How to use data from Airtable to fill out fields in a document

Hello!

I’m trying to make a templated onboarding document that we can easily update with information fed from Airtable. Here’s the direct use case (Integrations are generally off the table in a corporate security setting):

Hire Roster (lives in Airtable, holds new hire data)

Microsoft Word/GDoc/OneNote (whatever!) that is complete with specific fields waiting to be fed new hire data, will serve as new hires’ onboarding document.

Is there a way to automate the process of filling out a document without manually doing it?

A while ago I built a workflow to publish a booklet with Airtable and MS Office.

If your document is simple enough, you could probably:

  1. Export from Airtable to a CSV file.
  2. Have MS Word do a mail merge from the CSV file.

If your document or data is very complex or has long text fields or lots of fancy formatting, the workflow gets more involved but it is still possible.

On the other hand, if your onboarding document is very simple, could you get by with the Page Designer block?

2 Likes

I wish there was a way to scan a document into a page block and then let Airtable fill in the field data. I have tons of documents that other depts send me that I have to fill in. I have been converting them to word documents and downloading the data to CSV and then mail merging it…Time consuming and duplicate work for me.

1 Like

@andrea_delgiudice
Wow, that sounds like a ton of work. I don’t have a solution for you right now, but it is an interesting use case that I would like to know more about.

Have you converted most of the forms to Word mail-merge documents already, or is there a constant influx of slightly different forms with slightly different fields in slightly different places on the page?

How do you receive the forms? Physical paper? Photo of a physical paper? PDF? Some other format?

Instead of designing the document in a separate application, design it in Page Designer. One of its primary purposes is to let you create documents that are meant to be filled in with field data.

When making your document, you’ll primarily use the Text object to create your static text, and insert field names wherever you want field data to appear, like this:

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 7.11.29 AM

With the output looking like this for a single record (I made the design size small so it’s easier to insert here):

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 7.12.33 AM

Here’s my $0.02 on this challenge…

There isn’t; Airtable is an unlikely candidate to get you where you want to go. In fact, the more you try to involve Airtable as a solution, the less likely you will be able to reach your goal in a practical way.

This is an indicator that your organzation hasn’t given its internal information processes any deep thought. And perhaps they have, but they also struggle to find a pathway to streamline your part of the process.

Before considering any strategy that may help, let’s start by understanding what you are currently converting from into Word to process this data. The very idea that Word-to-CSV is a good thing is troubling unless, of course, the data you are converting from is some sort of grid format exported by some other system or tool and Word provides you the only reasonable manual pathway forward.

I think that she is going from Airtable -> CSV -> Word, not from Word -> CSV.

I think that Airtable -> CSV -> Word can be a reasonable workflow, especially if finances are a concern. I had to build a workflow that went from Airtable -> Excel -> Access -> Word that was pretty horrendous. However, it let me quickly (10 minutes versus multiple hours) convert hundreds of records with dozens of fields across multiple tables in Access into a very professional looking booklet in Word. It let the author make changes in Airtable and very quickly see how those changes would look in the finished booklet, which made editing and design changes much easier.

The Page Designer block doesn’t have nearly the formatting and document automation features available in Word.

1 Like

Thanks! I hadn’t tinkered with page designer yet, but this is precisely the right functionality.

Agreed, but in certain situations it could be an adequate solution.

@Justin_Barrett
Yes, which is why I suggested the Page Designer block in my original post.
I’m happy that the Page Design block works for the original poster.

To clarify, the situations where it makes sense to use a Word Mail Merge instead of Page Design block:

  • There is no budget for a Pro subscription but you already have MS Word
  • You need more complex formatting than the Page Design block provides
  • You need to end up with user-editable documents to make slight tweaks to edge cases
  • You need additional document automation that Word provides (but Page Designer does not provide)
2 Likes

Good points. Sorry that I didn’t see your original suggestion of using Page Designer above.

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed 3 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.