Have you ever tried to learn a foreign language? Did you find it a little frustrating? Did you find yourself asking questions like, “Why do I need to learn the subjunctive tense for all these irregular verbs?” Did you ever wish you could just learn how to ask for directions to your hotel, without having to really understand how the language works?
Learning to code can be frustrating in a very similar way – they’re called coding languages for a reason, after all. You might just want to build a simple app to support your organisation, but you can’t just learn to build the app that you need. First, you’ll need to spend some time learning how the language works. Who has the time?
Make no mistake: Learning to code is a worthwhile pursuit. It can be rewarding, even life-changing. But sometimes, you don’t have time to acquire a new skill for one project. Sometimes, you just need to be able to build something that works and deploy it, so that you can get back to your regular job. For all those moments, there’s Project Siena.
Project Siena is a free app from Microsoft that allows people with absolutely no coding knowledge to build simple, but powerful Windows 8.1 apps on the fly. If you can edit a Word document, you can build an app in Project Siena. The interface is simple enough that you can build an app entirely on a touch screen, no mouse or keyboard required.
Here’s how it works: You choose a few visual elements, customise them and then link them to existing data sets or Web services. If your app is a little more sophisticated, you can add logic commands with a few simple Excel-like expressions. Then you publish your app to the Web and it’s ready for use. That’s it.
Best of all, Project Sienna is compatible with a variety of content from other platforms, including SharePoint lists, Excel and Azure tables, RSS feeds and more. That means it’s easy for you to build an app that takes the data your office is already producing and puts it to work. Now you can build an app to estimate expenses based on past costs or track personnel or manage a project, all without breaking a sweat.
Project Siena isn’t a replacement for learning to code. It’s not going to put seasoned developers out of a job any time soon. But it can free you up to experiment without wasting a lot of money on developer costs or spending a lot of time learning a new skill for one project.
Ready to get started? The app is free and there are loads of sample app designs you can use to get inspired and get a feel for what Project Sienna can do. Give it a shot and then share what you’ve built in the comments below.