I am convinced that Airtable is the only thing I will ever need for all the complex organization I do for basically everything in my life, but there is one thing that would help immensely: the ability to group fields, like in the sense that a particular field would be subdivided into two different fields that always occur together.
Here is an example for something frivolous for the sake of being easy to understand:
Airtable can be an effective wiki, so I’ve been using it to keep track of some stuff in a video game. In the video game, there are certain Actions that can result in items, which can vary, and those items come in varying quantities. Say there’s an Action that sometimes gives me 3 Knives, but other times it gives me 8 Flowers.
There’s not really any way for me to record that right now.
For one thing, you can’t have multiple values for a Number field. (I’ve already bumped the request to have multiple values for any field, not just linked records and multiple selects and attachments.) And I really do want it to be a number field, because I’d like to do calculations with it.
But let’s say I give up on the calculations capability and just enter numbers in a Multiple Select field called Item Quantity. And then I have another field where I link to the Item. So I enter the Action I described at the beginning – let’s say it’s “Give the old man a penny.” Sometimes when I give him a penny, he gives me 3 Knives, so I enter “3” in the Item Quantity, and link to the Item record Knives. But sometimes the old man gives me 8 Flowers instead, because he’s supposed to be batty and fickle and it’s luck-based or whatever; this is all made up, but tons of games have changing luck-based or other-based outcomes. Okay, so I enter “8” in the Item Quantity as another multiple select option, and also link to the Item record Flowers. Then I keep playing.
I hit a point in the game where I need to stockpile Flowers, so I go look up all the Actions that result in Flowers. After all, this is exactly why I bothered to keep a personal wiki. I find “Give the old man a penny.” Except… hmm… does he have a chance to give 3 Flowers, or 8 Flowers? It makes a difference because if it’s 3 Flowers, it’s not worth spending an Action point in the game; there are other actions in my Airtable that show I can get more than 3 Flowers per Action point, and 8 Flowers would be the best return on an Action point I could get. But I don’t remember which is which; I made the Airtable so I wouldn’t have to memorize stuff like that. I then have to waste time and points going around the game trying these things and then simply memorizing which are my best options, which defeats the point of recording the data in the first place.
Basically, if a field could have two or more components to it, I would not have this problem. I could have a field called Outcome with the subcomponents Item Quantity (which would be a number field) and Item (which would be a linked record, or a short text for some people’s uses, etc).
The only way to do this now is to have a separate table for each action, with separate records for each outcome, so they don’t share fields for Item Quantity and Item record links and it’s very clear what you get in what quantities. But there are thousands of actions in the game, and most only have two or three possible outcomes. Making that many tables is simply not feasible because it would become excessively difficult to find a table whenever I need to edit it, and I’m not even going to be editing the vast majority of the tables I’ve made in that case. All the tables would also have long names that would get truncated. I’d also have to keep a template table around to duplicate with all the necessary fields configured, and then constantly duplicate it, which is just annoying.
There are more complex ways I’d like to use this for less frivolous projects as well, this just took the least specialized knowledge to explain. I am working on a big biochem project where this functionality would be so helpful. I once tried to do this in Drupal, where people had programmed a handful of ways to do field groups, but Airtable is less buggy and much easier to use than Drupal and I can enter things lightning fast from my phone. I point this out because it shows there is demand for field groups for similar uses on another platform, plus I know Airtable can be used as a CMS and I really think it has the potential to blow Drupal out of the water for some kinds of uses, but the lack of field groups makes some uses infeasible or impossible.