Welcome to the Airtable Community!
I’m not 100% sure that I understand you correctly. I don’t quite know what you mean by “envelopes”. But it sounds to me like what you’re trying to do is pretty similar to what I do in the base that I use to track my own clients, projects (= your “envelopes”?) and my activity on each project.
Like your scenario (I think), my system has a number of unique clients, each of whom has unique projects, and each project is then linked to a number of unique activity records. That is, if I spend say 1 hour tomorrow working on something, it can only be linked to one project (even if as often happens the work I do for that one project might accomplish something for another project) and each project is the unique property of one client (even though some projects have the same name).
CLIENTS & PROJECTS
So my CLIENTS < PROJECTS structure looks something like this. My clients are all law firms, so I’ll stick to what I know in my examples.
CLIENT: ABC LLP
PROJECTS: Smith lawsuit, Johnson lawsuit, In re: Wallace, etc.
CLIENT: Xenophon Yang & Zebulon
PROJECTS: Airbags lawsuit, Lawn Poisons, High-Speed Rail
I trust you can visualize that relationship map so far.
Linking Activity to Client-Projects
Now the tricky thing is working in Activity, and this is where my situation might differ from yours. I don’t add clients constantly. A single project for a single law firm can keep me fairly busy for a couple of years. I spend the most time in the base in the Activity table, which I switch to whenever I have spent 30 minutes or 2 hours or whatever working on a particular project and need to record the date, what I did and the time I spent.
When I first created the base in Airtable, I wanted it to work the way I’d built it years ago in FileMaker: I wanted a new Activity record to ask me first for the client name and then to show me a filtered list of projects for that client. Unfortunately, this isn’t easily possible in Airtable.
So what I did was create a formula field in Projects that concatenates the Client name with the Project, and use that field as the Name (primary) field for the table. So for the example data above, I end up with these records in Projects.
ABC LLP/Smith Lawsuit
ABC LLP/Johnson Lawsuit
ABC LLP/In re: Wallace
Xenophon Yang & Zebulon/Airbags lawsuit
Xenophon Yang & Zebulon/Lawn Poisons
Xenophon Yang & Zebulon/High-Speed Rail
Now, I linked Activity records (your “items”) to Projects (your “envelopes”). So when I create a new activity record, I click into the Client/Project field (the one that links to Projects) and see a list like the one immediately above. If I type “x” the list filters immediately to show only the three projects for Xenophon Yang & Zebulon; if I type part of the project name (say, “rail”) it filters to that particular project; and then I can hit enter and create the link.
Here’s a screenshot taken in an example base. This shows the selection list for client-projects. Not same data that I’ve used above but same idea:
And here’s the grid view in Projects, showing (a small portion of) linked Activity records.
This view of the activity is obviously NOT very useful, and in reality, if I want to see activity for a project, I switch to Activity and either switch to a view filtering by that client (or that project) or I create a temporary filter.
In that screenshot I also included the linked Rates values. Although I do much of my work on my own, I have colleagues who help me sometimes. They don’t necesssarily charge same rate I charge. I myself don’t change the same rate for all projects or even for the same project all the time. My middle-of-the-night rate is higher than my normal-working-hours rate, for example.
So I have to use a similar approach to handle the complexity of Rates. Here’s a screenshot of grid view in Rates:
So when I create an activity record, after picking the Client/Project value (to link the activity rec to Projects), I click into the next field and select a value that represents the client/project/agent/hourly rate value. Again I can usually just type a letter or two from the project name to narrow down the selection list to one or maybe two pertinent options.
Does this help at all?