Airtable Tutorial 2023: The Basics for Beginners and Pro Tips for Experts
Professionals across widely diverse areas use Airtable to manage their projects and streamline processes. Some use it to manage hiring, others – to run an online store or better organize their sales pipeline. The versatility of this tool allows companies to tailor it to virtually any needs and goals. In this article, we’ll explore some of the basics that you’ll need to benefit from Airtable’s rich functionality and flexibility.
What we’ll cover in this Airtable tutorial
Here, you’ll find a lot of useful information that will be helpful for those who are just starting out with Airtable, as well as for advanced users.
- For beginners: you’ll learn how to create bases and views in Airtable, how to export and import data, create backups, and more.
- For experts: we’ll show how you can sync Airtable with other apps, such as Excel, Google Sheets, and BigQuery. You’ll learn how to automate the data exporting process and regularly extract your Airtable data on a schedule without any manual effort. If you are not interested in the basics, you can jump to the How to export data from Airtable automatically section.
What Airtable is and how it works
Airtable is a cloud-based platform that allows you to create databases, manage projects, and shape processes in various ways. It can be used at different levels – from the simplest, like storing and visualizing data, to more advanced, like building complex workflows and custom low-code tools. To see how Airtable works, let’s take a look at some of its central features.
Airtable’s main features:
- Storing data in databases. Airtable allows you to organize and manage your data by creating databases (they are also called bases). For example, you can store all information related to your project in a separate database. This can include a list of customers, sales pipeline, marketing roadmap, content plan, and so on. If you have a workflow connected to particular datasets, the information about this will also be stored in the corresponding database. The tool offers immense customization capabilities, giving you the ability to tailor your databases to your needs.
- Visualizing data with views. With Airtable, you can present the same data in multiple ways for different use cases. For example, you can visualize your marketing strategy as a Gantt chart to see a high-level picture. And then, you can also make it into a Kanban board for day-to-day planning and tracking progress. There are many other visualization types, like a calendar, gallery, or grid (table). Airtable allows you to create these visualizations quickly and easily and then share them with your colleagues or stakeholders in minutes. Unlike graphs made in Figma, Photoshop, or other similar apps, Airtable views automatically fetch the latest data from the connected databases. As a result, you get instantly-made self-updating visualizations, which are also called views.
- Creating automated workflows. You can use Airtable to automate typical repetitive tasks that revolve around your data. To do so, you need to specify some triggers and assign a corresponding action to each of them. For instance, a trigger could be a new lead added to the database, and the action – sending a Slack notification to a person responsible for processing this lead. Your automation can be as simple as that, or it can be a complex workflow with up to 25 different steps in sequence.
- Enabling cross-channel collaboration. Airtable can function as a hub bringing together data and processes from across different tools that your team uses. It can be easily connected to many other apps, such as Slack, Jira, or Google Workspace. These integrations, along with others, are natively available in Airtable. They allow you to sync your Airtable databases with other tools so that Airtable becomes a reliable source of the latest information on different projects. Integrations can also be used in automated workflows – for example, to post on social media directly from Airtable.
To sum up, there’s a lot you can accomplish with Airtable. However, there’s no need to start with complex stuff. It’s better to begin by using less advanced functionality, and then you will gradually discover more features that can be useful for your particular case.
How to use Airtable. What you need to know
Data is at the core of everything you can achieve with Airtable. To start using this tool, you will need to create a database, set up tables, choose views, and add your colleagues to your Airtable workspace.
After this, you can move on to shaping processes and creating automated workflows. You’ll need to define what typical tasks can be automated, who should be notified about the changes in a particular project, and under what circumstances.
Then, you’ll need to decide which cross-team and/or cross-channel projects you want to manage in Airtable, what processes should be implemented, and what external apps should be connected to sync your databases and keep everyone on the same page.
How to create a base in Airtable from scratch
An Airtable base is a database where you can keep various datasets related to the same project or process. You can have many databases for different projects, activities, workflows, etc.
Let’s see how to create a base in Airtable from scratch. Although this is not the fastest method, we recommend trying it out first. You can use it to make a sample base and then try other methods for more complex bases. Making a base from scratch will give you a good understanding of how everything works and how you can customize each element. Later on, this knowledge will help you a lot.
- First, log in to your Airtable account.
- Then, press the Add a base icon on the main screen.
- Click in the upper left corner to rename your new base. In our example, it will contain the data for launching a promotional campaign. We’ll name the base after this project.
- Your base will consist of tables. Each table will represent a different aspect of your project. In our example, we’ll have separate tables for the allocated team, a list of tasks, a budget, vendors, and creative assets. You’ll also need to decide what tables you want to include in your base.
Then, click on Table 1 and select Rename table from the dropdown menu. Enter the name of your table, then click Add or import on the right and select Create empty table. You can add as many tables as you wish. If you need to change the order of your tables, just drag them where you want them to be.
- Now, we’ll need to add columns to each table. By default, we have four columns – Name, Notes, Assignee, and Status. For the Assigned team table, we will rename them as Position, Name and surname, Email address, and Assigned tasks. If you want to add more columns, just click the + icon on the right.
- Double-click on the column header to change it.
- You can also select a column type you need or customize the pre-set option. For example, the Status column, by default, contains a set of tags. Double-click any empty field in this column to see the options. To add a new tag, just type in the word you need in the Find an option field. For instance, we’ve just added “new tag”.
- Now, you can assign one tag to each row, but you cannot write text or paste formulas in the Status column. To change this, click the arrow on the right of the column header and click Customize field type. Then, press the arrow on the right of Single select to see the drop-down menu with other options. For example, you can choose Multiple select, which will allow you to add several tags per row. Or you can change the column format completely and select the checkbox, formula, or just the long text format. The latter will allow you to type any text in this column.
- When all your tables and columns are ready, it’s time to populate your base with data. To do so, you’ll need to add records – these are separate entries, or rows, in your table.
- Since in this example, we are creating a base from scratch, let’s assume we don’t have any ready-to-use data. In such a case, you can just fill in the fields manually. Here’s how our sample base looks:
- Once all the tables are filled in, your Airtable base is ready.
As you can see, creating a base from scratch and adding data manually can be quite a lot of work. Luckily, there are other options. Now that you already know what a base consists of and how it can be customized, let’s see how you can minimize manual effort.
As you can see, creating a base from scratch and adding data manually can be quite a lot of work. Luckily, there are other options. Now that you already know what a base consists of and how it can be customized, let’s see how you can minimize manual effort.
How to create a base from a template
Of course, every project is unique, but the chances are, someone has already worked on something similar and had similar challenges.
- Log in to your Airtable account.
On the home screen, click Start with templates. Airtable will suggest several options depending on your professional interests/area specified during the registration.
- Select Explore more templates to see more options. You’ll see dozens of templates grouped by topics. In the menu on the left, you can select the category you need or use the search field to find something specific.
- Select the template that seems the most relevant for your project. On the template’s page, you can see the preview with a description, as well as suggested similar templates at the bottom. Once you’ve made your choice, click the Use template button in the upper right corner. We’ll take Marketing Campaign tracking as an example.
- Here, we can see lots of details related to the campaign. It includes everything we need, from goals, status, and deadlines to creative assets, such as visuals and copy.
- Now, we need to customize this template. You can rename the base, add or delete tables, change the columns format, and so on. We’ve already discussed how to do all this in the previous section. Since the general structure is already adjusted to managing a marketing campaign, this time, it will be easier than starting from scratch. In our example, we’ll rename the base and add a new table with vendors.
- When the structure of your base is tailored to your specific project, you’ll need to populate the base with data. First, let’s delete the sample data. You can just select the fields you want to clear with the mouse and then press the DEL or Backspace key – pretty much as you would do with a regular spreadsheet.
- When the template is cleared, it’s time to add your data. You can type in or copy-paste manually the information you need. However, if you already have something to work with, you can take a shortcut and import your data from another app.
How to import data to an Airtable base
There are several ways you can use to transfer your data to a new Airtable base.
Method 1. Copy-pasting
Let’s see how this works. As an example, we’ll use our Vendors table, where we want to add the list of potential partners with their contact details and other data.
- Go to the table where you want to add the imported data.
- Click the arrow on the right from the table header.
- Then, click the arrow on the right of the Import data. You’ll see a list of options. For this method, we’ll choose the last one, Paste table data.
- After this, you’ll see the Paste table data window. We already have the list of vendors in Pipedrive, so we copied and pasted it here. Then, we press the Import pasted data button.
- In the next step, check the preview and make adjustments if necessary. Make sure the column headers in your copied data match the columns in your Airtable base. Column types should also match the type of data you want to insert there – for example, you cannot import text in the Status column if it’s organized as a set of tags.
- If everything looks good, press Import.
- We’ve successfully imported data. Here’s what the result looks like:
Method 2. Importing from a CSV file
Here, the first step will be the same as for the previous method. But this time, we’ll need to select the first option on the list – CSV file.
- In the next window, drag and drop your CSV file and press Upload.
- Then, review the data and make the adjustments, if necessary. If everything looks good, click Import.
- The data has been imported to the Airtable base.
Method 3. Importing directly from other apps
You can import data to Airtable from Excel or Google Sheets without converting it to CSV format. You can do this through the Quick import menu. It’s also possible to import directly from many other apps using Airtable sync integrations or extensions. For instance, this way, you can connect your Airtable base to Salesforce, Jira, Google Calendar, Tableau, and Zendesk. For now, let’s take Google Sheets as an example and see how to transfer data with the Quick import menu.
In the table menu, press Add or import and select Google Sheets in the Quick import section.
- Then, select Connect new Google account.
- In the next step, choose your account and grant the necessary permissions.
- You’ll see the list of spreadsheets you have. Pick the one you want to extract data from and press Select.
- Select the table in your base where you want to place the imported data, or choose Create a new table. We will go with the latter option.
- Review your data. Click the arrow on the right of the column header if you want to select another column type, different from the one assigned automatically. Press Import when you are ready.
- We’ve successfully imported data about completed tasks and their duration to the Airtable base.
How to create a view in Airtable
As we’ve already mentioned, views are visualizations that present your data in various ways. You can create many different views for the same dataset.
The main types of Airtable view are:
- Kanban board – this representation is great for project management;
- Gantt chart – presents your data as a timeline with dependencies;
- Calendar – groups your entries by the associated date and shows them in a calendar;
- Form – this view can be used to collect data and automatically put it into the corresponding table;
- Gallery – great for organizing visual assets (for example, product photos);
- Grid – this is a default view, it shows data as a table.
We’ll use the task duration data we’ve just imported as an example to show you how to create a new view.
- Go to the table you want to visualize.
- In the menu on the left, you’ll see a list with different view types. We are going to make a Gantt view, so we select it from the list.
- In the next window, press Create new view.
- Then, we need to specify the fields where Airtable can take the start and end dates for the chart. We already have the columns with corresponding headers, so we confirm this and press Continue.
- In the next step, you can choose dependencies or enable milestones, if necessary. We’ll skip this part.
- Now, our data is presented as a Gantt chart:
- We’ve used a similar flow to create a calendar view for the same data. The list of the available views for this table is now shown in the menu on the left. You can quickly switch between the views and explore your data from different angles.
Great, now you know how to create an Airtable view!
Airtable allows you to easily share views with your colleagues or stakeholders. This is very convenient as you can quickly adapt your data to different use cases and present information to different people exactly the way you need it.
- Go to the table you want to share and click Share view -> Create a shareable view link.
- Then, select your preferences. For example, you can allow or forbid users to copy data from this table, protect the table with a password, and so on. When everything looks good, copy the link.
- That’s it! Now, people with this link can view your table even if they don’t have an Airtable account.
How to back up your Airtable data
If you rely on Airtable for managing projects, storing important information, and collaborating actively across teams, you should think about keeping a backup copy of your data.
Airtable doesn’t provide native backup functionality. However, it allows you to take snapshots – copies of your table as of a certain time. Suppose you imported a table, took a snapshot, then altered data in that table. If you need to change it back later, you can restore the initial version from the snapshot. To access the snapshot menu, go to the table you need, press the clock icon in the upper right corner, then Snapshots -> Take a snapshot. In some cases, it can be useful, but, in general, this method has many limitations. For example, it won’t be of any help if you’re accidentally locked out from your Airtable account.
To have a reliable backup, you’ll need to export data from Airtable and store it somewhere else. There are two export methods you can use: manual and automated. For the former option, you’ll need to convert data to the CSV format and download it from Airtable. With the automated method, you’ll need to connect Airtable to another app (for example, Google Sheets), and schedule automatic updates. This option is more convenient as you don’t need to remember to refresh your data and download a CSV file every time you make significant changes. With the automated connection, your backup copy will be self-updating without your involvement.
Let’s see how to export data with both of these methods.
How to export data from Airtable manually
- Go to the table and view you want to export.
Click on the view name and select Download as CSV.
- The CSV file will download automatically. Here’s what the exported data looks like:
When you need to restore this data in the future, import this CSV file to Airtable.
Although exporting data as a CSV is easy, it’s not the perfect solution for the backup. The main problem is that you’ll need to repeat this process regularly, otherwise your backup copy will quickly become outdated. And when you have many databases with a dozen tables in each, with several views for each table, then things can get tricky. Downloading CSV files for each of them on a regular basis doesn’t seem like a feasible option. Luckily, you have another way – automation.
How to export data from Airtable automatically
We’ll show how you can export data from Airtable automatically with the help of a user-friendly data integration tool, Coupler.io. This is a no-code solution that is great for people with no or little technical background. Using Coupler.io, you can easily connect Airtable to Excel, Google Sheets, or BigQuery. The tool can automatically refresh your Airtable data in the selected app, and you can even set a custom schedule for the updates. This can be useful for many purposes, like conducting deep analysis or advanced calculations. And it’s definitely a great option for data backup as your backup copy will always be up-to-date even if you totally forget about it.
Let’s see how to do this. As an example, we are going to export Airtable to Google Sheets.
- Sign up for a Coupler.io account (you can use your Google account for this). No credit card is required.
- On the My importers tab, click Add new.
- Select Airtable as a source and Google Sheets as a destination.
- In the next step, you’ll need to provide a shared view link. To get it, go to the Airtable table and view you want to export. Press Share view -> Create a shareable grid view link.
- Grant the permissions and copy the link.
- Insert the link into the corresponding field in the Coupler.io interface.
- If the view is protected with a password, click Continue and provide it. If there’s no password, click Jump to destination settings.
After this, connect your Google account and grant the requested permissions. Then, press Continue.
- In the next steps, select the spreadsheet and sheet where you want to transfer your Airtable data. Click Continue.
- In the Import mode section, select Replace. In this case, the updated information will be written over the previous contents of the spreadsheet. Another import mode is Append. It places the most recent copy of the data below the previous one into the same sheet. You can choose this option if you want to have a backup history or track changes between different versions. Once the choice is made, press Continue.
- Now, it’s time to set the schedule for the updates. Toggle on the Automatic data refresh feature and specify your preferences. In this example, our Airtable data in Google Sheets will be updated every hour from Monday to Friday during business hours. If necessary, you can schedule updates every 15 minutes 24/7.
- Click Save and Run to launch the importer and the automatic updates. Here’s what the imported data looks like.
- Now, this spreadsheet will always contain the refreshed version of Airtable data.
- To export more views, you can copy this importer and keep all your settings. You’ll just need to provide another view’s link and select a different file or sheet for pasting data.
Basically, as you can see, setting an automated integration with this method is not much harder than sharing a view. You just need to create a shareable link and specify where you want to import your data on a regular basis.
You can follow the same flow to export Airtable to Excel or connect Airtable to BigQuery. Just select another destination source when you create the importer, and all the other steps will be pretty much the same. If you need more details, take a look at our article Airtable Export – The Ultimate Tutorial for Beginners and Experts.
How to create a workflow in Airtable
Automated workflows are a great way to optimize processes and save time and effort. If there is a repetitive task or situation that occurs regularly, you can automate it using trigger-and-action sequences. These flows can be rather complex and include up to 25 logically interconnected steps. In our example, we’ll build simpler automation, just to show how it works. We’ll set up automated email notifications for any changes in a database that we want to monitor. You’ll be able to build more complex sequences using the same method.
- To create a new workflow, go to your Airtable base and switch to the Automations tab.
- You’ll see a list of suggested triggers. Basically, a trigger is a condition under which a certain action should be performed. In our case, we want to receive a notification whenever the list of planned marketing activities is updated. So, we’ll select When a record is updated as a trigger.
- Next, we select the action – what should happen after the event specified in the trigger. In our example, it’s Send email.
- Once the trigger and action are defined, we need to provide some details to make it work. In the trigger section, we selected the table and view for which the automation is intended. It’s also possible to specify which fields you are interested in. In this case, we selected Watch all fields to get notified about any changes in this view.
- Now, the action. Here, we need to provide the email subject and message, as well as a comma-separated list of recipients.
- When this is done, toggle on the automation in the upper left corner.
- The automation is ready. You can run a test to see the preview of the email or just change something in the base and check your inbox. The notification is there.
Airtable CRM tutorial: what you need to get started
Strictly speaking, Airtable is not meant to serve as a CRM tool, and it won’t be able to fully substitute a designated CRM solution. However, if you run a small or medium-size business, it might just do the trick.
- First, collect your data for the SRM base and decide how you want to structure it. This includes anything related to customer interactions – data from the media channels you use, email lists, website engagement stats, etc. Review this data and prepare it for importing. For example, you can convert it to the CSV format or put it in a spreadsheet.
- Then, you’ll need to prepare an Airtable base. We’ve already described how to do this in the How to create a base in Airtable section, please refer to it for details. We recommend starting with a premade CRM template. You can use it as a starting point and then customize it to better fit your needs.
- Here, we’ve used the search field on the Templates page and found several templates to choose from. This is a great place to start.
- For additional options, you can navigate to the Airtable Universe. You can find it on the Templates page, at the bottom of the main menu on the left. The Airtable Universe is where users put their templates, so there are a lot of useful assets there.
- Select the template that feels the closest to what you need, and then customize it to your liking. Add new tables and views, change column types, add dependencies and automated workflows.
- Once the template is adjusted to your specific goals, clear the sample data and import your own data that you prepared in the beginning. We’ve already described earlier how to import data, work with templates, and edit your base, so you might want to look through these parts of the article again.
- In the end, you can get a pretty impressive CRM base with lots of useful features, like this one:
- In this example, you can build a sales pipeline, manage contacts, and track, organize, and analyze interactions.
That’s it! Now you know how to get started with your CRM base in Airtable. Once you feel more confident with this tool, you can always update your CRM base, adding some new elements and deleting what’s not needed.
Enjoyed this Airtable tutorial? There’s more to discover
To sum up, Airtable is an extremely flexible tool that can help you with a wide range of tasks. They vary from simply storing data to organizing complex processes, automating workflows, and even providing a decent CRM tool. When you already know how to create, edit, and use bases and views, don’t forget to ensure the safety of your data. You can create a self-updating backup copy using a data integration tool such as Coupler.io. It will help you sync Airtable with Excel, Google Sheets, or BigQuery. Alternatively, you can regularly export data manually in the CSV format. The latter option can make sense if you use Airtable mainly for storing data and your bases don’t change often.
In general, Airtable provides plenty of various opportunities to businesses of all sizes. If you want to learn more about this tool, these efforts will definitely pay off. For more information, take a look at our articles How to create reports in Airtable and How to link bases in Airtable.
We hope this tutorial was helpful to you. Good luck with your bases!Back to Blog