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Sprinting toward the finish line

We launched the Calcapp beta early this year and have spent the entire year consistently improving the service. In June, we launched a major update with 244 formula functions, formatted numbers, a function browser, switches, text fields, date and time fields, reworked error handling and a brand new web site. Our August release finally made it possible to share apps and to use them offline and improved the experience on Android devices. The September update added drop-down fields and hidden fields and fixed a large number of bugs.

Our latest release, the October release, focused on enabling data collected in apps to be sent to you, through e-mail and directly to your server. It also made the formula bar in Calcapp Creator resizable and added much-needed keyboard shortcuts. The November release adds persistent fields (whose values are retained even when you turn off your device) and reporting improvements. More November features will be announced next week.

We’re currently working on an ambitious update that will bring cross-references to Calcapp (enabling you to reference fields that reside on other calculation panels), as well as calculated properties. Properties are set using the inspector and include things like whether a field should be hidden and the number of decimal places a number should be formatted with. We want to enable you to set some of these properties using formulas instead, evaluated while your app is run. That will enable you to make a text block visible if, and only if, a formula you enter returns TRUE, to make a button sending you data active only if all fields have been filled out or to set the color of a field to green only if its value checks out. We hope to launch this functionality by the end of the year.

Developing an ambitious new piece of software is an expensive undertaking. We don’t have external funding, meaning that we have fully self-financed this development effort. That’s good and bad – it’s good, because we only need to be accountable to you, our users. We are under no pressure to meet goals set by investors (which sometimes are at odds with the needs of users). It’s bad, because we can only stay in beta for a limited time, after which we need to commercialize the product so that we can keep the lights on.

We have been reluctant (perhaps overly reluctant) to charge for Calcapp when we felt it wasn’t ready for prime time. There’s no doubt that many users are deriving tremendous value from the product today. The time has thus come to start planning to commercially launch Calcapp, and we plan to make this happen early next year.

Essential features

There are still a few features we feel are essential, and that we would like to see added before we commercialize Calcapp:

  • Cross-references. Being able to reference fields on other panels.
  • Calculated properties. Being able to determine things like whether a field is visible or a button is enabled using formulas.
  • Custom images. Enabling images uploaded by you to be part of apps.
  • Formatted text. Allowing text to be formatted, much like in a word processor, including headlines and bold and italic text blocks.
  • Customizable colors. The look of apps should be customizable in terms of colors, so that you can put your own stamp on your apps.
  • Copy and paste of fields and panels. Rearranging panels and fields is currently hard. This feature was delayed due to the large changes currently taking place to enable cross-references and calculated properties.

We earlier hoped to enable tabular data to be used directly in formulas (using formula functions like HLOOKUP, VLOOPUP, MATCH and INDEX). We understand that there is a big demand for this functionality. However, we have come to realize that this feature is complicated enough that it will have to wait until after Calcapp is commercialized.

Development won’t stop once we commercialize Calcapp. Rather, we hope to increase the rate of development and add members to our team (which is currently small). We also want to work on native apps for Android and iPhone/iPad, on enabling data residing in the cloud to be updated and read, on app store submissions and a more customizable user interface for the apps you build (with tabs, sliders, text fields with multiple lines, etc).

We remain fully convinced that a modern app developer should be able to develop sleek line-of-business apps with only his or her spreadsheet skills. Calcapp is our attempt to realize that goal – and we hope to gain your financial support early next year so that we can continue to work toward fully realizing it.

Price points

We haven’t yet settled on a price structure. However, we do know that Calcapp will initially only be available on a subscription basis. We may well introduce “one-off” packages later on if there is sufficient demand (where you pay once to build an app, which you then use independent of our servers). Our experience, though, is that the vast majority of apps need to be updated fairly frequently and as such, we believe that offering our services on a subscription basis makes sense.

We will likely offer a free plan. It will be limited in terms of functionality, but we’re firmly opposed to offering a “free” plan that is little more than a “free trial” – a free plan needs to be genuinely useful. From a business perspective, the only reason for having a free plan is for the free marketing, and those benefits must outweight the costs.

Our current thinking is that initially, there will be two plans with fixed pricing. Both will likely be unlimited in terms of the number of fields that can be used, the number of apps that can be associated with one account and the number of formula functions that are available. We will likely limit usage, though, in terms of the number of times apps can be launched per month. These limits will likely be set high enough that most of our customers won’t reach them, but we do want to ensure that a small business pays significantly less than a large company that outfits its entire sales force with an app built with Calcapp.

The higher-priced plan will likely offer some features that are unavailable in the lower-priced plan, such as reporting, offline access and custom branding. It will likely feature priority e-mail support as well.

We believe that plans will start at around $10 per month, with a higher price point for the more fully-featured plan. There will likely also be an enterprise plan with a negotiable price, no limits in terms of usage, and possibly custom features.

Getting in touch

We hope to spend years working on Calcapp. To do that, we need to understand what you need in the product, ensuring that Calcapp truly caters to your needs. As such, you’re more than welcome to get in touch with our founders.

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