Making the Travel Brief App with Packs
A New Coder’s Journey
Lynn here, co-owner of a Mom & Pop service business. We use Coda to improve many of our workflows, from time reporting, managing supplies, tracking data, and reporting metrics - all saving us valuable time. Also, we maintain a research wiki doc that provides a single source of critical data for meeting compliance with external entities. As business conditions change, Coda allows us to manage these changes on the fly and in-house.
During the Coda block party in October of 2021, I watched Eric Koleda’s inspired presentation about the new Packs feature. (Link: .) I was so impressed with the power of the concept. Coda was encouraging makers to extend and customize their docs. We would be able to create new formulas and column formats, sync tables, and manage data integrations to APIs. How cool is that! However, I am not a programmer. Undaunted, I moved forward with determination, knowing that Coda would provide the support I needed.
This Pack Building Roadmap doc is a summary of my journey.
What is the Travel Brief App?
The fetches and displays useful travel data for all countries around the world. I designed the doc for both web and mobile viewing. The can be printed to PDF for reference. Fetching data from an API seemed like magic, and complicated! Therefore, I decided to start with a simple API that did not require authentication. I settled on the API to summarizes worldwide data for my family members who love to travel abroad.
Pack Making Journey
The Learning process
After signing up for the Beta program, I received an introductory Coda doc in an email that referenced both the Coda software development kit (SDK) and several useful starter tips:
I started by executing each of the 4 pack code samples in the Coda individually, and then using them in a sample doc. Next, I executed multiple variations of the Hello World sample code, and it was satisfying to build these variations, ultimately without errors. The process gave me the confidence to take the next step and tackle the Travel Brief API project.
There have been numerous struggles along the way, and sometimes, I think my head will explode! Coding is exact, and thus, I learned to build a bit at a time, and then test, so that I could catch errors along the way. I am continuously searching through my online resources to understand the terms in the sample code.
Specifically, I had a mental block about how to use the software, Postman.com, for fetching data from an API. Postman allows you to confirm both the API call (with GET) and the data returned in JSON format. The API data structure informs your pack code and the design to retrieve and present the API data in the Coda doc.
Ultimately, I figured out that the GET API call in Postman is simple. Also, Postman is free to use for the basic functions and their YouTube channel tutorials will help you get started.
As a citizen developer, my goal is to be able to extend my Coda docs and add more functionality to them, with custom formulas, actions, and simple API calls, especially for processes that are repeated throughout multiple docs. It’s one more tool in the Coda toolkit, and is, in part, what makes Coda so powerful. 👏
Advice to Others
web & mobile
To-Do List for