A better way to link Tables

Request: a better UI for linking tables, without the need for Linked Fields. Also, allowing users to link records on something other than the Primary Key.

Scenario: I am in the midst of building out a Base that will replace a local Sports club’s player management database. The current method being used is an Excel spreadsheet that has a number of Vlookups and other formulas to determine computed player abilities (based on tryouts) so that teams can be equally balanced and assigned. Airtable looks like the perfect fit us, but I struggle with the requirement to create a Linked Field for every single lookup. The end result is I have a number of extra ‘dummy’ fields that don’t hold data and just make the interface messy and hard to follow.

Additionally, the way that Linked Fields work, they automatically just join on the Primary Key, with no ability to pick another field to join on or even format the field (ex no ability to join on a concatenation of values). This is making some of my desired table joins impossible or extremely convoluted.

Coming from a background in MS SQL Server, this seems like an overly complex way to create table joins and yet annoyingly limiting at the same time. I feel like if we had a separate UI for specifying table joins, we could a) really simplify the process and b) offer more possibilities on the types of fields that can be joined together.

100% agree.

The current linking constraints tend to cause users to create workarounds on top of workarounds, leading to unsustainable complexities. In many companies and organizations advocates of Airtable also have a duty to provide solutions that will eventually be handed off to other people as custodians. Some of the approaches I’ve seen here and many I’ve built myself will not be sustained over the long run unless they are straight-forward.

I think any of us that has even minimal SQL experience yearns for a good old left/right inner/outer join option.

I think the thing I’ve had to accept is airtable is not a true database, and it’s not intended to be, so if I really want a true online database I need to find a different product. Or I can work within what it is and still do some pretty good stuff.

Indeed, there are certainly limitations that are [seemingly] unpleasant and there’s a fair bit of truth in your comment. All products have limitations and strengths. Overcoming limitations is a natural process when probing for better solutions. But what may not be wise is creating hyper-complex data designs to avoid using the API or an entirely different tool. Cascading workarounds is a sure sign you’ve crossed the line.

If you find yourself pushing a shopping cart through the aisles of a 7-Eleven, you probably have crossed a line. :wink:

1 Like