Get to know Knack

You'll start out with a video tour that walks you through building a sample app to manage orders from your customers, explaining database terms like object and Knack terms like views while showing them in context in an app. Then, login to your new account, and you'll get another video tour that walks you through the interface. It might seem like a bit much, but if you've never managed a database by hand before, they're a great introduction to how a database in Knack works and what you can do with it.

Because, for all of its simplifications, Knack is still essentially a database with some simplifications to help you use it easier. The first thing you'll need to do in your new app is to define objects—equivalent to a sheet in a spreadsheet—complete with fields—columns in your spreadsheet—for everything you want to store. You'll want to think through the items you need to track in your app, how they relate to each other, and what format they'll be in, and make fields for each of them.

You can add your own individually, or select the Quick add column to import object templates. There's company, employee, contact, product, and order templates, each with appropriate fields (say, company name, logo, website, industry, address and more for the Companies option) pre-added. Or, you can import a spreadsheet that already has data you've been collecting, and Knack with create appropriate objects and fields and import the data accordingly.

Then, it's time to make your app's interface. Switch over to the Interface tab, and you can add new pages with forms to add new entries to your database objects, tables to display the data in your objects, reports that list your data in unique ways, and more. That sounds tedious, but Knack does a lot of the heavy lifting for you to speed things up. Add a form to add new entries to your app, for instance, and Knack will automatically add fields for each of the elements you'd put in your database object previously, each formatted for the type of data you need. There will be a short box for a name, perhaps, a longer one for a description, and an upload button for a photo.

Viewing your data is similarly simple. You'll pick from popular views—a spreadsheet-like table, a search tool, a gallery that emphasizes pictures, and a map that lays out your data on a map—to show your data, or different graphs and charts to make sense of it, and Knack will try to automatically pull the object entries you have into that view design so you can see your data without too much interface tweaking.

Once you've got the system to collect and show the data you want, it's time to put it to work. You can use your Knack app on your own, of course, but if you've built it for your business you likely want others to use it as well. All you'll need to do is add them as users, and set their permissions so they can do anything from tweak the app further, add data, or just be able to view existing data depending on the permissions you give them. You can make a password protected page for your Knack app, or could even make your app's data—or some of it—public and embed it in your website. That way, you can use Knack as an advanced way to make forms and then showcase the data from them in your site.

You're not going to build the next Instagram in Knack, but then you weren't planning on that. What you may use it for is making quick apps for the internal business needs you have, rather than just keeping track of everything in yet another spreadsheet. Knack will make it faster to find the data you need, give you easier ways to visualize and put it to use, and you'll have a system that only asks for the things you want to keep track of. It's a database, form builder, and data viewer, simplified.

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