New: Formula Foundations

We just published an in-depth course to help you learn Airtable formulas!

You can use this content as a guided path to learning how to leverage formulas, or pick and choose articles that you want to learn more about. The content here covers the majority of our available formula functions with examples of how to use them.

I’d love your feedback on this course and any ideas for other content that’d be helpful for learning about formulas.

→ View the course

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@Jason I’m super excited to see this. I think it will be a very helpful resource for most people.

The first article that I looked at was the “Common formula errors and how to fix them” article. Scanning through the article, I see you do not include four additional issues that I often see in invalid formulas. I also noticed that several of your recommended formulas could be greatly improved with a few simple changes. There are also a couple of other random issues that I have.

I am pondering what to do with my feedback. While it was fairly quick for me to see these issues when reading through the article, it would take a lot of time to type everything up.

I haven’t looked at any of the other articles yet.

The Knowledge check section of the the Formula trminology page say that ! is an operator.

However, the formula field reference does not list ! as an operator. Whenever I try to use ! as an operator in a formula field, I cannot get a valid formula.

!= is a valid operator, is documented in the formula field reference. However the fact that != is an operator does not make ! by itself an operator. In many programming languages ! by itself is a valid operator. This can be super confusing to people who are used to using ! in other situations.

Is this mistake? An undocumented feature?

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Thanks for creating these new support articles!

I haven’t had a chance to review the entire course yet, but as @kuovonne mentioned, the article “Common formula errors and how to fix them” doesn’t address the most common formula errors that we see on a regular basis in the forums.

Two of the most common errors that people encounter in formula fields are:

  1. The formula box does not recognize curly/stylized quotation marks (regardless of whether the quotation marks are single or double quotation marks). The formula box only recognizes straight quotation marks. This is, by far, the #1 problem that people have with the formula box. There is no other problem that even comes close to the number of times that we see this problem.

  2. The formula box does not allow spaces after the opening parenthesis of any function name.

So, for example, this formula works:

IF({Number Field} = 1, "Yes", "No" )

But this formula would not work:

IF( {Number Field} = 1, "Yes", "No" )

Of course, ideally, we would just clean up all those spaces anyways to look like this:

IF({Number Field}=1,"Yes","No")

But it’s good to let people know specifically where spaces are NOT allowed.

I think you mean that you cannot have a space between a function name and the opening parenthesis. A space after the open parentheses is fine.

That would work. This would not:

IF ( {Number Field} = 1, "Yes", "No" )

Oops, right, that’s what I meant! Thank you, @kuovonne! :slight_smile:

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Hi @kuovonne, thanks for this callout! I believe you’re correct - ! needs to be used along with an operator like = as you pointed out. I think it makes sense to adjust our language about that so there isn’t confusion.

For the other suggestions you had in mind, an easy way to leave feedback about articles is by clicking the “Not really” option at the bottom of the article. This will open a form to leave comments, and our team reviews every piece of feedback in order to improve our support content.

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You’re also welcome to drop in comments in this thread if that’s easier :slight_smile:

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Thanks @ScottWorld!

The original intent of this specific article was to address actual error codes, but after reading your comment I can see that it’d be much more helpful to include other errors/mistake that can lead to failed formulas (like the ones you mentioned).

I’ll make sure we update the content in this article to address those.

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Fantastic, thanks so much, @Jason! :slight_smile:

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I think that users are more frustrated by errors that prevent one from saving a formula than errors that produce a valid formula that doesn’t return the expected results. When users can’t even get a formula to save, they are much more likely to give up.

Plus, several of the errors listed in the document are errors that will prevent a formula from being saved.

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Yes, this is correct.

@Jason The overarching problem with Airtable’s formula box is that it never tells the user WHERE the error took place within the box. Even if it was as simple as telling the user the character number of where the error took place, that would go a long way towards helping users & relieving frustration.

Plus, on a related note, Airtable needs more functions as well. The current set of functions are not enough to fuel a robust database/spreadsheet program.

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I"m probably a lone dissenter here. While I think the formula editor could be improved, I don’t think that telling a character number will be particularly helpful. While line numbers can be helpful, a character number wouldn’t be. It’s too hard to count characters. Plus, the actual root cause of the error is probably not at exactly that character count.

I actually like that Airtable’s formulas read a lot like code and are manually typed. For people familiar with writing formulas, it is much faster than a visual code builder would be. For the code-curious, it is also a gateway to more robust coding. Of course, the best world would be a combination of typed code and a visual code builder, with the ability to toggle back and forth between the two.

True, it would be difficult to count characters in lengthy formulas. I was just thinking of ANYTHING that could possibly help the users.

Actually, probably the best thing to do would be to copy what FileMaker does: FileMaker simply HIGHLIGHTS where all the errors occur, so there’s no guesswork on the user’s end at all.

(In fact, I’ve often thought that if the Airtable Team was required to spend an entire week using nothing but FileMaker, then Airtable would end up becoming a much better platform extremely quickly.)

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@kuovonne @ScottWorld We’ve updated the support article with your suggestions. Thanks again, and feel free to share more that’d be helpful!

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Wow, that’s great! This is really fantastic!! :smiley:

Thanks so much for implementing these additions, @Jason! :smiley: :raised_hands:

1 Like