New Field Type: Nested Table


#1

As we’ve been testing AirTable for our business’s project management needs, one thing we’ve had trouble setting up is something like an expense report, purchase order, or mileage report.

Our typical reports would be a single printable document with several standard pieces of data (job name/number, purchase date, vendor info, billing method, etc), and a table containing purchase info (item, qty, price) with totals at the bottom.

In Airtable, you can currently accomplish something like this with two tables (let’s call them “Expense Reports” and “Expense Items”) with the latter connected to the former with a “Link” field. But it’s a bit clumsy, because you’d have one table with each “report” and another table that contains lots and lots and lots of expense items that likely have nothing to do with each other. More importantly, it’s not really possible to export the data from each Report while including the Expense Item data.

A more elegant solution would be a field type called “Nested Table.” This would create (within a record) a small table/spreadsheet with customizable columns, simple math functions, and the ability to add rows on-the-fly.

Thoughts?


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#2

+1 I think f many use-cases that would need a nested table


#3

For further explanation, this is how Kintone’s “Nested Table” works. This is a screenshot of one segment of a single Record with an embedded. The database’s creator defines the structure/data for the columns and the user can control the rows (add/subtract rows, input data).


#4

This is really a matter of having a form designer which can include sub forms rather than a new field type. We have the necessary data structure in Airtable (apart from the requirement to delete orphaned child records).


#5

We might be talking about the same thing (nested table vs sub-form). I’ll just add that my team almost never uses the “form” view in Airtable; we primarily create new records in the grid view, etc. (though, to be fair, regardless of view, one would probably have to “expand” the record to access a feature like this).

Either way, I’d definitely need something like the example above to be included with the printed/emailed version of this record, not just a collapsed summary or total. I also wouldn’t consider it a “win” if the fields in the table example above were just translated into fields within the current table; even in this simple example, that would add AT LEAST 13 fields to a table (much more, if you want the user to be able to include more than 3 expense items).


#6

I would also really like the ability to make fields of type Table. I want this so that every record has a field that is a table of the same schema.

Here’s how I imagine the Table field type working, and why I want it:

How It Works

Add New Field
1-1. Add new field a name it, e.g. "show-element"
1-2. When choosing the field type, select “Table”

Customize Field
2-1. I can add fields to the schema, just like I add options to Single or Multiple select field types.
2-2. For each field in the schema I can provide a name and set the type.
2-3. I can reorder the fields just like how I can reorder options in the Single and Multiple select field types.

Select Field
3-1. Every record will start with an empty table adhering to this schema for the default value of this field.
3-2. Selecting this field for a record will prompt me with the expand icon to open this table for editing. I can double-click the field or click on the expand icon to open and edit the table for this record.

Edit Field
4-1. The field table is displayed in an pop-up view similar to the Long text box.
4-2. The full suite of table tools is available to me in this pop-up view.
4-3. With these tools I can do everything with this field table that I can do with a base table, including renaming fields, reordering fields, adding fields, and removing fields.
4-4. Making changes to the schema for a field table for one record does not change the schema for field tables of other records.

Why I Want This
I want to have each record in my “assets” table point to its own collection of “resource” data. I want to have each of resource collection use the same schema, but I do not want to have a “master” resources table that contains all of the resource records, and have each asset record contain links to records in the resources table. The reason I don’t want the master table is because I plan to have a number of fields that are a Table type, and I do want want these “master” tables to clutter up the list of tables in the base.


#7

Joshua, I love the design you’ve come up with. The only thing I’d add is (probably in the “edit field” window), the ability to add any number of formula/calculations to fields to the , such as a sum of a field’s values, etc.


#8

A sub-form designer would be great. I have a need where I have one picture with multiple items and each item needs its own line item information. I think the only way I can do now is to attach the same picture to multiple entries where each entry would be one of the items in the picture.


#9

Anthony, I think the feature I’m envisioning would be perfect for that purpose. You could set up a nested table containing an attachment field plus any number of text fields for various kinds of metadata related to the image.

It would also be great for checklists and logs related to a record, or a list of multiple phone numbers for a contact record, etc.


#10

@airtable_team : Just curious if you have any thoughts on this, or if it is already part of your roadmap, etc?


#11

I am having the same issue. I love the functionality of Airtable for what I am working on and would love to convince my organization to purchase it, but nested table problem is HUGE and makes the entire database I’m working on not functional. I’ve tried everything I can come up with and haven’t been able to figure out a work around that isn’t overly time-consuming.


#12

I worked for over 20 years with a product called Alpha4, which was a desktop application based on the .dbf file structure. That was a “relational” database in that I could create reports that could “nest” an unlimited number of sub-items, sorted on any major item I chose, and print out not just the result for one record at a time, but for the whole list of records. When this went to Alpha5, which is the on-line version, it got less and less user friendly, which is what got me interested in finding an online alternative that was easier to work with. So far, Airtable has a long way to go. I hope the team works on this nesting and gets it right soon.


#13

Conrad, you’re the second person I’ve heard sing the praises of that older product. Please let me know if you find anything comparable!


#14

I’m also seeking this functionality, and it’s what will make or break Airtable’s usefulness for my current needs.


#15

You might want to check out Obvibase, it is limited in functionality, but does have a pretty good implementation of this feature.


#16

This feature will be really game changer for the Airtable. For sales pipeline we may create nested tables of products and their qty as a commercial proposal or create list of components for something etc.

We definitely need this new field type.

UPD. This example https://support.airtable.com/hc/en-us/articles/218734758-A-beginner-s-guide-to-many-to-many-relationships#ex3 may be make easier with nested table field!


#17

Yep, have needed this for quite some time. I need it to manage sub tasks of a primary task of a project plan.