Output Page Designer as PDF to Attachment Field

I plan to use Airtable to record order information from my website. These records will be used to build the product that the customer ordered. These products are custom.

I would like to be able to have the page designer automatically to output a PDF to the attachment field. I would also email this PDF as part of the customer order process workflow for our company.

Thanks,

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I agree that these are 2 of the top missing features from Airtable, which all businesses need to do on a daily basis.

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I like this idea as well. However, there are some issues trying to get there.

The current attachments feature requires the documents “uploaded” are hosted openly on the internet. As such, a block (like page designer) would have to first “crossload?” the document to another server (or Airtable server instance) where the attachment feature could connect to it and make a copy. Just making any Page Designer document public on the Interwebs comes with a number of customer issues.

Ideally, the block would have direct access to the database and simply use the API straightway to push the PDF into the record as an attachment. Of course, Custom Blocks already have this latitude, but, the API supports only the submission of an attachment URL; it doesn’t provide the primitives necessary to directly post a multi-part document into an attachment record.

No Through Streets (purely my opinion)

This is a good example of an API built with many cul-de-sacs; there are no through streets to make this happen easily for custom block developers. It’s also why all companies should consider building their products on top of their own API instead of adding the API as an afterthought. APIs should ideally be foundational, not features to everyone except the Airtable engineers.

Today’s Remedy (one of many possible workarounds)

  1. Send the PDF to a Gmail account as an attachment.
  2. Use Google Apps Script to harvest Page Designer messages, tease out of the message the document, save it to drive.
  3. Post the (openly public) URL into the attachment field, and then delete the openly public page designer PDF from Google Drive.
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Most important functionality that we need is the ability to automatically generate a PDF from the Page Designer Block, and then email that PDF to an email address in our record.

We can use our own email app on our own devices — the Airtable Team doesn’t need to worry about building in an entire email interface into Airtable.

We just need the PDF generated and then attached to an outgoing email with the email address already typed in.

This email address will be taken from our Airtable record.

And the PDF will be archived in the Attachment Field.

We simply need the ability to click on a button, and have a PDF generated and then attached to an outgoing email with the email address already typed in.

6 Likes

I’m pretty sure there are some issues with the idea that you can use your own email app because Airtable cannot inject anything into your email app without (a) authority, and (b) a scripting linkage of some sort.

The email server is what’s in question with this comment. When you say “outgoing email” - outgoing from who’s email domain sever exactly?

You can already click on an email address in an email field and it will open up an outgoing email in your email application, already addressed to that person.

This just needs to be extended to attachments.

For example, FileMaker can attach attachments into an outgoing email with no extra authority granted to it at all.

Precisely - it’s simply using the mailto: protocol to launch your own client and it could pass file attachments in that process if the [mailto] URL were instrumented to do that. FileMaker does support this if – AND ONLY IF – the user’s email client supports full command line processing of the mailto: protocol.

mailto:emailadress?subject=My email&body=some text&attach=[attachmentURL]

As such… [I believe] if you instrument a link (or button) in Airtable to include a format like this - it will work just as it works in FileMaker notwithstanding the other email client support for this more automated approach to generating emails with subject, body, and even documents attached. Airtable needn’t add any new features or provide an email server infrastructure to do this.

mailto:bill.french@gmail.com?subject=My%20Attachment%20Test&body=This%20message%20has%20an%20Airtable thumbnail attachment!&attach=https%3A%2F%2Fdl.airtable.com%2F.attachmentThumbnails%2Fe96ca3b720ace25232db6558c4f70f58%2Fc7c2f75f

Note that in most email clients, mailto: URLs must be URL-encoded, and any attachments must be specified as openly accessible URLs (Airtable supports this, of course). Furthermore, the email client running locally (or a web-based email client) must support full command-line arguments for the mailto: protocol.

Depending on your email client, this format will also work…

mailto:emailadress?subject=My email&body=some text&attach=c:\tempfile.txt

Here’s a screenshot of how you set this up in FileMaker. “It just works.” Would be great to see something as simple as this implemented in the new button field of Airtable! :slight_smile:

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Agree.

Refresh my memory of FM Pro - besides Email Client option shown, what are the other options in that dialog?

The other option is “SMTP Server”. The screen looks 100% identical to the screenshot above, except one additional button appears that you can click on to specify your authentication information for your SMTP server.

Yep - as I indicated above - Airtable would need to provide this as well in such a feature.

You’re confused. Airtable would NOT need to build in SMTP features (unless they actually wanted to). The SMTP option in FileMaker is a completely separate option, having absolutely nothing to do with the Email Client option.

Airtable cannot inject anything into your email app without (a) authority, and (b) a scripting linkage of some sort.

Authority, no. I already mentioned this above.

A button of some sort, yes. That’s where the new button field will hopefully come in.

I would like this feature too. One of reasons I was drawn to Airtable was the automatic invoicing, but if the invoice isn’t sent to the customer automatically then it doesn’t feel that automatic to me. Please add this feature ASAP!

The Page Designer app still can’t be fully automated (which is a major bummer!), but in the meantime, you can pay extra $$$ to automate PDF document creation & emailing the PDF document via a tool like Formstack Documents.

You can manually trigger Airtable’s Formstack Documents app by clicking on a button in a button field. That will generate the PDF and place it into your attachment field for you. Then, you can create an Airtable automation to automatically send an email with that attachment whenever the attachment field is no longer empty.

Note that Formstack Documents is extremely pricey. Alternatively, you can use an external automation tool such as Integromat or Zapier to:

(1) Fully automate the entire process (i.e. you don’t even need a button click),
or
(2) Use cheaper PDF creation tools such as DocuPilot.

Also, MiniExtensions, for an additional $40 per month, also supports DocuPilot with this tool.

(Note that the Integromat link contains my personal referral code, so I would make a referral fee if you start paying for Integromat.)

p.s. If you have a budget for this project and you need to hire an expert Airtable developer & Integromat Partner to help you integrate anything that I outlined above, please feel free to send me a private message or contact me through my website at ScottWorld.com.

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Thanks for adding to this conversation ScottWorld.

We are able to get along with this automation at this point. I do have Zapier but not sure when I want to take the time to figure out.

@Reuben

You’re welcome! Glad I could help! :slight_smile:

If you don’t have the time to figure it out, and you’d like to hire an expert Airtable developer to setup your Zapier automation for you, feel free to send me a private message or contact me through my website at ScottWorld.com.

(Although note that I rarely recommend Zapier these days, which is why I became a Registered Integromat Partner. Zapier has several major limitations with the platform as a whole (e.g. limited number of conditional paths, limited scheduling capability, no ability to duplicate steps, etc.), but Zapier also has major limitations when it comes to Airtable (for example, only being able to trigger once on a record forever with the “New Record in View” trigger). So unless there’s a very specific reason to stick with Zapier, I would highly recommend using Integromat as your automation platform of choice. It’s cheaper, more flexible, more customizable, more advanced, and more powerful than Zapier.)