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Wednesday, August 4, 2021

What I think about Plant an App so far

First, I’m a PAA user with some experience, but I am not paid to write this. I think the PAA team has only been moderately successful communicating it's product to the DNN community. I think this explanation will help.

PlantAnApp (PAA) installs all the DNNSharp modules onto the website, and then they have built a UI to tie them all together so that they 1. talk to each other more and more and 2. the developer needs to know less about each module and instead think about the project goal instead of the components.

Not sure everyone knows, but there are quite a few modules in this product, modules for making forms, lists, API's, Automation/Schedules, Search Boost, custom Tokens (SQL, Razor, JS), Dashboards, File Management, Menu Builder, Tabs, User Management and more.

A really cool and powerful feature that PAA has now is something called WorkFlows, essentially it is a GUI that allows you to chain together actions from most of the talents offered by the component modules with conditional flows and logic to essentially create stored programs or scripts. So you can make a workflow for any complicated, multi-step task and store it. You can throw different users or variables at the workflow as needed. For example, add a workflow to a signup page that does all of the following.

Register a user in DNN, give them one or more roles, update the profile with additional meta data, add a record linking the user with an organization, add another record linking them to a project or event that your app manages, shoot a message to another app to connect this new user up with single sign on for both apps, put their name into a project document, convert the doc to a pdf and then email that to the management team, send a welcome email to the user with personalized details in the email etc. All that and more is in one workflow or it could be component workflows strung together with conditional logic in between segments. This is very powerful and most of that is done without writing code (unless you want to)

I have found these modules and now PAA to be very solid and the team to be responsive to issues and suggestions. And since the developers are getting paid by our use, I feel more confident that the company will continue to develop and grow and support the product.

PAA is designed to be a low-code development platform. As such, it does as many things for the developer as it can to speed up the completion of a project and to make these projects in reach for lower level programmers or even designers or managers. If you are a great programmer, you might think, "I don't want the program doing things for me. I prefer to do that myself" but anything it does is open to your adjustments and additions. It is just a new starting point. Shoulders of Giants and all that.

For example, when you make a table in PAA, it automatically creates all CRUD procedures and presents you with a grid of your table data and a form that already works to add/delete/update the records. Further, it creates actions that can be called from your workflows anywhere in your app to CRUD your data without writing the SQL. You can write you own SQL if you want to. I do all the time for complicated tasks. But I'm starting to let it do the simple CRUD for me thus saving my time for the complicated things. PAA also creates API's for data access automatically. You tweak the security as needed before enabling them.

This low-code environment is just right for folks like me and you who want to build apps and solve problems but don't know as much as a full-stack developer. It is even more useful to a programmer who wants to streamline the lower-level tasks and develop apps much faster.

Website Format:

When watching the training videos, it appears that you are encouraged to let PAA design the user's UI. I think this is what Aaron Lopez was referring to above. I know it looks that way but that's not really what it is doing, or the way you should use PAA. PAA creates a page with the data on it and the form for basic CRUD, but that is for your use behind the scenes. That is not an outward facing page in most cases. Sure, in some cases the customer Manager-type person might function well in this utilitarian screen, but that is not what I show to my users. You still have full access to your page layout and theming and what you want to put on it and how everything gets hooked together and formatted. In short, PAA makes the functionality work easily, and we still craft our special pages and entire site for our customers all formatted and pretty. Aaron's handsome page layouts and components would work equally well on a PAA equipped site as they do on a non PAA site. (that is some good stuff Aaron!)

Money

This is the thing that strays from the norm in the DNN economy. Now that the individual modules are not going to be sold independently anymore (except for Action Form and Search Boost) the only way to get the other modules is to subscribe to PAA and it's not as inexpensive as we have come to expect from DNN modules. PAA is setting it's sites on competing in the Low-Code market segment that is growing like crazy right now. That is the new market for PAA and that is where they expect their newest customers to come from. PAA is built upon DNN, all it's modules and functionality work in DNN. They love DNN and will continue to support their most popular products in the DNN ecosystem, but it's market is low-code developers and partners and clients.

Deals.

Existing DNSharp users are being offered a deal for upgrading to PAA. This is time-limited, so do not delay getting caught up with the deal details. I'll give links at the end.

My recommendation.

This low-code development app is desirable if you want to put apps and solutions together and you are not necessarily a seasoned programmer, or if you are an integrator first and programmer-where-needed type person.

It is also perfect for people who already know DNN and want to level-up to creating apps instead of just websites. The DNN knowledge will be a catapult to that effort.

For the seasoned programmers, I think you would probably run faster with this environment than without it. My personal viewpoint is as an integrator, this makes complicated programming tasks within my grasp that I never could have done on my own. For you, I think you would operate at a higher level than I easily, and at a higher level that you were before. Easily faster, much faster.

I realize that most of the folks in this slack channel are way better programmers than I am, and I do not presume to advise you. I just wanted to take a few minutes to help everyone understand where PlantAnApp is going and who might benefit from using it.

 

PlantAnApp will be releasing its plans and goals and new pricing at a Low Code Cafe tomorrow (8/4/2021)  here is the signup link: 
https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Y0OUx5njQFatTEMCk3B0yg

If you miss it, it will be on YouTube a day or two later:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7wl5WsqwdQTx_pGDhrY-3g

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Mark BuelsingMark Buelsing

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