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Getting started

Use the skills you have honed building spreadsheets to build apps. Calcapp Creator is our web-based tool for designing and testing apps. (If you haven’t already, sign up for a free account.) Calcapp Connect is used to run your apps. Access it at connect.calcapp.net using the web browser on your mobile device or your PC or Mac. You can also preview apps directly from Calcapp Creator.

You are using a preview version of Calcapp. Usage is free at this stage. If you have any questions or have suggestions for improvements, don’t hesitate to contact us. We suggest that you run Calcapp Creator (the app designer) on a desktop computer, a laptop or a tablet with a physical keyboard. (Cell phones rarely have screens big enough to make using Calcapp Creator comfortable.)

This quick tutorial creates an app adding two numbers together. There is a video at the bottom of this page summarizing all the steps outlined here. You can begin by watching the video if you like.

1. Sign in

Start Calcapp Creator and sign in using the credentials you received. (Sign out by clicking the button with your e-mail address.) You are greeted by a number of templates you can use as starting points. (We hope to have many more templates available soon.)

Creating an app

2. Create your first app

For an expedited look at some of Calcapp’s features, you can start with the “Tour (start here)” template. For now, though, start with a blank app (the “Blank” template should be pre-selected). Name your app on the line next to the Create button and press the button. You are presented with this screen:

The first screen

3. Create a calculation panel

The apps you build with Calcapp consist of a number of panels that your users interact with. There are three different kinds, but for now, we’ll just consider the panel type you’re likely to use the most: calculation panels. Press the Add calculation panel button to create the first panel of your new app. You’re presented with this screen:

The first screen

The window in the middle of the screen, with the blue bar at the top and the arrows, represents your app. This is the first panel your users will be presented with (though it will look more “app-like”).

Try clicking the “Title” label. You’ll find that you can start editing the text right away. By doing so, you define a title for your panel, which appears at the top of your app screen when this panel is visible. All other labels which appear over dotted lines are also editable. Name the panel “Adder,” as we’re going to build a simple calculator which adds numbers together.

4. Add a new field

A calculation panel consists of groups, which in turn contain the fields your users use to enter data. When you create a new calculation panel, a group containing one field has already been created for you. Click the Add field button to create one new field.

You will find that the caption of the new field is pre-selected. Simply start typing to give it the caption “Second number.” Change the caption of the first field (“Field1”) to “First number”:

An recently-added field

If you want to change the order of the fields, click and drag the symbol to the right of the fields. If you want to remove fields, click the check boxes to the left of the fields and then the trash can button:

Removing fields

5. Name the fields

In spreadsheets, you can refer to cells in formulas using either their positions (such as “D4”) or their names. In Calcapp, you can only reference fields using their names. As a result, all fields have names, whether they have been assigned manually by you or automatically by Calcapp Creator. To learn the name of a field or to change it, use the name box:

The name box

When you change the caption of a field, Calcapp Creator assigns a field name based on that caption (unless you have changed the name manually). When you typed “Second number,” the field was automatically named “SecondNumber” (field names cannot have spaces in them).

Tip: Don’t be afraid to change your field names after you’ve used them in formulas. Calcapp Creator automatically updates all formulas when you rename fields.

6. Add a result field and a formula

Add a new field with its caption set to “Result.” We will now assign a formula to the result field using the formula bar:

The formula bar

The formula bar works the same way it does in a spreadsheet: It displays the formula of the currently-selected item and allows you to edit it. Unlike a spreadsheet, the formula bar is always empty when you select an input field. Also, while you’re welcome to start formulas with an equals sign (“=”), you don’t have to. Resize the formula bar by dragging its bottom edge.

Calcapp’s formulas are covered in another guide, but they are very similar to what you’re used to if you have experience with spreadsheets. To make the result field add the two numbers together, simply enter this formula into the formula bar:

FirstNumber + SecondNumber

(When you’re editing formulas, you can also point and click at fields instead of typing their names in manually.)

7. Run the app in the preview sidebar

That’s it! While not terribly useful, you have just built an app that adds two numbers together. You can get a preview using Calcapp Creator itself by pressing the play button in the lower-right corner:

The play button

Press the button, and you’re presented with a preview of your app:

The preview sidebar

Note: The only way to get your app to perform calculations is to run it. In other words, Calcapp Connect performs calculations but Calcapp Creator does not. This is different from how spreadsheets work.

When you make changes to your app in the app designer, the refresh button turns red to indicate that the preview needs to be refreshed. Press the cell phone button to get a list of the various devices Calcapp Creator can simulate.

The final button is a convenient way of opening Calcapp Connect on your desktop, enabling you to run apps without the app designer cluttering your view.

8. Run the app outside of Calcapp Creator

To run your app outside of Calcapp Creator — such as on a smartphone or a tablet — browse to connect.calcapp.net using a web browser. Sign in using the same credentials you used with Calcapp Creator. If you have created multiple apps, you will be asked to select which one to work with. Your app will appear much as it did in Calcapp Creator’s preview sidebar:

Calcapp Connect

(Press +*# and then on either of the * or # buttons to enter a decimal separator on an iPhone.)

While building your app, you can elect not to use Calcapp Creator’s preview sidebar and instead preview your app using Calcapp Connect on a mobile device. To refresh the app preview, press the menu button in the upper-left corner and select Reload app:

Calcapp Connect's menu

To work more effectively with Calcapp Creator, learn the keyboard shortcuts. Switch between a field and the formula bar and back again by pressing Enter and move to the next or previous item using the arrow keys. A full list is available from the menu.

Video recap

Congratulations, you have finished building your first app! Now that you have learned the basics, continue reading about sharing the apps you build with others »