Howie Liu founded Airtable with a vision to reinvent the spreadsheet. He wanted to empower users to create what are essentially applications without writing a single line of coding. The software is like a spreadsheet/database hybrid you can use for effective product management, building sales pipelines, CRM, ERP, and more.
Read on as we discuss Airtable—what it is, which companies use it, and how you can get started with it.
What is Airtable Anyway?
Airtable lets you create spreadsheets and databases to store, reference, and retrieve all kinds of data. It’s an incredibly intuitive and user-friendly tool that creates functional and attractive databases while simultaneously offering powerful customization features.
You can create as many rows and columns as you want per table in the software. For instance, you can assign each column (known as “field”) with a role (known as “field customization”), enabling it to store all of the entered data in that column in a more organized way.
Besides data entry, Airtable can also be used to create calendars, Kanbans, and visual galleries.
How Airtable Works
Airtable comes packed with several amazing features. While that gives you a lot of customization options, it can also feel overwhelming. However, once you get a hang of how things work and get used to the interface, you’ll feel more comfortable.
As mentioned, you can create and populate tables on Airtable. But what’s special here is you can make the spreadsheets and database as complex or simple as you want them to be. You can use the software exactly how you want and decide your Airtable spreads look and functionality.
The 5 Main Building Blocks of Airtable
Airtable is mainly built on five primary blocks. You’ll have a better idea of how to use the software once you understand these in more detail.
After you log into your Airtable account, you’ll see your workspace, where you can organize all your bases (short for databases). Each of the icons in a workspace is a base and is customizable.
Use the bases to track the number of things and organize your overall workload. Airtable also provides users with different templates—content marketing, software bugs, social media management, product launches, and marketing campaigns—to help them operate more efficiently.
And not only work, but you can also use Airtable for personal use. For instance, you can track personal items and events, either privately or when collaborating with other people.
Default bases include a pre-configured project tracker, job hunting template, content calendar, and other sample data already in place. Remember, you can customize Dees however you like, so don’t be afraid to change things.
After you’ve fully explored the pre-install samples, click Add followed by Start with a template to try out the templates. Alternatively, you can create a new base by importing data from a spreadsheet.
Every base you create will have one or more tabs containing data. These tabs are tables, and the data contained in each table will be related in some way. For example, you can store customer information in one table and use another table to document their purchase history.
Each table is displayed in a grid format with rows and columns. Keep in mind that Airtable uses the terms ‘field’ and ‘record’ for column and row, respectively. You can use the table to store information related to inventory, projects, digital assets—or really any other thing you like.
Every table has records that hold specific data, and each record is viewed as an individual entry. For instance, you can dedicate an entire table on Airtable to wedding planning and then use each record in the table for specific details and tasks related to your wedding (preparing the guest list, booking venue, sending out invites).
You can add new records to your table by clicking on an empty row at the bottom of your existing record list. Alternatively, you can right-click on any existing record and select from the drop-down menu.
All records are made up of fields, which can contain almost any type of information.
Suppose you want to create a project management table in Airtable. You can have different fields for due dates, comments, file attachments, and so on.
What’s more, these fields are interactive. For example, if you create an attachment field, you can add the cover image for a book, a scheduled social media post, and a product image. Creating separate fields with the checkboxes, collaborators, dates, and blocks of text is also possible.
Views allow you to see your data in a way that works best for you and your team. Think of the feature as sorting data by a specific field to present it more effectively. The different hues you create are displayed on the left side of your screen, along with the option of creating a new view.
Although Airtable allows different types of views for use, not all of them can be used with all data. For instance, you can only use the calendar view if your table has at least one date field in it.
Airtable Use-Case #1: Project Management
Airtable can come in handy every step of the way when it comes to managing projects, and rest assured it’ll make your job easier than ever before.
As a project manager, you want a tool that allows you to keep track of all tasks, meetings, deadlines, and deliverables on a centralized platform without having to switch back and forth between different tools. Airtable delivers just that.
Regardless of whether you follow the agile philosophy or SCRUM, this software will help you identify potential problems and address issues as they arise to keep your project on track. You can use it for a myriad of tasks, including assigning tasks, grouping tasks by team members, following up on outstanding items, and so on.
Airtable Use-Case #2: CRM
CRM, short for customer relationship management, involves managing relationships strategically to maximize the value each relationship provides to the company and its customers.
When we think about CRM, we end up putting too much emphasis on the word “customer.” This is a very restrictive outlook since CRM is equally important for partnership management and personal relationship management. But regardless of the use case, CRM is an invaluable tool for any business.
Airtable makes it easier for companies to create customized CRM systems that align perfectly with their requirements and preferences. Moreover, CRM systems are typically expensive, but alternatives like Airtable allow you to keep track of customer data at a much affordable price.
Here’s a simple CRM workflow that can be tracked and streamlined in Airtable:
- Collect contact information
- Record interactions
- Schedule follow-ups
You can also use CRM for handling outbound leads, outreach, and sales.
Airtable Use-Case #3: Blogging
If you’re looking for the easiest way to keep up with your content marketing strategy, look no further than Airtable.
The software helps you stay organized by letting you manage templates ahead of time. As a result, you can use them right away when writing your next blog post or article. Airtable also allows you to add people to your team to facilitate easy collaboration on these processes.
Airtable can be used for SEO, creating content or editorial calendars, doing keyword research planning, collecting ideas, and more. Effective article production tracking and Recording metrics are other benefits.
Which Companies Use Airtable?
Here are some of the most notable companies that have implemented Airtable as a part of their daily operations:
- Conde Nast Entertainment
- A&E Networks
- Penguin Random House
- The American Red Cross
- Zendesk Inc
- NBC Universal
- Sesame Workshop
Tips to Get Started With Airtable
Using new software can be an overwhelming ordeal. Airtable, in particular, can feel intimidating… but only in the beginning. Once you get a hang of it, you’ll not want to use any other tool to organize your whole schedule. Here are a few tips to smoothen the initial learning curve.
#1 Expand All Records
The best way to make Airtable easy is to use its obvious feature: the expanded view.
As mentioned, Airtable uses records to organize tasks, and each record can have any number of fields. For instance, if you’re handling a blog in the software, your records will be the different blog posts, and each record will contain fields like the blog title, collaborator, SEO lead, and so on.
Here’s the catch: you can’t see an entire record at once in any given view.
Instead, you’ll have to click on a specific record, hit the Spacebar key, or right-click on a cell and select Expand Record.
You can now see the details about the record you’re currently looking at, including every field associated with the record.
#2 Try Out the Available Templates
Airtable lets you enjoy the power of having a database, even if you don’t have any prior programming knowledge.
To start, create a new ‘base‘ on the platform. Then head over to the collection of Airtable templates and find something you can work with.
As you can see, there are tons of templates available, ranging from project tracking to event planning to user research.
After choosing a template, add some more information to it. This way, everyone has an idea about what the base is all about. One of the best things about Airtable is you can look at the same information in different ways, and every template is built to highlight this feature.
For instance, if you click on gallery view, here’s what your base will look like:
Templates are an excellent way to understand how Airtable works. Click around the software until you get familiar with its features. Don’t worry about messing up the system that your entire company is based on while you’re at it too!
#3 Create Custom Views
Creating custom views is an effective, no-risk way to learn more about Airtable while simultaneously creating something that can help you work more efficiently.
If your team has already been using Airtable for a long time, it’s likely you cannot use the existing views to keep track of your work. There will be too much going on.
You can, however, create a custom view to keep track of work that is relevant to you. To start, choose the views you like best in the Create section on the lower left-hand side of your screen.
After that, you can choose the attribute you want to sort items by. For instance, if you choose Status, you can visualize how far along in the editorial process each article is.
You can also create a new field by clicking on Create a new single select field. From there, select Personal view to see what tasks have been assigned to you specifically.
Airtable is incredibly customizable. To discover more tricks, experiment with the different options without worrying about breaking the system. Try it!
#4 Mark Your Favorite Views
We highly recommend marking views as favorites to avoid getting overwhelmed when working on Airtable. Right-click on any view in the left-hand side corner of your screen and select Add to “My favorites”.
Once you ‘star’ all views you like, all your favorites will show up at the top of the list, so they are easier to find.