Re: Is there a specific Airtable how-to guide you really wish you had?

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6 - Interface Innovator
6 - Interface Innovator

Hello everyone. :slightly_smiling_face:

I’ve been writing Airtable how-to guides for a little while and usually look for new ideas here in the community. I thought I might expand on that and directly ask everyone what kind of how-to guides would be especially useful. If there’s anything you’ve been struggling to figure out how to do, don’t think you can do, or want to learn how to do with Airtable at some point, let me know and I’ll try to figure it out and write a guide.

Naturally, there are some things won’t be possible but I haven’t run into that problem yet. Also, the thing you want to learn or the problem you want to solve has to be something broad enough that other people will benefit from it (otherwise it’d be better to just answer your question than write a guide). Barring that, anything goes. :slightly_smiling_face:

Let me know if there’s anything you’d like to see!

10 Replies 10
5 - Automation Enthusiast
5 - Automation Enthusiast

I’d like to limit some users to only see/update specific files in the database.

11 - Venus
11 - Venus

Hi @Adam_Dachis

This is a great idea.

The two things that I would like having a step by step guide for, are:

  1. Steps to linking records with multiple tables. I have a basic idea, but when it comes to specifically linking individual records, from which table to link from and to, I get confused.

  2. I would like to learn how to use the Lookup feature, I believe it might go hand and hand with linking records, or I might be wrong.

Those are the two things for now, that I would like specific information about doing.

Thank you,
Mary K

5 - Automation Enthusiast
5 - Automation Enthusiast

I’m really interested in adding time-based interactions that I have with individuals, basically as a CRM does. So, when I send someone an email, I want to record that email as a kind of interaction at a certain time, and I haven’t figured out exactly how to configure my base for all those elements: contacts, messages, time… and then to display a chronological record of all of my interactions.

It seems like it should be pretty straightforward but I’ve yet to figure it out!

Hi Mary, thanks for the suggestion! I may have already covered this in the Power User’s guide, so please let me know if this is what you’re looking for:

It goes over just about everything to do with linked records and there’s a specific section about lookup fields. :slightly_smiling_face:

If that doesn’t sort things out for you, let me know what’s missing and I’ll be happy to address it.

Thanks! :slightly_smiling_face:

Hey Chris! Funny running into you here. :slightly_smiling_face:

I’m going to make a few suggestions to make sure I understand what you’re trying to do. I have a tendency to overthink things and assume they’re more complicated than they are, so I’m going to start on the more basic side and work my way up. Let me know if any of these ideas hit the mark.

  1. In terms of general setup, if you want to track a recipient, the sent time, and the type of interaction, you’ll need these three field types: email, date-time (with timestamp enabled—it’s a little toggle in the field options when you create/edit it), and single or multiple select (respectively). Alternatively, you can use a last modified time field instead of a date-time field that automatically updates any time you change the interaction. Then you just have to create a sort on whatever date-time-based field you choose and you should be all set. This is a pretty quick setup once you know where to find everything so I just made an example for you here:

I generated some placeholder data and put both date-time field options in there (sorted on the manual one) so you can copy it into your account (there will be a “Copy Base” button in the upper right-hand corner when you click that link) and mess around with it. (I put the date-time fields in ISO format because I’m a nerd but you can edit the format very easily by double-clicking the field name/column header and just choosing another format.)

Also, in case you haven’t noticed, there are a ton of CRM templates in the template gallery. The templates show a lot of different ways to set things up and can help you figure out what you’re trying to do when you don’t have time to ask/wait for an answer.

  1. If you’re looking to do a bit more than that and want to automate the process, that’s also an option through Zapier, Integromat, and probably a few others I haven’t tried yet. (There’s also IFTTT, but I’ve never been able to count on it for anything work-related/critically important. I’ve loved a lot about IFTTT since day one so I hope that changes someday.) Anyway, you can set up integrations that check your email account for new drafts, sent messages, received messages etc., and automatically add them to your Airtable CRM base. You can grab pretty much any metadata including a date-time stamp. You could even hashtag :winking_face: messages and parse those through Zapier/Integromat/whatever to add status (or anything tag-like) to the base for context. You can also do that part manually. Not everything has to be automated. :slightly_smiling_face:

That’s a bit much to walk through right now while I’m just sorting out what you’d like to accomplish, but it’s definitely do-able. It’s not hard to do but it requires a good amount of setup because of the number of possibilities you may want to account for. You can also take automation several steps further and set up email templates you can set up and send directly through Airtable (using the SendGrid block), do the same using an integration tool like Zapier or Integromat, and even automate certain types of responses if you really want to. If you wanted to go really crazy you can integrate AI tools and basically turn your inbox into a chatbot, but I say that just to demonstrate how far you can go with a CRM when you create and control its database.

Anyway, if you’re looking to automate things, there are very few limitations with Airtable-made CRMs.

I had a third thing but it seems to have slipped my mind. Anyway, let me know if either of those hit the mark or not and we can dig in further.

Thanks! :slightly_smiling_face:

Hi @Community_Partners,

This is a tough one because you cant really accomplish this. I mean, not in a way you’re probably going to want to do it. It really should be a feature, though. The collaborator field already provides the necessary setup and there’s a similar limitation feature in place for filtered views. It probably wouldn’t be that difficult to add something like this but it is the kind of feature that takes quite a bit of time to test because it’s security-related.

Basically, the best thing you can do without resorting to extreme measures is to create a filtered view that only shows the records you want to be shown to a certain user or group of users and share that view with them. However, that will not permit them to make any changes—just view. The extreme solution, if you can really even call it that, would be to write a custom interface with the API. This isn’t terribly difficult as far as API tasks go—it takes a couple of hours, but you have to have at least a working knowledge of HTML, CSS, and a web-based object-oriented programming language that can make REST API calls. It’s fairly easy if you have those prerequisites and not so easy if you don’t. Given the context of this forum post, I’m assuming that’s not something you’d want to do. I just didn’t want to say it’s impossible to accomplish what you’re trying to accomplish because it’s not—there just isn’t really a practical way to do it at the moment.

I’m sorry I don’t have a better answer. I’ve definitely seen people asking for this feature/running into this issue a decent number of times, so hopefully it’s something that’ll be addressed in the future.

Oh! @Chris_Messina I just remembered the third thing. I thought of it because I accidentally clicked on your profile page and saw you were looking at a web clipper post on the forums. You could also use web clipper to log email activity. :slightly_smiling_face: That would be the middle-ground between automation and no automation.

Hey Adam! Much obliged! I did notice you here and thought I’d say hi and give you a little work. :winking_face:

Yes, I think you’ve got the idea for what I’m trying to do. I think where I’m getting a little confused (perhaps like you, I tend to overcomplicate/think things) is how to best model the interactions and then build reports from them. I realize there are dedicated CRMs that might be better suited for my needs, but I’m excited about the prospect of using Airtable to prototype and explore capturing data that may change/evolve over time. Currently, however, I’m attempting to track interactions/activities of certain users (i.e. “signed in to app”, “sent message”, which could be useful for funnel analysis, and so I’m thinking that I’d have one table for users and a separate table for activities where the primary key is a combo of the datestamp + activity + username… since these activities might happen in rapid succession.

You put everything all in one table — can you explain your rationale for that? Thanks! :slightly_smiling_face:

@Chris_Messina My rationale for the single table was to demonstrate the most simple approach because I try not to do things the way I would do them when I’m helping someone else. If I do it the way I like to do it, I approach the design of the base like a developer because all my database experience comes from web development. That’s usually more confusing for people when they’re just trying to sort out the basics. I wasn’t sure if you needed something on the basic side or the more complicated side, so I went with basic since doing it the complicated way tends to be the wrong approach. I figured there’s a higher chance you’d want something more complicated but it’s easier to start small and scale up anyway.

Anyway, the way you want to approach the base sounds (with the multiple tables you’re considering) sounds like the right approach to me. When it’s up to me, if there’s any reason to link records across multiple tables I will do it. It can make API calls a little annoying but I wrote a PHP model for Airtable recently that solves that problem for me. I should probably post that on here now that it’s pretty much done. I keep forgetting.

I think I understand what you want to accomplish a little better but we could probably breeze through this much faster over the phone. Then I could just help you set it up in real time and make sure I understand everything exactly. If you want to do that, let me know. I think we could knock it out in half an hour.