Bubble wants to enable potential builders to create their ideas without code, so we are exploring and reviewing the many tools and software that startups and enterprises might use to build apps.

What is Retool?

Retool is an enterprise-focused low-code platform that allows you to build custom internal tools for your team, including tables, textboxes, and dropdowns, with the platform’s property editor.

With Retool’s drag-and-drop building blocks, you are able to connect your app to databases such as mongoDB, MySQL, Sheets, Excel and Athena, as well as APIs like Twilio, Slack, Salesforce, GraphQL, and Github. Retool also comes with a number of pre-built components, including GitHub PR Dashboard, Charts, Customer Support Tools, and Firebase Admin Panel.

Because Retool manages the data fetching and UI, you simply have to write the code that’s custom to your internal tool, like SQL queries or POST requests.

Retool manages authentication, authorization, and audit logs, and if you’re worried about data security, you can block all network connections by hosting Retool on-premise, behind your own VPN, and in your own VPC.

Retool Review Bubble No Code Tool - dashboard
Retool's Dashboard shows what tools you have built.

In addition to their production environment, Retool offers a staging one so that you can test your app’s design before launching it. You are able to test the behavior of UI elements by clicking on them twice as well.

Retool enables you to edit both the desktop and mobile layouts by clicking on the desktop and mobile toggles in the navigation bar.

Like no-code platform Glide, Retool generates a link for your app, which lets you share your project with ease.

Who is Retool for?

Retool can benefit startups, larger enterprises, and Fortune 500 companies, especially in the financial services, retail, media, and marketplace industries. Some of their well known clients include American Express, Plaid, Rappi, DoorDash, NBS, Fox, Amazon, and Allbirds.

Retool is best for IT departments and engineers with a strong grasp of Excel, as well as important database tools such as SQL. Once an engineering/IT team launches an app using Retool, team members in non-technical roles such as customer support, marketing, operations, and executives can access the app in “user mode.”

Retool Cost and Pricing

(Pricing model evaluation: May 2020)

Retool pricing is based on the number of users per month. Each plan comes with editor mode, which lets you write queries, design UI actions, and customize with JavaScript.

Free: Those who pick the Free option can connect to any database or REST API, except Salesforce. This plan allows you to use the query library (also known as their IDE) to build, share, and resume queries for any database or API. Free subscribers receive 10 queries per app.

Startup: The Startup plan costs $10/user per month and comes with user mode, which allows for the use of the app outside of the editor interface. In addition, this option provides versioned releases & revision history features so that you can revert your app back to a previous version at any point. With this plan, you are free to test your app against staging resources (API or database) as well.

Pro: In addition to editor and user mode, the Pro option, which costs $50 per user (per month), allows you to create groups of users and assign each one to specific permissions within your app. The audit logs feature authorizes you to track every query that is written, including reading & writing from both API and databases. You can also integrate with Salesforce, Oracle, and other SQL servers/API endpoints. Pro subscribers can work with the Retool team to develop custom features as well.

Enterprise: To receive a quote for an Enterprise plan, you need to provide Retool with information about how many users you intend to have, as well as what features you are looking to include in your app. With this plan, you can deploy your Retool app on-premise, in your own EC2 instance. For identity management, you are able to integrate your app with Okta, Active Directory, or any other SAML 2.0 SSO provider. The Enterprise plan also comes with version control with Git, which enables you to preview changes and synchronize your Retool apps to a Git repository. Upon request, the Retool team will work with you to build custom connectors or components. Each Enterprise subscribed receives a dedicated success manager from the Retool team, as well as a shared Slack channel.

Retool vs. Bubble: A Comparison

How does Retool compare to other no-code app development platforms, like Bubble?

Similarities between Retool and Bubble:

Both Retool and Bubble equip you with drag-and-drop tools for building your app.
Both offer interactive tutorials or lessons that walk users through particular actions.
Both Retool and Bubble currently have a free plan option.
Both have version control tools that empower you to test out features and revert back to previous iterations.
Both host an engaged community of builders who offer suggestions and respond to app building questions.

Retool Review vs. Bubble Editor Tutorials
Retool's walkthroughs begin in their editor.

The key differences between Retool and Bubble are:

Technical Experience: Retool is built for developers, by developers. It’s hackable, so you won’t be limited by visual abstractions or domain-specific languages. Retool was designed to let developers write JavaScript almost anywhere inside the platform. By comparison, Bubble is a fully no-code platform where all programming logic is abstracted, so those with no technical background can build entire web apps without writing any code. Bubble is, however, also fully extensible via JavaScript plugins, and you can access all your data through a RESTful JSON API; in certain cases, the logic and visual design of your Bubble app can be exported to a JSON file.

Internal features: Retool allows you to build internal tools by connecting their drag-and-drop building blocks to your databases and APIs. They place a great deal of emphasis on connecting with data sources and assume that you have a base-level knowledge of SQL, databases, Excel, and other related tools. If you need a powerful, hosted backend for your project, Bubble lets you to connect and launch an API declaratively, without writing one line of code. With Bubble, you are able to design your own data model, create access control rules, and add authentication.

Pre-built templates: Retool provides its own template gallery of around 20 options, with explanatory pages for each template. Some examples include Stripe refund tool, Slack notifier, interactive map customer support tool, media player, and image annotator. With Bubble, hundreds of templates are available for free and for purchase by third-party creators, such as Rapid Dev.

Retool Alternatives

Alternative no-code CMS platforms or tools that allow you to build a web application without code include the following tools:

If you’re looking for another no-code platform with an enterprise focus, Unqork or Betty Blocks are good alternatives.

If you’re looking for a platform made for deploying native or mobile apps, consider using no-code tools like Adalo, Glide, or Thunkable.

If you are building an e-commerce site and need a website landing page with a mobile-responsive design, then templated website hosts like Carrd, Squarespace, Wix, or Weebly are good options.

If you want a no-code platform and can benefit from creating a fully custom backend database with front-end actions, then platforms like Bubble are good alternatives to Retool.

If you are launching a website and want an open-source CMS platform with powerful plugins that allow for integration with databases like MySQL and MongoDB, try WordPress.

About Bubble

Bubble is a leader in the no-code movement. Bubble offers a powerful point-and-click web editor and cloud hosting platform that allows users to build fully customizable web applications and workflows, ranging from simple prototypes to complex marketplaces, SaaS products, and more. Over 400,000 users are currently building and launching businesses on Bubble - some have gone on to participate in top accelerator programs, such as Y Combinator, and even raised $365M in venture funding. Bubble is more than just a product. We are a strong community of builders and entrepreneurs that are united by the belief that everyone should be able to create technology.

Join the no-code movement today.


Disclaimer: The goal of these reviews is to provide an honest, practical, differentiated comparison of features and educate readers on tools in the no-code ecosystem so that you can evaluate how these services fit together and serve your needs.