Wonder Tools — Turn a spreadsheet into an app with Glide

I’m Jeremy Caplan, a journalist and educator at CUNY’s Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. You’re reading the Wonder Tools newsletter—each post focuses on resources for productivity & creativity.

Glide is a wonderfully simple tool for turning any spreadsheet into a useful app.

You can make a quick app highlighting the most polluted spots in your state, or an app with a map showing the most popular outdoor restaurants in your city. Or whatever else you’ve been putting into a list.

You can also use it to make something fun, like an app with your favorite brunch recipes to share with family, or a private app with some of your family videos. I used to think coding was a prerequisite for mobile app creation. Glide illustrates that the simplest of apps can actually be as quick to put together as a slide deck.

Here are some examples of little apps I’ve made recently with Glideapps.

Because I had existing spreadsheets for these, creating the apps took just a few minutes. For the first two, I worked with existing data sets, like Francesco Zaffarano’s collection of journalists on TikTok.

Spreadsheets are great for organizing data. From a reader’s point of view, though, they’re often clunky to read.

Once the sheet data is turned into a list or a map or something else with a visual navigation, the information comes to life.

Here’s a 90-second video view into how you can create something with a spreadsheet:

I spoke with Glide CEO David Siegel recently, who told me that Glide aims— in the long run— to make software development something anyone can do. He talked about the no-code movement as a way of opening up creative opportunities for anyone who wants to make an app. You can start with an existing app template and replace the data with your own.

Glide can be used for more ambitious apps as well. For creating Edvo’s Mental Models, a collection of useful thinking frameworks, CEO Shireen Jaffer told me that she found Glideapps easy to use and efficient. Here’s what it looks like:

Glide recently added some privacy protections for people using apps you create. And Glide is now launching a new feature called Glide Actions. These let you put buttons in an app you create to do multiple things at once. (Akin to IFTTT or Apple’s Shortcuts if you’re familiar with those.) If you’ve created an app to keep track of sources you’re contacting, for example, you could set up a button in your app that adds a row to your process spreadsheet, notifies a colleague on Slack and sends yourself an email reminder.

Glideapps is free to create individual apps like the ones I’ve created thus far. It’s $12/month or $32/month for bigger app projects.

Glide is one of a growing number of tools enabling people to build engaging resources from spreadsheets. Others, like Awesome Table and Sheet2Site are useful in their own ways for converting sheets into sites and apps. But those are aimed to businesses and require a bigger budget, at $39 and $29 per month respectively. Stacker is another well-designed alternative that starts at $39 a month. App Sheet is $5 per month per user, but feels more corporate and less user-friendly. CalcApp is aimed at helping you create apps to make calculations with your data, at $9 per month. And Biew is a promising Glide alternative (made in Guadalajara) that’s free, but not yet as polished.

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Quick Tip: How to Download a YouTube Video

In response to a recent question, here’s a simple, free, fast way to download any YouTube video.

  1. Navigate to any YouTube video you want to download in your browser.

  2. Next, once you’re at the YouTube video’s page, insert the letters ‘DLD’ after the word ‘YouTube’ in the URL in your browser’s Web address bar. So it’ll look like youtubedld.com/yourvideoaddress —

  3. Then hit return and you’ll see options to download your video. Choose mov or m4v to save the video — or mp3 if you just want the audio.

    This method is simple because you can use it right from the URL bar, without installing or downloading any apps. It’s powered by YouTubeDLD.com, if you want to find out more, but you don’t have to visit that site to use this trick. Unlike other services that do this, this one has no ads and no tracking. It’s made by a 17-year-old Web developer.

    The service assumes you’re downloading for teaching purposes or watching offline or other copyright-respecting reasons. For my own teaching use, I opt for PullTube, because it lets you pick a particular part of a video to download and works with other video services too.

Thanks for reading, and have a nice weekend,

Jeremy