Re: It's time for the relational database to make an essential upgrade

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5 - Automation Enthusiast
5 - Automation Enthusiast

I want to use airtable so bad to solve problems, but I’m struggling to justify the pro plan when I can’t just simply use summary values in a formula or be able to have a column of totals to then auto sort.

Here I am every couple months trying to reverse engineer this crazy multiple table, linked records (which I can’t even auto add, I have to manually enter for new records), rollups, with formulas on top of that… and each time I have a variation in the problem I’m trying to solve, it means cracking open a new can of worms to get it done, often spending hours doing something that google sheets can do in seconds.

If I hear one more person say “It’s not a spreadsheet, it’s a relational database” again …
or if someone casually says that zappier can fix your problem without mentioning the high monthly cost and added work of integrating it all together with some other form software …

Let’s take Airtable to the next level and address so many people’s issues by allowing a table to act like a spreadsheet. It doesn’t have to break the database when I could easily select “add new table” → “spreadsheet.” Then I can just add formulas and reference cells from other parts of the database. Then I could quickly whip up the charts I’m trying to create. No manual entry for linking tables, no insane workarounds to get an auto sorted column of totals. Sometimes I accomplish these goals and don’t even know how I did it because there were so many steps across 6 hours of trial and error and watching tutorials.

I want airtable to succeed, I want to justify the high payment each month, but we have to ditch this “it’s a relational database” limitation the community has right now that is pushing away so many beginners that are getting overwhelmed. JUST ADD A TABLE THAT CAN ACT AS A BASIC SPREADSHEET AND REFERENCE DATA ELSEWHERE SO I DON’T HAVE TO KEEP LEAVING AIRTABLE TO SOLVE BASIC PROBLEMS.

3 Replies 3

Um, amen!?

Layers of Goldbergian baffonery typically represent the gap between Airtable’s native capabilities and the desired solution.

Have you considered that Airtable is not the right tool for you? It’s like you’re complaining about a screwdriver not being a hammer.

Yes, Airtable has limitations & half-baked features, but I have over 100 clients who love Airtable and use it on a daily basis and are extremely happy — despite Airtable’s limitations.

If you‘re really that frustrated, then perhaps it’s time to switch to FileMaker Pro or go back to a spreadsheet app.

It’s not that simple. It’s more like complaining about a screwdriver that can only be operated in a vertical position. :winking_face:

Yes, while many people love Airtable my hunch is that almost 100% of those happy clients have at least once asked themselves -

Why is Airtable so unlike a spreadsheet that it cannot sustain a value and a formula in a single cell?

As I’m sure @Amos_Rendao will agree - values in cells, and formulas in – AND ONLY IN – other cells, is a foreign concept and one that trips up almost every new user. It is certainly a design departure of significant importance because every spreadsheet since VisiCalc has supported the notion that data cells are at least two-dimensional; they can have a value and they can also compute a value based on other dependencies. You needn’t use two fields to do the job of one.

Airtable cannot support this very simple and highly expected idea that exists everywhere and in every app with spreadsheet-like DNA since 1979. It’s why we all witness, and in many cases are parties to, the creation of unnecessarily complex solutions where there is no need for such Goldbergian buffoonery had Airtable been designed just slightly differently.

In many cases, this is good advice; you’ve seen me say exactly these words. However, this is not one of them because @Amos_Rendao is raising some very rational points that likely cause more people to flee Airtable than we truly understand. For every 100 happy users, do you really think there aren’t 100 more that gave up, or over time became former Airtable paying customers? It’s irrelevant that you have 100 happy Airtable customers; purely anecdotal data.