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February 9, 2021

Still Using Spreadsheets as Improvised Databases? Here Is a New Tool

Airtable Pic

Spreadsheets are great. You can do anything (well, almost) on a spreadsheet.

But you know as well as I do that some things are better on a database (who remembers Access?). People avoid using databases because they can be difficult to use and often, most of them require SQL scripting skills to run queries on the data.

So how can you stop using spreadsheets as a database tool, and what do I recommend you to try?

The answer is Airtable!

Airtable vs Spreadsheet

Airtable is an easy-to-use online platform for creating and sharing relational databases. Its user interface is simple, colourful, friendly, and allows anyone to spin up a database in minutes.

The database can be used to store, organise, and collaborate on information about anything like:

  • Employee directories
  • Product inventories
  • Tracking projects
  • (We use Airtable to collaborate, prepare and archive our blog & newsletter articles).

Unlike spreadsheets, you can shove images and photos in there (if you’re putting images in a spreadsheet, you shouldn’t be), rich-text fields for paragraphs, and of course, formulas, and a host of other field types.

And the best thing about this tool is that you don’t even have to learn what SQL stands for, let alone any scripting to get the data looking good.

Airtable is also ripe for automation and can be integrated with other apps like Google sheets, Zapier, JotForms, Basecamp etc.

Airtable Interagations

Airtable Interagations

Whilst not trying to totally discredit spreadsheets (which are great and the best fit for running calculations), it’s evident that easy to use databases such as Airtable are more suited to a large amount of information that would require better organisation and collaboration.

Hint: if your spreadsheets are huge and slow, you could probably do better with Airtable.

How is Airtable Structured?

Airtable is structured into 5 building blocks:

  • Bases
  • Tables
  • Fields
  • Records
  • Views

1.Bases

Bases are single databases with all the information you need for a certain project.

In Airtable, bases are kind of like a worksheet in a traditional spreadsheet, and can contain multiple tables of content. For example, a “Marketing Base” could have  separate tables for advertising campaigns, marketing events etc

marketing base

Airtable base

Airtable offers a robust library of templates that are pre-populated with relevant sample data that you can easily modify and make them your own databases.

2.Tables

Tables are used to hold a list of data about one particular type of item. Each base can have one or more tables, similar to worksheets in a spreadsheet.

Unlike a traditional spreadsheet, you don’t have to view your tables as flat grids—you can also view a table as a calendar, a gallery of large cards, or even a Kanban board.

Table gif

Airtable tables

3.Fields

Each column in a table is called a field and are the equivalent of spreadsheet columns. Each field can store a different type of information, like text, checkboxes, file attachments, ratings, select options, and more.

The field type and formatting can also be easily adjusted by accessing the field customisation menu.

Airtable Fields

Airtable Fields

4.Records

Records are the database equivalent of spreadsheet rows and cells.

There are a couple of ways you can make new records. You can:

  1. Click the last row at the bottom of the grid to create a new blank row.
  2. Select the menu option to add a new record above or below the currently selected record.
Airtable records

Airtable records

Your record in one table can have a relationship with records in another table by adding a “link to record” field.

5.Views

While it can be helpful to view all of your records at once, you can also create multiple views for each table in a base. 

To create a new view, click on the “View Switcher” in the view bar, then click the options provided under the “Create a new view” header.

Airtable views

Airtable views

These customised views can be useful when you only want to see records fitting certain criteria—perhaps to see all employees in the engineering department.

Take Action: Easily Import Your Spreadsheet Content Into Airtable!

If you can now see the value in using Airtable as your database tool as opposed to the spreadsheet you’ve been using over years, use the referral link shared below to open your free Airtable account and the follow the few steps on how to populate your spreadsheet data into Airtable.

👉  Airtable Invite 

How to Import Spreadsheet Content Into Airtable

From the Airtable home screen, select the option:

  • Add a base
  • Then “Import data”
  • Choose the file type to import (You can use Google sheet integration to search and import data from your Google spreadsheets)
Importing Data Into Airtable

Importing Data Into Airtable

If you like this tool, I would love to hear your comments. Reach out to me on LinkedIn HERE and share your experiences in working with this amazing tool.

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