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Solvaa blog post title image for post "New low-code features from Zapier bring automaton power to the people."
Have you ever been frustrated when a Zapier app integration doesn’t have the action you need? Or perhaps you have Zaps filled with webhook steps, and only the most technical people in your team know how to update or edit them? Zapier has built low-code features App Extensions and API Request actions to ease those pain points.
 

 

What are they, and how are they low-code?

App Extensions and API Request actions allow you to add an action in your Zap that makes an API call to an app you’ve already connected with Zapier. Both features use your existing authorisation for an app, removing one trickier aspect of sending API calls via webhook. They also lay out everything that you need to make an API call in separate fields. You need to know what to put in which box, but it’s easier than writing a whole code step or raw webhook step.
 
With the API Request action, you add a one-off custom API call to an app. With App Extensions, you can create your own action for an app and share it with anyone in your Zapier team account. It’s also handy if you want to reuse the step in different Zaps.

 

 
Before we dive into how to use these features, it’s important to highlight their limitations. For starters, they are only available for some apps. You can find a list of apps that allow App extensions and API calls in this Zapier help doc. In addition, both features are still in beta, which means they may not be as reliable as a fully released feature. Also, as they are more technical, the Zapier support team can only offer limited assistance with them. Like code steps, API calls are too varied and complex for Zapier to be able to troubleshoot and fix any steps that use them.
 

What are APIs?

To use the App Extensions and API Request actions, you’ll need to have a good working knowledge of APIs.
 
An API or Application Programming Interface is the part of the app that lets it talk to other apps. My favourite analogy is that of a waiter. Imagine that you’re in a restaurant. You’re the customer, the chef is the app and the waiter is the API. The waiter takes your request to the chef and then brings your order out to you. The video below explains the metaphor fully, and if you want to dive into the details of APIs, Zapier has a guide on APIs and how they work here.
 

API request actions

What are they?

API request actions are one-off actions that you create in a Zap. You set up the action with the details of the API call you want to make, and when the Zap runs it sends that call to the app you’re working with.
 

How to use them

To add an API request action to your Zap:
  1. Add an action in your Zap.
  2. Choose the app that you want to use, and select the event ‘API Request (Beta)’.
  3. Set up the action by adding the HTTP Method, endpoint URL, Query String Parameters and Additional Request Headers.

 

Example: a low-code method for automatically moving Calendar events

Here’s an example that uses Google Calendar. Let’s say that when a new event with a specific title is added to my Calendar, I want to transfer ownership of that event to my colleague’s calendar. The Zapier Google Calendar integration doesn’t have an action that allows you to move an event to a different calendar, but you can do that with an API request.
 
The details of the API call needed are on this page of the Google Calendar API reference. In Zapier, I’ve added an API Request action to my Zap, and I need to set up the action.
As per the API documentation, I select the POST method, and add the API endpoint URL. In this case, the URL has my calendar ID and the ID of the event I want to move. In the Query string parameter, I have the ID of the calendar to which I want to move the event.
A screenshot of the Zapier editor showing an API request.
Although this type of action requires technical knowledge, it’s low-code when compared with creating something from scratch. I couldn’t create an action that does this with the Zapier developer platform, or with a webhook, but I can create API requests using this framework.
 
When you test an API request step, checking the API response is important. When you test an API call action, the test will be successful as long as Zapier is able to send the call and receive a response from the API. That doesn’t mean that the call did what you wanted it to. Even if the API sends back an error response, from Zapier’s perspective, the action was successful because the information was sent and a response was received. To see whether or not an API request action was actually successful, you need to check the API response in the test data. In the data, look for the response status.
A screenshot showing the body of an API response in the Zapier editor.
Successful calls are usually in the 200 range (eg 200, 204), and a 400 or 500 response means the API returned an error. If the test shows an error, you’ll need to edit your API action details until you get a successful result.

 

 

App extensions

 

What are they?

App extensions allow you to share low-code custom actions with your team members. With app extensions, you create an action that can be used in different Zaps and functions like a regular action. They’re really handy because the more tech-savvy folks in your team can create an action that anyone familiar with Zapier can use.

 

How to use them

The first step is to create an app extension. To do that, you’ll need to sign into your Zapier account and head to the App Extensions page.
 
App extensions require:
  • An input field (the information that people will have to add in the Zap editor).
  • The API method and endpoint URL.
  • Query parameters that need to be added to the URL.
  • Any headers required (in addition to authentication).
  • The body of the API call.
 

Example: renaming zoom meetings with an App extension

We needed to change the topic (name) of Zoom calls, which isn’t possible with the standard actions in Zapier. I created an app extension that anyone in our team can use in their Zap to automatically change the name of a Zoom meeting when the Zap is triggered.
 
To make the action work, the API call must include the meeting ID and new name for the meeting. I added those as Input fields – fields that would need to be added when someone is setting up the action in the Zap editor.
A screenshot from of Zapier's app extension builder.

I used the API method and URL given in the Zoom API reference. In the image below, you can see that I added the meeting ID field in double curly brackets at the end of the URL. Whatever is added in the meeting ID field in the Zap editor will be put there when the action runs.

A screenshot of the Zapier App extension builder

For the additional headers, I knew that I needed to add a content type (again this information was in the Zoom API reference documentation). Finally, I added some JSON code to tell the Zoom API that I wanted the Zoom topic to be changed to whatever was put in the ‘Topic’ input field.

A screenshot showing the App extension builder in Zapier

To use that app extension in a Zap, after selecting the app choose the ‘App Extensions’ event. You’ll then be able to select which App Extension you want to use. This is what the example above looks like in the editor:

A screenshot showing an app extension action in the Zapier editor

With this action, anyone in my Zapier team can easily add an action to change the topic of a Zoom meeting without needing to know the intricacies of the Zoom API.

 

Building an App Extension using AI

If the thought of building your own action from scratch is overwhelming, you can use Zapier’s AI generator to build an App Extension.

 

It works like Zapier’s AI Zap builder. You type in a prompt and Zapier will suggest App extensions it could build for you. Personally, I haven’t had much luck in getting Zapier to generate the extension that I need. Here’s what happened when I asked Zapier to generate an action that would list the participants of a past Zoom meeting.
A screenshot of the App extension builder in Zapier
None of the options presented were close to what I was looking for, and clicking ‘Generate’ again didn’t provide any new suggestions. It’s a neat feature, but it’s still in its early stages, so it may be a while before we see consistently valuable suggestions for building app extensions with AI.

 

 

Summary

The Zapier API request action and App extension features are a way to add low-code, custom actions into your Zaps. For those of us who know a little about APIs but don’t know how to code, they give you the opportunity to build more complex automations that suit your business.

Reduce your overwhelm with our automation training programme

And finally, if you’re really keen to reduce your overwhelmand  transform your business using automation, then visit the Solvaa Automation Academy. Our signature training programme, ‘Simple Automation Blueprint: Zero to Hero’ is aimed at anyone who wants to learn the fundamentals of business process automation from the experts – a sure-fire way to recession-proof your business.

It’s an 8-week blended learning course with on-demand videos, templates, resources and weekly group coaching sessions. And it’s more than just a Zapier course (although we do show you how to use Zapier like a pro) as you’ll learn about Process Mapping, Business Process Improvement and Business Process Management too – principles that can be applied to other areas of business too!

Whether you are a complete novice or have been using Zapier for a while, our programme is for you. It’s perfect for individuals and teams in micro, small and medium-sized businesses, including solopreneurs, consultants and freelancers. You’ll have access to our experts and can participate in live calls where you can ask all your burning questions, as well as hands-on workshops to keep you on track with implementing your new skills. We run regular cohorts so there will be an opportunity for everyone to participate.

Our head trainer, Kelly Goss, is a specialist in business systems, process improvement and automation, and one of less than 100 Zapier Certified Experts in the world. Kelly has many years’ experience in optimising systems and processes, and implementing automations for clients and is now passing on her knowledge to students through our trademarked ‘4-Step Solvaa Automation Methodology®‘. 

Find out more via our dedicated Solvaa Automation Academy website.

Read more about how our certified experts use Zapier workflow automations to simplify processes and increase efficiency.

Solvaa is a process and automation consultancy specialising in improving sales, operations and financial administration workflows. We help you to simplify and streamline existing processes, integrate your business tools to make data transfer more efficient and automate manual tasks to increase productivity. We are Zapier Certified Experts, Pipedrive Certified Experts and Xero Certified Advisors. 

Contact us today to discuss how Solvaa can help you simplify, improve and automate all aspects of your business with Zapier to save you time, reduce costs and keep you agile as you grow.

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