DKIM is one of the easiest things to overlook when setting up your domain with Google Workspace already. It’s not required—you can add Gmail to your domain with a few a records and nothing else.
But you don’t want your emails to end up in spam folders. And a DKIM record won’t guarantee anything, but it will make it far more likely your emails will show up in your recipients’ inboxes. It’s worth the few extra minutes to set up.
And yet. Odds are, if you follow Google’s directions to add a DKIM record to your domain, you’ll get the “Email authentication was not verified” error that stumped me for so long.
If you double-click on Google’s TXT record value to copy it, your browser will show that only the DKIM record’s text is selected. If you look closely when you paste the text, though, you’ll notice that the copied text also includes the GENERATE NEW RECORD text from the button below your DKIM code.
So, before pasting your DKIM key into your domain DNS settings, it's worth pasting it into a text editor and making sure the end of the text string is your exact DKIM record, without any extraneous text tagging along at the end.
Then, open your domain registrar’s settings, add the DKIM record as a new TXT record, save your settings, and a day or so later you should be able to verify your domain.
If you still have trouble, check your DKIM Core Key Record on dkimcore, and if it doesn’t verify, try removing the last few characters from the end until you get exactly what Google’s settings page shows—and that should verify. That's how I figured out how to get my DKIM key to work in the first place.
Then, back to emailing, now with a bit more hope that your mail will land in the inbox instead of the spam folder.
I love testing software, trying new things, seeing what each new piece of software does better than the competition. But even with hundreds of accounts filling up my password manager, I still wasn’t quite prepared for the number of things I’d need to test to make a detailed Zapier software roundup.
By the time you’ve set up the same project in the 51st project management app, everything starts to blur together.
Yet if there’s anything I’ve written that’s had staying power, that’s gotten people to email and ask to include their app or how their team can pull off something similar, it’s the Zapier roundups.
So I finally pulled it all together, the tips and ideas I’d share with freelancers and new writers as we worked to make Zapier’s software roundups as detailed and useful as possible.
You need to gather data, then do something with it. Here’s how.
You may find yourself needing an easy way to gather data. A quick way to build a form, let people add their info and perhaps attach a picture or file, and then use that data somewhere productive.
You need a form app.
If you already have a go-to app to build forms—Wufoo or Typeform or JotForm or one of the dozens of other form builders—odds are it’ll be fine. Just open it, make a form, and go on with your day.
But perhaps you don’t need to make forms all the time and so don’t keep a form subscription active, now that most start at around $20/month thanks to software inflation. You just occasionally need to gather data, and need something quick and free—and the typical 5 forms and 10-100 submissions and 100MB of file uploads for free aren’t enough.
I needed something a bit more specific: A form builder that lets you upload files, POST entries from your website’s existing HTML forms, then view the form data together in a nice interface.
Turns out, the best options for that are a spreadsheet or a database app:
The best way to build a form for free and analyze data in a spreadsheet
It’s hard not to recommend Google Forms. It’s free, and saves your form entries to a Google Sheets spreadsheet. You could literally have a million people fill out a 4-question form, for free, in Google Forms. And that data’s in a spreadsheet, where you can sort and filter it however you want.
Odds are, you’ll export your form data as a .csv file, clean it up first, then import it into another app. With Google Sheets, the first two steps are included out-of-the-box.
Google Form supports file uploads now, too—and stores them in Google Drive, for 15GB of files, give or take depending on how much you’ve already stored in Drive.
Though that’s where Google Forms starts to fall apart a bit. Google Forms already look a bit stiff; they’re fine, but not going to win any design awards, and might not fit in if you embed them in your site. Embeds also only work if you don’t have a file upload field.
There is a Google Forms API, and you can even build Google Forms programmatically if you want—and Google Forms/Google Sheets integrations are so common, odds are there’s an easy way to connect your form results with other apps you use (at least using Zapier). There’s just no default way to POST new form results from your hand-coded form, without a workaround.
Google Forms is still what I reach for first when I need a quick form, especially if the end goal is to put the data in a spreadsheet.
The best way to to build a form, including file uploads, and turn the data into something usable
But what if you need a bit more? Airtable—a database app, essentially a modern take on Microsoft Access—might be your best option.
Airtable’s not promoted as a form app. Yet it includes a form tool as a way to get data into your database. And it supports file uploads, and has a robust API, and gives you more ways to visualize your data than you’ll likely need.
Basically, open Airtable, make a new database, then click the Create … Form option in the lower left corner. There, rename the existing fields to fit what your form needs, or tap Add a field to this table to add new form fields (remember, technically you’re building out a database, not just a form). There’s a bit of everything here: You can personalize the form, have fields validate data to make sure, say, the email field actually gets emails, and can even lookup data from other tables in your database (say, to build out an order form where people can pick products from a list, if you wanted).
You can then embed the form anywhere, or use Airtable’s API to create new records (you’ll need to store files people upload on your site first, and push the file’s URL to Airtable instead of directly uploading). Airtable even makes a customized API page specifically for your database, to make integrating even easier.
Once the data comes in, Airtable will show it in a spreadsheet-style table by default, but also includes kanban-style card and gallery views that will automatically show attached images as an easy way to preview your data, a calendar to visualize results by date, and timelines and more on pro plans.
Airtable’s free for 1.2k records per database (so folks can fill out your form 1,200 times for free, if you’re using it as a form app) with 2GB of file storage, then paid plans start at $12/mo. Odds are you end up using Airtable for far more than forms—but it’s a great form app, too.
Other great options:
It’s not like free options are everything, either—great software is always worth paying for, especially if it fits a need in your work. Here are a few other form apps I regularly recommend that are each great options if you need a bit more:
Typeform is beautiful, makes forms feel conversational inspired by the original WarGames film. It’s also pricy (from $29/mo. for 100 form entries to $99/mo. for 10k responses), so is a best fit if you’re building a lot of surveys. If so, it’s the prettiest way to do so and might make people more likely to keep filling out longer forms. It comes with a robust API, too: You can create forms programmatically, or build Typeforms into your app with its React library.
Paperform is another take at making forms prettier, this time with a more document editor-style form builder where you can make forms that look a bit more like a landing page. $24/mo. for 1k responses.
Wufoo’s a classic, one of the earlier form builder web apps, the friendly dino counterpart to MailChimp’s chimp. It’s been through a lot; Wufoo was acquired by SurveyMonkey which was then acquired by Zendesk. But it’s still a great way to make standard, straightforward forms—and with middle-of-the-road pricing at $19/mo. for 1k responses.
Formium is what got me digging into form apps again in the first place. It’s a developer-focused form app, from the team behind the Formik React form library. Call it a headless CMS for your developer-built forms—one that comes with a drag-and-drop form builder for everyone else. Only, it doesn’t support file uploads yet; that’s coming soon. $20/mo. for 1k responses. Also worth checking FormKeep, one of the few other developer-focused form apps.
Gravity Forms is another developer-focused option, this time as a WordPress plugin to build forms inside your blog. It’s a great way to build a low-code app out of WordPress, especially when paired with other WordPress add-ons (I once built a WordPress + Gravity Forms + Zapier site to gather data and showcase it on a map, among other things). $59/year per site.
PandaDoc is a unique form builder, one a bit closer to paper forms you’d typically associate with the IRS and the doctor’s office. Or, Formstack’s document tool (what was formerly WebMerge) can turn normal form entries into documents much the same.
Or: You might not need a form app.
The goal of a form isn’t just gather all the data, unless you’ve built a Pokémon form, in which case, carry on. Typically you need to gather data, and do something with it.
If you need to get people to sign up for your email newsletter, or send your team a support email, or buy your product, you likely don’t need a form builder.
Most email newsletter tools—including MailChimp, Substack, Campaign Monitor, Buttondown, and more—include a simple form builder to people signup to your email newsletter. A Webflow site or Ghost blog comes with built-in signup forms, too. Customer support tools like Help Scout, Front, Zendesk, and more similarly include contact form embeds, that turn form entries into new support tickets automatically. And if you want to sell stuff with a simple checkout form, your best bet is likely a Gumroad or Shopify embed for a checkout form and a way to manage orders together.
You could get similar results by exporting any form’s results as a .csv spreadsheet then importing them into your newsletter, help desk, or eCommerce software. Or you could automate it by linking any other form to your app via Zapier.
But using the built-in embed is your easiest option to gather data and put it to work. When that’s the goal, a form built into the tool where you’ll put the data to work is best.
Now, back to work.
In the end, it shouldn’t really matter which form app you use. What matters most is gathering the data you need, and getting what you need out of the data once it’s gathered. I've tested dozens of form builders at Zapier, and most get the job done. But when you need something specific, and especially when the budget matters, the options get a bit more scarce.
I'm struck by the parallels to Steve Jobs calling Dropbox a feature, not a product, now that the form builders I'd recommend most are essentially features in a larger product—and the best standalone form builders like Typeform or developer-focused tools like Formium went in entirely different directions to standard form apps to make a higher-end niche of their own. It's not enough to be just a plain form app anymore.
Google Forms + Sheets and Airtable are pretty great tools to do all that in one place. And don't forget to check the app where you'll be using the data—there's a chance it'll have a form builder, and if so that's almost always the best option since it saves you a step. Then, the other form builders are great if you need something more specific from your forms (which, if you can’t find one with exactly what you need, let me know on Twitter).
Happy data gathering!
one more thing.
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I joined Austin Petersmith and Mohammad Forouzani in mid-2019 to build a software community, somewhere where everyone could get their business software questions answered much like how developers get their code questions answered on StackOverflow. It grew, fast at times, slower at others, into a just-over-$1m acquisition by Vendr in early 2021.
Audio was the next thing. We'd considered building an online conference for Capiche in mid-2020, and those ideas morphed into launching Capiche FM as a pivot into live audio, first recorded over phone calls, later through a web app. It, too, had a core group of fans but hadn't quite caught fire, so over early 2021 we took some of the best ideas from Capiche FM and turned them into Racket. In its first version, Racket was aimed at shorter audio—9 minutes of audio recorded solo or with guests, then published as an almost audio take on Twitter or TikTok.
And it turned out shorter podcasts were what I'd wished podcasts had been all along. I've always struggled to find time to listen to hour+ long podcasts, but 9 minutes gave enough time for a meaningful conversation that anyone could find time to listen to. And it led to some great conversations I'll always be glad I had, from chats with authors including Elnathan John, Adam Davidson, Joshua Levy, Jason Crawford, and more, to talks with tech founders from Convertkit's Nathan Berry to Gumroad's Sahil Lavingia. I chatted with hundreds of creators in Racket DMs, and learned so much from community leaders including Rosie Sherry and others from the software testing community that embraced Racket early on. Perhaps the most fun was when Andrew Warner interviewed me on Racket about Racket.
After 3 apps in 3 years—a software community, then live audio shows, then short-form audio—it was finally time to give my own app idea a shot, something I'd wanted to do after gaining experience from being on the ground-zero of building Capiche. And today the rest of the Racket team is pushing ahead with an even shorter take on audio with Racket mobile and a 99 second time limit.
But some of those 9 minute chats were worth keeping around—and so, along with my Capiche FM recordings, here are some of my favorite Rackets from 2021:
The day before that, even. Scratch that: If you’d started last week, a few months back, a year ago when the idea first hit your head, you’d already have some traction. You’d be on second base, at least.
But that was then, and this is now. You didn’t do it then—and that’s fine. Odds are you did some pretty great stuff instead.
And now it’s today, and it’s the best time to start.
There will never be a better time, in fact. You take a step today, and tomorrow you’ll be ready to take the next step. You write something today, it’ll be there for someone to read tomorrow, fall in love with, and follow you for the next great thing you’ll publish. Google will get a head-start indexing it today, so it’ll be ready when someone searches for it next month.
Your brain will say no, you should have done this before, and now it’s pointless, and look at everyone else who has already done the things and is so far ahead.
And, yeah, good point brain. But if you don’t do it now, you’ll just be stuck in the same old loop tomorrow, next week, next year. And your brain will still be saying too late, should have done it back then, but now...
Oceans rise, empires fall, and companies rarely last long enough to see even part of the cycle. Today’s most venerated brands were, not all that long ago, not even a thing.
Then someone said, you know what, I’m just going to start making watches or sewing handbags or mixing sparkling sugar water or writing code, and it was so. It wasn’t overnight, but with that slow compounding of time, one bit of great work on top of another, the dream became a thing.
That slow, steady process is perhaps most clear online, where Google search rankings are there for anyone who will put in the work to claim them. The questions people google every day aren’t going to answer themselves; if you’ll show up and write what people are looking for, publish it consistently, over time your stuff will do well, will get traffic, will get discovered by the folks who need it most. It’ll take time; it took well over a year to get Capiche ranking first for its name, for instance. But it also didn’t take any tricks, didn’t take hiding links and doing shady SEO tricks. It was just publishing, showing up every day and putting more stuff on Capiche that we bet could rank well. And eventually Google said, you know what, Capiche is a thing. A thousand little commits, cashed in at once.
That’s what you’re kickstarting when you start today. It’ll still take time. Nothing’s built overnight.
But at least you started. The first brick’s laid down. The foundation’s there.
Tomorrow you can tell your brain, no really I actually did the thing yesterday, and today I can do it again.
And then it’ll be the best time to take the next step.
writing about writing.
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It started as an experiment, as the best things do. Or rather, as a handful of questions:
Why is it so much easier to share photos and even video than audio?
Why do podcasts always go to YouTube when they want to go live?
What makes podcasting so difficult, and how could we simplify that?
One thing led to another, and over the summer of 2020 the Racket née Capiche team dev team built Capiche FM, first as a way to start a live broadcast literally over phone calls, before morphing into online live broadcasts.
And in the process, I hosted over three dozen live episodes that were listened to live for over 318 hours, interviewing tech founders and leaders about the ideas behind their products and what's next. From a chat with iA Writer founder Oliver Reichenstein about what inspired their eponymous writing app, to talking to Kirby founder Bastian Allgeier about the CMS that powers this site, to having Notion's head of platform Cristina Cordova come on to talk about their then-upcoming API (which was instantly the most popular talk on the show), Capiche FM led to fun conversations I wouldn't have otherwise had and bridged the Capiche software community over to our new livestreaming platform.
Then we kept tweaking, built Racket as an even simpler take on recording and publishing audio, and shut Capiche FM down this June. That leaves Capiche FM as a handful of memories of incredible live conversations over the fall and winter of 2020, and this collection of recordings from the SaaS Radio talks.
Matt and Staat founder Amanda Sabreah chat about what makes JIRA so complex and confusing, setting up developer teams for success, why Staat focuses on Jira and GitHub issues instead of building new issue tracking from scratch, and more.
Matt and Intelivideo CEO Adam Zeitsiff chat about the digital transformation that gyms and other local businesses have gone through over the past year, and what it takes to build a platform that brings local business online and help them compete with larger platforms.
Matt and Salesforce Enterprise Architect James Cull to chat about one of the original SaaS web apps—and how customization, flexibility, and a suite of acquired apps has kept Salesforce one of the top CRMs for decades.
Matt and Andy for a chat about how to make apps not boring—with a game engine-powered weather app, calculator, and timer. Plus, what happens when you make software for the people who want it most—the double-IPA of software?
Matt and Coda head of product and design Lane Shackleton chat about Coda's unique take on documents + spreadsheets/databases, why buttons are the most powerful thing in Coda, what’s coming next for Coda (hint: You’ll soon be able to connect any API with Coda and build your own Packs), and if files are dead.
Matt and Pitch Head of Presentation Experience Tomaz Stolfa chat about Pitch’s new approach to presentations, rethinking how presentations should be centered around storytelling, Pitch’s upcoming follow feature and mobile apps, and more.
Matt and Kirby CMS founder Bastian Allgeier chat about flat-file content management systems, what's tough about building bookmarking tools, building a hosted version of Kirby, balancing open source and a business model, Markdown vs WYSIWYG, and more.
Matt and Airtable Customer Success manager Shani Taylor chat about Airtable, building custom database powered apps, syncing data between databases with an upcoming feature, the new Airtable apps and marketplace, and more.
Matt and Ben Lang from the Notion marketing team chat about using Notion even if you're not taking notes, replacing everything from Wunderlist to Dropbox with Notion, why teams need a Notion Librarian, and more.
Matt, productivity trainer Maria Aldrey, Notion evangelist Ben Smith, and RadReads founder Khe Hy kick off the new year on SaaS Radio Hour with a roundtable chat about Notion. Hear their organization tips (hint: Use databases to organize everything), what Notion needs to improve (unanimous vote on speed), building a GTD workflow and Zettelkasten in Notion, and much more.
Matt and Linear CEO Karri chat about Linear's unique take on issue tracking, building fast web apps, how the command palette helps overcome limitations with both mouse-driven and keyboard shortcut interfaces, Linear’s tools to see project momentum, and how Karri breaks down issues and ideas into smaller, more accomplishable tasks.
Matt and QotoQot founder Ivan Mir talk about indie app development, time tracking, privacy, building for Apple platforms, subscriptions versus one-time purchases versus pay for a year at a time apps, and more.
Matt and Vanta CEO Christina Cacioppo chat about privacy, SOC 2 compliance, building a secure organization, why you should use 2 factor authentication and a password manager, deleting unused data, and more.
Matt and Calendly founder Tope chat about Calendly's scheduling tools, why calendar apps haven’t evolved as much as email apps, why to keep your camera turned off during calls and turn them into walking meetings, and more.
Matt and Streak founder Aleem Mawani talked about the story behind Streak’s CRM, building a business inside Gmail, keeping your product running even when the platform it’s built on changes, Google’s standardization of both the browser rendering experience and the email experience, where Kanban breaks down and isn’t as useful as a table, and more.
Matt and Yac founder Justin chat about voice messaging, remote async communications, building Zapier integrations, and more—with stories about how the Yac team now has zero live Zoom calls, doing everything from standups to hiring interviews over asynchronous Yac voice chats.
Matt and iA Writer founder Oliver Reichenstein's chat about Markdown, the story behind iA Writer and how it originally almost was a physical device, why iA Writer didn't switch to subscriptions yet, and more.
Matt and Austin chat about the big news in SaaS from the past few weeks, from Excel's new database-powered linked data types (joined by Al Chen to discuss how those will be used in businesses) to Hey for Work and the challenges of convincing businesses to switch email providers. Plus: Fast and simplifying eCommerce checkout, Social commerce and selling products via live video as almost the QVC of the web, Twitter's Fleeps and why that was the focus instead of other Twitter features, Google Photos ending unlimited free storage, and Apple and Spotify's different approaches to podcasts.
Matt and Ulysses co-founder Max Seelemann chat about their Markdown writing app, how its design has evolved over the years, the limits of touch interface design, why subscriptions make sense for Ulysses even without being a web app, Max' prediction on the future of Apple's platforms, and hints at what may come in the future for Ulysses.
Listen to Matt and Tem from Optemization chat about Notion and what's made it such a flexible tool for everything from notes to project management to publishing web pages, how it compares to ClickUp, OneNote, Coda, and more, and how Notion's carved out a new category as a flexible page where you can create anything you want.
What makes a markdown-powered notes app for teams different from a wiki like Roam Research? In the first part of this call, Matt interviews Slite CEO Christophe Pasquire about the notes app he founded and what makes it different from other tools.
Nearly every tech giant now has game streaming, with Microsoft, Google, and Amazon all competing for streaming console games, and now Facebook announcing they'll be streaming mobile games. It's something that's been tried before with business software—but it never took off. Could it eventually come back, and let you stream, say, AutoCAD or Premiere to your computer, relying on a server to do the heavy rendering?
Google Maps APIs now let you build your own delivery service
Dropbox new family plans cost quite a bit more than the competition, for less—highlighting the challenge of managing files today
For years, the thing to complain about in software was lock-in, how you had to keep using the latest Microsoft Word to open files from colleagues. That’s gone away, as SaaS put everything in a database, let us share software for free with collaborators.
Now we’re locked-in with unique software that has features that would be hard to replicate elsewhere, things like Notion that put notes and kanban boards and tables and more in one app. You could never replicate everything in your Notion in another app. Yet we’re happy.
That’s thanks to the IKEA effect in software, where today’s lock-in doesn’t feel nearly as restrictive as feature, file format, database, and subscription lock-in alone did.
Four years ago, Microsoft built Skype calls into their web apps, so you could edit a Microsoft Word doc in the Word Web App, then start a Skype call to collaborate live or present it to other people from the app.
That's the new SaaS battleground. Late last week, Zoom announced Zaaps, web apps that open inside your Zoom Calls. Google recently, on the other hand, announced Google Meet video calls inside Google Docs and more, and one of the newly released Pitch presentation app's core features is in-app video chat while you're collaborating.
In this episode, Matt and Austin, along with a guest appearance from Al Chen, chat about how video is the new work operating system, how Google missed the boat with social, whether Google is a monopoly, and more.
Twilio is building an ecosystem of developer tools—from Sendgrid to Authy to now Segment. Matt and Austin discussed what that means for the future of Segment and Twilio, with a guest appearance from Aaron Gotwalt.
Trying to decipher what Cloudflare One is offering.
Zoom is adding encryption—and we discussed how they won the market, even without traditional enterprise tools.
Google rebranded G Suite as Google Workspaces, and the contrast between their broad product strategy centered around distribution versus Zoom and other SaaS startups focused on making the best possible single product.
One of the few perks I took advantage of as a student were software discounts. Adobe's Creative Suite at the time was a $700+ purchase—or as a student, it was a bit over a hundred dollars, something far easier to budget.
Adobe and Microsoft's famous student discounts are hardly the only ones available today. After checking over 200 popular business software products, here are over 88 of the best student discounts today—including Slack, Notion, Basecamp, GitHub, and more for free.
Superhuman, the latest attempt to reinvent the email app, really does make email faster. You can clear out emails without reading them, split your inbox into categories automatically, snooze emails for later, and do everything in your inbox with only keyboard shortcuts.
And somehow, it teaches you to go through emails faster and not worry so much about each message.
Software started out as a rare commodity, something you’d buy in a shrink-wrapped box for hundreds of dollars. Competition, the internet, App Store, free open source software, and subscription models democratized software to a degree, making even professional software approachable priced—at least in the short term.
But that’s changing. After years of software getting cheaper, over the past decade software has gotten more expensive, fast. Three times faster than the average inflation rate, in fact.