Retool is one of the biggest players in the low-code space. However, that doesn’t mean it’s viable for every business; it’s far from it. Today, we’re checking out some of the top Retool alternatives from across the market. And it’s a crowded market nowadays. However, there’s huge variation between different options - across their pricing, features, target personas, use cases, and more.
Today, we’re covering the following:
- What is Retool?
- Why would you look for an alternative to Retool?
- 6 Retool alternatives for 2024
- Retool vs Budibase
- How to choose a low-code platform
Let’s get right into it.
What is Retool?
Launched in 2017, Retool is a development platform for building internal software.
Like any low-code platform, the goal is to reduce the time and development resources required to ship simple solutions - like forms, CRUD apps, admin tools, portals, or other workflow applications.
A large part of Retool’s popularity relates to its early market entrance.
Besides this, its strengths include:
- Large component library - Retool offers a large number of pre-built components for building UIs.
- Integrations - An extensive library of API and data source integrations.
- Workflow automations - A flow-based UI for building automations and scheduled jobs.
- Version control - Support for multiple app versions, alongside Git syncing.
- Enterprise features - Like SSO, audit logging, self-hosting, and enterprise support.
- Access control - Granular role-based access control.
On paper, this is an attractive offering for development teams that need to create working solutions quickly.
Who uses Retool?
First and foremost, Retool is aimed at developers. The ultimate goal is to expedite internal tool projects, enabling companies to dedicate more resources to their core product.
In other words, the target users are developers who don’t have time to spend on more menial tasks.
This can take a few different key forms. For example, Retool is popular with back-end developers who are comfortable with configuring and handling data, but might not necessarily have advanced UX or design skills.
Another key technical persona is full-stack developers who need to save time through reusability, expedited deployments, and reduced support and maintenance burdens.
However, Retool isn’t exclusively for developers. Less technical colleagues in plenty of organizations also find it helpful to allow them to build working solutions - without necessarily knowing how to code.
But this isn’t really where Retool shines. See, in many cases, the technical barriers to entry will be too high for these kinds of users - since you do need to use custom code for a lot of more advanced use cases.
That leads us to our next question.
6 Retool Alternatives for 2024
With that bit of context out of the way, we can start to think about some of the best platforms to bridge this gap as alternatives to Retool.
We’ve chosen six tools from different points across the low-code market:
Let’s jump right in.
|Per creator +
|Per creator +
|Flat fee +
|Per app +
|Per user +
|Custom Data Sources
|Via Power Automate
Budibase is an open-source, low-code platform that helps teams turn data into action. Our goal is to make it as fast and easy as possible to connect to existing data, build interfaces, automate tasks, and ship professional web applications.
Thousands of companies in all kinds of industries choose Budibase to save time and money building internal tools that integrate seamlessly with any workflow.
We will do a fuller comparison of Budibase and Retool a little later. For now, here’s what makes our platform tick.
Budibase enables teams to share, manipulate, and collaborate on data in a safe reliable way. We offer a huge range of dedicated connectors for all kinds of SQL and NoSQL databases, alongside REST APIs, Google Sheets, and our own built-in database.
You can even build your own custom data sources using our dedicated plug-ins CLI.
Building professional interfaces in Budibase is easy - even for non-designers. You can build clean, user-friendly front ends in minutes with reusable components, autogenerated screens, and an intuitive drag-and-drop interface.
Budibase also offers flexible automations, RBAC, free SSO, multi-user collaboration, extensive integrations, and optional self-hosting, including air-gapped deployments.
As a Retool alternative, Budibase is ideally suited to building internal tools and workflow apps. For instance, CRUD tools, approval apps, forms, portals, admin panels, and other simple tools that form the backbone of your internal processes.
IT teams, data professionals, and other technical professionals choose Budibase to simplify development processes and transform workflows.
Check out our product overview to learn more.
Mendix is one of the oldest names in the low-code space. Like Retool, the goal is to expedite internal tool projects - but with an even heavier slant towards professional developers.
There’s a clear focus on development teams within larger organizations and enterprises. For instance, Mendix offers a suite of features aimed explicitly at integrating into SCRUM lifecycles.
At the same time, it’s important to be realistic that Mendix is a legacy player in a space that’s undergone a lot of disruption in the past few years.
One of the really big selling points here is Mendix’s built-in IDE - Mendix Studio Pro. This combines a drag-and-drop interface for building interfaces with more traditional development tools, like substantive code editing, version control, and even generative AI.
Mendix is also a strong offering in terms of extensibility. Like any low-code platform, there is a large number of integration options available. What sets Mendix apart, however, is its SDK which facilitates a huge range of admin, analysis, and legacy modernization actions.
Lastly, Mendix has a large, active community of developers. This means that there is an abundance of resources for expanding capabilities, solving key pain points, and generally maximizing value from the platform.
Compared to Retool - and other alternatives - Mendix presents a relatively high technical skills barrier for developing solutions. Low-code is a spectrum and Mendix sits towards the code-reliant end, particularly when it comes to creating more sophisticated applications.
A great example of this is the developer experience around building UIs. There’s very limited customization for designing screens without adding extensive CSS - even for basic tasks like app theming.
Like many large vendors, Mendix can also be slow to adapt and roll out new features - especially compared to newer platforms like Retool or Budibase. So, certain elements can feel dated because of a rigid major release cycle.
Finally, some users complain of performance issues as Mendix applications scale.
Mendix is generally one of the more expensive low-code platforms on the market. There are four pricing tiers for single-app users - free, basic, standard, and premium. Premium is the custom option for enterprises.
Basic and standard charge $50 and $800 per month for five users respectively, plus additional user fees. A huge downside here is that self-hosting is only available on the standard tier - which has the potential to price out most smaller teams.
If you want to build multiple applications, the cheapest paid option is the standard tier at $2000 per month, plus each additional user. This is a large jump from an already expensive license, creating real issues with scalability.
OutSystems is another veteran in the low-code market. Like Mendix, it’s heavily focused on development teams within enterprises. Unlike Mendix, OutSystems isn’t fully open-source. However, their Forge repository provides a helpful resource for community contributions and extensions.
Given its enterprise focus, OutSystems is built with more complex full-stack development processes in mind. So, it offers a range of dedicated tools around things like testing, user management, and data modeling.
One particular area where OutSystems really shines multi-platform development. Like most low-code platforms, it’s an effective tool for building cloud-native web applications - but it’s also highly suited to native app development for Android and iOS.
The Forge marketplace also introduces a huge scope for customization and reusability. Users can build code modules, data connectors, and custom UI components to leverage across their apps - as well as pulling in existing community contributions.
OutSystems’ generative AI functionality is impressive - particularly with regard to testing and performance monitoring - with models aimed at assessing your app’s architecture, custom code, and maintainability using AI assistance.
OutSystems is comparatively difficult to get up and running. Self-hosting or local instances require the separate installation of several packages - whereas other Retool alternatives offer one-click installations.
There is a proprietary cloud-based service, but this comes along with several important limitations - including some quite basic data support issues.
Once installed, OutSystems also has a comparatively steep learning curve. As a developer-focused platform, you’ll need to get familiar with the platform’s own architecture, which can make OutSystems feel more like a specialization than a tool for simplifying developments.
OutSystems is billed on a per-app basis, with three tiers on offer - single app, multiple apps, and large app portfolio. Building a single application is free, but you’ll have to upgrade to a paid tier to push this into production - so really this is only a free trial.
A license for multiple applications starts from $1513 per month, with no limit on users. However, this does not include testing environments, self-hosting, or any compliance certifications.
To access these features, you’ll need to opt for custom pricing. Therefore, OutSystems is likely to be prohibitively expensive for many organizations - as well as being difficult to demo, validate, or scale.
Appian is a departure from some of our other Retool alternatives. It’s still primarily aimed at enterprise customers, but this time the target users are primarily business users, rather than specialist developers.
In line with this, the core functionality is more aimed at process transformation than application development per se. Although, there’s obviously a lot of overlap between these and, in practice, the end solutions might be very similar.
Appian is one of the most attractive options here in the realm of process automation - with a range of native tools around process orchestration, robotic process automation, AI modeling, and API integration. This is all centered around a diagram-based process builder.
Its process discovery tools are particularly impressive, with a range of monitoring, learning, and analytics features for gaining insight into how your business processes work in the field and taking action based on this.
Another potential selling point is the comparatively low skills barrier for building applications.
Appian isn’t as reliant on custom code as Mendix or OutSystems, meaning that a greater range of colleagues can create solutions. There are also dedicated governance functions, so IT teams can still retain control over what is built and how.
Given its target user base, Appian is arguably somewhat limited in terms of flexibility and customization - particularly when building UIs.
Users also complain that feature roll-outs on the self-hosted version typically don’t keep pace with the cloud product. This can be frustrating as it means that businesses must sacrifice functionality in order to deploy Appian to their own infrastructure.
There are also reported performance issues when dealing with large volumes of data. In a similar vein, the diagram-based UI for building automations isn’t ideal for iterative processes - particularly on a larger scale.
Appian is comparatively affordable - with the caveat that pricing is quite complex which may undermine predictability. The free tier offers up to fifteen users, with relatively few restrictions on core functionality. So, achieving early value could be quite easy.
The Application tier is priced per user - with three different user types - standard ($75), infrequent ($9), and input-only ($2). There are then two custom pricing options - Platform and Unlimited - which bill on a per-user or per-application basis, respectively.
A paid license is required to access self-hosting, along with other key enterprise features.
Microsoft’s offering, PowerApps, is probably the most ubiquitous player in the low-code market.
As you might expect, this is an attractive option for businesses that are highly embedded in the Microsoft ecosystem - with close integrations with tools like SharePoint, Dynamics, SQL Server, and Power BI.
However, PowerApps developers tend to be platform specialists - and it doesn’t exactly have a reputation for being easy to get to grips with.
Microsoft provides a vast number of sample applications and templates to help kick-start projects. This is obviously a big benefit if you want to build applications around relatively generic business processes.
Close integration with the rest of the Microsoft ecosystem can also be a major selling point, particularly if your business is already heavily reliant on Excel, Power BI, Dynamics, or other Microsoft platforms.
PowerApps uses a proprietary language called Power Fx to handle application logic. This is derived from Visual Basic, meaning that it will be relatively familiar to business users with a high skill level in Excel.
On top of this, Power Fx is fairly notorious for being strict on syntax and formatting. Many users report problems with getting PowerApps to do what they want when creating complex logic.
Since PowerApps isn’t a standalone tool, but a part of the wider Power suite, relatively simple tasks like connecting new data sources can also be fairly convoluted - especially compared to other solutions in this class.
You’ll also need a license for Power Automate if you want to handle business logic effectively.
Another key reason for PowerApps’ ubiquity is its affordable, simple pricing model. There’s just one paid tier - billed at $20 per user per month. However, related services like Power Pages and AI Builder are billed separately.
PowerApps Premium comes with unlimited application projects, although there are other service limits - including database storage in the Microsoft Dataverse platform.
There’s also no pricing distinction between end users and developers - all users are billed on the same basis.
Finally, we have AppSheet - Google’s offering in the low-code space.
So, like PowerApps, there’s a clear bias towards the vendor’s wider ecosystem. However, out of all of the Retool alternatives we’ve seen - it’s the most suited for non-technical users who want to build applications.
AppSheet’s developer experience is tightly focused on combining no-code with Google’s proprietary AI tools.
With AppSheet, it’s possible for non-techincal colleagues to output working applications in just a few minutes using data contained in a spreadsheet or external SaaS platform, like Salesforce.
Very little programming knowledge is necessary, besides basic concepts. Business logic is largely implemented using visual tools or common spreadsheet formulae.
Deployment is also highly flexible. AppSheet offers instant deployments, with a developer experience that will be highly familiar to WorkSpace users. Or, you can opt for custom deployments - including external app stores.
Where AppSheet falls short relative to other Retool competitors is customization. Ultimately, there’s an inherent tradeoff between how much flexibility it can offer and the extent to which it can empower less technical users to build applications.
It’s a no-code platform, so usability comes at the expense of the power to add more complex business logic.
Realistically, AppSheet is also aimed at smaller-scale projects than its competitors. It’s part of the WorkSpace ecosystem, so more advanced functionality including self-hosting, external SSO, or other enterprise features is limited.
AppSheet is free for up to 10 users. Beyond this, there are four paid tiers - Starter and Core are billed at $5 and $10 per user per month, respectively. These limit you to using spreadsheets and cloud file storage within your data layer.
You’ll need to opt for custom pricing through Enterprise Standard or Enterprise Plus in order to leverage external databases, SaaS platforms, or APIs as data for your applications.
So, for anything but the most simple applications, AppSheet has the potential to be a very expensive option.
Retool vs Budibase
Now that we’ve seen a range of options from across the low-code market, it’s time to dive deep into how Budibase and Retool stack up.
Budibase offers by far the most generous free tier of any Retool competitor. Build unlimited applications with up to five users in the cloud or twenty users if you self-host.
Our free tier also includes Google, Microsoft, and OIDC SSO, along with embeds and multi-player collaboration - features that are only available on Retool’s business and enterprise tiers.
Our premium tier is billed at $50 per creator and $5 per user per month, giving you custom branding, configurable access to views, synchronous automations, and more - many of which are only available from Retool via custom pricing arrangements.
Retool and Budibase both offer extensive ranges of native database connectors - including MySQL, Postgres, SQL Server, and a whole host of NoSQL tools, APIs, and other common data sources.
However, the big distinction here is that Budibase offers custom data sources.
Using our dedicated plug-ins CLI, self-hosted Budibase users can write their own data sources by defining CRUD actions which can then be implemented from within your application project - providing unrivaled flexibility for harnessing existing data.
Retool and Budibase are aimed at subtly different kinds of users. Retool is primarily aimed at developers and engineers who want to build internal tools more quickly.
So, where Retool is reliant on its built-in IDE, Budibase provides a much simpler UX for creating complex UIs and processes, including adding conditionality rules to components, manipulating data with handlebars helpers, or creating iterative automations.
We should be honest, naturally that there’s a lot of overlap between Budibase and Retool in terms of functionality. But, feature for feature, we’re confident that Budibase packs more advanced functionality into a more accessible, affordable package.
We offer free SSO across the board, custom branding for non-enterprise customers, custom onboarding flows, active directory sync, environment variables, custom data sources, and much more.
Budibase also makes the process of self-hosting considerably easier than Retool - with a wider range of supported methods, including Ansible, Azure, Digital Ocean, Kubernetes, Podman, Linode, Portainer, and more - whereas Retool only supports Docker and AWS.
How to choose a Retool alternative
So, to wrap up, we want to outline a few key decision points. After all, we have a horse in the race, but it’s not realistic to think any single platform would be right for every buyer.
Therefore, it’s important to flag some of the most important tradeoffs, personas, and priorities when selecting a platform in this class.
Pricing might seem like the easiest decision point to wrap your head around, but in practice, this can actually be quite complex. The trouble is, we’re generally not comparing like with like - as vendors structure and calculate their pricing very differently.
The first variable we need to nail down is the number of users we’re dealing with.
As we’ve seen, almost all platforms distinguish between app creators and end users - and bill accordingly. Luckily, it’s relatively straightforward to establish the number of users we need. What’s trickier is accounting for how these costs will scale.
For example, Budibase has some of the most generous user limits in the free tier, while platforms like Retool, Mendix, or OutSystems are more prohibitive in their pricing.
The other issue we need to consider under budgeting is where specific pieces of functionality are positioned across pricing tiers.
One way to approach this is to distinguish between requirements and nice-to-haves. Focusing on firm requirements - for instance, SSO, SCIM, air-gapped deployments, or multi-player collaboration - gives us an unambiguous point of comparison when it comes to budgeting.
Source-available vs closed-source
This is perhaps the biggest cleavage across the market for Retool alternatives. Transparent, auditable code is also a potential deal breaker - especially for enterprises or users in security-first organizations more broadly.
Here’s a summary of how this breaks up:
|Open-source vs Closed-source
Another huge decision point is who will ultimately be using whichever platform we choose to build tools. Broadly, the solutions we’ve seen today range from developer tools on one end of the spectrum - to more business-user-focused platforms on the other.
In between, we have tools aimed primarily at technical colleagues, with at least some coding or development skills - like data professionals, product managers, solutions architects, and other IT roles.
|Target user technical levels
|High - Engineers
|Medium - Technical users
|High - Engineers
|High - Engineers
|Medium - Technical users
|Medium - Technical users
|Low - Business users
Extensibility is how much scope we have to add our own components, integrations, or other kinds of functionality to a platform - as well as building capabilities via integrations with external tools.
Obviously, it’s helpful to be able to extend the platforms we’re using to build tools - with the caveat that this may also leave us responsible for maintaining whatever extensions we’re using.
|Custom Data Sources
|REST API connector
|OIDC Auth support