This may be a little tricky to describe, and I'm a little excited after discovering this feature, so I'll do my best!
My post is about the Interface Record Picker element, but the Airtable Help doesn't discuss this functionality.
Today, whilst I was creating a new Time/Task tracker to keep a tabs on my time, along with what tasks and projects that I'm working on - I've always had the complaint that as each of my tables links in deeper to one another, when viewing via an Interface it becomes a bit of a click-scroll-click-scroll to get to the data that I'm needing to update, then a click-back-click-back to get back to my main interface - repeat ad nauseum - and I start to wonder if Interfaces are really worth investing the time in building, knowing that data is obfuscated by several clicks and it's really just easier to edit directly within the base... or so I thought.
As I was finishing up today's efforts on my new personal use interface (and again, frustrated by the way users need to click through to edit data in Linked records), I discovered some automation that I don't recall being a thing late last year, that is - Record Picker elements seem to default to the record held within a Link Field. I haven't completely explored the ins and outs, for example, does this default behaviour only work when a Link Field is limited to one record - I'm not sure.
So what? - I hear you thinking. Well, let me try explain (and with pictures!), firstly, my example base structure.
Here we have my base with all of its tables. Each day consists of Shifts. I geared an automation to create 4 shifts at the beginning of each day - I like to split my day into two hour sprints, with stretch/exercise breaks in between them. Shifts can be deleted, for example if I can only work a half day, or can be manually added if I'm working a long stretch into the evening.
A shift ties in with a Day, the Task handled during the shift, and importantly, the Tasks progress.
Here is the Day table, with each shift rolled up into each day record. Similarly, a day is also tied to a Week record, and a Month record - all auto-created each morning with an Automation Script. (If week doesn't exist, create it and stamp the days in, else, if week exists then stamp the days in, etc)
Similar to Day table, the Weekly table has its place and minor uses, but the Monthly table is most important as it allows for one click Invoicing (... if only. Now is not the place for me to rant about how frustratingly *@#$%@ the Page Designer is.😂 ).
Below we have the Task, Projects and Task Progress structure. Task and Projects are straight forward, one project linked to many tasks, and one task linking to many Task Progress records.
The Task Progress mightn't be as common - but allows the progressive tracking of each task, with a chunk of work being represented by a record, which itself represents 2 hours.
So that's the structure of my base. Now its time for an Interface to aid the workflow.
Here is my (work in progress) Interface, and where I noticed magic happening!
Pick a shift for detailing. Its fields load as per normal.
Upon loading a shift, the first Record Picker automatically aligns with the Day records "Daily Goals" already assigned to that shift (as per my Shift Creation Automation). Importantly, understand that "Daily Goals" field resides in the Day table, but note that we're looking at the "Shift" table records.
Managing my shift, I set the task I'm to work on for this shift. An Automation then creates a new Task Progress record and assigns it to this shift.
Again, the other Record Picker element automatically detects that my Automation just tied in new Task Progress Record and then automatically aligned the "Task Progress" - "Progress Notes" field ready for me to fill out. Importantly again, "Progress Notes" field resides in the "Task Progress" table, not the Shift table.
... excuse me whilst I pick up my jaw from the ground. This is AMAZING!
I knew that the Record Picker element had a bit of cleverness to it, such as, you could tie in a record ID into the URL of your interface for the Record Picker to use - this was very handy for pre-loading an interface by feeding it the record details that the Record Picker defaults to (perfect for use with Buttons, or external links).
But to have Record Picker elements know that the record I'm focusing on, ties in with other linked records, and to allow me to now direct edit those linked fields field elements... this is worth its weight in gold.
As I click through the list, each shift loads everything automatically, and allows me to direct edit linked field various fields without endlessly clicking through layers/pop-ups as per what previously had to happen!
So now that I know this, I need to sleep on it. It's a bit of a game changer IMHO for where I've implemented Interfaces - in that they all need to be revisited to leverage this feature. And more importantly, I need to understand what does and doesn't work. Have I perhaps missed a show-stopper problem, or at least bugs or limitations that need to be known?
If Airtable Devs are reading, thank you! I'd be keen to hear more about this feature - especially as its not very detailed in the help file.
One small piece of feed-back I have, is that with the automated Record Pickers in play, I don't actually need pickers themselves visible within the interface - nor editable. As their automatic record selection works perfectly, I don't need them showing nor do I want a user tinkering with their dropdown - regardless of enhancements, thank you! This feature is too cool - and I'd love to hear what other users think of them.
Did anyone else know about this feature? Post your findings and thoughts below. 👇🏻
Thanks for your easy to follow description of your base, tables, interface and recent findings. Inspiring stuff, as I’m aspiring to build my own daily task manager / tracker in Airtable. (Then I just need tasks to fill it with…!)