Found my problem in the forum, and read this from AppSheet staff in response to a commiserator:
“We don’t show empty non-editable fields because forms sometimes can have many of these and they do not show meaningful information.”
I have a problem with the idea that an empty field does not show meaningful information.
The existence of a field remains significant even if it has no value. For an app with many fields and for users with many apps and only occasional use of some, not showing a field has the pedagogically dysfunctional effect of being antimnemonic.
That a field has no value is itself significant, and users should not be expected to remember all the fields that happen to not show up in a view in order to be aware that they have no value!
And since we can control whether the fields show or not, this kind of nihilisitic view of field visibility doesn’t rescue designers from folly, it robs us of options in how we present the very existence of fields to our users.
I have a form that a supervisor views, and numerous fields maintained by subordinates are invisible to him. But that they are empty is significant to how he evaluates the information considered altogether. Should he really be expected to infallibly tally the existence of fields he can’t see in order to evaluate the data he can?
This is a very unfortunate design decision by AppSheet. Apart from this limit, we can determine whether fields show up or not with a great degree of control; what we can’t do, with AppSheet’s imposed design philosophy in this case, is make them show up at all.
If AppSheet allows empty non-editable fields to be visible, we still have the means to make them invisible if they have no content and we wish to do that.
This is the first case I’ve seen in AppSheet of the product “trying to be helpful” in a way that artificially imposes limits on application behavior, when the alternative of allowing such fields to be shown by default would not rob us of the power to hide them if we wish. As it is, we can’t show them if we wish.
Don’t like it.