What are API Buttons (aka Magic Buttons)?May 26, 2020
Learn the basics of formula buttons: Download the FREE Action Button Toolbox
What if I told you there was a feature in Quickbase, available to you today, that could save time, prevent errors, reduce training, ensure standardization of process, and ultimately SAVE MONEY? Cha-ching!
Would you want to know what it is and how to use it?
Perhaps you've already heard about this feature but struggled to make sense of how to use it or lacked the time to learn it.
What is this incredible feature I'm talking about?
It's API Buttons (a.k.a. Magic Buttons)!
I'll explain what APIs are and why you should be adding them to your apps without the technical jargon that, let's face it, can cause even the most dedicated developers to lose interest.
- What is an API?
- What are API Buttons?
- What can I do with API Buttons?
- How can I add API Buttons to my apps?
- How can the Secrets of API Buttons course help?
What is an API?
API stands for Application Program Interface, and it represents a piece of code that can be called upon to perform a task.
They make it easy to perform routine tasks because you don't have to know the code, you just have to know a set of instructions that tells the code how to run.
This set of instructions consists of what you want to do (the API call) and how you want it done (the API parameters).
The result can feel magical as information is exchanged and presto, what was once a very manual task is suddenly done for you with one click.
As a Quickbase builder, you're in luck because Quickbase has numerous APIs that enable the automation of common tasks.
In addition, Quickbase APIs are RESTful HTTP APIs. What does this mean?
This HTTP aspect means the API can be called through a URL and therefore used in buttons.
Which is pretty sweet considering how much they can transform a workflow!
These API calls can be executed from inside or outside of Quickbase, with the right authorization.
API Buttons, however, are most often used within an app or app-to-app within a Quickbase realm.
What are API Buttons?
An API Button is any field in your app that includes an API call in a URL that's displayed as a button (or link).
The field types that can be used to create API Buttons are:
- Rich Text
- Formula - URL
- Formula - Rich Text
In my experience, the two formula fields are used the most, because you can create more dynamic buttons utilizing data from the current record within the API call itself.
Download the FREE Action Button Toolbox
for examples of dynamic formula buttons.
When the API Button is pressed, it can add or edit data in multiple fields at once and even perform actions across multiple records... all in that single button click.
Unlike Automations, Quickbase Actions, Webhooks, or even Pipelines, API Buttons are under the control of the user. They choose when to trigger the API through the click of the button.
Most apps already have several API buttons in them.
These are the "Add Record" buttons that are automatically generated when you create a relationship between two tables.
The field type is a Formula - URL, and the formula will look something like this:
URLRoot() & "db/" & [_DBID_TASKS] & "?a=API_GenAddRecordForm&_fid_27="
URLEncode ([Record ID#])& "&z=" & Rurl()
Do you see the API call?
If you don't that's okay, it's this part of the formula: API_GenAddRecordForm
This is a simple API Button that adds a record and populates a single field.
You may already be thinking, "This is a 'simple' example? I already don't get it!"
Don't worry I have an online course that simplifies all the complexity.
Here's what Brian has to say about how I teach API formulas in the Secrets of API Buttons course.
"...She guides you through her instructional videos so well that it easy to grasp and apply what she teaches..." – Brian Cameron
So now that you know you can easily learn how to construct API Buttons, what can we do with them?
What can I do with API Buttons?
In Quickbase "speak", API Buttons are often referred to as Magic Buttons because they can literally compress a bunch of work into a single button click!
For the types of API Buttons used within an app, you can:
- Add new records
- Edit existing records
- Delete existing records
- Copy existing records
Note: There are many more types of API calls, but most of them don't lend themselves to use as an API Button within an app. You can learn about all the APIs in the Quickbase API Guide.
Within this list, the most frequent use of API Buttons is to add or edit records.
For example, you could:
- Dynamically populate fields on a new record
- Edit multiple fields in one button click
- Edit a record on a different table
- Copy an existing record to create a new record
- Conditionally delete a record
Let's look at an example a little closer:
Say you have a time card app where users log in to Quickbase, open their Employee record, add a Time Card child record, enters the date, enters the time, then saves the record.
You could have a time card app where users log in to Quickbase, opens their Employee Record, and CLICKS ONE API BUTTON that clocks them in (doing all the other steps automatically for them).
That's 3 fewer steps and less room for human error!
And that's just with this simple time card example.
I've created many API Buttons for myself and my clients to streamline workflows and save time.
These API Buttons do things like:
- Make quick updates from a report: Edit record details without opening the record. Add today's date to a field, change the status, make a short note, etc
- Populate a new child record with additional details. Add child records with prepopulated data either from scratch or from the parent record
- Apply a template: Populate a record with details from other tables or records
They can also serve as a trigger for:
- Zapier Integrations
- Sending Notifications
- Automations, Quickbase Actions, Webhooks, or Pipelines
In addition to the action the API takes, there is a multitude of options that can be built into the button:
- Set if the action takes place behind the scenes or with more user control
- Determine where the user goes after the API runs
- Use formula functions and operators to expand the button's functionality
- Leverage HTML to further customize the look and behavior
See more examples and videos of these buttons in action.
Anytime the same action is performed over and over... it's an opportunity for an API Button!
It's just like Secrets of API Buttons' student Dave says...
"...The process and workflow improvements I can make are numerous and, thanks to Sharon’s courses, very easy to execute..."
– Dave McFadyen
How do I add API Buttons to my apps?
To create these buttons we start with either a Formula - URL field or a Formula - Rich Text field.
Within the field's formula, the URL with the API call is constructed.
There are a number of different factors that will go into the construction of the formula, each playing its part in the overall appearance, function, and result.
To decode how to construct these formulas you can use a combination of resources from the API Guide, internet searches, and fellow Quickbase builders.
But from experience, I know this approach is time-consuming and often frustrating.
To save you from this horrible fate, I developed a method for breaking down the complex topic of API buttons into manageable pieces.
I call it the 4-Part Structure and combine it with a toolbox of API components that make the MAGIC happen!
All of this is packaged into a one-of-a-kind online course that can be accessed anytime at your own pace.
This course is called the Secrets of API Buttons because it decodes the complexity and allows you to transform your applications with ease.
The Secrets of API Buttons contains everything you need to learn to build these amazing buttons from scratch!
- Video Lessons & Demonstrations
- Quizzes to Reinforce Key Topics
- Detailed Step-by-Step Examples
- PDF Reference Sheets
- Swipe Files (copy/paste code from all examples)
- Troubleshooting Guide
- Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
- AND MORE
If you're ready to take advantage of this incredible feature within your Quickbase apps to save time, prevent errors, reduce training, ensure standardization of process, and ultimately save money check out the Secrets of API Buttons course today!
What do students say about the Secrets of API Buttons course?
"As a Business Coach, part of my job is to bring solutions to my clients. For 10 years, Quickbase has been one of those solutions.
After taking Sharon’s “Secrets of API Buttons” and “The Power of Rich Text Formulas” courses, my ability to help my clients with Quickbase has just soared! The process and workflow improvements I can make are numerous and, thanks to Sharon’s courses, very easy to execute.
She explains things very well and uses real-world examples that make the functionality easier to understand. I recommend that anyone who wants to get better in these areas sign up for Sharon’s courses now."
Quickbase Developer - Certified Expert Builder
"Sharon creates learning tools that are so valuable.
She guides you through her instructional videos so well that it's easy to grasp and apply what she teaches.
Whether you are new to Quickbase or a builder with some experience under your belt, you will find Sharon's learning tools worth every penny."
Melissa A. Freel
Director, Quality and Administration
"I have never used this type of coding, my background has been in VB/Access.
Before this course, the coding was not clear at all.
Now that I have this information, I can interpret the coding much easier.
What workflows do you have that could be transformed by API Buttons? Add your comments to the bottom of this page.
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