Why doesn't the "primary field" act like an id?

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4 - Data Explorer
4 - Data Explorer

Hi, I decided to use Airtable today to store a spreadsheet-like set of data because it seemed easier than setting up a database (I would usually use POSTGRES locally). I’m getting the data from various sources - online services, web page scraping, and so I create the data records and then need to update them later with data from different sources.

My “primary field” is ISBN, and it’s unique for each record, each one representing a book. Why does my record need an additional “id” that I have to query for? Is it possible to make my ISBN the id so that I don’t have to query for the “id” that Airtable is generating? It’s so much overhead to make the additional query each time for the record “id” when the ID that I’m using is ISBN and it would work fine for me to make that the primary key for the table(base).

Thanks for any pointers!


1 Reply 1

Welcome to the Airtable community!

Airtable was designed to be user friendly for people who are not familiar with databases or database concepts. That means that several things work differently from a traditional database. You may notice that linked records in Airtable work very differently from joins in a traditional database. The primary field in Airtable is mostly for display purposes. It is always displayed as the left-most column in a grid view, and it is displayed in linked record fields. The primary field value does not need to be unique.

If you want to get a single record by ISBN, you can use filterByFormula.