Whether you need a simple CRUD interface or a custom admin panel with myriads of features used by business teams, at some point you need to decide how to create it. As a Flask developer, you have two options: you can build your Flask admin panel from scratch or choose one of the popular internal tool builders. Two leading solutions are Forest Admin and Flask-Admin, each offering a distinct approach to solving the same challenge. In this article, we'll compare these two admin panel solutions to help you make an informed choice for your Flask-based application.
You don't need to write custom code for basic data management. Flask-Admin generates a set of built-in views for CRUD operations based on your data models. There is a search box, and you can sort and filter records by column.
While Flask-Admin provides a functional default UI, you can customize it to fit your specific needs and design preferences. It uses Jinja2 templates for rendering views, but you can override these templates to change the layout, styling, and structure of your admin interface. However, it requires coding and non-dev users will rely on you whenever they need even a tiny change.
Forest Admin also generates an admin panel on top of your data model. You get several features out-of-the-box, including CRUD operations, search, filters, roles and permissions, export, charts, multiple environments, version control, and more.
However, Forest Admin takes the concept of a pre-built user interface a step further. It allows both technical and non-technical users to customize the interface using a WYSIWYG editor. This means that non-dev users can make changes to the interface simply by clicking and dragging elements, eliminating the need to write code.
Flask-Admin is designed to be familiar to developers who are comfortable with Python and Flask. It is highly extensible, allowing developers to create custom views, form widgets, and filters. Developers can also define custom actions that can be executed on selected records. If you're already working with Flask, you'll find Flask-Admin's concepts and conventions easy to grasp. Business users without coding experience may find it less intuitive.
Forest Admin prioritizes user experience, making it user-friendly and intuitive for both developers and business users. This focus on accessibility is advantageous when non-technical staff needs to manage data and perform operations, ensuring smooth business operations. Non-dev users can adapt their Forest Admin UI to their own workflows, generate several types of charts, and integrate workflows built on Zapier, Make, or n8n.
However, Forest Admin has been built to provide excellent developer experience as well, and it has features dedicated to developers, such as multiple environments, development workflow tools, and smart features that facilitate customization.
Flask-Admin operates in a traditional server-side rendering fashion, with the server rendering HTML and sending it to the client. This approach can result in performance limitations and may not offer the same flexibility as an API-based approach.
Forest Admin is also API-based, meaning that the user interface fetches data from an API connected to the data source. This decouples the front-end and back-end, making it easy to switch between different data sources and improving flexibility.
Out-of-the-Box Standard Features
Flask-Admin provides basic functionality, but you need to define the user interface in your application. This often involves detailed configurations, especially for complex operations like segmentation.
Forest Admin offers a plethora of standard features out of the box. This means you can start using features like CRUD, search, filters, relationships, role-based permissions, charts, and segmentation immediately, without extensive manual configuration. In fact, a fully functional admin panel is generated out of the box once you install Forest Admin on top of your Flask application.
Flask-Admin may face performance issues, particularly when handling large datasets and complex relationships. For instance, using the "belongsTo" relationship with a vast dataset can lead to browser crashes due to the sheer number of options in the native HTML dropdown.
Performance is a core consideration in Forest Admin's design. It ensures a responsive and efficient admin panel experience, especially valuable for companies dealing with substantial data volumes.
Flask-Admin provides a basic permissions system that you configure through code. It supports authentication out-of-the-box, allows you to define user roles and assign specific permissions to these roles, and it can be extended to support two-factor authentication (2FA). The level of security also depends on your implementation and how well you configure and manage these features.
Forest Admin places a strong emphasis on security to ensure the protection of data and maintain the integrity of your web applications. It offers a standard Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) system that you can customize directly in the user interface. Additionally, it includes various security features such as IP Whitelisting, Single Sign-On (SSO), Autologout, and enforced Two-Factor Authentication (2FA).
Flask-Admin is entirely open-source, giving users the autonomy to self-host their admin panel.
Forest Admin adopts a hybrid approach, combining self-hosting with Software as a Service. Your data and API remain on your side while the UI is hosted on a SaaS platform. This hybrid model offers flexibility, security, data privacy, continuous improvements, scalability, and optimal performance. Alternatively, a Cloud version of Forest Admin is also available.
Conclusion: A Powerful Admin Panel Alternative
While Flask developers often start with Flask-Admin, it's worth exploring Forest Admin as a more advanced and user-friendly alternative. Forest Admin requires less maintenance, offers a rich feature set, and customisation options for non-dev users. If you aim to begin with a robust admin panel that scales effortlessly and supports your business operations effectively, Forest Admin is the ideal choice. Don't settle for less when you can have more right from the start.
|User Interface||Auto-generated with customizable visual builder||Pre-built, requires code to extend functionality|
|User Experience||Designed for business users, intuitive||Primarily a developer tool, may not be user-friendly for business users|
|API||API-based, easy to switch data sources||Server-side rendering, less flexibility|
|Out-of-the-Box Standard Features||Provides many features out of the box||Requires defining user interface in application|
|Performance||Designed with performance in mind||Can suffer from performance issues with large data sets|
|Security||Standard RBAC system with additional security features||Pre-built permissions system|
|Hosting||Hybrid SaaS architecture or Cloud-based architecture||Open-source and self-hosted|