This app could have been a spreadsheet

by webmaster 2024-07-05 #side-project

We all know the "this meeting could have been an email" meme. I had a thought along the same lines, except for side projects.

You aren't a "real" developer until you've re-invented the wheel a few times by overengineering functionality that could have been easily handled by a spreadsheet. I am so (so) guilty of that myself. I know it - yet I still fall into the same trap.

Here are some of my own examples of apps that I am itching to build, despite successfully using spreadsheets of the same since forever.

  • a stuff tracker (things I've bought / retired over the years) - I actually built a prototype of this one
  • a movie tracker - I built a couple of versions that I subsequently abandoned
  • a book tracker
  • a subscription tracker (gym, Netflix, yada yada)
  • a trip packing list manager - I think this might be actually useful since I find it very handy in planning what to pack on recurring trips
  • a friends tracker (reminders to get in touch with friends I haven't contacted in a while)
  • batteries manager (electronics use tons of different alkaline battery types, this would track which is which)
  • calorie/activity/injury/illness tracker (basically an "everything diary") - this would be a cool project, but ultimately too complex for what I have in mind

So you see, all of these can easily live in a spreadsheet that can be thrown together in a few minutes, and evolved over time. Building an app - while a good exercise in itself - can be way too much work for ultimately the same result.

Now don't let me dissuade you from the learning process if that is the main goal, but next time you are tempted to build an app, ask yourself "can this app be a spreadsheet?"

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