DEV Community

loading...
Cover image for Building Internal Tools With Appsmith

Building Internal Tools With Appsmith

cokoghenun profile image Confidence Okoghenun ・9 min read

How it started

About two weeks ago I discovered a really awesome tool. I wanted to build an internal tool for one of my side projects, but delayed a lot because of the stress of building everything from scratch. I already knew about Retool (I use it a work), but didn't reach for it because it was quite expensive. A miracle happened and I came across this article. Since then I've fallen in love with Appsmith 😍.

In this article, I will show you how you can build awesome internal tools for your company or any side project you may be working on. We will be building an internal dashboard for a transportation start-up called Fast Travels.

Here's what we are going to be building:

  1. Customer management dashboard
  2. Buses information board, and
  3. Trip management (for refunds, etc)

1. Customer management dashboard

Setting up the UI

Go ahead and sign up for Appsmith and click on the 'Create New' button on your dashboard to create an new app. You should be taken to the app dashboard (would be blank) where we can start build our app.

application dashboard on appsmith

To the left of the dashboard, we have an explorer side bar, similar to that on VScode where we can add pages as well as widgets and link up apis and databases to our app. The first page we are going to build in our app would be the customer management dashboard which will allow us to view customer info and update it as needed. We will need two main widgets on this page, first a table to view customers data and a form to update the customer's information. Appsmith's got us covered, head over to the widgets section on the explorer and you'll see. We can drag over a table and form widget and nicely arrange them on the page as shown bellow.

making use of widgets

While still on the widgets section, let's drag in some input and text widgets into the form. The text widgets will be used as labels for our inputs.

using the text and input widget on a form

Appsmith makes it really easy to configure any widget by providing a configuration menu that can be used to tweak the properties or behavior of that particular widget. An example is shown in the picture above. Let's use this menu to rename all the text widgets in our form to properly label each input. We'd be having something looking like this when done:

completing the form ui

Connecting to a data-source

Here comes the fun bit and that's linking data to our UI. Appsmith provides us with a host of options to connect data to our app. On one hand, we can connect directly to a database, eliminating the need to build an api layer over our database. How cool is that! 😎 Appsmith supports a slew of databases including PostgreSQL, MongoDB, Mysql, ElasticSearch, DynamoDB, Redis, MsSQL and Firestore. On the other hand, we can pull in data from an already existing api, thus providing infinite customization options.

For the sake of our app, we would be connecting directly to a hosted MongoDB instance. To do this, click on the plus icon on 'DB Queries', then click on the 'New Datasource' button on the slide-in page and then select mongodb.

Configuring a data-source is fairly easy as shown in the image below. All we need to do is give this data-source a name and go on to configure the host address, port, default database name, and authentication. And we're set!

adding mongodb as a data-source

We can now go ahead to query the database. To do this, click on the plus icon on 'DB Queries' and you should see our newly added MongoDB data-source showing on the slide-in page. Click on the 'New Query' button and we're golden. On the next page, we can give our query a name and select a 'Read' template from the list. Here's a simple query to fetch customers directly from the database (don't forget to hit the 'Run' button).

writing a query to get customers from database

Now we can go back to our customers table and make use of the data returned from our get_customers query. Now the power of Appsmith begins to shine as shown below:

linking data from the query to our table

Appsmith supports the Mustache syntax and allow us to write Javascript expressions. Auto-complete is also supported just like in VScode. This makes it easy to write custom logic in various parts of our app pretty quickly.

And just like that we have data from our database linked up with our customers table. We also have the option to hide a column that we do not want showing up on the table (i.e passwords) by clicking on the menu icon on that column.

Updating a customer

Next, let's make it such that the data of the selected customer on the table would automatically pre-fill the inputs on the form. This is possible because Appsmith allows us to hook on to the state of a widget. Let's take First Name as an example. To get the first name of the customer selected on the table to auto-fill the First Name input widget, we'll need to set the 'Default Text' value of the input widget to:

{{Table1.selectedRow.firstname}}
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Where Table1 is the name of our table widget (this is the default name and can be easily renamed). Go ahead and do the same for all the other input widgets. Then see the magic happen.

auto updating the input widget by selecting a row on the table

Lastly, we need to write an update_customer query and make it run when the update button on the form is clicked. The query should dynamically fetch data from the input widgets and should look like this:

{
  "update": "customers",
  "updates": [
    {
      "q": {
        "id": "{{Table1.selectedRow.id}}"
      },
      "u": {
        "$set": {
          "firstname": "{{ Input1.text }}",
          "lastname": "{{ Input2.text }}",
          "phone": "{{ Input3.text }}",
          "email": "{{ Input4.text }}"
        }
      }
    }
  ]
}
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Now let's make the Update button run our update_customer query when clicked. To do this, open the customization menu for the widget and under 'Actions' > 'onClick' select 'Execute a DB Query' and then select the update_customer query. We will also like to call the get_customers query once our update query is successful. And that's it, we have the customer widget ready!

updating a customer using the form widget

2. Creating a bus management dashboard

In this section, we are going to be adding another page to our application that would display the information of the buses we have, visualize their current location and give us the functionality to update them.

UI setup

Appsmith has another really handy and yet unique feature called 'Pages'. Pages allows us to create multiple pages (or dashboards) in our app. So let's go ahead and create a 'Buses' page that will house all the UI and logic that is needed to manage a bus. To create a new page, click on the plus icon on the 'Pages' section in the explorer. Rename the page to 'Buses' and then drag in a table, a map and a form widget into the page. We should have something like this when done:

UI for the buses page

Let's go ahead and add text labels and dropdowns to our form like we did previously on the customers page by using the text and dropdown widget. The dropdown widget allows us to pass in an array of items that would be shown as selectable options. We are now going to update our labels and the dropdowns accordingly as shown below.

configuring the dropdown widget

And now, we have a the basic UI of our buses dashboard completed.

Pulling in data

We need to update the table with real bus data. To do this, let's head off to the 'DB Queries' section on the explorer and create a query to get buses. Let's call this query get_buses.

Appsmith allows us to do server-side pagination on tables which makes it very easy to display large dataset in small chunks. To set this up, we will need to add a skip property to our query and make a dynamic offset calculation using the tables page number as shown below. Then, link the data to the table and enable server-side pagination on the table, and then call our query again using the 'onPageChange' action.

{
  "find": "buses",
  "skip": {{(Table1.pageNo - 1)*18}},
  "limit":  18
}
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

configuring server-side pagination

Next, let's setup the map to display the current location of the selected bus on the table. To do this, we set the 'Initial location' and 'Default markers' section of the map widget to be the longitude and latitude of the currently selected row on the table and then let Appsmith work it's magic!

dynamically updating the map widget

Selecting a row now automatically updates the map widget. Sweet! ✨

Updating a bus

The last thing we want to do is to update the status and route of a bus. To make this work, we need to write an update_bus query that would get data from the form and make the updates accordingly when the 'Update' button is clicked. Here's a sample update query:

{
  "update": "buses",
  "updates": [
    {
      "q": {
        "id": "{{Table1.selectedRow.id}}"
      },
      "u": {
        "$set": {
          "status": "{{ Dropdown1.selectedOptionValue }}",
          "route": "{{ Dropdown2.selectedOptionValue }}"
        }
      }
    }
  ]
}
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Now let's see everything in action:

buses dashboard in action

And just like that we have the customer and buses dashboard setup. Let's move on to the last piece.

3. Trips management dashboard

In this last section we are going add a page to manage trips. So let's go ahead and make a page called 'Trips'. The UI will be quite simple. It will contain a paginated table showing all trips, a table showing customers on a selected trip and a tab showing both trip info and customer info and also refund and cancel buttons.

ui layout of the trips dashboard page

As you may have noticed, we are going to be making use of two new widgets: the container widget and tab widget. The container widget allows us to group several widgets together. It is also useful for creating titled segments on a page as we did in the picture above. Next, we have the tab widget that similarly let's us group several widgets together into tabs. The beauty of the tab widget is that we can neatly hide widgets that are not needed at the moment as only widgets in the active tab is visible.

Now, let's linkup data to our tables. We'd need a query to get trips, one to get the bus assigned, and another to get the customers on a particular trip. Let's name our query to get trips get_trips and it should look like this:

{
  "find": "trips",
  "skip": {{(Table1.pageNo - 1)*17}},
  "limit":  17
}
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

We would call the query to get the bus assigned to a trip get_trip_bus and it should look like this:

{
  "find": "busses",
  "filter": {
    "id": "{{ Table1.selectedRow.bus }}"
  },
  "limit": 1
}
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

And lastly, the query to get all the customers on a trip, called get_trip_customers should be:

{
  "find": "customers",
  "filter": {
    "trip": "{{Table1.selectedRow.id}}"
  },
  "limit": 10
}
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Now let's go back to our widgets and feed them the data. The trips table should be linked with data from the get_trips query. Server-side pagination should be enabled on the table and the query should be re-run 'onPageChange'. We should make sure that the get_trip_customers query is run 'onRowSelected' and the get_trip_bus query is run 'onSuccess'. Then let's go ahead to link to customers table to the data from the get_trip_customers query, and then do the same for the other widgets with their respective data-source.

Our Trips dashboard should work as shown below:

overview of the trips dashboard

We would now go ahead to create actions for our cancel and refund buttons. We want an api endpoint called cancel_tip to be run. Typically, endpoint such as these would be hooked up to Stripe to perform the refunds and have emails send out to customers using a service like Sendgrid. The api can be configured like we have below:

configuring an api

And lastly, let's hook it up to the 'Cancel' button and do the same for the refund customer button.

using the cancel trip api endpoint

And just like that, we have all three dashboard setup in our app. We can go ahead and deploy our application and hand it off to the customer support team. Your boss and the CS team will love you for using Appsmith 😁

Wrap up

And we made it! Here is everything we built:

every dashboard built

This has been along article and you deserve a beer 🍺 for making it this far. We seen how easy it is to setup Appsmith and build internal tools in a few minutes. I'm pretty confident that you'll be using Appsmith on your next project. And if you do, give a shout out to the team to let them know how awesome they are!

Till next time. Cheers! 🍻

Discussion (1)

pic
Editor guide
Collapse
linda_ikechukwu profile image
Linda Ikechukwu

Nice article. Kudos!!