Web apps are typically single-purpose: you use one app for one thing. That’s in sharp contrast to most desktop apps, where you might use the same app (hello, Excel!) for dozens of different things. Being focused is great, but it can also sometimes be limiting.
Take Microsoft Office Access, for example. For years it’s been the go-to app for small businesses when they need a new form-driven internal app. Instead of buying some new app, anyone with the tiniest bit of computer skills can put together a custom solution without too much trouble. It might not be as powerful as a full-featured app for the same purpose, but it gets the job done without too much trouble.
Papyrs, an intranet tool we covered a couple years back, has recently added a new Apps mode that makes it easy for anyone to turn a Papyrs form into a custom database app. It’s Access, reinvented for the web.
Simple Form-Driven Databases
Papyrs is really designed to be a simple way to make internal webpages for your company. You setup an account, customize it a bit with your company’s style, and then let your team go to town with it. It’s then as simple as making a document in a word processor for your HR team to put business guidelines online, or the janitor to let people know where supplies are now kept.
You just drag-and-drop components — say, text boxes, images, or form fields — onto the page, add in the content you need, and save. Pages are internal by default, but you can flip a switch to make them public if you want, so it’s a perfect tool to let your team keep up with your company’s data online and also empower them to quickly publish something online. And, it’s got a basic Activity stream to keep up with what everyone’s working on. That’s enough to replace your internal site (no need for a private WordPress or MediaWiki install), your poll and survey tool (goodbye, Polldaddy), and your internal social networking tool (Yammer, we hardly knew ye) in one swoop.
And now, it aims to take over almost every other data-powered app your team might need. The new App mode lets you build form-based apps just as simply as you can make any other page in Papyrs. You just drag-and-drop the elements you need onto the page, and arrange them the way you want. Text boxes and images will help you make it look the way you want, while form fields, drop-down menus, and file uploads will give you the extra data you need in your app. Then, on the bottom of the page, you’ll edit the form properties and turn on App Mode. That’ll then save a new page of data anytime anyone fills out the form in your app, and turns the app page itself into a summary of the app’s data. It’s a tad confusing, so check this video out to see it in action:
The very cool thing is that you can essentially make any form-driven data app you want with Papyrs apps. You can add the info and sections that are important for your team, then easily sort through the resulting data on your own with Papyrs’ view options or export all the entries in CSV to crunch on your own computer. And, crazily enough, the data pages generated by your app — say, a contact page from your CRM app, or a expense report from your expenses app — are still real Papyrs pages, ones that you can edit or add more info to once they’re made. It’s easily one of the most flexible ways to gather and save info on anything you want.
There’s so much you could do with it. You could use a custom Papyrs app to record sales or customer info throughout the day, track your company’s equipment, or even make your own booking app where customers can schedule appointments through a public Papyrs app. You can get a good feel for what it’s useful for by looking over the Papyrs Apps help page. There’s no logic in the apps, so you can’t use them to actually compute anything or dynamically adjust themselves based on input, but for anything that’s related to direct data collection, Papyrs apps is good enough for the job.
Papyrs in Your Business
If Microsoft ever reinvented Access for the web, I happen to think that it’d have to be pretty similar to what Papyrs Apps offers today. Papyrs Apps isn’t the perfect solution for any given task, per se — you’ll likely find stand-alone CRM and Project Management apps far more powerful for their tasks than your custom Papyrs-powered solutions. But it makes up in simplicity for what it lacks in depth.
And you really can do a ton with it. It’s a great intranet and wiki for storing your team’s internal info, at its core, one that’s easy enough for anyone to use. With a bit of extra effort, anyone on your team can rather easily make form-driven web apps that let your team keep up with everything from contacts to purchases in Papyrs. And you can even keep in touch with your team on the activity stream. It’s simple, and I happen to bet it’s just what the doctor ordered for teams that want to roll their own custom solutions to their business needs without needing a huge internal dev team.
At $49/month for up to 10 users, Papyrs Apps isn’t exactly cheap, but it could be a good value for your team if you use it for everything. If you really integrate it into the way your team works, you’ll find yourself throng together a new “app” in Papyrs each time you need something new instead of looking for a new app. And if you do that, it’ll quickly become as valuable as you make it.