Creating a low-code editor for Robot Framework
03-02, 14:00–14:30 (UTC), Gather Town

While the syntax of Robot Framework is simple, it can still be daunting to approach without a technical background. We created a new low-code editor to allow non-developers to create automations. We describe the architectural decisions behind the project, and how Robot Framework itself enabled it from both a language design and code perspective.

"Robot Framework is a great automation tool that allows a low barrier to entry while maintaining a high ceiling for growth. However, coming to Robot Framework without a programming background can be daunting. While the language is relatively simple, even the concept of text-based programming presents a steep learning curve for many new users. There are also syntactical quirks to internalize, many libraries to familiarize with, and sometimes you might need to understand Python.

The low-code movement has been rapidly growing in recent years. The term Citizen Developer has become popular to describe these non-developers who automate their day-to-day work. They’re non-technical users with lots of business domain knowledge but lack the background to use traditional programming languages or tools. While the term itself is mainly used in the world of RPA, the persona also applies to many people involved with test automation.

During Robocon 2022, we showed Automation Studio, which is a new kind of low-code tool for Robot Framework. It allows you to get started with a drag-and-drop interface and build automations without any previous experience with Robot Framework or Python. However, it also allows you to move seamlessly between visual and text-based editing and learn the basic concepts of Robot Framework without the burden of typing syntactically correct code.

In this talk, we’ll go through how we approached creating Automation Studio and what goes into designing a development tool for non-technical users. We describe the various architectural decisions we made along the way and how we leveraged the open-source community and existing projects around Robot Framework to make it happen. We will also show how Robot Framework enables the creation of such a tool from both a language design and code perspective. The project has also revealed some improvement areas for Robot Framework, which we think would benefit the entire ecosystem."

Software engineering lead at Robocorp working on Automation Studio. Strong background in Python, test automation, and RPA. Passion for creating good products.