Almost every day I get asked the difference between Forest Admin and Retool. Whether it's potential customers, investors, or people in my network.
In this blog post, I will attempt to explain how Forest Admin and Retool are two tools with completely different missions and a coherent yet distinct approach.
Both missions differ significantly
Retool's mission is to revolutionize the way software is built, with a focus on internal tools as a starting point. Concretely, they offer a low-code frontend builder to assist developers in creating tools from the ground up.
On the other hand, Forest Admin's mission is to become the admin panel of choice for any online business. We aim to be the central hub for business operations, similar to how Salesforce is the go-to platform for CRM or Zendesk for support.
Retool's mission is to revolutionize software development by providing a low-code frontend builder for internal tools.
With Retool, developers can quickly create user interfaces using pre-built components and drag-and-drop interface.
Additionally, Retool offers a range of pre-built integrations, such as Stripe, Google Sheets, and PostgreSQL, among others. It also provides developers with the ability to connect to custom API endpoints, allowing them to implement the backend code for their tools.
Retool's flexibility and speed in building custom internal tools make it a great tool for developers.
By focusing on the admin panel of web applications, Forest Admin has focused all its efforts to provide a turnkey solution.
We deeply believe that using an internal tool builder like Retool gives a great deal of flexibility, but it does not provide any framework or guidance to build an admin panel.
At Forest Admin, we aim to be aware of your needs today and also those that will come in the future, with all the features available to accompany you over time.
For example, if you are creating a banking application or a mobility platform, and need to implement a KYC or a fleet management process, It would be silly to have to begin the product reflection from a blank page.
Our promise is to provide an operational tool that can be used instantly without having to think about its implementation.
Choosing between Forest Admin and Retool
Typically, companies that use Retool create many internal tools, each tailored to a specific operational use case. For example, Retool can quickly allow developers to build a Stripe-based refund tool, visualize KYC documents stored in an Amazon S3, manage trials on Salesforce, or even a GDPR customer data export tool.
Of course, it is naturally possible to build an entire admin panel with Retool. But at Forest Admin, we are convinced that it does not make sense to recode the standard features of an admin panel: the native CRUD (create/read/update/delete), the sorting/pagination/search & filtering of a table view, the activity logs to know who is doing what in an admin, the RBAC permission system at the frontend and backend API level, the notes, the assignment of tasks and ownership, the approvals workflows, etc.
Redoing these features doesn't make sense as they are standard building blocks of admin panels and implementing them takes time and careful consideration for optimal performance, user experience, security, and flexibility.
In conclusion, Forest Admin and Retool are two distinct tools with different missions.
While Forest Admin provides a pre-built admin panel that is equipped with all the necessary features to support businesses over time, Retool empowers developers to create custom internal tools quickly.
However, it's important to note that Retool's frontend builder may not provide the best user experience for end-users, as developers need to build it themselves.
In contrast, Forest Admin's pre-built admin panel offers a user-friendly interface that can be easily used by non-technical end-users. This could significantly improve the overall efficiency and execution of a company, especially for heavy operations-focused businesses.
Ultimately, both tools have their unique strengths and are designed to cater to different needs in the world of software development.