Introducing Document Automator

:wave: Hello! I’m Scott – a product manager at Airtable who worked on the development of document automator – the newest way to get Airtable data into formatted documents.

What is document automator?

Available to those on Pro and Enterprise plans, Document automator is a new integration with Google Docs and associated automation action that enables you to export formatted Airtable data directly into Google docs, where you can format and collaborate on that data to your heart’s content.

Furthermore, because document automator is built into automations, you can use other automations like Slack or Email to automatically share the created document with others, fully automating the process of creating and distributing published reports or status updates.

How can I use document automator?

Document automator is perfect for creating point-in-time reports or status updates that can be shared with people who don’t have access to Airtable, when you want to editorialize around the data, or when you want to facilitate feedback and discussion about the data. Common use-cases for document automator include:

  • OKR (objectives and key responsibilities) updates
  • Roadmap updates
  • Campaign performance reports
  • Publishing Retrospectives

What about Interface Designer or Page Designer?

While similar, Interface Designer and Page Designer are meant to accomplish different use cases:

  • Document automator: Point-in-time reports/status updates leveraging Airtable data across multiple records, meant to be communicated to audiences that may/may not live in Airtable (or be close to the work), allowing broad access (ie. Google docs) across the org. This helps with distribution and permissioning issues, as well as facilitating comments and discussions directly on the report.
  • Interface Designer: Live-refreshing dashboards or surfaces for collaboration on live data
  • Page Designer: Visual assets (physical printed page design, mock-ups) based on individual records (like a real estate brief, business card, etc.)

Where can I learn more?

To learn more about how to use document automator, check out the launch blog post, or help center article.

I’ll also be hosting a Community AMA to talk all things content automator on June 29, at 9 am PT where you’ll have the opportunity to see the feature in action and ask any questions you may have. You can register now here, and I can’t wait to see you online.

We can’t wait to see what you create with the document automator and would love to hear your thoughts below.

If you are on a pro or enterprise plan and not seeing these changes reflected in your workspace, try clearing your cache.

12 Likes

Thank you for telling us about this new features.

It looks like you create the entire body of the document in the “Content” section of the automation. Thus, it looks like it is not possible to use an existing Google Doc as a template. Is this correct?

What about configuring other aspects of the doc (page numbers, page size, headers/footers, margins, etc.)?

Does this mean that the rollout to all pro & enterprise users is complete?

2 Likes

Oohhhh. This looks interesting.

Though it would have to be very good to stop me from using On2Air’s excellent actions that creates a PDF from a set of records and attaches it back to the record itself.

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Without the ability to sort record lists/grids in automations, I’m not really able to use this feature.

For example: I want to produce a check-in list for front desk staff to sign in event attendees. I can query for RSVPs by event, but unless I can also sort that list by last name, it’s effectively useless.

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I think this is fab. I have a Master Budget table with rollups from a transactions table (see attached)

I have wanted to show our FD a weekly report so we can track changes - this is perfect for that! Took all of 5 mins to set up too.

Quick question - is it possible to format the date? I have inserted the triggered date - but can’t see how to apply a datetime_format to it. It currently shows as 2022-06-14T19:38:53.173Z

Now just seeing if I can get Integromat / make to automatically generate it as a PDF - my FD hates Google Docs!

I see that editing the tokens in automations steps is new, or at least new to me. Super useful.

For the Create Doc step it would be great if in addition to “Content” section there was a Header and Footer.

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I agree. Hopefully we will soon see this feature in email automations.

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Hi David,

It is possible to achieve what you describe by taking the following steps:

  1. Create a view containing the data you want, sorted the way you want
  2. In automations, add a “Find records” action based on the view you created in step 1
  3. In automations, add a “Create doc” action (using doc automator), and reference the data from step 2.
  4. The data in the document should reflect the sort order of your view

Hope that helps!

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I can edit and modify tokens placed in the Email actions. Maybe “old” tokens can’t be edited, but newly inserted one can

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I mean, this is whatever. At first glance, it seems somewhat ridged. I don’t see much flexibility when juxtaposed with other third party solutions which aim to address a similar function. EG documint

This is a great workaround, however I must point out that if you are creating, for instance, and Invoice doc that inserts the line item records as a grid, you can’t do this. Because you will need to use “filter by condition” to pick the line items linked to the appropriate “invoice”. That eliminates your ability to sort.

You could as an alternative use a Run a Script action to sort/filter your records but then you can’t insert them as a grid.

At present there isn’t a great solution for sorting records in an Automation when you need to filter by condition.

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This looks great! I currently have a very complex combo of scripting app and Zapier to create call sheets for when our crew is on set. Looking forward to digging in to this to see if it can simplify things.

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Oh am I being daft? I can’t see how to. Could this be used to use datetime_format() on a created date for example?

You cannot use DATETIME_FORMAT in this situation because formula functions can only be used in formula fields.

Currently to get a nicely formatted date/time, you would need to either get the date/time from a record or use scripting.

Keep in mind that you will also need to take timezones into account when generating your nicely formatted date.

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Ahh thanks Kuovonne as always! That makes sense.

Will see if I can write a script.

Thanks again,
Andrew

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Hey, this looks neat. I’m keen for a solution to invoice generation, as page designer simply doesn’t shrink or grow grids to accommodate record counts with each varying week/month.

Will have a look at Document Automator this evening, thanks!

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I made a very rudimentary invoice which would do the job at a pinch, but lack of formatting capabilities means this wouldn’t really be a great fit for invoices by the looks of it.

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In my opinion the Page Designer is a better tool than docs but without the ability to automate. The insert as markdown feature (automated docs) is kinda bogus because of the limited Airtable markdown, if the markdown was the same as Github’s I would be fine using it. The best case solution in my mind is an automated Page Designer (either direct interface from automation or save as attachment), the Airtable community forum is full of people who also need this. Is there a reason that you guys decided to integrate Docs instead of integrating Page Designer?

6 Likes

The created docs don’t seem to maintain the user’s Google Docs default paragraph styles. Any defaults set at Google Docs get wiped out.

This update is super useful for us. Thanks !

1 Like