Why I created Saltcorn, an open source nocode platform

By Tom Nielsen

Published on 17 December 2020

I started creating Saltcorn in March 2020, and have been working on it more or less full-time since then. Here is why:


Having a mentally stimulating project to work on made it much easier to cope with lockdown. This does not have to be a software project. I know many creative people who will have the same experience, whether they are poets, painters, gardeners or carpenters. There is much truth in Viktor Frankl, quoting Nietzsche: a person “who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.” Frankl emphasised the importance of a goal, but for me it was the process of building, the absorption in creating, that provided the protection against boredom and irritation leading to petty arguments.

When I go back and think about whether undertaking a nocode platform was the right thing to do or JavaScript was the right programming language to use, the answer is always “probably not but that doesn’t matter.”  I’ve been addicted to building stuff for countless years and during lockdown I was on full steam ahead. 


The promise of nocode is a groundbreaking democratisation of the way digital products are built. When digital products can be built by people who are in the weeds of the problems the products are addressing, that is a game changer. Not only does it lower the barrier to entry and promise a Cambrian explosion of software products, but some of those products will be much more relevant than any product we have today. BUT but but if this all happens on the back of proprietary platforms that have raised and therefore serve Capital, this change is hollow.

We need options for people who cannot afford closed products, who need to self-host because they are working with patient data in a hospital, who don’t want to risk being shut down because a platform ceases to exist. More than anything, if you are building on a closed platform you do not fully own and control your product. Open source nocode may not right now be as slick as closed products, but it is here and getting better every day. If you do not think open source nocode is good enough, how about helping out? The most valuable contributions are not code but feature requests and concrete suggestions for improvement, for instance in the form of wireframes.


The sea of digitisation is so vast and wide that there is enough room for everyone. Open source nocode platforms are not a threat to closed platforms, just like different open source platforms may compete but do not pose a threat to each other’s existence. The parameter space of products and the number of possible applications is simply so large that many platforms will find a niche. It is not different open source projects or different nocode platforms we are attacking but the established chumocracy of enterprise vendors and integrators who fleece unsophisticated customers by gold-plating specifications, who turned agile commitment to “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools” into a process of disempowerment, who in the UK took £12 billion from the NHS and delivered nothing, and a similar amount to deliver a nonworking Covid track and trace system. Saltcorn is the long game I am playing to fish in this sea. It may not be there yet, and when it is, it may not all be nocode, but it will always be focused on delivering value instead of extracting rent.

4 months ago

Congratulations on what you’ve got so far... it’s looking good!

At the moment I’m just getting to start with Linux on my Chromebook, so I’ll see if I can have a play with it.

Aleksandr Sokolov aka saanchos at gmail.com
4 months ago

As a solution architect, as an information systems architect and an IT enterprise architect, I often face the need for rapid development of prototypes and full-featured corporate systems for automating fragmented or small business processes. At the same time, there is often no time and effort to develop from scratch. Therefore, for a long time I have been looking at the market for nocode or lesscode solutions, which allow you to quickly create applications, test hypotheses, and give value to the customer here and now.

Therefore, I often experiment with different solutions. Mostly Java based, because it is the primary language for enterprise development in the industries I have the privilege of working in. I can mention such solutions as openxava and jhipster, with which I had a chance to work closely. Quite regularly, tired of the complexities and confusion of support and assembly of solutions based on the modern "lightweight" corporate Java stack, I thought to look for solutions that provide really convenient for analysts and developers the ability to quickly implement web applications without programming. Including not only those implemented in Java.

This is how I met Saltcorn and, on the whole, I am pleased with its capabilities, undoubtedly grateful to You - its author and ideologist for the simplicity and elegance of its implementation. Yes, there are still many points for the development and improvement of some architectural solutions. But we are still far from even version 1.0, and the functionality already allows us to create applications for automating simple business processes or creating a prototype for information systems.

Hakan Bozcuk
4 months ago

I am a medical doctor trying to build predictive models for my colleagues. I have just discovered your product today. I am grateful!!!

4 months ago

I don't know who are you, but if it's secure etc. I congratulate you :) 

I'm looking to build a link shortener service: I want to create short and cool link for my Brother's crowdfunding of medical treatment as he suffered a stroke ;-(

15 days ago

Saltcorn looks fantastic! I've started playing around with it and look forward to using it to set up numerous sites.

There definitely is a place for open source nocode tools. Similar paid tools are overly expensive with most of them charging a monthly fee per user which is unaffordable for non-profit & similar groups. From what I've seen, Saltcorn actually has more features than many of these costly alternatives. 

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