No-Code June 2, 2020

Saltcorn - open source nocode platform

glutamate

Hi,

To stay sane during lockdown, I created an open source nocode platform called Saltcorn. Some highlights:

  • Focus on database applications, I very much built this thinking about something like FileMaker or Access, but built for the web and open source.
  • Built from the ground up to be extensible so plug-ins can define new datatypes, new view templates or define the look and feel with themes
  • Packs define bundles of prebuilt functionality that you can activate and modify
  • Drag-and-drop view builder, although this is very prototypical right now
  • Everything MIT licensed. Instructions for self hosting. Even the version for hosting multi-tenant applications is open source.
  • Written in JavaScript for node.js v14.
  • Free hosting so you can try it out without installing anything, and a few deployed sample applications to play with.

Coming:

  • File upload and using uploaded images in the views
  • Building pages with a drag-and-drop builder, incorporating data views
  • Workflow builder

Everything is super early, so I am mainly releasing this to get some feedback. It is probably good enough if you want to organise your record collection, but don't expect something big and professional like Bubble. There will be bugs, and the plug-in interface will be unstable for some time.

If you find this useful, please let me know. If you find that it is too limited, please let me know what additional work would make it useful for you.

Link: https://saltcorn.com/ - link to GitHub code at the top.

PS. This is my first IndieHackers post!

  1. 3

    Cool! The app works really well and there is already so much options!

    As other said, maybe the landing page deserves a bit of more love. If I would have not read this blog post, not sure I would have tried to create an app, which again, are really well made. When the subdomain was created and everything was set in no time I was like "What? That's slick". So yep maybe just a bit of designish on the front page.

    It earned its extra star on GitHub ;)

    1. 2

      Thanks for your comments. I see now that the landing page really doesn't communicate the proposition well.

  2. 2

    Great idea :) Please improve your site. I feel that I'm lost. Docs could be a bit better.

    1. 1

      Thank you for your comment! Anything specific? Any ideas?

      Docs could definitely be quite a lot better. I think I need to set some writing goals, like X words per day....

  3. 2

    Congrats on your first post! Can you tell me a little bit more about the solution you are building. It sounds like you're making it easier to host data for any no-code application to connect to. Why not use Airtable or Google Sheets as your database. Can you tell me a little bit more abou the benefit that this project ?

    Or is it about creating front end and back end building blocks for an all-in one platform to make an actual web application?

    This is interesting and hope to understand more.

    1. 2

      I really built Saltcorn to be a self-contained solution for building web applications, so the user doesn't have to think about backends and front ends etc. I would say the focus is on making it easy to manipulate the underlying database, and creating a (for now, simple) UI for the end user.

      The data is stored in a relational database, for the moment only supporting PostgreSQL. If you are self hosting Saltcorn, you could also run your own database or use a cloud hosted provider like RDS. Although I would like to support different database solutions, improving the UI is a higher priority right now. I don't think Google sheets is a suitable backend because using relationships with foreign keys would quickly get messy. Airtable could be a back-end option but I don't know much about the API and supporting a non-SQL backend sounds like a lot of work. Building data imports is definitely on the roadmap though, and going the other way, Saltcorn can optionally expose an API to its tables, but this is not the focus. I just built it because I needed it for the plugin store.

      1. 1

        Awesome. thanks for the insight on what you are thinking that is very helpful!

  4. 1

    Great stuff - well done!

  5. 1

    A quick video or something would be really helpful. Or at least some screenshots. I don't want to install something just to see what it looks like and how it works! :)

    1. 1

      Ok, ignore this. Just saw that you posted a video :)

  6. 1

    Great idea but really bad docs. I still have no idea how to use this or how to install it.

    1. 1

      ok, I'm working on it! Install is in fact the best documented aspect right now, have a look at the GitHub readme at https://github.com/saltcorn/saltcorn or the wiki https://wiki.saltcorn.com/view/ShowPage?title=Install on DigitalOcean.

      However, I am aware that if you are able to follow those instructions then you probably don't really need a nocode tool. I want to work on more one-click installation methods on DigitalOcean and Heroku.

  7. 1

    Hii I'm Rohit and I like you idea

    1. 1

      Thank you!

  8. 1

    Looks interesting! I'm curious what the target customer is for no-code platforms like yours: is it freelancers, teams in bigger companies, startup founders? Would love your opinion as to where Saltcorn and no-code, in general, will go in the future!

    1. 5

      Great question, thanks. Because this is a noncommercial project, I didn’t define a target market as you would for a start-up. Instead I took inspiration from Jobs To Be Done theory, and thought about what features I would need to implement before someone would hire Saltcorn to be their CRM/todolist/project management tool/blog/wiki etc.

      Amongst the many nocode application platforms out there the only differentiator Saltcorn has is being open source (surprisingly few open source nocode platforms). I’m conscious that for some people that won’t really matter. For instance, if you use nocode in a large/funded company to build a prototype for validation or as a specification for software engineers to build the real thing, you probably won’t care about open source and self hosting.

      If on the other hand you are concerned about vendor lock-in or scalability, you might want to bookmark Saltcorn and give some input on the features you need to make your product happen in this platform.

      In terms of scalability, once I get around to caching the metadata, it should scale like any other web application, horizontally and vertically.

      In terms of vendor lock-in, open source and self hosting options of course help but it is also my goal that people who outgrow Saltcorn at some point in the future should also not be locked into the tool but be in a good place where they can take their database and build a Rails or Node application against it. I might at some point look at building a facility for exporting an application to a node app.

      Finally, you ask about nocode in general. The reason why I love this space is because of the way it unlocks creative possibilities, and that we are sharing that freedom to create with very low barriers for entry. This is why for me open source and nocode are such a powerful combination.

      1. 4

        Very thorough response, that's awesome!

        I think you're really hitting a good point around vendor lock-in. It might be somewhat unrelated, but I once messed around with Bubble.is and wondered what would happen to my built-in-their-framework app if they shut down or increased their pricing above a level I was comfortable with.

        I like your take on nocode + open source. What seems more and more evident to me is that nocode's possibilities are still not fully understood and the work currently done on it (like yours) will define its place in tech over the next decade!

  9. 1

    Just checked it out! Cool and interesting but was a little confused. How do I view my table? Maybe a walkthrough will help? Nonetheless, looks great!

    1. 1

      Thanks! I made a little video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-k54CZ7r9k

      But yes, the UI definitely needs improvement. To view the table, you would create a new view of that table.