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Rheti

Description

Rheti is an app that lets you build native Android apps on your phone. Rheti isn’t just for developers. Rheti is for everyday technology users to create their own apps. Rheti has several innovations that make it the next big step for app builders: it creates native apps, gives the potential for much greater freedom and customization (see below), and is free to use.

History

Early history

Rheti was cofounded in 2012 by Juan Porras and Ralph Tavarez. Ralph originally came up with the idea for Rheti while working as a freelance mobile developer in Miami, Florida. Ralph was tired of building the same types of apps over and over again for different clients, and wanted to build a code reuse tool that anyone could use to build an app. Ralph demoed an early prototype of Rheti at the O’Reilly Android conference in 2011 (video below).

Iterative development

Rheti went through four iterations between 2011 and 2014. The earliest version was based on the idea of building apps with voice commands (rhetorical app making), which is where Rheti got its name. In November of 2013 Rheti started private beta testing the final version, to be publically launched in 2014.

Important details

There are several aspects of Rheti that distinguish it from other app builders.

Rheti lets you create scripts visually and build them into app components.

Similar to scripting services like IFTTT and Tasker, Rheti allows you to link services and hardware features together as well as customize how these features behave, all without writing code. Basic examples of this would be, “if button is pressed, turn Bluetooth off”, or “at 8 AM, sound alarm and send SMS”.

Unlike IFTTT and Tasker, Rheti lets you use this technology to actually build app components, rather than standalone recipes or tasks. The components you make with the scripting editor are integrated seamlessly into your app through Rheti’s visual UI editor.

Examples of app components made with Rheti’s scripting editor include:

-“Find location” connected to an “emergency button”- when the button is pressed the app tells the user the location of other users’ phones during an emergency.

-“Geofencing” tied to “SMS”- app sends a text message when another phone has left or entered a certain area.

-“Alarm” feature connected to “YouTube”- automatically plays a video when the alarm goes off.

Note that as Rheti’s feature base expands, the possibilities will exponentially grow.

Scripts can be saved in templates and instantly shared with others via our in-app marketplace. Future components will include home automation features and many more.

Rheti’s scripting editor is based on Blockly, the visual open-source Java programming language maintained by MIT.

Rheti builds native Android apps, not HTML5/hybrid apps.

This distinction makes Rheti a substantial improvement from today’s popular app builders (MobileRoadie, Infinite Monkeys, Appsbar, etc.). While HTML5 (web code) allows apps to be cross platform (working on iOs, Windows Phone and Android) the apps are slower, look worse, and have very limited functionality. These builders have no scripting and there is very limited UI (user interface) customization.

You can recognize apps made with one of these builders by a “cookie-cutter layout”- usually 6 or 8 icons in three rows, with a dropdown menu on either the top or bottom of the app. Some of the more expensive builders have alternative layouts, but they are still built from a template with few customization options.

Rheti lets you completely customize your app’s UI.

Rheti is the first to let you place anything wherever you want into an app through a touch-based, visual interface. Other app builders, save for MIT’s App Inventor, are all wizards that guide you step-by-step in creating a cookie-cutter app. App Inventor does not have nearly the same ease-of-use in building the UI that Rheti has and is thus not viable for rapid adoption.

Rheti allows you to use templates, but you can still change anything in the template that you want. Additionally, anyone can create a template and instantly share it through Rheti’s in-app marketplace.

Rheti lets you create your own backend.

Once the backend is set up, the user doesn’t have to edit the app itself to change the information that the app contains. Instead, the information can be edited directly through the backend service the user chooses. Backends are a great way to easily manage data, and to simplify the process of maintaining your app with up-to-date information.

Rheti currently allows backends to be created through Google Drive, as well as through Parse. Create a menu for your restaurant in a Google Spreadsheet, for example, and your app can display it in a visually appealing way. Data feeds can also include YouTube channel feeds as well as RSS feeds. YouTube channels can include components such as Google sign-in, up voting and down voting, and full screen view.

Additionally, users can set up forms that enter information in the backend for the app’s administrator to see. One example of this is a live signature component that is useful for creating petition apps. Users sign their name and the signatures appear in the backend for the administrator to keep.

Backends can be incorporated with other components, to do things like create a dynamic PayPal checkout, or change geopoints for augmented reality. Pictures, videos and text can be inserted into a backend.

Open marketplace, free to use

Rheti will soon be open to outside party developers to add their own app components to our platform, and share or sell them to the world. This will rapidly expand the platform while creating a more dynamic and free ecosystem for Android users to take advantage of. We are planning to make parts of the platform open-source but we can’t currently give more details. Currently anyone can make an app template and publish it to the Rheti marketplace.

Unlike other app builders (Andromo, Infinite Monkeys, Mobile Roadie, etc.) Rheti doesn’t charge hosting fees. At this moment Rheti is completely free to use. Press “publish” and we send you the APK via email. You can also live-preview instantly. In the future we will have an option to publish directly to Google Play, but right now you can set up a developer account and publish to Google Play yourself.

Goals

We are frustrated with the current app ecosystem, and we want to build a new kind of app ecosystem with more democratization. There is no reason that you should have to learn how to code to build an app, when the features you want already exist in a database somewhere. You don’t have to build a website from scratch (think WordPress), so you shouldn’t have to build apps from scratch.

Under our vision, app developers will create components, and app users will be able to quickly snap them together to make apps that perfectly fit their needs. As barriers of entry for development are removed apps will be more ubiquitous and have more uses.

All parties in the ecosystem benefit from this model:

• Non-developers are able to make apps with a degree of customization and functionality much greater than previously available. Even if you aren’t building your own apps, there is a much greater variety to choose from because other people are building. Imagine walking into your Dentist’s office and downloading the app someone else made for the waiting room.

• Developers are able to focus on creating innovative features rather than repetitive tasks like frontend development, API integration, and debugging. Coding a Rheti component takes a fraction of the time it takes to code a full-fledged app, and it can have the same (or greater) effect on the end-user as coding a full app.

Requirements

Rheti currently works for Android only.

We plan to eventually come out with an iOs version as well as a version for Windows Phone. We started with Android because it is by far the most open and easy to customize. Rheti works on Android 3.0 and above.

Rheti is not currently optimized for tablets.

Apps you make on a tablet will not look as good on a phone, and vice versa. This is something we are currently working on and is a relatively easy thing to address. It will not be a long-term limitation.

Sample Article 1

Is Casual Programming About To Take Off?

What if anybody could make an app within minutes, right from a mobile device, and immediately begin using and sharing it? This is the question that a startup named Rheti has been asking itself for the last two years, and it finally has the answer. Rheti’s casual app building platform, which it is releasing this April, aims to change the way we look at apps forever.

The concept is simple: a button feature, a “take photo” feature, and a “save to disk” feature equals a camera app. A “when it’s 8 AM” feature and a “make loud noise” feature equals an alarm app. Every app, in fact, is just a collection of features put together in creative ways. Normally these features are tied together with code, but if you could give users the ability to connect them without code, suddenly they could be building apps.

This is exactly what Rheti allows users to do. Using only touch commands on a completely visual interface, users can insert features and tie them together just as a programmer would. People without coding skills have used Rheti to make apps that do things like interact with users via augmented reality, sort photos and videos, and automate text messages with geolocation tags.

The only thing Rheti doesn’t let you do is create your own features; you still have to know how to code to do that. Coding features is easy, Rheti says, and it will attract developers by allowing them to sell their wares directly to users in an online marketplace. Both users and developers can put apps, templates for apps, and customized feature sets on the marketplace as well, which will make the app creation process easier.

For Rheti this all fits into a grand vision of the future. The hope is that casual programming will become as widespread a skill as making an Excel spreadsheet. You will have a task, you will realize that building an app will help make things easier, and then you’ll construct your app. Once the app has served its purpose you might simply delete it, just as you would clear a calculator.

Are you a doctor? Then maybe you’ll want to make apps for your patients with appointment reminders, medication instructions, and emergency contact information. A parent? Maybe you’ll want to make an app to keep track of where your kid is and how well he is doing in school. Do you own a restaurant? Then you’ll probably want to give your customers an app with a menu, coupons, and online order placement.

There are encouraging signs that Rheti’s vision will come to fruition. For one, even without adequate technology the do-it-yourself app building industry has shown tremendous growth over the past few years. Do a Google search for “app builder” and you’ll find around fifty different companies vying for business. These companies are all selling a frustrating experience: all they enable users to do is drag and drop a limited set of features into templates. Many of them advertise as free, but in reality they charge hosting fees. Their platforms only produce HTML5, which is a web language, meaning their apps are slow and look bad compared to native apps.

Microsoft recently took note of the potential market, causing the company to release its own App Studio in August for the Windows Phone operating system. It has some of the characteristics of Rheti, such as that it produces real native code, but it lacks the ability to connect features. Within the first 48 hours of launch the Windows App Studio saw 30,000 different projects being created, surprising the company so much that it had to throttle its servers. This is on a platform that only accounts for 3.7 percent of total market share; Rheti will debut on Android, which has nearly 80 percent of market share.

Longtime observers might remember how WordPress took over the website creation market in the last decade. There was a period when do-it-yourself website building was on the margins, with lots of dime-a-dozen competitors hawking inferior products. All of a sudden WordPress made it possible for anyone to build a competitive website for free, and now not only do more people make websites but WordPress absolutely dominates the market. It is now estimated that sites made with WordPress currently account for 20 percent of all sites on the Internet, which is a huge number considering that it competes with sites that are professionally designed.

Is the market ready for the WordPress of apps? Rheti thinks so. Smartphone users should begin getting excited, and perhaps start thinking about what kinds of apps they’ll want to build.

Sample Article 2

Rheti is a platform for building native Android apps on your phone

If you’ve ever tried to build an app using one of the countless number of app builders online, you are aware that there is currently no way to make a decent Android app without coding. Current solutions don’t make real native apps, they charge high monthly fees, and they offer no real customization.

Rheti is trying to change this with its code free app building platform for Android, which has been in private beta testing since November. There are a few unique characteristics of Rheti that make it an exciting new possibility in the world of Android.

For deeper customization you can also opt to use Rheti’s take on Blockly, which is MIT’s open-source visual scripting language. Blockly has been used in several different applications, including MIT’s App Inventor and Scratch. Using Blockly is a little more complicated than the rest of Rheti, but it is also a great way to introduce yourself to programming if you wish to learn.

Rheti’s business model is also different. It is completely free to use, and will email you your APK at the click of a button. In the future developers will be able to add their own app components to sell in Rheti’s marketplace, of which Rheti will take a small cut. According to co-founder Juan Porras the goal is to make Rheti a new kind of ecosystem where developers sell components directly to users, who can then assemble their own perfect apps.

Building apps with Rheti isn’t as easy as filling out an app building wizard, but it is capable of a lot more and doesn’t cost anything. It is a logical progression in the evolution of the Android: there are great web builders available but until now no good app builders.

To request an invite to the private beta go to http://www.rheti.com.


Videos

Rheti Trailer: YouTube


Images

download screen files as .zip (285KB)
Editor screen: editor_screen.png
Feeds screen: feeds_screen.png
Home screen: home_screen.png

There are far more images available for Rheti, but these are the ones we felt would be most useful to you. If you have specific requests, please do contact us!


download logo files as .zip (76KB)
download icon files as .zip (242KB)
Logo: logo
Icon: logo

Awards & Recognition

  • "Top Ten Finalist for NCIDEA in 2013" - Durham, March, 2013

Selected Articles

  • "To say that Rheti is just another app builder is like calling a flying car just a car."
    - Juan Porras, Rheti
  • "Our goal is to create an environment where its fun, easy, and useful for anyone to build an application for themselves"
    - Rafael Tavarez, O'Reilly Open Android

How does Rheti work?
This link is a link that explains some of the principles behind Rheti. You can check it out at rheti.com.

Android App Review: Get "Rheti" to make some Apps
This is an early review of Rheti's Private Beta release by XDA youtube.com.


Team & Repeating Collaborators

Juan Porras
CEO

Rafael Tavarez
CTO