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Re: Automatic document creation and sharing from Airtable records

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JonathanB
8 - Airtable Astronomer
8 - Airtable Astronomer

Ideally what I’d like is for the “page designer” block to have the ability to share its output automatically with different recipients who don’t have Airtable accounts themselves. I have a large base that is used to process reports that come in from forms. Each record is an individual report, which I can build into printable pdf using the page designer. But the only way to share these is to download each individual pdf and then send it by email. I would like to be able to automate this process, i.e. once a report is complete, the document generated by the page designer is automatically shared with a given recipient. Is this possible through Zapier, or any other platform? I’ve looked at a few google sheets add ons but I’m not sure they’re what I’m after. Thank you in advance for your advice! :slightly_smiling_face:

38 Replies 38

In my view, to replicate this you’ll need Javascript skills and specifically the flavor of Javascript that is provided by Google Apps Script.

Google Apps Script is a superset of server-side javascript. One advantage is you don’t need to worry about deploying your solution onto your own server and then configuring it to run every five minutes looking for new Airtable changes indicating it’s time to build another invoice.

With Google Apps Script you need only worry about using the vast features for document creation, and attaching documents to email messages that are sent automatically.

But that is a lot to choke down for a non-programmer. If you want to become proficient at this, I would start with this introduction by Ben Collins.

I think almost everyone can become a javascript programmer - they just need a place to do it and one where business elements are integrated and preferably free. Only Google’s platform makes this possible. It’s how learned more than ten years ago and it’s proven to be an ideal platform for big enterprises and small businesses.

I would love to hand over the code for the project shown above, but it belongs to a company in the UK. It was originally developed in 2005 to use data in Google sheets and recently updated to pull its data from Airtable.

remy_konings
6 - Interface Innovator
6 - Interface Innovator

I understand. Thanks Bill. I’ll definitely try it out :slightly_smiling_face:

Aaron_Marc_Geor
5 - Automation Enthusiast
5 - Automation Enthusiast

Hey @Bill.French this is exactly what I need, I’ve been racking my brains trying to solve this for weeks. Do you do private work at all to set this up for me? :slightly_smiling_face:

@Aaron_Marc_Georgiou,

Sure - give me a shout @ Bill.french@gmail.com.

Drew_Schrader
5 - Automation Enthusiast
5 - Automation Enthusiast

This thread is fantastic - thank you all! I have a slightly different use case, but wondering if you all have ideas for it. In my work I am regularly building presentations for multiple people to deliver. When we are building presentations, there are three elements that all need to be kept coordinated: the facilitator agenda, the presentation slides that correspond to the facilitator agenda, and the participant agenda. They all have some common elements like Section Names, times, links to resources, and there are some parts that only overlap between two of the three (ex: facilitator notes go on the facilitator agenda AND in the notes section of the slides). Revising the presentations and keeping all of these items coordinated is a major pain because of all the duplicate work that has to stay aligned.

Any thoughts about how I could build a “single source of presentation truth” in airtable that kicked out the different versions of that presentation?

Yep.

This is no different than maintaining the latest version of a report document from a single source of data truth in Airtable. However, there are some nuances in the requirements – for example – are Google Presentations an adequate target for rendering these presentations? Please define “presentation”.

Unlike Microsoft Word (and PowerPoint), Google Apps Script offers a clean server-side interface/SDK for building, manipulating, and updating documents in real-time and from any data source including Airtable. Further, it provides a scripting model that supports templated documents across all Google Drive types (spreadsheet, document, presentation, and even charts). This makes it possible to FULLY automate every aspect of the document process from raw data (in Airtable) to finished native Google documents. The scripting model also supports transformations from Google’s native documents to PDF, Word, PowerPoint, etc.

And just when you thought there might be a show-stopper - Google Apps Script provides a number of SDKs for document delivery - through email, real-time messenging, shared Drive folders, and a few others.

The automation possibilities from Airtable data to the last mile of reporting consumption are pretty much endless. It’s just a simple matter of requirements and code. :winking_face:

This is fantastic - thanks Bill! Google presentation is actually the presentation tool we use due to the sharing/linking/updating features so that is perfect. I’m going to dig in on this - appreciate the heads-up on the scripting course site. Hope to report back with something good. I think this could be a really great tool for people - thanks!

Benjamin_Pantil
4 - Data Explorer
4 - Data Explorer

Hello! I may have found a no code solution to this issue by utilizing Airtable > Zapier > Google Slides > Zapier > PDF > Zapier > Email/Upload.
Airtable trigger creates a Google Slides that is 8.5x11 size. Zapier Converts this to PDF. Zapier can then email this out or upload it back into airtable.
Zapier Google Slides Integration: https://zapier.com/blog/updates/840/google-slides-integrations
Slides to PDF: https://www.process.st/help/docs/create-a-pdf-with-zapier/
Hope this helps!

Yep - in today’s API economy there’s an abundance of glues and adhesives which make it effortless to pull together just about any process and data imaginable.

If you’re comfortable with 7+ hops to generate a single emailed report, this is one approach. But you must also accept the likelihood that with each additional dependency, your process inches a little higher up the brittleness ladder. Proceed with cautious optimism. :winking_face:

It may seem like I tend to discourage these glue-factory solutions, but I’m actually standing on the sidelines cheering with pom-poms for two reasons.

  1. Tools like Zapier, Process Street, and Integromat stand at the headwaters of innovation. They make it possible for domain experts to make stuff work without coding expertise. New ideas and alchemies involving data, content, and process can be explored without significant cost. Mistakes have few consequences and lead to more learning and more innovation.

  2. A significant and growing slice of my integration and data architecture consulting projects come from clients who have hit the limits of Goldbergian-sh*tshows and they’ve had it with reliability issues and the added cost associated with third-party solutions.

Gimmie a Z! Gimmie an A! Gimmie a P! …

API economy ? this link leads to
“API represents all segments of America’s oil and natural gas industry. Its more than 600 members produce, process, and distribute most of the nation’s energy. The industry supports 10.9 million U.S. jobs and is backed by a growing grassroots movement of millions of Americans. API was formed in 1919 as a standards-setting organization. In its first 100 years, API has developed more than 700 standards to enhance operational and environmental safety, efficiency and sustainability.”

:slightly_smiling_face: