If you are looking for a feature-rich no-code or low-code development platform, you should evaluate GW Apps and Airtable, as they are both excellent choices, though they work best for different use-cases.
Whether GW Apps or Airtable is the right no-code or low-code development platform for you depends on what you’re trying to build and how much data integration you need. In this paper, we look at the relative strengths of both products, as well as the type of applications each is a better fit for.
Form Builder and Data Modeling
GW Apps drag-and-drop form builder offers a visual way for users to build their apps. With multiple layout options and lots of customizability, it enables users to easily build and organize highly functional forms to fit their needs. Forms can have up to 4 columns of fields, and will automatically reformat to fit different screen sizes. You can also create forms automatically by uploading existing data from a spreadsheet. This initial form can then be easily reformatted and extended to complete the design. GW Apps will be most beneficial to users who need complex forms with many fields, or those who wish to create forms with different layouts, such as Tabbed or Stepper style forms.
Airtable takes a spreadsheet-like approach, which many users will find familiar and simple to understand. Many Airtable apps work exclusively from the spreadsheet-like UI, but Airtable can generate a form with a single column of fields in the same order as the underlying table, which they call ‘expanding records’. There are few options to control how the form is laid out, and no easy way to add non-field elements to your form such as images, dividing lines, labels or sections. Airtable has released a Beta version of their new Interface Designer which has much more capability. It is especially good for creating attractive dashboards and visual reports with action links/buttons integrated, so users can review and take action from a single screen. However, it still isn’t as suited to more complex and data-rich applications as GW Apps. On the other hand, Airtable has more data syncing integrations directly available, so it might prove better for creating apps that display and process data from multiple external sources.
Workflow and Automated Actions
GW Apps allows you to easily model complex business processes (workflows). It has a wide range of capabilities, such as multiple levels of approval, routing, automatic and scheduled triggers, conditional actions, automated notifications and emails, and more. It is also possible to define SLAs (Service Level Agreements) to ensure that workflow stages are completed in a required time period, and key managers will be notified if any steps take too long. There is also SLA reporting at the application and platform level.
Airtable offers similar capabilities for defining workflows as GW Apps. It even uses similar terms, with ‘Triggers’ making a series of ‘Actions’ execute. There are fewer options for action buttons, with no options for confirmation dialogs or conditional button hiding. Their triggers are also limited to just 25 actions each, though reaching this limit would be rare in practice. Also, Airtable has a much larger selection of directly available 3rd party integrations, though some are tied to higher level licenses or require additional subscription fees. Airtable does not currently support SLAs.
GW Apps and Airtable both use role-based security to manage user permissions. However, GW Apps offers custom roles and more fine-grained control of access to data and functionality.
In GW Apps, each application can have its own set of custom roles. Access to data or functionality can be configured all the way down to individual fields at a specific step in the process (i.e., workflow stage), as seen in the image below. GW Apps also allows you to create Shared Global Roles, such as IT Managers or VPs, that can be shared across multiple to simplify access management. It also offers form defined dynamic roles, that allow access to be defined by names in user fields on the record itself, so only the requester’s direct manager does the initial review of their request and the review capability isn’t given to all members of the Managers role.
Each Airtable base will always have the same four roles: Creator, Editor, Commenter, and Read-Only. The capability of these roles is not configurable, and no new ones can be added. For users with Pro or Enterprise plans, field level security is available, but without dynamic roles and field level visibility it does not offer the same capabilities or level of flexibility. It is also not possible to give users edit rights to only specific records (rows) in a base. To achieve this functionality the base would need to be split into as many bases as there are different editors. Supporting collaboration within a single base generally requires trusting users to do the right things.
Reports, Views and Dashboards
In GW Apps the views and reporting features are all available out-of-the-box, and include table-style views and Calendar and Kanban view formats. You can easily group records by key column values and show the sum, average, etc for each category to give you powerful drill-down reporting in the table-style views. It also includes a dynamic PDF Builder and several reporting widgets for visualizing your data and creating dashboards.
Airtable also allows you to view your data in table, calendar and Kanban styles, but including two not featured in GW Apps: Gantt and Gallery. For the remaining three (table, calendar, and Kanban), the customization options are mostly comparable to GW Apps, though Airtable has a few features, such as displaying images in a view, that GW Apps lacks. Airtable has the Page Designed extension available for PDF report generation, and their new Interface Designer (currently in Beta) for creating data visualizations and dashboards.
Ease of Use
GW Apps is designed to be both easy to use and simple to learn, while simultaneously providing features that enable users to build enterprise grade applications. This is achieved through the use of drag, drop, and configure style builders. Even the most complex features in GW Apps have no code, no expression language (like spreadsheet macro language) to learn, nothing but wizard style, pick from list configurations.
GW Apps offers 4 plans for businesses: A starter plan for 5 users ($50/mo), the SMB value plan for teams of up to 100 users ($300/mo), and two additional plans targeted at Mid Market and Large enterprises, with an average price of $2/user/mo. The free trial plan has no feature limitations, enabling new users to try the platform and build a test application and fully validate its effectiveness. Unlike Airtable, all GW Apps plans give users access to all of the features of the platform and doesn’t have activity or storage limits.
Airtable pricing is based on the number of end-users for your applications. Plans start at $10/user/mo for the Plus plan, while most business apps will require at least the Pro plan at $20/user/mo, in order to have access to meaningful application security features and also enough record and attachment storage, automation events and data sync sources/tables. To access the platform’s most advanced features (team collaboration, advanced data access, governance, etc.) require that you upgrade to the enterprise level. Airtable offers a free plan to get you started, but it doesn’t allow branding as your company, and is limited to only 5 record editors, a total of 1,200 records and 100 workflow automation events per month.
Access to live human support is an important resource to help you understand and build apps on the platform. Many GW Apps users have built complex applications with minimal support, while others have needed a helping hand from the beginning. We provide live support to all our users. GW Apps has email support, and online support documentation and content. However, we also welcome your call anytime you need to get answers or help with your next step.
Airtable, like many larger organizations, makes it difficult to reach a live person. It only offers online information resources and email support to free, Plus and Pro licensed organizations. You need to be an Enterprise client to get “Priority Support” and access to Airtable consultants.
Data and Platform Security
Both GW Apps and Airtable are built on Tier-1 cloud platforms (Google and AWS respectively), and leverage the strong data security features that they provide: uptime, data access, stability and compliance.
Airtable currently only supports development in a single language, nominally English. GW Apps has the capability to support multiple languages within the same app at the same time: Each user sees field names and help text, among other aspects, in their chosen language, assuming the developers have added the appropriate translations. Not all aspects of GW Apps can be translated, but enough to support several multilingual clients. We have plans for extending the language capabilities of GW Apps in future releases.
Integration with 3rd party apps
Both platforms give you capabilities to integrate with 3rd party apps via webhooks and APIs. Airtable has more directly available integrations and extensions (Slack, Salesforce and barcodes, for example), and also offers options for automated data syncing with various external sources.
Feature Comparison Summary
There are several key areas where GW Apps and Airtable differ, and these lead to differing strengths in related use cases. These differences will help you decide which solution is right for you.
GW Apps excels at creating secure applications for sensitive business transactions where it is vital only specific people can see, edit or take action on specific data, at each stage in the process life-cycle. Applications like Contract Approval Review, Request for Capital Expenditure, Requests to add or modify master catalog records in ERP or Financial systems, and the like will fit better on GW Apps than Airtable. GW Apps inclusion of SLAs and platform level reporting and application organization means that GW Apps is also a stronger candidate for building employee self-service portals.
GW Apps is also a no-code platform, so you will never need to learn or be familiar with programming or expression languages. Airtable is a low-code platform and relies on programming to unlock its more advanced capabilities. This means more of your line of business users will be able to complete their own apps using GW Apps than Airtiable
Airtable’s spreadsheet style of interface and app build has undeniable strengths. It certainly simplifies the initial understanding of how Airtable works, both for developers and end-users. It can also create apps that are very fast to work with, if the needs of the app fit well in the spreadsheet-like style. Airtable has good features to support those situations where applications have large numbers of fields or data with big blocks of formatted text that don’t fit well, but the simplicity and efficiency of the spreadsheet interface is lost.
Airtable also offers many capabilities to integrate and sync data from multiple sources into your apps, and also to integrate with 3rd party apps. This makes it a good choice for apps that surface existing data sources and allow users to update and take actions on that data, and also to trigger actions in other apps.