Basic feature missing still – defaults on base fields

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5 - Automation Enthusiast
5 - Automation Enthusiast

So, I’m back to using Airtable for a certain business project. I set up one field as a Single Select field, with four choices. Then I looked for a way to set a default value for new records. To my surprise, there wasn’t a way to do that.

So, I came here, and discovered that people have been asking for this fairly simple feature for years. And it’s still not implemented.

Airtable folks, this seems like a big drop to me. Every database I know, all the way back to dBase III+ (yeah, I’m old), has had a way to set a default value. When is 2020 Airtable going to have it?

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Yes, definitely a missing feature. I would think of Airtable as more of a “spreadsheet with some fun database features thrown in” as opposed to a “real relational database system”, since it is missing most of the features of real database systems, including real security.

In regards to your request:

Note that a few fields, like single-line text fields and number fields, do support typing in a default value in their field customization settings. (Of course, other database languages let you type in a default value that is based on a formula, but in Airtable, these default values need to be hardcoded in by you.)

And another little Airtable trick for auto-typing default values into a single field is to group your records by that field. Then, any new records that you create within that group will automatically inherit that field’s value for that group.

6 - Interface Innovator
6 - Interface Innovator

I go back to the Abacus and the slide ruler im antique :rofl:

@Bruce_Maples, good to see you back here posting.

Well, that’s difficult to say because many things that were discovered and resolved back to the early 80’s are missing from a variety of technologies and Airtable is no exception. I think there’s a gap between two generations of tech solutions builders - those like you (and me) where we’ve endured the emerging innovation of personal database products and understood when a product reached a level of maturity, and those who lack this perspective. Indeed, I’ve spoken with many product engineers over the past decade who lack a clear definition of what it means to provide a complete database environment.

Why is there a gap?

Anyone’s guess, but my sense is that the new world of “modern” web platforms hasn’t really been tested much in real-world environments - at least not to the extent that we had to prove dBASE, Clipper, FoxPro, and others through the 80s and well into the 90’s. And perhaps this is related to a lack of data architecture being taught in schools the past 15 years. The focus in computer sciences dramatically shifted in the early 2000’s to clients, web apps, integration, and content rendering. Backend integration is thoroughly taught in schools, but data model architecture and native data model methods are not - that’s boring compared to fancy pages. :winking_face:

Airtable has been around for 6+ years and despite this, it shows a level of immaturity that is akin to the early days of Vulcan and dBASE II. Even VisiCalc (1981?) had a leg up on the way formulas integrate with cells.

BTW - if it wasn’t clear from the reference to JPL’s Vulcan database (JPLDIS by Jeb Long), I’m really old as well. But I have a good memory and during that time frame, I successfully developed products including LapLink, dBASE Professional Development Library, FoxPro Forms Converter, and dBRIEF - all of which were acquired by companies such as Borland, Microsoft, etc.

To be fair, Airtable has increased the pace of new feature development, but my fear is their platform is not being fully inoculated to the stringent requirements of business apps. If I’m accurate in this assessment, we will likely see a shakeout in the personal database sector where key decision-makers will begin to guide users into more mature platforms.

Regardless, the weaknesses like the one you point out, expose new technology companies to displacement - not disruption - a far easier pathway for competitors to extract user bases.

I used to write games in 6502 assembler, computers have got faster but the proceedings seem to have got slower and I’m sick of the waste of time wizards and been asked if I’m sure, I just want to press the return key and whatever is doing happens straight away, like it used to, regards Andrew