31
July
2019
Engineering

Is it Worth Joining an Early-stage Startup?

0
 minutes

This post is an attempt to put some method to the madness behind deciding whether joining an early-stage startup is worth it.

"The short answer is that it depends."

For the long answer — I have a framework to share that has helped me decide this multiple times in the past. Over the last 10 years, I have co-founded two startups, Gharpay & Bicycle AI, and worked at a few early-stage startups such as Exotel and Cure.Fit. About a month ago, I started building my third startup, Appsmith.

The challenge of working on new problems for new markets is a heady combination for me. But each time I started up or joined an early-stage startup, I found myself asking, “Is it worth it?” Though my answer has always been a resounding “yes”, my reasons behind the “yes” were different each time. I found that clarity on my reason behind the decision was critical.

We all have different life contexts, priorities, personalities and dreams. These unique factors influence our reasoning for choosing one career path over another. You shouldn’t let anyone tell you to ignore this stuff and just jump in.

So, here is my framework. It is quite simple and focuses on a few fundamentals.

Step 1: Ask three questions about yourself and answer honestly.

Step 2: Explore three reasons why it may be a bad idea to join an early-stage startup.

Step 3: Explore three reasons why it may be a fantastic idea to join an early-stage startup.

Step 1: The Three Critical Questions**

1. What kind of life do you want — right now and in the long term?

The answer depends heavily on your personal and professional goals. What are your priorities? Are you willing to invest a considerable amount of mental energy & time in your professional life right now? How does working at an early-stage startup fit within those priorities? Does it help or hamper your progress towards your long-term goals?

Personally, If I have a lot going on my personal front, I will want to prioritize that and hold out on making major commitments on my professional front. Try getting some clarity on what is your priority right now & what you want from life in the long-term. Clarity of thought acts as a great north star for all the decisions that you will end up taking.

2. What kind of a person are you?

Early-stage startups are not better or worse than late-stage startups or even large corporations. They are just different. And from what I have noticed, most people who fit in and perform well at early stages have a few overarching traits.

They are generalists. They look at their work as their craft and take great pride in it. They love challenges and are self-motivated to figure things out. They are quite comfortable saying ‘I don’t know’. They ask for help without hesitation. They also index heavily on finding a solution instead of focusing on the problem. Last but not the least, they are resilient.

Do parts of it seem like you? Look within and answer candidly.

3. What do you expect to gain from it?

Begin with the (expected) end in mind. What kind of professional growth do you need? What are your “must meet” and “good to meet” expectations from yourself at this point? Define these clearly. Take a step back and ask yourself — why are you even thinking of joining an early-stage startup in the first place?

If you don’t know what output you want, you can’t really decide what input to give and how to program the system, can you? State clearly what you want to gain from the experience.

Step 2: Why is joining an early stage startup a bad idea

1. Ambiguity gets a seat on the table

"No company (of any scale) has everything figured out."

The earlier a company is in its lifecycle, the more the number of unanswered questions. The work environment at early-stage startups can be a little (or very) chaotic because of this inevitable ambiguity.

You will not face much ambiguity on a daily basis at a late-stage startup or bigger company because they have already gone through their ambiguous phase. Whatever ambiguities are left to be figured out exist at the management level while you are shielded from it.

Everyone at an early-stage startup must embrace ambiguity. If you are not okay working with some level of uncertainty & ambiguity, early-stage startups may not be a good choice for you.

2. Get it right and get it fast, please.

"You can have something good or you can have something right now but you can’t have something good right now."

Early-stage startups don’t subscribe to this thought process. You got to deliver on everything super fast. You got to think fast, plan fast, build fast, ship fast and iterate fast. The company’s survival & success depends on how quickly it can execute & iterate on multiple things simultaneously. Some people choose to accomplish this by working longer hours, while others choose to do it by creating leverage (a topic for another day).

Timelines are mostly tight. You’ve got to deliver things right and you’ve got to deliver them fast. If you don’t subscribe to this work-style or if you feel this may stress you out, early-stage startups may not be a good professional choice.

3. ROI is subject to market risk and yes, it takes a long time to get any returns

The answer to ‘will your investment reap financial returns’ is always a probabilistic one. Same is the case with startups. Reaping any sizeable financial returns on your equity or ESOP (Employee Stock Option Pool) takes quite a bit of time. Standard equity or ESOP vesting periods span over four years.

Yes, there is a potential of high returns (more on this later) but you must also consider any financial trade-offs you are making. And don’t ignore the time frame of any expected ROI. Most early-stage VCs invest with a 10-year horizon.

"A garden takes time to cultivate before you see the flowers bloom. Early-stage startups are definitely not get-rich-quick schemes. "

If you need to make a lot of money quickly, early-stage startups are not your best bet.

Step 3 : Why is joining an early-stage startup a fantastic idea

1. A free ‘personal growth 101’ class

There is a lot to be done and everyone has limited bandwidth. You are mostly on your own. You will need to figure out how to do things yourself. How do you make technical choices? How do you sell the product to a potential customer? How do you pitch the team and its culture to a potential candidate? How do you say no? How do you prioritize for maximum output & outcomes?

There are no manuals to refer or company best practices to follow at early-stage startups. You’ve got to write these yourself. The learning curve is really steep when you get down to laying the foundation. Once you do these things from scratch, you’ll realize that you can figure out most things in life. You don’t have to rely on external folks/factors to accelerate learning. This builds a lot of self-confidence.

"Startups test your character and your core beliefs. "

How do you react when you are under pressure? What choices do you make when nobody is watching? How do you handle rejection from investors and customers? Are you able to take critical feedback and improve? You will uncover a lot about yourself while navigating such choices.

2. Diverse exposure

Are you an engineer? Great! You also have to pitch and sell the product to early customers. Are you a sales ninja? Cool! Please pitch in for writing the social media posts too. You do marketing? Awesome! Can you get on some customer feedback calls as well?

Sure, late-stage startups and large enterprises allow you to develop vertical depth of subject matter. But early-stage startups equip you with practical knowledge of how different verticals work and how they interact with each other to form a well-functioning organisation.

Early-stage startups push you to get out of your comfort zone regularly by exploring things out of your domain.

This experience will equip you with a lot more tools in your professional kitty. This diverse exposure is really useful in the job market of today and of the future.

3. Low risk, high reward investment (equity/ESOP)

I understand the value of equity wealth. In fact, one of the main reasons that I quit my day job to startup was to generate equity wealth.

Typically, early team members at startups get 0.2% — 2% equity share (depending on your experience, contribution, stage of the company etc). Early equity is given for risk rather than contribution. That’s why a founder’s equity is much higher than that of early team members.

Let’s run the numbers and see how early equity pans out in three scenarios. The assumption here is that you work at a fictitious startup that’s paying you a salary of 100K USD per year along with a total of 100K USD stock options (vested over 4 years).

Scenario 1:

equity-1.png

Assuming the startup is growing at 2x in valuation for the first couple of years, your equity will be worth 1.6 million USD. In contrast, you’d only make 400K USD as salary over the 4 years.

Scenario 2:

Assuming the valuation grows at the rate of 2x for the first two years; post which, it grows at 1.5x each year. In this case, your equity will be worth 900 K USD.

equity-2.png

Scenario 3:

Let’s take an even more conservative approach and assume that the valuation only increases 1.5x each year for the entire 4 years duration of your vesting period. Even in this case, your equity will be worth 506,250 USD.

equity-3.png

While the gap between equity wealth and salary wealth has narrowed down significantly from scenario 1 to scenario 3, equity wealth is still higher than the overall salary for a startup walking a conservative growth path. Of course, the equity wealth can reduce to zero too if the startup shuts down or the valuations take a downward spiral.

Since most startups pay competitive salaries, ESOPs give you an extreme financial upside while limiting the downside. This ensures you can pay your mortgage, send your kids to school and also save for the future.

In light of the context above, you should have more clarity on whether the decision to join an early-stage startup is worth it for you.

I hope this helps you in reaching your decision. Happy to answer any other questions that you may have around early-stage startups. You can reach me at arpit@appsmith.com

P.S — In case you decide that you want to join an early-stage startup, we are hiring for engineering roles. Hit me up and let’s chat.

Is it Worth Joining an Early-stage Startup?

Share this

This post is an attempt to put some method to the madness behind deciding whether joining an early-stage startup is worth it.

"The short answer is that it depends."

For the long answer — I have a framework to share that has helped me decide this multiple times in the past. Over the last 10 years, I have co-founded two startups, Gharpay & Bicycle AI, and worked at a few early-stage startups such as Exotel and Cure.Fit. About a month ago, I started building my third startup, Appsmith.

The challenge of working on new problems for new markets is a heady combination for me. But each time I started up or joined an early-stage startup, I found myself asking, “Is it worth it?” Though my answer has always been a resounding “yes”, my reasons behind the “yes” were different each time. I found that clarity on my reason behind the decision was critical.

We all have different life contexts, priorities, personalities and dreams. These unique factors influence our reasoning for choosing one career path over another. You shouldn’t let anyone tell you to ignore this stuff and just jump in.

So, here is my framework. It is quite simple and focuses on a few fundamentals.

Step 1: Ask three questions about yourself and answer honestly.

Step 2: Explore three reasons why it may be a bad idea to join an early-stage startup.

Step 3: Explore three reasons why it may be a fantastic idea to join an early-stage startup.

Step 1: The Three Critical Questions**

1. What kind of life do you want — right now and in the long term?

The answer depends heavily on your personal and professional goals. What are your priorities? Are you willing to invest a considerable amount of mental energy & time in your professional life right now? How does working at an early-stage startup fit within those priorities? Does it help or hamper your progress towards your long-term goals?

Personally, If I have a lot going on my personal front, I will want to prioritize that and hold out on making major commitments on my professional front. Try getting some clarity on what is your priority right now & what you want from life in the long-term. Clarity of thought acts as a great north star for all the decisions that you will end up taking.

2. What kind of a person are you?

Early-stage startups are not better or worse than late-stage startups or even large corporations. They are just different. And from what I have noticed, most people who fit in and perform well at early stages have a few overarching traits.

They are generalists. They look at their work as their craft and take great pride in it. They love challenges and are self-motivated to figure things out. They are quite comfortable saying ‘I don’t know’. They ask for help without hesitation. They also index heavily on finding a solution instead of focusing on the problem. Last but not the least, they are resilient.

Do parts of it seem like you? Look within and answer candidly.

3. What do you expect to gain from it?

Begin with the (expected) end in mind. What kind of professional growth do you need? What are your “must meet” and “good to meet” expectations from yourself at this point? Define these clearly. Take a step back and ask yourself — why are you even thinking of joining an early-stage startup in the first place?

If you don’t know what output you want, you can’t really decide what input to give and how to program the system, can you? State clearly what you want to gain from the experience.

Step 2: Why is joining an early stage startup a bad idea

1. Ambiguity gets a seat on the table

"No company (of any scale) has everything figured out."

The earlier a company is in its lifecycle, the more the number of unanswered questions. The work environment at early-stage startups can be a little (or very) chaotic because of this inevitable ambiguity.

You will not face much ambiguity on a daily basis at a late-stage startup or bigger company because they have already gone through their ambiguous phase. Whatever ambiguities are left to be figured out exist at the management level while you are shielded from it.

Everyone at an early-stage startup must embrace ambiguity. If you are not okay working with some level of uncertainty & ambiguity, early-stage startups may not be a good choice for you.

2. Get it right and get it fast, please.

"You can have something good or you can have something right now but you can’t have something good right now."

Early-stage startups don’t subscribe to this thought process. You got to deliver on everything super fast. You got to think fast, plan fast, build fast, ship fast and iterate fast. The company’s survival & success depends on how quickly it can execute & iterate on multiple things simultaneously. Some people choose to accomplish this by working longer hours, while others choose to do it by creating leverage (a topic for another day).

Timelines are mostly tight. You’ve got to deliver things right and you’ve got to deliver them fast. If you don’t subscribe to this work-style or if you feel this may stress you out, early-stage startups may not be a good professional choice.

3. ROI is subject to market risk and yes, it takes a long time to get any returns

The answer to ‘will your investment reap financial returns’ is always a probabilistic one. Same is the case with startups. Reaping any sizeable financial returns on your equity or ESOP (Employee Stock Option Pool) takes quite a bit of time. Standard equity or ESOP vesting periods span over four years.

Yes, there is a potential of high returns (more on this later) but you must also consider any financial trade-offs you are making. And don’t ignore the time frame of any expected ROI. Most early-stage VCs invest with a 10-year horizon.

"A garden takes time to cultivate before you see the flowers bloom. Early-stage startups are definitely not get-rich-quick schemes. "

If you need to make a lot of money quickly, early-stage startups are not your best bet.

Step 3 : Why is joining an early-stage startup a fantastic idea

1. A free ‘personal growth 101’ class

There is a lot to be done and everyone has limited bandwidth. You are mostly on your own. You will need to figure out how to do things yourself. How do you make technical choices? How do you sell the product to a potential customer? How do you pitch the team and its culture to a potential candidate? How do you say no? How do you prioritize for maximum output & outcomes?

There are no manuals to refer or company best practices to follow at early-stage startups. You’ve got to write these yourself. The learning curve is really steep when you get down to laying the foundation. Once you do these things from scratch, you’ll realize that you can figure out most things in life. You don’t have to rely on external folks/factors to accelerate learning. This builds a lot of self-confidence.

"Startups test your character and your core beliefs. "

How do you react when you are under pressure? What choices do you make when nobody is watching? How do you handle rejection from investors and customers? Are you able to take critical feedback and improve? You will uncover a lot about yourself while navigating such choices.

2. Diverse exposure

Are you an engineer? Great! You also have to pitch and sell the product to early customers. Are you a sales ninja? Cool! Please pitch in for writing the social media posts too. You do marketing? Awesome! Can you get on some customer feedback calls as well?

Sure, late-stage startups and large enterprises allow you to develop vertical depth of subject matter. But early-stage startups equip you with practical knowledge of how different verticals work and how they interact with each other to form a well-functioning organisation.

Early-stage startups push you to get out of your comfort zone regularly by exploring things out of your domain.

This experience will equip you with a lot more tools in your professional kitty. This diverse exposure is really useful in the job market of today and of the future.

3. Low risk, high reward investment (equity/ESOP)

I understand the value of equity wealth. In fact, one of the main reasons that I quit my day job to startup was to generate equity wealth.

Typically, early team members at startups get 0.2% — 2% equity share (depending on your experience, contribution, stage of the company etc). Early equity is given for risk rather than contribution. That’s why a founder’s equity is much higher than that of early team members.

Let’s run the numbers and see how early equity pans out in three scenarios. The assumption here is that you work at a fictitious startup that’s paying you a salary of 100K USD per year along with a total of 100K USD stock options (vested over 4 years).

Scenario 1:

equity-1.png

Assuming the startup is growing at 2x in valuation for the first couple of years, your equity will be worth 1.6 million USD. In contrast, you’d only make 400K USD as salary over the 4 years.

Scenario 2:

Assuming the valuation grows at the rate of 2x for the first two years; post which, it grows at 1.5x each year. In this case, your equity will be worth 900 K USD.

equity-2.png

Scenario 3:

Let’s take an even more conservative approach and assume that the valuation only increases 1.5x each year for the entire 4 years duration of your vesting period. Even in this case, your equity will be worth 506,250 USD.

equity-3.png

While the gap between equity wealth and salary wealth has narrowed down significantly from scenario 1 to scenario 3, equity wealth is still higher than the overall salary for a startup walking a conservative growth path. Of course, the equity wealth can reduce to zero too if the startup shuts down or the valuations take a downward spiral.

Since most startups pay competitive salaries, ESOPs give you an extreme financial upside while limiting the downside. This ensures you can pay your mortgage, send your kids to school and also save for the future.

In light of the context above, you should have more clarity on whether the decision to join an early-stage startup is worth it for you.

I hope this helps you in reaching your decision. Happy to answer any other questions that you may have around early-stage startups. You can reach me at arpit@appsmith.com

P.S — In case you decide that you want to join an early-stage startup, we are hiring for engineering roles. Hit me up and let’s chat.

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

Square
Try Appsmith
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.