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Bespoke, Personal, 30-Minute Apps

What's the fastest way to create a custom app for yourself? Would it be possible to create most of the apps on your phone?
Bespoke, Personal, 30-Minute Apps
My first iPhone. A jailbroken OG.

As per a previous post, I spent some time looking at no-code and low-code tools.

There are so many and they are pretty powerful. But each time I dug into one, along with that power came complexity. And each time that complexity meant I found myself spending roughly as long using their editor as I would writing some actual code.

Code tools have gotten pretty damn efficient as well.

Building Actual Useful Tools For Me

The one night I was in bed messing with the Shortcuts app that comes on iPhones.

I took an idea, hacked together a few steps, and in less than 30 minutes was able to output a little program as its own app on my phone. I didn't need a computer ... or a keyboard, even.

Then I made another.

Then I made another.

This was so much easier than any of the no code tools that I had been playing with.

A few "apps" I created using Shortcuts. We'll use the green one as an example.

An Example: Thinkdown

As I live my day, I like to quickly write down any random thoughts that I have so they don't distract me. Normally, I take out my phone ... unlock it ... open the Notes app ... find the right Note in my Ideas folder ... and add the new thought.

But that's still enough friction to stop me sometimes. How much faster can we make this? I created Thinkdown with that goal in mind.

How about not even opening an app? Turns out you can do that. So when I click the app icon, the following pops up where I can enter the note and ... I'm done. It doesn't even open a separate app. You stay right there on your home screen.

It's like Twitter without the other people!

But wait, even better: you can launch these from lock screen widgets so you don't even need to unlock your phone!

I just click that, enter a note, and done! My phone doesn't even show the app grid. (My lock screen doesn't normally look this faded. Something something colours are hard.)

You may notice that this is very similar to Quick Notes.

But I prefer this because I can customize it. Instead of creating a new note every time, I have it append to an existing note called Triage so I can see all my recent thoughts and sort them easily.

It's a very simple 'app' that uniquely fits my preferences.

The Apple Shortcuts setup for Thinkdown.

The Bigger Idea That It Sparked

The Problem

If you were to design a quick note solution, you might make any of 800 different choices about how it's triggered, where the notes go, etc etc.

Let's say you even want a different notes app altogether because you don't like the colour yellow of the default app. So you go to the App Store. But when you download any given app, you're at the mercy of the company who made it. They choose the interfaces and which options to give you, which they can change at any time. Oh, and they charge you money and/or sell your data.

You could create your own now, but code or no-code it still takes some skill.

The Solution

Now imagine if your phone was 90% apps that you made just for yourself / your team / your friends / your family. With your own preferences and flows of how they'd work. And your own data storage.

So you want the ease of Apple's Shortcuts, the API access of something like Zapier, and some sort of AI to build the UI and more complex bits. The goal: anyone can re-create most apps on their phone ... from their phone ... in 30 minutes while lying in bed.

And then you can share the app or the template. For example, imagine you need to have a private conversation. You whip up a custom messaging app. Then share it with your friend. Then have the conversation. Then delete the app.

...if there's no proof, did the affair really happen?

It's very possible that the concept of an 'app' is a stopgap until we have the technology to spin up personal and per-use software as fast as we can download apps today.

Bonus: A Second Example, Record Watch
Record Watch is a quick interface to record and rate everything that I watch / play on a subscription service. I'm trying to keep track of media I've enjoyed, and also figure out which streaming services I actually use so I can weigh that against their ever-increasing prices.

It gives me a similar pop-up quick interface as Thinkdown, but with three steps and with the data going into a spreadsheet instead of a note.

Programming knowledge does help with the variables and stuff