Should You Use Airtable or Excel? Part 1
Updated: May 23
If you are considering using Airtable databases over your typical spreadsheets application then you have found the right place! This article and associated YouTube video will help guide you into making the best decision for your organization's unique data and automation needs.
Recording data in an organized and easily accessible way is an important part of running a business or non-profit. Airtable or spreadsheets, such as Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel, are all softwares that you can use to manage your data.
"But the question is which tool is right for you?"
When deciding whether to use Airtable databases or spreadsheets for your company's needs, it is important to understand the unique benefits of each software and how they compare to one another. Your organization is unique and has unique needs, and you should make decisions accordingly.
Benefits of Airtable
1. App and Mobile Experience
Airtable’s mobile app is easy and convenient to use, allowing you to view and edit records on-the-go without any fuss.
2. Helpful Templates
Within Airtable there are a variety of templates so that you don’t have to start from scratch, such as a project tracker or content calendar. Use pre-existing Airtable templates to your advantage!
3. Broad Functionality
Airtable is an incredibly useful software for a variety of industries and specific use cases, such as non-profit organizations, entertainment, or sales driven industries. And the best part? It’s extremely customizable to your company's specific needs!
Airtable automations are also incredibly useful when it comes to streamlining your workflow.
4. Types of Views
There are a variety of useful and interactive views within an Airtable database, including a calendar view, a kanban view, and even a gallery view with visual thumbnails, and this is just scratching at the surface of what is available! These visual views are especially useful in managing your company's workflows and projects.
Airtable forms are also an excellent way to add data to your Airtable base.
5. Attachment fields
You can upload any document or drag/drop files directly into an Airtable database, saving you the trouble and time from having to search for a file.
6. Activity log
Airtable’s activity log allows you to see all the various changes that have been made to a specific record. You can even leave comments and/or action items for team members as necessary.
Benefits of Using Spreadsheets
I want to preface this section by saying that although we clearly love Airtable here at AirOps, we can definitely appreciate the fact that spreadsheets have some wonderful features as well, and definitely has its place as a useful tool in many organizations.
1. Cell-based Formulas
With spreadsheets, you get the option of setting up a formula for a single cell that can give you the option to apply that rule to an entire column or if needed, just the relevant cells. In Airtable, formulas must be set-up for each column and will be applied to all records in said column.
2. More Robust Reporting
Spreadsheet applications tend to have an excellent reporting interface that allows you to visualize data in a very granular way.
Airtable does have the ability to download apps such as the charts app, which is great for basic reporting and super easy to configure, but Airtable reporting is still lacking a bit on the more advanced analysis piece. That being said, new apps are constantly being added.
3. Simplicity & Accessibility
Chances are you and everyone else knows someone who is proficient in using Excel, that makes it straightforward to get help when needed. Airtable is more likely an individual learning experience, but there are community resources such as Slack or Facebook groups where Airtable users can connect. You can also find many Airtable tutorial videos online, including the how-to videos on the AirOps Consulting Youtube Channel.
4. Free/no additional cost
Everyone has probably used or at least seen spreadsheets at some point and can easily access them without any fees. Airtable does have a free version and you can check out more Information on Airtable pricing to see if it’s right for you.
5. Flash fill
Spreadsheets have the ability to automatically fill your data when it sees a pattern. For example, you can use Flash fill to either separate or combine first and last names into columns. Though this can be done in Airtable, you will need a formula field.
There is likely a greater maximum number of rows of data in a spreadsheet than in an Airtable database, leaving more room to scale. Airtable’s Pro account, which most of our clients use, allows a database to have 50,000 records (or rows of data).
Unfamiliar with Airtable?
If you find Airtable appealing, but you’re concerned that you wouldn’t know how to use the database tool, keep in mind when making your decision that anyone can learn to use Airtable and there are many resources available to help you.
Are you still unsure about whether to choose Airtable or spreadsheets for your company? Maybe you are a more advanced spreadsheet user and are interested in learning more about Airtable's capabilities. If this is the case, I highly encourage you to check out the Airtable tutorial video Airtable vs. Excel/Google Sheets Part 2 (Updated 2021), which goes over some of the more advanced features of each software.
Interested in Learning More?
There are a variety of free resources on the Internet that can help you to learn how to understand the benefits of both Airtable and spreadsheets, and how to use those benefits to serve your team’s unique needs. There are several Airtable tutorial videos on the AirOps Consulting YouTube Channel that will guide you through setting up an Airtable for your team’s specific needs, and if you are keen to learn even more, you can pre-register for our Airtable Bootcamp by filling out the Airtable form. If you would rather consult with an expert, you can book an initial consultation with our team using our calendly link. AirOps Consulting is a full-service database consulting company that helps organizations with all of their Airtable needs.