StdLib API automation test with AirTable, SMS message, GMail & Google Sheets

Somewhere I came across Standard Library but best searched for under StdLib. I signed up for it and found a couple of videos. It looked like magic and required serious coding, so I put it down at the time.

I have been receiving regular “onboarding” emails (Seems pretty common and irritating when you sign up to try any new application nowadays) that I usually consign to spam or unsubscribe. One of the StdLib ones caught my attention, there is a workflow that automates SMS reminders for upcoming events in Airtable and I had a look at it and thought it would be interesting to work through.

It is a method to link to API’s to applications and create automated workflows. This is what it says on its front page:

StdLib Build allows you to effortlessly create automated workflows with a simple, intuitive UI. It connects to Standard Library APIs and automatically generates high-quality code, completely customizable. Built for both developers and non-coders alike, flexible enough for professional engineering teams.

There is a free version when you sign up and get $5 credit monthly , and as your apps talk to API’s this is charged to your account.

The Video tutorials I’ve seen to date show quite a sophisticated IDE ( integrated development environment ) that freaked me out when I saw it, but they now have a simple interface to do some tutorials on the “Built” environment. So I used that environment to do the tutorial above. The video shows an example of this environment and making a workflow:

A couple of things about the environment, it is easy to set up the workflow, but there are limited applications/API’s to connect to. But a good place to start practicing how to do it.

A couple of issues I had with the tutorial was that it was easy to set up as I had an Airtable Account already and was slightly familiar with Airtable and I liked the SMS utility for testing, but:

Hard to Stop. It did suggest per minute for scheduling in the tutorial, which was great for testing, but then I couldn’t top it so I ended up deleting the automation as I couldn’t find any help on how to adjust the timing or pausing it.
Hard to Edit once you’d changed over from Dev/Test. Once you’d tested the environment I think it goes to the cloud so cannot be edited, so that was not really made clear. Later I found the “Code” environment IDE but I couldn’t see how to alter the timing schedule. I suppose I’d need to get more familiar with the programme for that.

I also decided to do the tutorial over and build one from Airtable to SMS and also Google Sheets & GMail. Both Gmail & Sheets tested OK but no email sent and no sheet updated, so I was missing a step somewhere. On reviewing the video above I think I may have an inkling of where I made the mistake.

After building the workflow I couldn’t save it as the authentication/Token was already used and I couldn’t think how I was to rectify that issue, and no hints that were obvious. I went back to the beginning of the workflow to see if I could make a change without deleting the whole thing but couldn’t so had to throw it away. I’ll give it another go soon.

I did find an area in the Dev environment, after shipping it, there is an advanced tab where you can strip the scheduling out and still get the data via an HTTP request, so you can pull down the data. So you can still test the links, it just doesn’t automate the send to other places.

I also noted that my account has rapidly dropped to $4.48c so had to figure out how to pause/stop the workflows before it chewed up all my credit.

I recorded a video of the process here:

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It was pleasing to get the tutorial running and to get a result on my phone, I was just a bit freaked by not being able to stop it or alter the timing of the process.

It says its a Zapier Type automation but more open. I do like that about it and I can see some great ideas for automation with this tool so will need to delve into it further to get more familiar with it.

I think there are a few baby steps to play with first, using the Build environment and playing with those tools first, then starting to extend to the “Code” environment. A bit more JavaScript, that’ll be a challenge.

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