Retool — The Business Google Sheets Killer

Nick Canfield
3 min readNov 23, 2022

I’m really starting to really like Retool. Why? Because it is designed to kill the inefficient internal process tracking that you’ve been doing in Google Sheets and Excel for the longest time.

A Sample Retool App

How does Retool do that? Well…

  1. It connects to various data sources (including Google Sheets and SQL databases) to read/write/update them quickly
  2. It can build apps quite quickly with drag-and-drop features like file uploads and form builders
  3. It has native user permissions controls (don’t let everyone edit everything!)
  4. It’s very customizable and even can run javascript and complex logic on your data
  5. It saves you time by making your internal business process easier to manage

In short, Retool is flexible internal processes tool that has enough capability to do almost anything you need it to do and at an attractive price point. It is free for up to 5 users, and it is $10/month/user after that.

When to Use Retool

If you’ve got an internal process or have a database of things that you need to keep track of and update, then Retool is a great option. Very quickly you can connect to a Google Sheet, SQL database, and other data sources (including Retool’s own database option).

Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

If your process has a lot of steps that need to be tracked with multiple internal users, then Retool is a great option.

If your process is quite simple and doesn’t have a lot of things going on (i.e. 10 orders per month for an e-commerce store), then Retool is probably not worth it. However, if you’re doing a lot of orders that need to be reviewed, tracked, approved, sent to customers, and else what, then you could potentially build out your process in Retool and get some great return on investment and save time/hassle.

Me, I have a custom pet artwork business that takes customers’ pet photos and turns them into custom artwork. We have a process that involves:

  1. Approving the customer photo upload
  2. Creating the portrait
  3. Internal review
  4. Ask for edits
  5. Send digital download to customer
  6. Fulfill shipment order
  7. Send shipment tracking information

Retool is a great tool to build out this order-tracking process. I can send my orders with the customer’s information right to Retool, track the status, send a request to our designers to create the portrait, and update the customer on the order’s status in no time. In short, I’m using my Woocommerce database and building a process tracking tool on top of it. :)

When Not to Use Retool

Retool is really an internal tools builder, not something that should really be customer-facing (unless they’re a close ongoing partner that you can provide a login for). If you need something that is external facing, then I’d recommend you look into Bubble.

GoodGigs — An app built with Bubble

Alternatives to Retool

Before I got into Retool, Amazon HoneyCode was my favorite low-code app builder for internal teams, but this started to get pretty expensive as an internal teams tool at $20/month/user. Retool is much more flexible and allows you to connect to a plethora of data sources and custom coding methods, and currently, HoneyCode is not able to do such a thing.

Bubble is something that is more external-user facing, similar to building a website for customers that they can interact with. It’s also an attractive option, especially for those that do not know how to do coding.

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Nick Canfield

Founder of Outsourcing | 📈Data geek. 💼Entrepreneur. 🌊🌴Digital Nomad.