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Airtable as a replacement for Excel

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Lemon Slice
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Airtable as a replacement for Excel


Postby AndyPandy » January 17th, 2021, 10:58 am

Like many people I use Excel for managing aspects of my Business. Actually, for 'use', replace with 'used'.

An Ad for Airtable popped up in my Facebook feed about a year ago, tried it, didn't get the hang of it. A change in Business circumstances (fellow Director leaving giving me more freedom to change things) meant that I revisited it. I now use it for so much where I would have used Excel.

It doesn't replace the number crunching aspect of Excel, but to give you examples of what I use it for:

I run a training Company. I would have a list of courses (dates, status, payment status and so on), trainers (name, qualifications, contact etc), course types. For each new course I would add a row and populate it. Always tricky to make sure formatting and references followed.

I also trade First Aid consumables so need to manage stock.

I Teach, so have a checklist for equipment to take with me depending on the course I teach (Workplace courses don't need paediatric Annies for instance).

Al this functionality is now on Airtable. It (as it proclaims) is a cross between a Database and a Spreadsheet. You create a sheet with everything on, then use 'Views' which is a very easy way of creating a Report. So, for instance I can create a View of courses by date, or by status or by Client that hasn't paid (effectively sorting by columns, however they are all 1-click available, whereas if you sort by a column in Excel you then need to resort to see a different view. Yes, I know in Excel you could probably create new sheets with the different views and the data linked across but it's quite an effort and I never trust that all my links are correct if I insert / delete rows in Excel.

Columns can be defined as a wide range of types - text, checkbox, links to other tables. Views can filter out unwanted columns, be sorted by one or more columns, grouped and colour coded.

Anyway the upshot is that if anyone is looking for an easier way of manipulating lists than Excel & doesn't want to use a pure database take a look. The Free version is pretty generous. but I've upgraded to the paid version which is not unreasonable ($144 pa) for the time it is saving me. First Aid qualifications last 3 years and trying to send reminders out via my spreadsheets from 3 years ago is laborious. I'm looking forwards to two years time when the Airtable ones come up for renewal. It will be a doddle in comparison. Set a column for renewal status, pull out client names / emails etc.

No connection apart from being a happy customer,
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Re: Airtable as a replacement for Excel


Postby brightncheerful » December 12th, 2021, 1:38 pm

I use Airtable but combined with Excel, not as a replacement for Excel.

For my needs, the attraction of AT is cloud-based and flexible layout (free form). I find proprietary systems limited /limiting by comparison.

My principal uses for AT are for my law library and my database of commercial property. Previously I used Filemaker Pro for my law library but nowadays a combination of AT and Devonthink 3 (an app for Apple only). (DT's search capabilities are excellent: my law library is mostly pdfs and i can usually find what I'm looking for instantly.

The law library is fixed data (approximately 4500 records, several more additions every day). To have different views filtered and grouped for subjects etc is easier than designing layouts in FM. The global search is ok but I tend to create a keyword for the results to avoiding using the global search more than i have to. Most of the automations and apps (add-ons are of no use to me.

For the commercial property data I don't find AT as flexible as FM or Excel, A table on AT isn;'t really a table in the same way as it would appear on FM>
For example, on FM I have 11 rows (cells) in each of 10 columns 11 rows (ie, 110 fields), By aligning each column and the respective cells above/below and left/right I can display information in tight formation as if a table. To do the same on AT I have to have 110 fields but there is no way (at least I haven't found out how) to align them for display in tight formation as if a table.

I don't use Excel for anything sophisticated, just for simple arithmetic: add, subtract, multiply, divide. Also I can format the cell to suit. On AT I have three fields to add the lease term in years to a start year to automatically calculate the end year

I'm told the maximum number of fields per table is 300 and maximum number of records per base 100,000 - more than that and I'm in the enterprising pricing. I have some 80,000 records from FM to migrate which I'm doing manually one by one (i know I could export but how I've done FM would /could cause issues there, also annually I can tidy the info and rethink what information to keep.

In Excel i have designed a worksheet for calculating sqft or sqm from the dimensions regardless of whether a dimension is in imperial or metric. I suspect that would be impossible to do in AT. Also for display aesthetics I'd have to hide any unused fields in AT where as Excel I I simple delete them and insert or add and when.

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Re: Airtable as a replacement for Excel


Postby skyshield » June 24th, 2024, 12:18 pm

It's great to hear how you've successfully integrated Airtable into managing different facets of your business! I've found it especially handy for projects where flexibility and collaboration are key.

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Re: Airtable as a replacement for Excel


Postby kltrader » June 24th, 2024, 12:47 pm

The ability to quickly switch between views and the intuitive handling of relationships between different datasets make it a robust alternative to traditional spreadsheets.

For anyone contemplating whether to switch from classic tools like Excel, why use Airtable is a pertinent question. It offers a dynamic blend of database functionalities with spreadsheet ease, making it ideal for handling complex data relationships while maintaining simplicity in user interactions.

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Re: Airtable as a replacement for Excel


Postby stewamax » June 24th, 2024, 3:22 pm

Interesting that posters compared Airtable to Excel.
In the MSFT stable, I would have used Access rather than Excel for the examples shown. In Access terms, the Airtable Views (LHS) are Reports, where a each Report is preceded by a (linked) Query. The selections defined by the Query can range from simple selections ('country = UK') through to full-blown SQL - far better than Excel's rather clunky mechanism.

Airtable may, however, occupy a useful niche between spreadsheet and database management system. Not unusual: I still Adobe's discontinued Fireworks because many of my web applications need a mix of bitmap and vector graphics editor, a half-way house between Illustrator and InDesign in one package.

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Re: Airtable as a replacement for Excel


Postby AndyPandy » June 30th, 2024, 7:01 pm

I think that an advantage of AT over Access is that it is IMO more user friendly. Whilst I'm IT literate you are pretty much starting from scratch with Access. AT has loads of worked examples, written by users that you can clone, see how they function and hit the ground running.

Functionality and colour coding help me understand the results intuitively, even if some of the linking sometimes needs a bit of head-scratching. Certainly helped me get something useful up in short order.

My latest WIP is a Portfolio Manager. Until a few years ago I subscribed to StockMarketEye. That went very Pete Tong when it was taken over and eventually folded. Some brave souls still try to keep it running but I've transferred to Airtable. I have 3 Bases to Manage it (Transactions, Dividends (easier to manage separately than listing in Transactions), and Security list. A fourth totals everything so I can see total position and a fifth imports prices from ADVFN (on-demand, rather than real-time but that suffices). That import updates prices back to the other Bases.

A good replacement for SME and the Reporting is so easy to set up.






I also have a subscription to Stockopedia but its Portfolio functionality falls well short of what I need - I have it for the analysis mainly, but it's there as a back-up.

The ADVFN sub is just the free one. I stick a dummy portfolio on there with all the securities and then can export Live prices to CSV, which I can import to Airtable via a free extension.

Dividend data - dates, amounts etc are entered from RNSs (hat tip to Ian) and also, err,

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