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Cover image for Forest Admin: A Laravel Nova alternative
Monika Ambrozowicz for Forest Admin

Posted on • Originally published at blog.forestadmin.com

Forest Admin: A Laravel Nova alternative

Internal tools are ubiquitous – they are under the hood in Apple, Google, Microsoft, your online banking system, and your favorite ecommerce sites. They have a significant impact on smooth customer support, safe operations, quick incident management, and much more. Admin panels and other internal tools improve productivity, monitor performance, and save a lot of money and resources.

It is almost impossible to find a customer-facing company that doesn’t need them. And although there are many solutions for content management, ticketing software, business intelligence tools, and so on; getting a tailor-made admin panel for specific business needs has always been a tough nut to crack. At Forest Admin, we fix this issue, and we are shipping the growing number of integrations to make sure internal tools can work smoothly with your tech stack. Forest Admin for Laravel is one of them. Let’s have a look at how it compares to another internal tool solution for Laravel, Laravel Nova.

⚠️ Call for beta testers: Forest Admin for Laravel will very soon be available for beta testing. Drop us a line if you’d like to help us!

About Laravel Nova

Before the launch of Laravel Nova, a fully-functional admin panel was a missing puzzle in the Laravel ecosystem, and PHP developers had no choice but to create internal tools for their Laravel applications from scratch. No wonder the launch of Laravel Nova in mid-2018 has been highly anticipated by the Laravel community.

Nova’s primary feature is an out-of-the-box CRUD interface that supports every type of Eloquent relationship. It also allows for viewing and managing resources with custom filters, search, pagination, and more.

On the front-end site, Nova is powered by Vue.js, Vue Router, and Tailwind.css, which gives it a lot of flexibility in regard to customization. On the back-end, Nova is configured entirely using simple PHP classes. No configuration is stored in the database.

Forest Admin: An alternative to Laravel Nova

Forest Admin is an open-source internal tool solution, and Laravel has just joined the library of integrations, next to Rails, Express/Sequelize, Express/Mongoose, and recently released Django. The complete list of Forest Admin integrations is here.

Forest Admin has a unique, API-based architecture that consists of four components: the database, the admin backend, the Forest Admin API server, and the Forest Admin UI server. Thanks to that, user data never leaves their servers and user browser, it never reaches Forest Admin servers. That way, you don’t have to compromise data security over the convenience of a SaaS solution. With Forest Admin, you have both.

To start, you can either generate a Node.js application on your local machine that includes a RESTful API that connects to your database, or install Forest Admin on top of your Rails, Django, Express/Sequelize, Express/Mongoose, or a Laravel app.

Forest Admin also gives you an out-of-the-box CRUD interface, and then you can easily transform it into a fully-functional internal tool to match your own special business scenario.

Check our new Forest Admin for Laravel repository on GitHub and give it a star ⭐ if you like this new Forest Admin project.

Forest Admin vs. Laravel Nova

Both Laravel Nova and Forest Admin for Laravel are fully-functional internal tool solutions for Laravel applications. They share similarities, but there are also significant differences. Let us compare each product in terms of architecture, requirements, setup, onboarding, layout, data connectivity, custom logic, and security.

Technical Aspects

Architecture

  • Forest Admin: API-based. The UI fetches the data from an API connected to the data source.
  • Laravel Nova: Server-side rendering application.

SaaS/On-premises

  • Forest Admin: SaaS UI with a hybrid architecture that makes sure your data never reaches Forest Admin servers. Self-hosted available.
  • Laravel Nova: Self-hosted.

Open Source?

  • Forest Admin: Forest Admin is not but the Laravel agent is – just like any component you need to install in your codebase based on your installation choice.
  • Laravel Nova: No, but possible to customize with Open Source Nova Packages.

Setup

Requirements

  • Forest Admin: A Laravel backend application if you want to use the Laravel agent. For other tech stacks, you either need a database (PostgreSQL, MySQL, MongoDB, MicrosoftSQL) or another natively supported backend technology: Ruby on Rails, Node.js Express/Sequelize and Node.js Express/Mongoose.

  • Laravel Nova: A Laravel backend application. Good knowledge of Composer and the use of external repositories.

Onboarding

  • Forest Admin: Fast in-app onboarding (4 easy steps)
  • Laravel Nova: Deep knowledge of composer, complex configuration.

Layout

Visual Builder:

Forest Admin: Yes, with a robust Layout Editor, a no-code visual builder.

Forest Admin interface
Forest Admin UI. Source: Forest Admin Live Demo.

  • Laravel Nova: No, you need to code the UI customization.

Laravel Nova interface

CRUD + Pagination

  • Forest Admin: Out of the box. Possibility to disable the record count.

Forest Admin CRUD
Forest Admin UI. Source: Forest Admin Live Demo.

  • Laravel Nova: Out of the box. It is possible to choose between three different styles: "simple", "load-more", and "links", depending on the application's needs.

Laravel Nova interface
Source: Laravel Nova documentation

Search and Filtering

  • Forest Admin: Out of the box.

Forest Admin Search and Filters
Forest Admin UI. Source: Forest Admin Live Demo.

  • Laravel Nova: Requires manual implementation of each filter.

Segments

  • Forest Admin: Out-of-the-box.
  • Laravel Nova: Lenses that require longer manual implementation.

Themes

  • Forest Admin: Dark and light themes available.

Forest Admin Dark Mode
Forest Admin UI (dark mode). Source: Forest Admin Live Demo.

  • Laravel Nova: Style customizable with CSS, you need to install a community package to have a dark mode.

Laravel Nova Dark Mode
Laravel Nova UI (dark mode). Source: [Laravel Nova Product Hunt page.

Data connectivity

SaaS API

  • Forest Admin: Forest Admin provides native integrations and it's simple to add more through the Smart Features.
  • Laravel Nova: Requires implementation of your own logic to handle the 3rd party data

Security

Permissions

  • Forest Admin: Real RBAC system with Roles and Teams, provided out of the box, configurable in the UI. The API is automatically protected according to the configured permissions. These permissions can then be fully delegated to the Operations Manager or Product Manager. SSO available.

  • Laravel Nova: To get a permissions system, you need to install a community Laravel Nova package.

Authentication

  • Forest Admin: User/Password, Google Login, SAML-based SSO for Organisations.

Forest Admin Login page
Forest Admin login page with various login options.

  • Laravel Nova: User/Password.

Two-factor authentication

  • Forest Admin: Enforced 2FA out of the box.
  • Laravel Nova: Not out of the box, you need to install a Laravel Nova community package.

Auto Logout

  • Forest Admin: Out of the box.
  • Laravel Nova: Not out of the box, you need to install a Laravel Nova community package.

Resources

  • Forest Admin: Documentation, Live Demo, GitHub.

  • Laravel Nova: Documentation.

When Laravel Nova may be a better fit for your project

Laravel Nova is a robust solution designed with productivity and user-friendliness in mind. Built by the creators of Laravel, Nova fits the ecosystem very well. It is typically chosen by web agencies to build enterprise projects, and it isn’t meant to be managed and edited by non-technical team members.

It can be added retroactively to any Laravel application, and it saves developers a significant amount of time and work. However, you should keep in mind that Nova is not a low code solution – building an up and running Laravel admin panel requires the knowledge of Laravel, PHP, and composer. Nova is not an open-source solution either. The pricing starts at $99 per one-time purchase license for one developer working on one project. There is no live demo or another way to test it for free, but there is a 14-day trial period, where you can cancel and get reimbursed.

When you should choose Forest Admin for Laravel

  • You need to ship an admin panel as fast as possible. After all, the idea is to let developers focus on the main app and avoid spending too much time in the back office. With Laravel Nova, it is much faster than building from scratch, but it still requires quite a lot of coding. With Forest Admin, you can have an up and running internal tool in literally a few minutes.

  • Admin panels are typically used by customer support, sales, and operations teams to solve customer problems, monitor orders, returns, and transactions, analyze data, take care of claims, etc. They not only need a user-friendly interface but also need to be able to customize the tools they use on a daily basis. With Forest Admin and its flexible layout editor, non-tech users are free to do it. On top of that, basic CRUD operations are ready to use with no code, out of the box.

  • You need internal tools that grow with your company. Forest Admin has flexible pricing and is easy to scale.

Forest Admin vs. Laravel Nova: Conclusion

Choosing the perfect admin panel is never an easy task. After all, your business operations efficiency is at stake. To make an informed decision, we always recommend answering these questions:

  • How much time will I have to spend implementing both the basic and advanced features?
  • How difficult and time-consuming will it be to maintain the solution and to teach it to new team members?
  • Will it scale together with my product and users?
  • Can I easily find support and documentation if any issues arise?

If you decide to give Forest Admin a try, sign up for free or contact us to discuss your project. 🌲🌲🌲

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