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Launch HN: Glide (YC W19) – Mobile Apps from Google Sheets
167 points by dvdsgl on Feb 14, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 70 comments
Hello, HN!

We're Antonio, David, Jason, and Mark. We’re building Glide (https://glideapps.com). Before this we worked on Xamarin, quicktype, Ubuntu, Mono, and GNOME Do :D

Glide makes it easy & fun for anyone to create apps without code. Pick a Google Sheet and Glide assembles a polished, data-driven app that you can customize, share as a PWA, and publish to the App Store and Google Play if you desire.

We've spent the last decade building developer tools. In that time we've watched thousands of developers struggle to design, implement, and maintain apps, and most developers we know avoid mobile development altogether.

Apart from developers, we hear worthy app ideas from non-technical colleagues, friends, and family every day: apps for work, new business ideas, and silly apps just for fun. All of these people can make websites, so why can't they make apps?

We were dismayed to find that there are hundreds of 'low-code app builders', but none that excited us. They're enterprisey, they output kludgy apps, and their low-code contrivances often felt more complicated than the code they replaced. Why hasn't anyone made the Google Docs or Figma of apps yet, we wondered.

That's our ambition. Glide makes app development web-based, collaborative (coming), and fun by combining data-bound components with a familiar spreadsheet model. Spreadsheets are the most successful programming model of all time, and smartphones are the most successful computer, so we're bringing them together to enable anyone to create apps without code.

We've implemented a component model based on self-adjusting computation (http://www.umut-acar.org/self-adjusting-computation), which allows Glide apps to update efficiently and continuously just like spreadsheets. You can see the benefit of this in our Comments component, which syncs comments in real-time to instances of the same app. In other words, Glide apps are multiplayer by default.

We're just getting started and would love feedback on the approach. There are many technical/design challenges ahead of us but we are encouraged by the useful apps our users have created with this early version. We even use Glide to build Glide–internally we've created dashboard apps, an app to share updates with our advisors, a directory that shows us which Glide apps are trending, and an app for our YC group.

Next on our roadmap: forms, improved image handling, notifications, and offline.

- Get started: https://go.glideapps.com/?signUp

- Video demo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smNwrz9wMxU

- App templates: https://www.glideapps.com/samples

Thank you.

Here's a sample app in case you're browsing on mobile: https://go.glideapps.com/play/OAm2s2UzjLlDcTlx0JW6

(The Glide app builder cannot be opened on mobile yet)

This is great! A lot of my non-progammer friends want to make apps like these and this is the first product that I think is simple enough to recommend. Congrats on the launch and I look forward to trying it out.

Thank you so much! It's currently simplistic but we hope to add more power but keep it approachable for your friends.

Isn't it risky to promise that the app will be published in the App Store and Google Play, when that is really up to a third party to decide?

I see what you mean. Yes perhaps we should say "Export to App Store & Google Play"? Although 'export' is also a technical concept. What we really offer is native builds, and eventually we will help you publish them.

How about ‘submit’?

That is a fair point. We do tell customers who approach us about it that we can't guarantee that the app stores will accept their apps, and if we think that their app won't be accepted we tell them that, too. A lot of businesses care more about internal distribution, though, like Enterprise in the iOS App Store.

I could really see how this would help corporate types. We have lots of reports, etc, that would be so much more informative in-the-hand rather than in-powerpoint.

However, that would require allowing a company to be self-hosting. We don't use Slack, for example, we use RocketChat, as no information has to go off-campus...it's all stored locally.

Any plans to release that sort of approach?

This is great. I am a big fan of building processes using AirTable. I am looking forward to seeing Glide + AirTable integration. Excited for your team!

Thank you! Yes we are looking forward to that integration too!

I tried it and you definitely have got something going. Great synergy with google docs.

Curious if your tech works with a CSV file. Did you ever consider it? What will it take given your current stack? How google docs dependent are you? Are you okay with google buying/cloning you out if it comes to that?

Thank you! We actually started with JSON! It is trivial for us to support CSV and we are not tied to Google Sheets—we plan to add more data sources.

Very cool.

Hi, this is indeed really cool. Just a couple of questions:

1) I'm not really understanding how the apps are shared? Ex. when a user scans the QR code or opens the glide app link sent to them, do the apps open in a browser from the phone? The UI shown on the website don't seem to have a URL bar or browser navigation so I'm a little confused as to what actually happens...

2) I find that one of the harder parts of developing an app is getting the App Store/Google Play Store account/license/certificates/submission process. Do you guys have plans to streamline this with tools such as Fastlane? Maybe a developer portal to easily import this to App Store Connect or Google Play Console?


Glide apps are first and foremost PWAs. We're rolling out shortlink support soon, so your app would be something like mycoolapp.glideapp.io. Android will prompt you to add the app to your homescreen, and on iOS we show a similar prompt. You can pay for a custom domain.

On our paid plan, we can export native builds for you to publish to app stores. Currently we have a React Native implementation of Glide that runs the app natively, rather than wrapped.

Yes, we are looking into streamlining the store publishing process in any way we can, and fastlane will come in handy. We've been surprised by how many users have been satisfied with PWAs so far, though.

This is phenomenal. Great set of base elements, styles, etc. Great job, team!

Thanks a lot!

This is an extremely risky business. It’s a simple concept - Google Sheets API to Firebase to App that we’ve used many times before, however Apple may decide to block these apps at any time as it has done in the past, eg see this article:


Edit: And its broken with a Firebase error "Error : could not handle request".

i would hope apps like this are banned from the app store, too much auto generated garbaged. corporates can always use the enterprise app development program and that's who i think this is aimed at

Just an FYI that I'm currently getting an error after signing up.

When I click "New App," there's a modal popup that says, "In order to select an item from your online storage, please sign in." I click "Sign in" and another popup opens and closed immediately. I click it again and the same thing happens, but then the center modal is replaced with, "There was an error! Details: The feature you requested is currently unavailable. Please try again later."

I'm sorry, but there are two seemingly redundant popups in our sign-up process right now. You have to auth via Google twice–once to sign up, and once to authorize Google Drive. This should be fixed this week.

I believe my issue is different.

I wasn't seeing the normal Google auth screen; I signed-out to see if there was an account sync issue, and I can't seem to sign back in now. I click sign-in, the normal Google auth screen pops-up, I select my account, and the button in the bottom-left corner gets stuck on "Signing in..."

Hey man, can you give me the developer console output. I am very curious what the issue here is, sometimes we have seen extensions like ghostery interfere with the login process but I'm guessing you already would have checked that considering this is HN :)

Yeah, I looked through the console. The only log is one analytics script that was blocked:

GET https://cdn.segment.com/analytics.js/v1/s5swIuWdyLEwzdp3HXwc... net::ERR_BLOCKED_BY_CLIENT

I'm using Chrome 72.0.3626.109 (64-bit) on OS X 10.14.

What browser are you using?

Ok perhaps we are being inundated with signups right now, looking into our Firebase auth backend...

There are worse problems to have. ;)

On Firefox private tab, clicking signup link on the bottom left of the page isn't working for me. It seems like a session storage issue. And some cors warning.

Thank you for the report. We have work to do to enable private modes and other environments where cookies/local storage are restricted.

I got this as well until I switched to Chrome from Firefox.

Hey, this might be a dumb question, but how is image data stored and accessed? The example shows images, but I wasn't sure where that's being hosted. Google Drive?

Right now images are just raw URLs. We need to do some work to make this simpler!

Awesome idea and great execution!! Great work, guys.

Found one bug with the "tiles" layout: https://www.dropbox.com/s/p8e31lzzjdmin6x/Screen%20Shot%2020...

You might consider chopping long titles with ellipses.

As a marketer this is incredible and the possibilities are endless. Any plans to allow creators to add ads so the apps can be monetized?

We haven't thought about that much yet. What kinds of apps are you thinking of building?

Well, information apps. Is not to far from your examples but I would like a way to monetize them.

Also, do you plan on adding or integrating a service (not sure if doable) for push notifications (for new content, reminders, etc)?

Yes, notifications is something we're working on right now.

I'm having fun with it, but I sure can't seem to change anything to do with aesthetics - font colours, font size etc? Is this possible or on the roadmap?

Otherwise, I'm impressed by the quality of the PWA (thought it might be React Native based at first) and the "it just works" factor.

Thank you!

We will add more options to customize the look of the apps. It's important to us not to overload users with fine-grained controls that require design expertise to get good-looking results, though.

That's an interesting point. As an app developer myself (so maybe not the target audience) I'd love to be able to change some aspects of it, even if it made things look "bad" as it would be a part of the fun/identity of the app. I'm not asking to adjust layout per-se (as that's more complex), but simply to manipulate fonts/colours etc. would be quite fun :)

Anyways, glad it's on the roadmap! I'll keep an eye on it.

Ya know, draftbit.com is in beta right now and offers some pretty complex styling of React Native screens without messing with code. Although no way to import data... yet ;)

Thanks! Custom colors are coming!

Cool! So who is the target user for this product (technical and non-technical?)? Revenue model?

Our early target market is small to medium businesses. Right now Glide is still rough around the edges, so being a little technical definitely helps, but we'll make it a lot easier to use. Right now we're charging monthly for apps that require sign-in, need to remove our branding, or need to be published to app stores. See https://www.glideapps.com/#pricing

Congrats on the launch! I like the look and feel of the dashboard and am wondering if you mind sharing the stack of the front-end. Are you using a UI kit? It seems like Material Design but it feels lighter.

Thank you! We're building on React and TypeScript. All of the design and components are custom, we're glad you like it :D

Love this idea, and am excited to play with it. I have a few questions around how updates and changes are propagated, plus if you're planning other types of auth (okta, google domains)

Co-founder here. We propagate changes in the sheet to the app with about a 5 minute delay. Right now the app doesn't update automatically when it's running, but it will get the new data once it restarts. We'll obviously fix that.

Other authentication types are on our roadmap, but I can't give you a timeline.

* Publishing to the App Store requires an Apple Developer subscription, sold separately.

You also need to pay to publish on Play Store right? Although it is a one time payment instead of subscription.

Is there a documentation link I can't seem to find hidden somewhere?

I watched to intro video, when you add the comment component, what's storage for that user input?

Looks good!

Hi! Docs are growing at the moment: http://help.glideapps.com

Our YouTube channel is probably the best source of info for now.

Comments are stored adjacent to the sheet in our real-time backend, and are associated with the sheet row via the Topic that you pick. Notes are stored in the sheet, so are not real-time.

This is pretty awesome. I have a definite personal use case for it. Do you have a way to handle media uploads?

Thank you!

Do you mean uploads from the app? What kinds of media are you interested in, specifically? Right now we don't handle that, but we'd love to learn more about what you need.

Basically just uploading a photo. I can definitely see that being a convenience I might pay for. My particular use case is just inventory - I want an app to take stock of where my inventory is, what condition it's in (hence the photo), a name, and if it expires, the expiry date.

Would the AirTable app suffice? I believe you can complete all of those tasks and it’s free.

I see. We're actively working on features to make that possible. We should have something for you in March :-)

This is absolutely great. And 100% the direction we should be taking programming. Easy, practical, just works.

Thanks Guys

Thank you for trying it! We hope you build something amazing and share it.

To clarify this is read-only view of the sheet right? Is the plan to make something more CRUD capable?

For now it's mostly read-only. We have one component that lets you edit free-form text that syncs back to the sheet, called Notes. We also have a Comments component and a Chat tab, which don't sync to the sheet. And our big focus right now is to add more CRUD functionality.

Will be awesome to see more data collection functionality. I build apps like these for enterprise companies and this would fill a large gap for field worker type apps.

Hope you don't mind working at Google, or if you add excel/O365 support, Microsoft. Seems like a no brainer acquisition target for them!

Congrats on the launch, guys. Was exciting to watch you guys grow through Startup School.

Thank you Maneesh! Can't wait to see your new idea get off the ground!

Just wondering: How did you decide that you want to depend on Google Sheets as a backend?

We are intrigued by the spreadsheet model of 'programming' and wanted to build upon it. Google Sheets is just one of many such implementations and we plan to have our own for real-time performance and other properties that Sheets doesn't have.

From a practical standpoint, it's a data source where people already have their data. People sign up for Glide and literally create their first app in minutes and it's ready to share. Much of this speed is due to the fact that their data is ready to go.

This sounds really cool! Maybe I’ll make an app for my family to keep us on schedule...

Just a curious question. What server side language are you guy using?

I don't see an option to publish to the App Store and Google Play

Looks enticing, will give it a try. Thanks for sharing.

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