Auto-populate linked field using formula

Airtable today supports the linking of one table to another via a field, but that field must be populated either by:

  • Having the user key/select the appropriate value in the linked field
  • Using a manual process to occasionally populate data (i.e. copy/paste)
  • Using a 3rd party service like Zapier or Integromat to listen for record changes and populate the value

Option 1 works, but can be annoyingly inefficient from a data entry perspective.
Option 2 is too kludgy and isn’t practical for anything beyond a 1 time data population.
Option 3 adds complexity and the need to learn/bring in another system.

Ideally, there’d be a way to auto-populate the Linked Field using a formula. The linking would either find a correlated record in the linked table, or if none found, then create a new record.

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I agree, creating a new type of link field that could be generated from a formula would make the system much more powerful. It would be truly transformative.

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I agree too. The auto-population of a linked field would be incredibly useful.

After spending a few hours trying to find a solution for this, I came across Matt’s post and used the Zapier option, which is not ideal and makes a very simple requirement far more complicated that it should be.

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Upvote this feature. We currently use Zapier for this.

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Totally agree. This is one of our Top 10 Feature Requests for Airtable. It is the bedrock of all relational database systems…

…and so is the ability for us to CHOOSE which fields should relate to one another in 2 different tables. In other words, we don’t always want to relate to the primary key field in another table.

Now granted, Airtable didn’t set out to become a relational database system — they set out to be a simple spreadsheet program with some extra database features built into it.

But, since we’re on the topic of turning Airtable into an advanced relational database system — LOL! — I might as well talk about the other big missing feature:

We need the ability for MULTI-CRITERIA RELATIONSHIPS (using 2 or more fields to create the relationship).

I think that the Airtable engineers may want to steal some ideas from how elegantly FileMaker conquered these problems, and how FileMaker shifted their platform over the years. FileMaker shifted from a model of NO RELATIONSHIPS AT ALL in the 1980’s (outside of an automated “one-way, single direction” copying & pasting of data) to a SINGLE-CRITERIA relationship structure (although you had the freedom to choose ANY field to link to, not just the primary field) to a MULTI-CRITERIA relationship structure today.

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This feature is needed yesterday!!! Update +1

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As a relative novice in using Airtable I am surprised to find this isn’t here - I thought that was the point! But useful to quickly find it isn’t possible so saving me lots of time trying to find out about formulas. Copy / paste for me today.

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Agreed! Totally thought this would already be integrated into this software.
Would love to see an update.

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This feature is essential to my business, I can’t believe it still hasn’t been implemented… I need to setup literally thousands of linked records, and the only way to do it within airtable is by doing each record indvidually!!

That’s actually not true — you can link a gigantic batch of records in one fell swoop, simply by converting an existing field to a “linked record” field. If any matches are found in the PRIMARY FIELD ONLY of the linked table, Airtable will link your records appropriately. If it doesn’t find any matches, it will create new linked records in the other table.

I also recently ran across the following post that talks about using Scripting Block to auto-populate linked records (in this case for a junction table). I haven’t tried it yet, but thought I’d pass along.

One more update to my original post for those interested. I leveraged the recommendations from the linked post below to use an Automation. I created a couple of fields in my base table. One field that calculates the value I want to populate into the linked field. Another field that compares that value against the current linked field value, which is what’s used to flag records where the linked field value needs to be updated.

I then created an Automation with a Trigger of “When a record matches a condition” (set to key off my calculated field) and a Scripting action. I don’t Javascript but used the code snippet from the linked post and muddled my way through it.