I am an old school database developer and have recently discovered Airtable. I am intrigued and have signed up for the free account to try to discover what it’s about and how it all fits together.
However, I am gobsmacked that there appears to be no downloads available to study Airtable. I am unable to learn from a screen. Whenever I teach myself new skills I do it by pouring over reference manuals and experimenting - that’s the way I learn.
I simply cannot concentrate when some is spouting information at me in a webinar or a training video, clicking on various things instructing you to do this and that with out learning the REASON and UNDERLYING logic behind what you are doing. I also cannot read from the guides displayed onscreen, mainly because you have to keep swapping form the guide to your workspace trying to copy the examples. What I need is a printed manual I can learn from. I am not asking Airtable to provide printed manuals, just PDFs that I can download and print myself.
Then you already know a lot of concepts that apply, such as normalizing data. However there are also things about Airtable that are going to frustrate you, such as
how linked records works
how the primary field is used, but is not a primary key or foreign key
lack of a written querying language
Having more screen real estate helps a lot. Some people have large monitors or second monitors, which are useful in other areas as well. I also use my tablet to display reference info as well.
You can print support pages, although the formatting will be a bit funky. It is unlikely that Airtable will ever provide pdf manuals. PDF files are much harder to maintain, and Airtable is constantly adding features, adjusting documentation, tweaking the user interface, etc.
Thank you for your useful comments. I am immediately concerned that there is no query language. That is suggesting that Airtable can be no more than a simple relational database (even that is sounding doubtful if primary keys and foreign keys are not used in the accepted sense)?
Is there no scripting of any kind? What is a linked record, if not a foreign key to another table?
Many thanks for taking the time to respond and providing an insight.
Linked records are a bit like foreign keys, but all links must be explicitly made either manually, through scripting, or through automations. You cannot join using any field. There are keys, but they are under the hood and not exposed to the user unless you use a formula field that exposes the record ID. There is also no easy way to enforce uniqueness in any field, except an autonumber field.
You can pull data from other tables using linked record fields and lookups/rollups. You should really play around with linked records and lookups/rollups to see what I mean.
Airtable has many other quirks, but understanding linked records is key to understanding Airtable, and linked records do not behave the way linking works in traditional databases.