Free Coda.io a great team productivity tool- Part 2

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After tinkering with Tables in Coda.io for planning for my website in the morning I did find I was more focused on what I needed to do on the website and completed most of the tasks in that part of the project. 3 down and one to go.

Coda.io and Zapier

I had a parting thought on my first post about connecting to Google Drive and other google docs. Zapier is the answer to that. It automates between the Coda and other apps that can be automated.
When looking through the apps you could connect to I saw OneDrive was there but I could not get that working. I wanted to create a new row in a table in Coda if a new folder was created in OneDrive. I was then going to do the same for files.
I then tried with Google Drive and got lots of lovely errors again.
I then tried in Google Calendar but this time I took a note of the sample data Google Calendars was exporting to try and ensure that I could put the correct data in. This time it worked.
The issue I was having was that Zapier could link with OneDrive, Google Drive & Calendar but when it came to connecting with Coda it would find the Document but couldn’t find the table. I tried a number of methods to get this to find tables, even trying to define custom fields, but that didn’t work either.
Then the next time I started a Zap from scratch with Google Drive I could connect with the test and it worked. Weird.

I have now set up 2 zaps

One from Google Calendar to Coda to write a new row in every time a new event is added to the Calendar

One from Google Drive to Coda to write a new row in every time a new file is saved to the drive.

With Google Shared Folders I can see when files are uploaded by the client into a shared folder and record the event.

I can also set a trigger in coda to send me an email when this event occurs. I could use Zapier but that is setting up another zap from Coda to Gmail as it will only do 2 step automation tasks. (I thought you could only have a limited number of Zaps on a free account but have not seen where this is).

It’s interesting that Zapier only checks every 10-15 minutes for updates as after I set up the Zaps I did a couple of tests of adding calendar events and also adding a file to the drive. When I checked in Coda there were no updates there. I have since rechecked (maybe about 1/2 to 3/4 hour later) and these events are now in the tables.

Another automation for this is WordPress backups that I have sent to Google Drive. I only have 15GB and the WordPress backups of my photographic sites quickly fill this up, so this can be a good way of flagging when I have too many backups (the free backup plan has limited backup automation for dates, as in hourly or 1 per day, so it quickly bloats the drive. Getting a list of new files in Coda would be a great way to manage, also summing file sizes, so when the files get too big it sends me an email to go and delete some backups).

Alternatives to Zapier

I got distracted. I did play with Zapier a while back and decided to have a look at the automation bots again. I came across a few, automate.io, Microsoft Flow and integromat.com. There is, of course, IFTTT but I’ve never really been impressed by that.

I used the alternative to site to check out what was out there, a really useful site.

automate.io which will do multistep in the free plan but only 5 bots. Unfortunately, Coda.io is not one of its apps. The same with Microsoft Flow and integromat.

These are all simple plug-in apps for automating processes. It’s nice to visit them to see how far they have come along. Nearly all of them you have to go onto a premium account to link into a Database (where these automated tasks become interesting, and in my opinion, useful).

I had also forgotten about postman and Coda.io does have an API so maybe that is a better explore in the future, it just means going down the coding track a bit.

I did find Huginn which is an open-source programme you run on your server to create Agents to automate tasks that are open source but it does not run on Windows server but in Linux so I’d have to do a Linux VPS on my Windows VPS (or create a free Linux VPS on AWS for a year). I don’t think I’m that motivated by that at the moment.

Coda Weather App template

I said in the last post I would investigate the templates gallery of Coda.io. The first time I looked at it I must admit I was underwhelmed. Maybe it was the titles, they did not get me excited at all. I revisited them and decided to download some to try. I am glad I did as there is some rich and smart stuff happening in them.

I was talking to my daughter in Boston about the programme and she mentioned that Karl, her husband, needed to check weather regularly. I had mentioned the ‘Bot’ I have for sending me an email with the next day’s weather that I’d created a while back with Zapier. That is the background. So I saw there was a weather template and so I copied an instance across to my Docs. Very easy to copy. The nice thing with the Template Gallery is that you can also Demo them to see if they are what you need or something that you can adapt.

One thing that made me excited about this weather app was that there was a map on it. I was disappointed when I first looked at the Add button under charts that there was not a map, so I was pleased to see one there. When looking at the edit button for the map I see that it is a formula that calls google maps:

=GoogleMap(locationPicker,400,200,12)

And white short code as well. It is using the location picker button to select a city that you are using to find the weather from (also does towns, I just got weather for Levin and for Graytown). So very impressive.

I have a couple of errors in the code as I’m not getting the next days data because I played with a formula  =Day number <3 on one of the tables that were giving me yesterdays weather when the number was 1 in that table. So I’m starting to fiddle around with the Functions. I am wondering why they are using  [upcoming week].[day number] instead of [today] + 1 to get the next day?

Coda.io formulae seem to be pretty extensive.  This is the area that wants to explore next.

Actually after looking into this a bit further :

[upcoming week].[day number]

Upcoming week refers to the table that is setup with this and Day number is a column in that able.

The first column in the Upcoming week is a function for Date which uses the Today() function.

What was confusing me is this is using Accuweather (not quite figured out yet how it’s doing that (maybe weather add-in?)) and its still on some time where today is still Sunday rather than Monday so timezone shifted. I’ll need to see how to shift that for NZ time.

Viewing/Sharing

One thing does make me a bit nervous is that as others are using the Tables there is potential for them to banjax them up by deleting a function.  I did look to see if you could embed this on a web page in say, an iframe but Coda.io has a couple of features that are positive and negative.

Positive.  On the top right-hand side, there is a little arrow button, this will allow you to show your page full screen, like a slide show and demo it to a group, either on screen or on a data projector. Nice feature.

Positive. You can use the share button and only give the person you are sharing it with a fixed view, this means they cannot even change the location or change from Celcius to Farenheight. Or you can give them full share where they can edit and potentially bugger up your functions.

Negative. You can only send email to other Gmail users. So other person has to have a Gmail account. There is a button you press and it takes you to Coda.io BUT if your main browser is FireFox it won’t open it, so you have to right click on the button in the email and copy the URL to Chrome.

Negative. Even with the link, you have to sign in to Coda.io before you can view the Document.

So a pain in the bum if the other person does not have a Gmail account.

End comment

I feel I’m only just scratching the surface with this programme. It has some powerful things happening within it.

The Zapier connector is a great explore. But in some ways, if you are just adding a row into a sheet you can do this in Google Sheets too and Zapier will only do the 2 steps in the free version. But inside Coda.io you can do multiple linked steps like add a table row and send emails to a number of people or maybe even trigger other events in other documents. I’ll need to have another look at all the apps coda.io connects to.

A bit messy on the interface with sharing with others. It is a bit limiting, but still in Beta version.

The Templates are good and easy to copy and play with. They are a good resource for learning.

The GoogleMap(locationPicker,400,200,12) function in the weather app I couldn’t find under the function list above and doesn’t seem to come in any of the packs.

Another little niggle is the Formulas have a big list but no search function so you have to scroll down the list and its all expanded. A little tedious if what you want is near the end (Stocks I was playing with, unsuccessfully at the moment).

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