Introducing Document Automator

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6 - Interface Innovator
6 - Interface Innovator

: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.

18 - Pluto
18 - Pluto

Honestly, I think it’s because Airtable didn’t even know it existed. It’s a Google Docs feature that several Airtable consultants knew about, but the Airtable people probably didn’t. This is a fantastic example of why Airtable should value their consultant ecosystem more highly.

More tricks are listed here, which @openside turned me onto:

10 - Mercury
10 - Mercury

Can only second what @ScottWorld and others have said here: Instead of coming up with a new way to create Google Docs, it would have been very good to improve Page Designer (esp. include automations).

I’ve been creating Google Docs out of Airtable (with the help of Zapier) for years and won’t stop using that solution with this new release by Airtable.

18 - Pluto
18 - Pluto

Yeah, the best thing about using Zapier (or or On2Air: Actions) to create Google Docs is that you can base those documents on complex document templates that contain formatting, headers & footers, fonts, colors, tables, margins, etc.

Even better, all of those tools can ALSO create complex spreadsheets with Google Sheets based on a complex spreadsheet template as well.

DocuMint also creates documents based on a template, but it uses its own template editor that doesn’t require Google Docs.

So personally, I’m having some difficulty understanding why people would choose Airtable’s Document Automator over any of these other options.

It still seems to me like improving Page Designer would’ve been the path to go down, since Page Designer has already started taking its very first baby steps down the path of creating these sorts of complex documents.

6 - Interface Innovator
6 - Interface Innovator

Thanks, Scott. My mistake!

7 - App Architect
7 - App Architect

Good points - (I have used Documint and am now using on2Air Actions)

But an advantage that Airtable’s new Document Automator has over both of those products is that it can easily create a document based on a view. With Documint / on2Air - you have to start with a single record (which then receives the PDF) and work with linked records.

So I will be using both products.

18 - Pluto
18 - Pluto

This is true. And many people will likely turn to Document Automator because it’s so easy & it’s built right into the product — it’s just one simple action step.

11 - Venus
11 - Venus

Ok, I spent some time testing Document Automator - love the MarkDown approach. A side note to MarkDown is that I wish Airtable supported image embed through Markdown.

I’d like to see the abilty to pull in a Google Doc template, that can then be appended with AirTable data - that would absolutely be a game changer and a likely replacement for Page Designer.

Realistically, Page Designer needs to be built up in parallel to support similar/same functionality - unless Airtable can gear Document Automator to output to the same degree of Page Designer (whilst catering for expanding/shrink data tables)

Love this add-in though, keen to see it progress!

EDIT: Oh, keen to have full control of the output data too, none of this sneaky " Generated 6/15/22 22:06 UTC — View [latest on Airtable.]" nonsense plz. :slightly_smiling_face:

6 - Interface Innovator
6 - Interface Innovator

This looks quite useful but a couple of thoughts I have…

  • My requirements air more on presentations rather than docs and therefore being able to have a monthly stakeholder pack in Google Slides which could be mostly automatically generated would remove one stress from my life. As I understanding it, this is only the equivalent of an MS Word file (not super familiar with Google Apps).
  • Also, I find that I am more likely to want to share elements from the Interface dashboard rather than the detail level. It would be great to have a simple, automated way of automatically dropping charts and other more visual elements from my interfaces into slides in preparation for that stakeholder review.
18 - Pluto
18 - Pluto

In the meantime, you may want to check out either On2Air: Actions or, both of which support Google Slides.

I’m not sure if these tools would take you all the way to updating custom charts & graphs within your slide presentations, but perhaps @Hannah_Wiginton could chime in on that one! :grinning_face_with_big_eyes:

10 - Mercury
10 - Mercury

Hey Stephen,

As Scott mentioned, our On2Air Actions app uses Google Docs, Google Slides, or Google Sheets and has several additional features that are not available in the new Google Docs automation.

Our app also has a way where you can use charts from Sheets and add them in Slides.

Feel free to start a free account and try it out.

We’re glad to give you a demo and help you get set up as well