Airtable first look

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I had seen Airtable pop up a number of times. I thought it was just another team tool, like Notion & ClickUp, and it is, to an extent, but its also a DataBase , but a friendly one that you can share. It allows you to create tables and link the tables together. Also to modify them and use some colour coding as well. There is a free plan as well as paid plans. The limit on the free plan is 1200 rows of data per Database, and you can have as many databases as you want.

The video below gives you a good overview of the programme. You can use it as a personal tool or share it with others.

The 12 Minute Airtable Guide from Airtable on Vimeo.

Like Notion & Clickup it has a Desktop and Mobile app as well as the online access, so its transportable and accessible from anywhere with an internet connection ( I should check to see if the desktop works off-line too).

So, like Notion, it has a database and tables which can be filtered and displayed in different ways. A bit more powerful as you can link between tables too. I don’t think you can link bases (databases) so they are stand-alone.

You can display them as cards or tables or views and calendar, so a variety of ways to display your data. Notion & Clickup have these features. Usingfilters, you can send a view to someone else and they can just filter the information that pertains to them, so they can work on their allocated tasks.

Templates and examples

A nice feature is that it has Template & Universe tabs that show off what others have done, so you can use some pre-built tools which could speed up your setup. There was one in the Universe tab that was about a snag list of building defects with attached images. You could send this to contractor to work on. A simple process.

Forms linked to tables

Another nice feature is the Form, this links to a table. So you can send a link or embed the form, people can fill it out and the data populates that table. A really neat way of getting information directly into your Database.

Calendar push to Google Calendars

There is a calendar function, and you can PUSH your AirTable calendar to Google Calendars, which is good. If you want to sync them, then you have to use Zapier from what I’ve seen so far (Clickup more integrated with Google Calendars). It also has some tools on IFTTT although limited (send an email if someone adds something…boring).

Import/Export to CSV

You can import and export via a CSV which is great. So you can already have a table structure and import it to start working on the data.

Printing

One thing I haven’t found yet is a hard copy print function. Sharing links etc with others, fine, but at some point you may want a PDF or hardcopy. I stand corrected, see here.

Starting a process- Asset Register & colour schedule for Revit

When I started to look at it I thought I’d try and use it as an asset management tool for my property. So set up a table with all of the spaces and started to fill in all the room data information on walls, floor, ceiling, doors, windows before I realised that I could make a window table and link it to the main Room table.

Then I had an issue in that I could bring the windows across, as the window codes, but couldn’t figure out how to bring a specific column across from the linked table. You do this using a new column with a LOOKUP field. The video below shows how this is done towards the end of the video:

Go to about 5.30 min in to see the Lookup example. You may have to weatch earlier to see how the tables are linked.

I then thought, this is an interesting tool, I wonder if I could use it to do a representative colour scheme for a property? I was thinking in terms of managing a Revit building project.

So, lets step back a pace and look at the workflow.

  • In Revit you have Category Schedules, like walls, floors, ceilings, joinery, windows, doors etc.
  • You can use the export function from Revit to send the schedules to an Excel file,
  • The Excel file can be converted to a CSV file
  • Which can be imported into Airtable
  • Also you can export a CSV file from Airtable
  • So there is a 2 way process that can be used. A bit arduous, but workable

You could make tables in Airtable for all the Category schedules in Revit, like walls, floors, ceilings, joinery, windows, doors etc and assign colours to them, then create a view where you can colour them.

ndow table with colours for windo
Main Table of rooms with links to window table and specific fields in windows table (using lookup). Colour filter did not work as I expected as it puts a colour bar to the left of the Row, rather than colouring all the row. So this defeated my intention of the colur scheme Idea I was testing .

The last part I am having issues with. It seems you cannot colour cells. So the idea of colour scheme doesn’t work. I think that may best be done inside Excel or another spreadsheet like LibreOffice or Google Sheets with VLookup() function. I ended up leaving AirTable to work on that idea.

Revit & AirTable

The reason that AirTable appealed to me is that Revit is a modelling Database, you get relationships between parts in the model, such as rooms, doors, windows etc. You can schedule quantities within Revit and export them to others in the team, such as Project Managers, Quantity Surveyors and Estimators but it would be nice to have the information in tables that you can link and extrapolate. You can do this in spreadsheets but I personally have issues with the visibility of formulas across sheets in workbooks, maybe due to my limited use of them. I have a lot more confidence in databases.

What I would like is to make the Revit data more easily accessible to people not using the BIM programmes, so they can easily manipulate and manage the data. But looking above at the process of getting the information from Revit to Airtable, you may as well just stop in the intermediate stage of spreadsheets, apart form some scheduling processes that you can push data through to calendars or allocate team members tasks and resources to manage.

Reflecting on the last couple of paragraphs I think AirTable is more suitable to managing tasks ( Construction project management) rather than modelling/costing/creating initial cost analysis/processes that are done on the fly (document design process). It lends itself to the communication of multiple parties as the project progresses.

End comment

I like this tool, it is across devices, so accessible, it can be connected to calendars which is good.

My chosen process was not suited to this tool, but I found it easy to use and to create relationships. The YouTube videos were helpful in helping me quickly find out how a feature would work.

I just need to find an appropriate project to use it on. I will now head back to colour schemes in Excel after trying to start it in LibreOffice.

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