The next generation of spreadsheets will be a database

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Airtable Employee
Airtable Employee

Check out @Howie’s guest post on InfoWorld. Lots of great thoughts on the history of spreadsheets and databases, among other things:

The next generation of spreadsheets will be a database

Flexibility and ease of use have made the spreadsheet the popular but unfortunate choice for makeshift databases; we can do better

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6 - Interface Innovator
6 - Interface Innovator

Such a great article!

This sums up Airtable perfectly:

“What users really need is a product that combines the fast and flexible aspects of a spreadsheet’s interface with the structure of a true relational database.”

Congrats guys!

“This database-with-spreadsheet-interface would fill the needs of small teams whose departmental, highly specific use cases are not important, complex, or sensitive enough to justify a formal IT initiative. It would abstract away the technical complexities of traditional databases: setting up a hosting server”

The quote from the article rang deep with me. I found database products to fulfill what I want to do and more, but cost tons of money being marketed to whole companies or teams of workers. This approach is simply not justifiable for a one man army that is pursuing the creation of a database as a part time project with aim to simply improve the long term access to information and creation of maintenance records. I do not know the Access design schema, nor do I know how to create a server and host a database like some simple free sql products required.

Eventually, I want to pass the perfected database off as a form of succession planning for the fellow that will step into my job when I leave it. I understand why the 72yr old man passed off a file cabinet, rolodex, pdf files, and 1 page of typed instructions when I took this job. I could not understand why my desire for a 1 person job specific database was so difficult to fulfill. I was teetering on the edge of creating a printed book and an organized system of excel files as Access proved time consuming with little reward in sight. Work got busy, my project got benched, then I found Airtable in a twitter ad, I have been soooo happy and my hope has been rejuvenated!!

7 - App Architect
7 - App Architect

I’ve been in IT for 20 years now, starting in development and having been in management for about the last 7 years. And now that I don’t develop on a regular basis, I’m shocked at how frequently my colleagues and I turn to Excel to maintain tabular data. It always makes me a little sick inside when I do it, but it’s just so darn easy. And you can post it to a collaboration site to let others work with it.

Then invariably, someone screws it up, because you’re using a spreadsheet as a database. No matter what happens, shared spreadsheets used as databases get hosed, because someone enters text into a column that should be numeric, or doesn’t follow some convention for data entry, or for a million other stupid reasons.

I’m loving this for personal use, and it would be a huge help for businesses as well. Microsoft really seems to have missed the boat on this with Access 2013. Here’s hoping Airtable can crush it in this market.