows you to use the native SQL dialects of each database if you wish, or you can go with Alpha’s Portable SQL facility, which will emit the appropriate native SQL for the current database connection. Alpha’s support for offline mobile operation is also quite complete. It reduces the development of data conflict resolution logic to a few clicks.

Alpha Anywhere, Alpha Software, from $1,499 per year. 

Kony Visualizer

Kony Visualizer

Kony Visualizer is a drag-and-drop development environment for building native mobile and web apps for phones, tablets, desktops, and wearables. Behind the scenes, Kony uses a JavaScript API. The Masters multichannel template engine is a reusable templating framework that can create a single UI definition for mobile, tablet, and desktop form factors. In addition, you can design and develop end-to-end Apple Watch applications in the application canvas, then add business logic using Watch APIs to build a communication channel between the mobile application and the watch.

Kony can also convert Photoshop designs to Visualizer forms, as long as you use the Kony plug-in for Photoshop.

Kony Visualizer, Kony, free starter edition and per-user enterprise licensing.

Appery.io

Appery.io

Appery.io is a capable cloud-based mobile web and hybrid mobile development platform with online visual design and programming tools and integrated back-end services. You can think of it as a cross between an app builder and a mobile back end as a service (MBaaS).

Appery.io depends on Cordova for its native shell and does all the custom application work in the embedded browser control. It’s nice that Appery.io has its own cloud-based builder service. Coupled with the browser-based IDE, this means that mobile developers don’t need to have multiple computers or multiple VMs to create native apps, and they don’t have to maintain multiple native SDKs and IDEs.

Appery.io can talk to essentially any REST APIs, whether or not the company has prebuilt the interface. Tying a prebuilt REST interface to a service is a matter of a few minutes. Building the REST interface yourself takes a little longer and requires knowing a little more, but it’s not a big job.

Appery.io, Exadel, Free to $100,000 per year, depending on the number of apps and IDE users.

quickbase
Quick Base

Quick Base

Quick Base is an online builder and platform for web database and mobile web database applications, with limited support for integrations outside its own database. Quick Base offers more than 800 customizable application templates, including the Complete Project Manager shown above. Users can also build Quick Base applications “from scratch” starting with a data design.

All Quick Base websites can be viewed as mobile websites. While mobile Quick Base is not currently available in native app form, the mobile website is eminently usable. In the future, Quick Base web apps will use a responsive design that is said to work better on a range of devices from phones and tablets to desktop browsers.

Quick Base, $15 to $40 per user per month.

Appian Quick Apps

Appian Platform

Appian has parlayed its business process management product into a mobile app development platform after about two years of intense development. With a full-featured process modeler, mobile and user experience development, and cloud deployment, Appian allows developers to build and deploy iOS, Android, and web apps. Appian apps feature collaboration, event monitoring, task management, business data access, reports with charts, multimedia capture, and layered security with SAML authentication.

You might want to consider Appian if you are a company wanting to support an employee population including power users, designers, and developers; if you have a need to enforce workflows; if you want to build web and mobile apps from the same platform; and if you need to connect to enterprise systems of record such as SAP, Siebel, and Salesforce. You might want to look elsewhere if you are building consumer apps, or if you just want WYSIWYG layout and a no-compromise offline mobile user experience.

Read my full review of the Appian Platform

Appian Platform, Appian, starts at $75 per user per month for a single application.

ServiceNow Platform
ServiceNow

ServiceNow Platform

ServiceNow is an enterprise application platform as a service with prebuilt applications for IT service and operations management, business management, and cloud-native application development. ServiceNow Studio is a cloud and browser‑based integrated development environment for application developers and IT administrators that produces apps for the ServiceNow Platform. ServiceNow also offers an app store, which currently contains 165 ServiceNow platform apps from third-party vendors.

ServiceNow Platform, ServiceNow, call for pricing.

eachscape
EachScape

EachScape

EachScape is a unified, cloud-based, drag-and-drop editor for native iOS and Android apps, as well as HTML5 web apps. That might seem like an odd combination, but it works well. In addition, EachScape includes mobile back-end services for apps you build with its platform, web preview for all apps, and an online build service.

The architecture that allows EachScape to build iOS, Android, and HTML5 apps from a drag-and-drop editor (the Cloud Studio) depends on blocks and modules, as well as layouts and actions. Under the hood, EachScape has implemented a set of classes in Objective-C and Swift for iOS, Java for Android, and JavaScript for web apps that correspond to ads, buttons, containers, controls, data connectors, data input, HTML, images, maps, media, navigation, placeholders, RESTful remote queries, social networks, and text. Advanced developers can build new blocks and modules for EachScape to extend its capabilities, using its SDKs.

EachScape, free to start, pay when you are ready to publish.

appcelerator
Appcelerator

Appcelerator

Appcelerator combines an IDE, an SDK, multiple frameworks, and back-end cloud services into an enterprise-level system for mobile development. The Titanium SDK lets you develop native, hybrid, and mobile web applications from a single codebase.

Titanium Studio is an extensible, Eclipse-based IDE for building Titanium applications and web applications. Appcelerator Cloud Services provide a wide array of automatically scaled network features and data objects for your app. Alloy is an Appcelerator framework designed for the rapid development of high-quality Titanium apps. Arrow combines a framework for building mobile APIs with an elastically scalable cloud service for running them.

While Appcelerator is not a no-code solution by any means, it provides JavaScript-based tooling for iOS, Android, and mobile web applications in one place.

Appcelerator, free to develop, Appcelerator Platform priced at enterprise levels.

Caspio Bridge

Caspio Bridge

Caspio started out in 2000 as a SaaS web database application builder and platform aimed at business people. It has since expanded its services, integrations, security, and deployment options. Caspio bases its applications on a SQL Server database plus a web interface to the database. From there you can design your web app with a visual application builder, report generator, role-based permissions, online forms, JavaScript code, and both REST and SOAP APIs.

Caspio Bridge, Caspio, $79 to $999 per month.

MIOedge
MIOsoft

MIOedge

MIOedge is a data-centric application platform for delivering applications that adapt to your business needs. MIOsoft is a company that specializes in data-intensive applications and big data platforms, including Hadoop. Its capabilities include data modeling, prep, quality, and movement. The company also offers HIPAA-compliant and PCI-compliant containers.

MIOedge, MIOsoft, $3.92 per Edge unit-hour, plus 2 cents per gigabyte-hour.

Bizagi BPM Suite

Bizagi BPM Suite

Bizagi is a BPM vendor that has built its Windows-based business process modeler out into a web and mobile web app development system with the addition of virtual data modeling, intuitive forms and user interface design, workflow modeling, and an app-building wizard. At runtime, web apps talk to a presentation layer that is ultimately driven by the model as interpreted by the Bizagi Engine, which runs either on .Net or Java EE.

Bizagi BPM Suite, Bizagi, call for pricing.

K2 Blackpearl and Appit

K2 Blackpearl and Appit

K2 uses customized forms, multiple views, workflows, and connectors to LOB, content management, and cloud storage systems to create web and mobile apps. Mobile users can take advantage of offline forms and sync to back-end systems when they are online. K2 client apps are available for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. K2 is available as a cloud offering and as a Windows-based server.

K2 Blackpearl, K2, on-premises licensing is typically $100 per user per year, K2 appit for SharePoint starts at $500 per month as a cloud service. 

viziapps
ViziApps

ViziApps

ViziApps combines an online visual designer and a number of customizable sample apps with code generation for mobile Web and both iOS and Android native apps. The ViziApps designer has form fields and charts, many user actions, 60 backgrounds, 4,000 stock images, a navigation bar, and a navigation panel. It also supports lots of customizations and JavaScript extensions, as well as more than 50 data sources. Template apps show how fields, actions, and data interfaces are used.

ViziApps, free trial for build and test, then $33 to $129 per app per month plus support.

MATS BPM
MatsSoft

MATS BPM

MATS is a low-code BPM app builder with a rapid drag-and-drop design environment. It has strong process modeling and automation capabilities, as well as UI and form designers that produce responsive user experiences. It can also produce mobile apps for iOS and Android, do real-time reporting and analytics, and integrate with legacy systems. MATS can be deployed in a secure cloud or on-premises.

MATS BPM, MatsSoft, variety of pricing models.

form builder inspection
Form.com

Form.com

Form.com is a web-based enterprise platform for creating Web and mobile forms, combining a drag-and-drop forms builder and flexible back-end technology. The builder can create new forms or replicate existing paper forms, set up process-specific workflow and API integration, embed logical transitions, allow the capture of images within the forms, capture digital signatures, and enable form field autofill. Finished mobile forms can collect information when disconnected and transfer the collected information when the connection has been restored.

Form.com, $412 per month and up, depending on project scope and requirements.

Mendix App Platform

Mendix App Platform

Mendix uses a Windows-based business modeler to design responsive web apps that run in desktop and mobile browsers, as well as hybrid mobile apps for phones and tablets using a PhoneGap wrapper. One of the supported device profiles is for offline-enabled apps. Mendix incorporates agile and continuous delivery methods. You can deploy a Mendix app to your local machine for development and testing, as well as deploy to the Mendix, AWS, or Azure cloud, to Cloud Foundry platforms, and on-premises to a Windows or Linux server.

Mendix App Platform and Mendix Modeler, Mendix, free to $1,675 per month.

AgilePoint NX
AgilePoint

AgilePoint NX

While AgilePoint started life by implementing BPM workflow on top of Microsoft SharePoint, the current version of AgilePoint NX is a player in the low-code app development space. It combines a drag-and-drop development environment and strong support for connecting to external systems.

AgilePoint NX creates responsive web apps without requiring you to write code; the company claims to have the “industry’s most extensive list of predefined activities.” In addition to App Builder, AgilePoint provides an integrated forms builder, a field-mapping utility for data sources, and a report building tool that includes charts. AgilePoint can be deployed on-premises, in a private cloud, and in a public SaaS cloud.

AgilePoint NX, AgilePoint, $5 to $125 per user per month depending on number of apps and type of license.

app press
App Press

App Press

App Press is a web-based, no-code app creator that targets iPhone, iPad, and Android applications. Aimed at designers, App Press uses a Photoshop-like user interface for assembling screens from visual assets, via layers. On the back end, App Press is an Amazon cloud-based service and platform. The company claims that designers can produce their first app in one day, that with experience designers can create five apps per day, and that experienced designers can train new designers on the platform.

App Press, $30 to $460 per month.

Nintex Workflow
Nintex

Nintex Workflow

Nintex is a workflow automation product that works with Microsoft Office 365, SharePoint, and Project Server. In addition to workflow design, Nintex supports forms, connectors to various business applications and content repositories, and mobile clients running iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Windows. Nintex Mobile supports online and offline operation with real-time synchronization, and it accepts photos and videos as well as text input. Nintex is available in the cloud and for on-premises installation.

Nintex Workflow, Nintex, subscription pricing is tied to edition and usage.

ibuildapp
iBuildApp

iBuildApp

iBuildApp is a web builder that offers customizable templates for iPhone, iPad, and Android apps and promises that you can create an app in five minutes. For common app types, template-based systems such as iBuildApp can sometimes produce usable results, as long as the selection of widgets includes the functionality you need.

iBuildApp, $5.99 to $895 per month.

MicroPact Entellitrak
MicroPact

MicroPact Entellitrak

MicroPact Entellitrak is an application platform for building workflow and case management applications that provides strong support for modeling data and business entities. The mobile module enables Entellitrak apps to generate mobile versions of existing desktop forms, both for display and for data collection. There are more than 20 Entellitrak preconfigurations to use as starting points for applications, in addition to the from-scratch approach of starting with your data and building out the forms, reports, dashboards, and security rules. MicroPact Entellitrak is available to federal agencies under FedRAMP.

MicroPact Entellitrak, MicroPact, call for pricing.