6
July
2021
Product

Building Our Community while Building in Public: Learnings at Appsmith

User engagement is a catch-all phrase the internet uses for well...engaging with your users. But like all such phrases, it doesn’t mean much without context, especially for an open-source company like ours that builds software for developers.

At Appsmith, we’re evolving from a small project with great support on Discord to a company that is investing heavily in engaging its users. In this post, I’ll walk you through our key learnings over time, with a little bit about what our users had to say at each step of the journey.

  1. Distinguishing great support from engagement
  2. Personalizing interactions with users
  3. Discovery as a core function of engagement initiatives
  4. Using the product to drive engagement
  5. Segmenting users
  6. Seeding content in the initial days
  7. Tracking progress and engagement

Great support is just the first step

We started a Discord channel to brainstorm ideas and learn from our users. Back in January, our Discord was (and still is) active 24x7. We were helping users across time zones all day. Users loved the speed of our support. Support work has remained extremely important for us and @mohanarpit, our co-founder, makes it a point to give shout outs for support work on our internal slack.

CleanShot 2021-07-06 at 17.38.42@2x.png
CleanShot 2021-07-06 at 17.38.57@2x.png

Being available all the time for support was helpful, but we were not generating relevant content. Very rarely were users spending time discussing the product with us. We needed to do more to communicate with users around what we were doing, and had to find ways to show them that we cared about their inputs. While speaking to our users, we also learnt that they engaged with us to request features, report bugs, and plan for the future so they could continue using us. Asking for support was just one of the ways in which they could get their jobs done. Support is what gets users started with the community, but it doesn’t make them stay and get involved.

That’s when we started our newsletter and other content initiatives. In addition to our docs, Appsmith now has a wide variety of videos, tutorials and templates to get users started. We immediately saw an impact and a lot of new users loved us for it, and our non-support channels started getting more active on Discord!

Make it personal and experiment with what works

Almost simultaneously with the content initiatives, we started something we used to call “office hours”. Users could join us on Thursdays and ask questions and receive live support. Our first month was decent, but over time, fewer people joined, and most questions coming up were about future features and timelines. So, on one hand, this felt like a failure because we didn’t get the volume of activity we expected, but on the other hand, our entire team loved interacting with the users. It felt personal and we got the best feedback through these sessions. Some of these sessions also helped users decide whether Appsmith was offering them what they wanted in the near future. There was definitely a great value in having such an initiative.

CleanShot 2021-07-06 at 17.42.21@2x.png

First community call where 3 users showed up

So we furthered the initiative with Community Hours. With Intercom and Discord for near-instant support, we used the Community Hours to speak about our product roadmap, talk about releases and lift the hood around some engineering choices we made.

CleanShot 2021-07-06 at 17.43.50@2x.png

All the features voted for by the community, that we’re building right now (watch)

We had a long list of feature requests and these events helped us prioritize our features to what the community wanted. We also started streaming live demos so our users could see our new features in action while we built complex applications.

This showed us that not every initiative is a success, but if there is value in an initiative, it is worth looking at how we could get the same interactions through a different format. We were so focused on support that it took us time to realize our users were with us in this for the long haul.

Now, we have launched Betasmith to interact with users even more closely. You can join Betasmith here!

CleanShot 2021-07-06 at 17.45.23@2x.png

Discovery is important

It’s easy to ship content, but it is really hard to make it discoverable for people. It is even easier to set up a website or Discord channel, but even harder to get them to work for you.

The trick is to have easy ways to engage with your users and this sometimes means using multiple channels in tandem. We frequently inform all our users about our Discord channel in case they need support. Our intercom chat pops up a couple of times for new users helping them with tips, tutorials and asking them if they need help. Our entire onboarding email is set up to get users to succeed with Appsmith and engage with us meaningfully.

To really drive home engagement, we included an omnibar really early in the lifecycle of the product so people could find what they were looking for easily. Our content efforts were first focused on existing users vs initiatives for real growth. We focused on the problems our users were trying to solve on Appsmith and focused on it than content that was more friendly to new users on SEO. Tying back to our first point, the only reason we believe our content initiatives are successful is that we made them easy to access.

omnibar.gif

Omnibar to the rescue

Use your product

We want to be there for our users, especially while they’re using the product. To make it as non-intrusive as possible, we use Intercom for gentle nudges to help them, hear from them and figure out how to help them succeed. From our analysis, it is surprisingly effective in getting people the help they need and setting them up for success on Appsmith.

At the same time, it is important not to overuse the product for engagement and let our users use the product the way they want. It is easy to get carried away and use the real estate near the banner, navbar and other empty spaces to push for engagement (This is something we argue over every day), but it is important to understand that users don’t use the product to engage with us. Engagement is a great side effect of a good product.

Not all users are the same

This seems obvious but is hard to put into practice. Not all users want the same features or the level of support or the roadmap. Segmenting users here helps to figure out which channel is more effective to engage with them.

Our users include startup founders (who are super active on Appsmith) as well as CTOs of large companies (who use our product once in a while and don’t personally engage on the platform). We need different strokes for different folks. For example, support requests work great on discord for founders and engineers, but might not be the most optimal channel for CTOs of larger companies.

Discord was great for instant support, but it was a nightmare for users during peak hours. Repeated questions, examples and JavaScript snippets were clogging the pipeline. Before we officially launched community.appsmith.com, users had already found the website and started asking questions. We quickly realised that our users were seeking a place where they could search for pre-existing queries or have their queries answered without the hassle of Discord. This also signalled a preference for more elaborate answers to questions about the direction of our project.

We’re still in the process of getting our forums to be as active as our community, and I think we will get there fairly soon, simply because of users’ preferences in where and how they want to engage with us.

CleanShot 2021-07-06 at 18.01.47@2x.png

Seed common spaces!

The one thing I believe we definitely did right from the beginning, was seeding our forums and Discord community with content. When our users saw that there was activity, they were happier to post, argue and discuss with us across a variety of channels.

But what really helped us do this easily was that we decided that as contributors to Appsmith, we were essentially the group that set the bar on community interactions and formed the core part of the community. We operated as members of the community first, and used Appsmith to create our own internal apps, and posted questions that came up naturally in that process.

CleanShot 2021-07-06 at 18.03.14@2x.png

From a user on our forums

Track your progress:

While this is not something you do directly for the community, as a project, it is very important to see where you and the community see returns in the efforts. At Appsmith, we use GitHub for issues, discourse forums, Reddit, Discord, email and intercom as channels to engage with users, and it is really complicated to see if our initiatives are working long term, without measuring retention and engagement for the community.

Luckily, we found orbit, a product-focused on community engagement that helps us figure out how users are interacting with various touchpoints in the community and the engagement of our users. We can now keep track of important metrics like messages on Discord and posts on discourse along with the number of returning members, and tie it with product metrics to improve user experience and engagement.

CleanShot 2021-07-06 at 18.03.55@2x.png

Orbit Dashboard for Appsmith

CleanShot 2021-07-06 at 18.04.48@2x.png

Tracking messages on Discord to measure the engagement

Some things to keep in mind:

While these ideas have worked for us at Appsmith, by no means will it work for everybody across the board. Also, one obvious engagement tool I haven’t touched upon in this article is email. Email is how most engagement starts, and there is tonnes of content about using email and making engagement effective online. The other problem with email, is there is a fine line between engagement and spam and thus we use email judiciously with a cap of one email a week and not more. We’re always thinking about how we can cut down the email we send our users and engage with them without spamming their inboxes.

But in the spirit of ticking all the boxes, you can check out our live demo on how we email users who are churning out. As we have scaled, we have also used Appsmith to build a ton of our internal engagement tools, to great effect.

This article provides an overview of the initiatives we’ve undertaken at appsmith to drive user engagement and build a community. We hope some of these initiatives will be useful for your context. Do let us know what you think!

Building Our Community while Building in Public: Learnings at Appsmith

Share this

User engagement is a catch-all phrase the internet uses for well...engaging with your users. But like all such phrases, it doesn’t mean much without context, especially for an open-source company like ours that builds software for developers.

At Appsmith, we’re evolving from a small project with great support on Discord to a company that is investing heavily in engaging its users. In this post, I’ll walk you through our key learnings over time, with a little bit about what our users had to say at each step of the journey.

  1. Distinguishing great support from engagement
  2. Personalizing interactions with users
  3. Discovery as a core function of engagement initiatives
  4. Using the product to drive engagement
  5. Segmenting users
  6. Seeding content in the initial days
  7. Tracking progress and engagement

Great support is just the first step

We started a Discord channel to brainstorm ideas and learn from our users. Back in January, our Discord was (and still is) active 24x7. We were helping users across time zones all day. Users loved the speed of our support. Support work has remained extremely important for us and @mohanarpit, our co-founder, makes it a point to give shout outs for support work on our internal slack.

CleanShot 2021-07-06 at 17.38.42@2x.png
CleanShot 2021-07-06 at 17.38.57@2x.png

Being available all the time for support was helpful, but we were not generating relevant content. Very rarely were users spending time discussing the product with us. We needed to do more to communicate with users around what we were doing, and had to find ways to show them that we cared about their inputs. While speaking to our users, we also learnt that they engaged with us to request features, report bugs, and plan for the future so they could continue using us. Asking for support was just one of the ways in which they could get their jobs done. Support is what gets users started with the community, but it doesn’t make them stay and get involved.

That’s when we started our newsletter and other content initiatives. In addition to our docs, Appsmith now has a wide variety of videos, tutorials and templates to get users started. We immediately saw an impact and a lot of new users loved us for it, and our non-support channels started getting more active on Discord!

Make it personal and experiment with what works

Almost simultaneously with the content initiatives, we started something we used to call “office hours”. Users could join us on Thursdays and ask questions and receive live support. Our first month was decent, but over time, fewer people joined, and most questions coming up were about future features and timelines. So, on one hand, this felt like a failure because we didn’t get the volume of activity we expected, but on the other hand, our entire team loved interacting with the users. It felt personal and we got the best feedback through these sessions. Some of these sessions also helped users decide whether Appsmith was offering them what they wanted in the near future. There was definitely a great value in having such an initiative.

CleanShot 2021-07-06 at 17.42.21@2x.png

First community call where 3 users showed up

So we furthered the initiative with Community Hours. With Intercom and Discord for near-instant support, we used the Community Hours to speak about our product roadmap, talk about releases and lift the hood around some engineering choices we made.

CleanShot 2021-07-06 at 17.43.50@2x.png

All the features voted for by the community, that we’re building right now (watch)

We had a long list of feature requests and these events helped us prioritize our features to what the community wanted. We also started streaming live demos so our users could see our new features in action while we built complex applications.

This showed us that not every initiative is a success, but if there is value in an initiative, it is worth looking at how we could get the same interactions through a different format. We were so focused on support that it took us time to realize our users were with us in this for the long haul.

Now, we have launched Betasmith to interact with users even more closely. You can join Betasmith here!

CleanShot 2021-07-06 at 17.45.23@2x.png

Discovery is important

It’s easy to ship content, but it is really hard to make it discoverable for people. It is even easier to set up a website or Discord channel, but even harder to get them to work for you.

The trick is to have easy ways to engage with your users and this sometimes means using multiple channels in tandem. We frequently inform all our users about our Discord channel in case they need support. Our intercom chat pops up a couple of times for new users helping them with tips, tutorials and asking them if they need help. Our entire onboarding email is set up to get users to succeed with Appsmith and engage with us meaningfully.

To really drive home engagement, we included an omnibar really early in the lifecycle of the product so people could find what they were looking for easily. Our content efforts were first focused on existing users vs initiatives for real growth. We focused on the problems our users were trying to solve on Appsmith and focused on it than content that was more friendly to new users on SEO. Tying back to our first point, the only reason we believe our content initiatives are successful is that we made them easy to access.

omnibar.gif

Omnibar to the rescue

Use your product

We want to be there for our users, especially while they’re using the product. To make it as non-intrusive as possible, we use Intercom for gentle nudges to help them, hear from them and figure out how to help them succeed. From our analysis, it is surprisingly effective in getting people the help they need and setting them up for success on Appsmith.

At the same time, it is important not to overuse the product for engagement and let our users use the product the way they want. It is easy to get carried away and use the real estate near the banner, navbar and other empty spaces to push for engagement (This is something we argue over every day), but it is important to understand that users don’t use the product to engage with us. Engagement is a great side effect of a good product.

Not all users are the same

This seems obvious but is hard to put into practice. Not all users want the same features or the level of support or the roadmap. Segmenting users here helps to figure out which channel is more effective to engage with them.

Our users include startup founders (who are super active on Appsmith) as well as CTOs of large companies (who use our product once in a while and don’t personally engage on the platform). We need different strokes for different folks. For example, support requests work great on discord for founders and engineers, but might not be the most optimal channel for CTOs of larger companies.

Discord was great for instant support, but it was a nightmare for users during peak hours. Repeated questions, examples and JavaScript snippets were clogging the pipeline. Before we officially launched community.appsmith.com, users had already found the website and started asking questions. We quickly realised that our users were seeking a place where they could search for pre-existing queries or have their queries answered without the hassle of Discord. This also signalled a preference for more elaborate answers to questions about the direction of our project.

We’re still in the process of getting our forums to be as active as our community, and I think we will get there fairly soon, simply because of users’ preferences in where and how they want to engage with us.

CleanShot 2021-07-06 at 18.01.47@2x.png

Seed common spaces!

The one thing I believe we definitely did right from the beginning, was seeding our forums and Discord community with content. When our users saw that there was activity, they were happier to post, argue and discuss with us across a variety of channels.

But what really helped us do this easily was that we decided that as contributors to Appsmith, we were essentially the group that set the bar on community interactions and formed the core part of the community. We operated as members of the community first, and used Appsmith to create our own internal apps, and posted questions that came up naturally in that process.

CleanShot 2021-07-06 at 18.03.14@2x.png

From a user on our forums

Track your progress:

While this is not something you do directly for the community, as a project, it is very important to see where you and the community see returns in the efforts. At Appsmith, we use GitHub for issues, discourse forums, Reddit, Discord, email and intercom as channels to engage with users, and it is really complicated to see if our initiatives are working long term, without measuring retention and engagement for the community.

Luckily, we found orbit, a product-focused on community engagement that helps us figure out how users are interacting with various touchpoints in the community and the engagement of our users. We can now keep track of important metrics like messages on Discord and posts on discourse along with the number of returning members, and tie it with product metrics to improve user experience and engagement.

CleanShot 2021-07-06 at 18.03.55@2x.png

Orbit Dashboard for Appsmith

CleanShot 2021-07-06 at 18.04.48@2x.png

Tracking messages on Discord to measure the engagement

Some things to keep in mind:

While these ideas have worked for us at Appsmith, by no means will it work for everybody across the board. Also, one obvious engagement tool I haven’t touched upon in this article is email. Email is how most engagement starts, and there is tonnes of content about using email and making engagement effective online. The other problem with email, is there is a fine line between engagement and spam and thus we use email judiciously with a cap of one email a week and not more. We’re always thinking about how we can cut down the email we send our users and engage with them without spamming their inboxes.

But in the spirit of ticking all the boxes, you can check out our live demo on how we email users who are churning out. As we have scaled, we have also used Appsmith to build a ton of our internal engagement tools, to great effect.

This article provides an overview of the initiatives we’ve undertaken at appsmith to drive user engagement and build a community. We hope some of these initiatives will be useful for your context. Do let us know what you think!

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

  • xvcmbmvkmnkmbknmbkmlnj
  • A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

  1. A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

ksnopirirfnb [aorewmb[oiewsn b[opebr
  1. then connect a rich text

dfbstjsrykmsry

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Debugging your apps in Appsmith with the Appsmith Debugger, part 2
27
September
2022
Product

Debugging your apps in Appsmith with the Appsmith Debugger, part 2

Debugging your apps in Appsmith with the Appsmith Debugger, part 2
Ayush Pahwa
0
 minutes ↗
#
product
#
errors
#
troubleshooting
#
debugger
Product
Meet the sidekicks, Logs and Inspect Entity

The first part of this teardown helped you see how the Error pane can save you hours in debugging and build better internal apps. In this one, let’s meet two seemingly innocuous features that can give you debugging super-powers when used right.

Logs

The Logs pane shows you everything logged by Appsmith and, like Errors, in lockstep with the sequence of code execution in your build. Borrowing from the experience of showing logs in general—in the browser console, from a shell, or on your favorite IDE—the Logs pane has four views for specific debugging use cases.

Post_5.jpg (1920×1080)

All Logs

This view shows you all logs timestamped by when we saw them in your Appsmith session. Updated a widget’s property? Wrote a new action to your GraphQL datasource? Ran a JS Object to concat two queries? It all gets logged, including the errors you see in the Errors pane, in a separate view called Error Logs. You will see how that can be useful in a GIF, pun intended.

The All Logs view can be a little overwhelming, though, and a bit of work when you have been at your build for a while. For easier tracking of relevant logs, use one of the three options below.

Post_6.gif (1440×810)

Errors Logs

Everything you learned about the Errors pane applies to this view, too, but there’s more to this view. Here's a likely scenario to show that.

State #1

You have a button to reload a table, presumably to refresh the data from your datasource.

Condition #1

You use the Button property, onClick, which runs the query to fetch the latest data into the table.

Scenario #1

Your query fails.

- On just the Error pane

  • You see just the error for the failing query. Although helpful, it doesn’t offer context for the before and after of the error.

- On the Error Logs pane under Logs

  1. You see logs for the Button click and the executed onClick event .
  2. Because the onClick property is binded to queries and JS Objects, you see the ones that are successfully executed and those that fail.
Error_Logs__Appsmith.gif (1440×810)

The triaging in our example above is especially useful when you have nested queries, several dependent bindings, and a more complex workflow overall.

Console Logs

console.log_in_the_Editor__Appsmith.jpg (1920×1080)

Just introduced in the Debugger, console methods in Appsmith help you see statements for just JS Objects and JavaScript bindings so much better than in the browser sub-window.

Set points in your code that you want to log statements at, view tabular data, or see groups for repeated errors.

System Logs

Post_7.jpg (1920×1080)

Automatically tracking all your interactions with Appsmith during build, System Logs show a helpful trail of activity by descending order of timestamp, especially useful when you want to go back in time or pivot from a point of failure to everything that led to it.

They show up for different situations and interactions for the type of entity you are working with.

With widgets, you see a log when you

  • Drag-and-drop a new widget on the canvas.
  • Update the widget’s properties
    Updating a property also updates all its dependent properties which then show up in System Logs.
Dependent_properties_updates_in_system_logs__Appsmith.gif (1280×720)
For example, when you update the tableData property, you also see its dependent properties like selectedRowIndex, filters, triggeredRowIndex, and so on.
  • Trigger events with an end-user action.
Trigger_events_with_an_end-user_action__Appsmith.gif (1280×720)
For example, when you are using an end-user action to store a value with storeValue or when you want a click-action to trigger an operation like an update or delete and are using onClick, you see them show up in System Logs.
  • Delete a widget from the canvas

With actions, you see them when you

  • Create a new datasource or a query
  • Update query properties like queryName, queryBody, queryConfiguration, and queryProperties.
  • Execute a query
Execute_a_query.gif (1440×810)
This can be either from query pane, running a plain REST API query, a JS Object, or via a widget’s bindings.
  • Delete a query

With JS Objects, you’ll see system logs when you

  • Create and update code inside JS Objects
  • Execute JS Objects
Execute_JS_Objects.gif (1440×810)

Just like errors, system logs are native to entities and have four parts to them.

Parts_of_a_system_log_line__Appsmith.jpg (1920×1080)

The timestamp

Logged as your entities are created, updated and deleted, these little breadcrumbs help you track back from when the error occurred to when it was last A-Okay.

Timestamped_logs_in_System_Logs.gif (1440×810)

The message

Useful during build, the message of the log answers two questions— what were you doing with an entity—creating it, updating it, deleting it—and what happened with your action—success or failure.

  • With widgets, outside of CRUD information, you also see event-specific info like onClick and showAlert linked to those widgets.
  • Queries and JS Objects are straightforward with start and end points that indicate if they were updated, ran, and failed.

The source

Like errors, a system log has two parts to its source—the entity’s name.the type of entity, e.g., SELECT1.TABLE1.WIDGET.

Redirect_from_an_Inspect_Entity_sub-window.gif (1440×810)
👌🏽 Appsmith Experience plug

Clicking the source from the logs takes you to the associated entity anywhere in Appsmith, be it a widget, a query, or a JS Object. Noice!

The response

This doesn’t always show, but when it does, it can be useful confirmation of a binding working, a query running successfully, or a JS Object executing completely.

  • For widgets, you see which properties are updated when you are configuring them and how.
    Say you’re updating the text widget’s background property and you don’t see it change on the canvas. Track the log to the response for a quick confirmation of that and troubleshoot the canvas next.
  • For queries, you’ll see two different logs—the start of a query run and the status of its execution.
    The first type of log will show you configuration details of the query—helpful to verify if the config matches the request.        

{
    "timeoutInMillisecond":10000
    "paginationType":"NONE"
    "encodeParamsToggle":true
    "body":"SELECT * FROM public."users" LIMIT 10;"
    "pluginSpecifiedTemplates":[
        0:{
            "value":true
        }
    ]
}

  • The second type will throw an error if the run fails. When the query runs successfully, it shows all the parameters that the query ran with and the time taken for the response.

{
	"response" : [...],
	"request" : {
		"actionId" "6321c1193668£71e£7caala2"
		"requestedAt" : 1663912830.640344
		"requestParams": {...}
}

  • With JS Objects, you see the response from the function as a JSON after an object is successfully run. This shows you how Appsmith handles the function while evaluating and running it and can be useful for spotting conflicts, undefined references, or troublesome variables.

Inspect Entity

Borrowing from a modern browser’s Inspect Element feature, Inspect Entity lets you see incoming and outgoing entities for any widget. These entities can be queries, JS Objects, or even other widgets.

Group_8480.png (1920×1080)
  • Incoming entities are those that fetch data from the datasource into the widget.
    For example, if the data on a table is populated by a Postgres query, you’ll see the query name under the Incoming entities column.
  • Outgoing entities are those that can specify the data that’s to be sent to the datasource in a typical CUD operation and then send it to your datasource.
    Say, a text widget is binded to a table's selectedRow property, you will see the text widget’s name under the Outgoing entities column.

The Inspect Entity pane lets you see dependencies for all your widgets on the canvas, especially useful if you have a medium-complex app with several widgets working off of each other. For example, when you have a parent widget or query that controls bindings on other dependent widgets---call them children widgets---, Inspect Entity can show you all those children when you click the parent and quickly take you to any one of them directly.

In combination with Errors, Logs and Inspect Entity round out the Debugger for several scenarios during build and save you hours in building an app end-users love. Try out the Debugger and let us know how you like it, what it's missing, and what we can improve. Our Discord is the best place for that feedback.

The Appsmith Debugger now supports Console methods
23
September
2022
Announcement

The Appsmith Debugger now supports Console methods

The Appsmith Debugger now supports Console methods
Rishabh Rathod
0
 minutes ↗
#
debugger
#
troubleshooting
#
console-methods
Announcement

For a while now, you have used and loved the Appsmith Debugger, nearly complete with a Error pane, system and error logs, and an entity inspector. We say nearly complete because it was missing one of the most popular debugging tools in a dev’s toolkit—console methods.

We are happy to announce the availability of console methods for both cloud users and self-hosters on v1.8.0.

“But, what is the Appsmith Debugger?”

Image_1.png (1920×1080)

Think of the Appsmith Debugger as a set of Chrome DevTools—like for Appsmith. It lives on the familiar 🐞 everywhere in Appsmith and

  • shows helpful error messages for bindings, queries, and variables
  • lets you inspect entity relationships
  • filters system and user logs

All of this is helpful when debugging unexpected API responses or app viewer experiences. Should you care to learn more, this post breaks down the debugger by each one of its features.

“Okay, and console methods are…”

Just one of the most popular ways of print debugging in modern browsers, console methods, exposed by the console API, are a set of functions that help you log the values of variables at set points in your code, messages, or even tabular data so you can investigate them in your browser’s debugging console.

Before today, you could use all supported browser console methods, but only in the browser’s dev tools sub-window. To any developer with their hands dirty with front-end code, the browser debugging subwindow is a necessary evil—a thousand lines of errors, messages, values, and steps that you would have to sift through. We are not going to say, “Looking for the literal needle in the haystack”, but you know you are thinking it.

“And the Appsmith Debugger has a console now?”

Yes! 🥳

So, instead of something like,

you now see,

Image_3.png (1920×1080)

Sweet? This gets sweeter.

Supported methods

  • log

Almost synonymous with console, the .log() method is one of the most popular ways to log a message or the values of variables defined in your Javascript.

It can also be used to show helpful messages or comments, say, the entry and exit points of functions.

Example


getUUID: () => {
		console.log("entry - getUUID function");
		let prefix;
		
		let d = new Date().getTime();
		console.log("new date created -", d);
		d += (parseInt(Math.random() * 100)).toString();
		console.log(d, "random number generated by getUUID")
		if (undefined === prefix) {
			prefix = 'uid-';
		}
		d = prefix + d;
		console.log("UUID created -", d);
		console.log("exit - getUUID function")
		return d;
	}

Result

Image_4.png (1920×1080)
  • error

the .error() method logs an error message to the Appsmith console, be it a a string like, “This is an error message” or the value of a function.

Say you've written a function and you suspect it’s returning an error., but you don’t know what kind. For unknown unknowns like this, `error` comes handy.

Example


checkTextWidget: () => {
		const element = Text1.text;
		if (element == "") {
			console.error("There is an error. The Text property is empty ");
		}
		return element;
	}

Result

Image_5.png (1920×1080)
  • warn

Jus as .error() aids error investigations, .warn() shows, well, warnings for known knowns. Some situations this can come in handy are,- When the evaluated value of binded data on a widget is not using the same datatype as the expected value- When widgets continue to use deprecated queries or functions- When the timezone used in a datetime functions doesn't match the browser’s

Example


selectDefaultValue: () => {
	 const defaultValue = Select1.selectedOptionValue;
		if (defaultValue == ""){
			console.warn("No values selected on Select1 widget ")
		}
		return defaultValue;
}

Result

Image_6.png (1920×1080)
  • table

table (.) just does what it says—logs a Table widget’s data in key-value pairs for rows as objects. While we support this in Appsmith, we are still working on a browser console-like table, especially as we make the Table feature-richer.

Example


table1DataFunc: () =>{
		const data = Table1.tableData;
		console.table(data)
}

Result

Image_7.png (1920×1080)

That’s it! You now have the power of the console right within in Appsmith. There are other useful views available under Logs and we'll talk about them in a follow-up to the Debugger teardown soon. Bookmark this page. Thank us later.

Debugging your app in Appsmith with the Appsmith Debugger, Part 1
20
September
2022
Product

Debugging your app in Appsmith with the Appsmith Debugger, Part 1

Debugging your app in Appsmith with the Appsmith Debugger, Part 1
Ayush Pahwa
0
 minutes ↗
#
product
#
errors
#
troubleshooting
#
debugger
Product

That title is a tongue twister, innit? Almost.

Here’s a meme that isn’t. It’s just the painful truth.

Debugging_is_like_being_lost_in_a_deser.jpg (749×500)

There is no perfect code, so you know debugging is inevitable, but it’s still a chore and is as crushing often times as the meme claims it is.

But, while debugging is inevitable, making it painful is optional, especially when you have the Appsmith Debugger. We have claimed we champion developer experience as many times as we could before without being brazen about it. We think. So, we thought some more and said, “Let’s prove the claim, too.”

“Wait, wait. What is the Appsmith Debugger?”

In 2021, we shipped the Appsmith Debugger, a set of Chrome DevelTools-like features that have helped you investigate and resolve errors in Appsmith.

We recorded a video for it in a series about the Debugger, talked about it in our docs, and referenced it enough times to make you groan about our obsession with errors. If this is the first you are hearing of it, get on our Discord so we can tell you some more about it.

Why we did this

Browser dev tools are as helpful as a magnet when looking for iron fillings in a pristine haystack. To the untrained eye, they can be downright criminal, too.

Browser_debugger.jpeg (960×506)
Source: Reddit

Sure, sure, they nest groups of errors and there are separate tabs for the console and the debugger, but meh! There’s a sea of error messages, system logs, console logs, and then there’s you swimming in it.

Before we shipped the debugger, you saw,

  • errors inside a widget's Property pane that floated on your canvas which probably already had several widgets
  • the Editor’s Response pane, which clubbed legit responses with errors

The Debugger solved several of those problems.

Post_8.jpg (1920×1080)

What’s the Debugger have

Available on app.appsmith.com and our self-hosted release images, it can be called by toggling the debug icon—the one that looks like a bug—on the bottom-right corner of your Appsmith screen or with CTRL/CMD +D.

Inside the Debugger, live three panes, Errors, Logs, and Inspect Entity, each with their own uses. In the first part of this two part post, we will break the Error pane down for you and see how it can save you hours over browser dev tools in debugging.

If you would much rather just learn about Logs and Inspect Entity, bookmark this post. We will link to Part 2 in five days. :-)

Errors

Borrowing from a browser’s dev tools sub-window but improving on it radically, the Error pane lists all errors that we see when you are building inside Appsmith. Familiar examples include syntax errors from JavaScript bindings, reference errors from queries, and datatype mismatch errors.

Errors in the pane are specific to an Appsmith entity. Translated from Appsmithlish, it means you see helpful error messages about a faulting widget, a rogue query, or a stubborn JS Object.

Untitled.gif (1440×810)
Example of a faulting widget and the error beaconing it
Untitled.gif (1440×810)
A JS Object error

  • These errors get logged to the pane in lockstep with the sequence of code execution in Appsmith.
  • The Error pane is the default view when working with widgets—most noticeable if you have the Debugger sub-window resized as in the pictures in purple—so you know what’s going wrong and where in real-time.
  • The Editor's Error Pane is smarter. It doesn’t automatically switch to the Error pane—Response is the default on this screen—when an error occurs. Instead, the Debug icon lights up in red with a numeric notification that’s like a running ticker for the number of errors the Debugger sees with your queries or JS Objects. Click it to open the Error pane.
  • Every error you see in the pane follows a template with a few helpful pieces of info to help you debug.
image_high.jpeg (1920×1080)
Numbers on this image correspond to bullets below. Images in sub-bullets below show what the sub-bullet talks about.

The timestamp

Logged as your code executes or a value evaluates with your widgets, these little breadcrumbs help you track back from when the error occurred to when last it was A-Okay.

The issue

Depending on the error type, you will see a couple different kinds of issues.

  1. With widgets, you’ll see the faulting widget property’s name. An example of this is the commonplace The value at tableData is invalid, occurring when the property tableData expects an Array<Object> datatype but you have an Array<List> instead.
  2. With queries, you see more specific errors, often specific to the datasource you are running your queries to, often indicated by status codes returned by your failing requests.
  3. With JS Objects, we straight-up level with you about the parseability of your functions. Parseability probably isn’t a word, but you know what we mean.

The source

This has two parts to it—the entity’s name.the type of entity the troublesome one is, e.g., SELECT1.WIDGET. As is obvious and has been to you, SELECT1 is the entity’s name and WIDGET is the entity type.

👌🏾 Appsmith Experience plug: Clicking the source takes you to the faulting entity anywhere in Appsmith, be it a widget, a query, or a JS Object. Noice!

The message

This is the most helpful part of the message, beginning with Error and ending with a helpful bit of text or a number.

  1. Because widgets bind to queries or JS Objects using JavaScript, quite a few errors you see are the same as familiar JavaScript errors like SyntaxError or TypeError. Some other errors show is not defined. This is when a variable, a query, or a JS Object isn’t defined, but you have specified it in the Property pane.
  2. In the Editor, these messages go a step further and call out the line number in the editor that has the faulting code. For example, Line 2: Unrecognized token '$'. This type of message has three parts to it.
Post_9.jpg (1920×1080)

1. The type: Error

2. The string: relation “public.user” does not exit

3. The line number: Position 15

😻 Appsmith Experience plug: Clicking the message will open our in-app docs finder and run a helpful search to show you top docs matching the error.

Response from queries or bindings

This doesn’t always show, but when it does, it can show you helpful responses with query params or evaluated values of data bindings.

Post_10.jpg (1920×1080)
  1. With widgets, you’ll see the evaluated value from the bindings.
  2. With queries, you’ll see the payload from the API you are querying.

“How does all of this help?”

Consider two situations we have painfully drawn for you.

State #1

You have several queries and widgets on your way to a complete build.

Condition #1

You have nested queries inside JS Objects. Meaning, these queries are binded to multiple widgets via JavaScript transformations and have dependent parameters with each other.

Scenario #1

A query fails and returns an error.

Without the Appsmith Debugger

You decide to sift through the browser dev tools sub-window, trying to locate the faulty query in something that looks like ↓.

The_browser_console.png (1920×1080)

When you find the first problem query, you’re hoping against hope this is your patient zero.

  1. If so, congratulations aren’t quite in order yet. You’re still going to have to surgery the query to see what went wrong where.
  2. With browser tools, may you be lucky and find a fix in the first hour.

Most times, though, Murphy’s Law applies.

  1. Meaning, you will need to find the last problem query.
  2. Repeat steps #1 and #2 with all the sub-steps in between

If you have a friend who’s on Appsmith, you hear them say, “Good morning. Do you have a ready app? No? Try the Debugger. 🙄”

With the Appsmith Debugger

You see all the errors from all the failed queries In the Error pane and nothing else to crowd your investigation.

  1. You quickly scan by the type of errors.
  2. Errors are listed in the sequence of query execution.
Post_11.jpg (1920×1080)
So you can simply scroll to the first failed query, and investigate further.

  1. The error message tells you what failed with the params in which line, neatly indented neatly for you.

Don’t remember the query’s name? Pfft! We got it. Click the error message, and go right to the error source.

Trouble troubleshooting? Click the error message and find super-relevant docs in Appsmith’s doc finder.

At the end of it, you save a whole night’s hair-pulls, wake up bright and fresh, sip your coffee, and wonder why some people still use browser dev tools. 🤔 Maybe you should refer them to us.

State #2

You have the data from a REST API and the table for your dashboard, but you have left the chart for the very end. You are sensible like that. Charts are tricky things in general.

Condition #2

You have to bind the chart widget from Fusion Charts or one of our defaults with a query that should output the format Array<{ x: string, y: number Required }> as input to the widget. This will need JavaScript transformations.

Scenario #2

You get a datatype mismatch error.

Without the Appsmith Debugger

You toggle around the floating EXPECTED STRUCTURE, EXPECTED STRUCTURE - EXAMPLE, and EVALUATED VALUE panes to understand the chart widget’s configuration.

You have a JS Object for the transformation, so you now switch back and forth between the canvas and the JS Editor for each possible fix in the JS code.

  1. By now, you have console.loged your way to the browser tools sub-window. Magnet, meet Iron Fillings In A Haystack.
  2. Forgot the change you made to the JS Object five tries ago? Yeah, well, no System Logs, so what can you do, right? Maybe note each change on Sublime or VS Code from this point on.

With the Appsmith Debugger

Post_12.jpg (1920×1080)

Right after you run the transformation, you see the floating-pane-that-we-don’t have-a-name-for-yet show you some red and the Error pane light up with all your errors, timestamped and sequenced by the order of code execution.

  1. You see the type of error and the evaluated value for the faulting entity. Stick to this without worrying about the unnamed floating pane.
  2. Your query has trouble getting a response from your datasource, so you see that error, but hey, you also see the binding failure of that same query with the widget.
  3. No hunting for the query or the widget you want to troubleshoot. One click from the Debugger and you are transported to the associated entity.
Debugger_with_click-actions__JS_Editor.jpg (1920×1080)

You see all the errors from the transformation in one pane with click-actions for each one of them.

Docs_finder_from_Response__Appsmith.gif (1440×810)

Error messages not enough? Click the error and choose, Browse code snippets, and voila! You now now search for the chart + the query right there and see some of our helpful docs.

Made it to here? Your life inside Appsmith is going to change.

Also, this is just part one of this two-part breakdown. What’s next?

https://media.giphy.com/media/3kIGmlW0lvpnmF3bGy/giphy.gif

Better than post-credits. A whole other movie featuring Logs and Inspect Entity. Meanwhile, here’s a few things you can do.

Until the next Debugger post, Appsmiths.

P.S.: We love you.