Airtable attachment URL behavior
  • 31 Aug 2023
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Airtable attachment URL behavior

  • Sombre
    Lumière
  • PDF

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Article Summary

Attachment files are stored and displayed as part of Airtable records, allowing you to attach one or more files directly to a record.

Introduction

Plan availabilityAll plan types/levels  
Platform(s)Web/Browser, Mac app, and Windows app
Related reading
Airtable terminology

Attachment - A file that's stored and displayed as part of a record. An attachment field is a type of field that allows you to attach one or more files directly to a record.

What are expiring attachment URLs?

The attachment viewer URL requires a viewer to be logged in via Airtable, whereas the download URL can be publicly accessed via a web browser. This presents a potential security risk for any files that contain sensitive information since a permanently accessible download URL would still be viewable even after a viewer has been removed from an Airtable workspace. For that reason, we introduced expiring attachment download URLs starting November 8th, 2022.

Airtable attachments can be viewed from:

  • An attachment viewer URL, from the domain airtable.com
  • An attachment download URL, from the domain airtableusercontent.com or subdomain dl.airtable.com

Where are expiring attachment URLs used?

Impacted Areas

As a result of expiring attachment download URL behavior, the following customer workflows in Airtable will change or are no longer be possible:

  • Public file hosting on Airtable - Expiring URLs disrupt the experience of using Airtable to publicly hosts files for other websites. 
  • Content sharing with external parties - Any workflows where a file stored on Airtable needs to be shared for a prolonged time with an external colleague is discouraged. Alternatively, we recommend sharing a view or interface with the colleague and asking them to download the file, should they need it for future reference.
  • Airtable formulas - Formulas that reference attachment fields will no longer work. Read more in the How do Formulas interact with the Attachment field? section.
  • Copying/Pasting - URLs obtained from copying/pasting an attachment cell value opens the file to the attachment viewer within Airtable instead of directly opening the file.
  • CSV exports - Download any attachments from the links in the exported CSV file before those links expire.
  • API - Similar to the previously mentioned CSV downloads, download any attachments from the links attachment obtained via Airtable’s API before those links expire.

Unimpacted areas

  • Form URLs
  • URL fields
  • Form fields
  • Google Drive, Box, or other third-party attachment storage services
  • URLs in text-based fields
  • Viewing an attachment through its attachment viewer URL from the domain airtable.com instead of the subdomain dl.airtable.com .
NOTE
While the attachment download URL formatting is no longer supported, we understand that Airtable users have built and relied on workflows to parse or interpret these URLs. While we unfortunately cannot accommodate all past usages, we have recommendations for replacing or working around specific use cases.
General recommendations
  • When sharing files with colleagues with access to the base where the attachment is stored, we recommend opening the attachment viewer window by clicking into the attachment field and pressing the spacebar—then copying/pasting the URL into your browser. (See GIF below.)
  • This attachment viewer URL does not expire and will not expire unless the attachment is removed or the record is deleted. Links will only be accessible to users added as collaborators in the workspace or base where the attachment is located.
  • If you are sharing a file with a colleague who isn't collaborating with you in Airtable, you will need to consider alternative ways of sharing the file attachment. We recommend navigating to the attachment in Airtable, downloading the file, and sharing it with the colleague via email, Slack, or another platform your organization uses. Alternatively, you can share a view with the colleague and ask them to download the file for their reference.
  • Learn how to extract attachment URL filenames.  
  • Anyone who needs to download a URL to access an attachment after the expiration period ends must use an external hosting service or integration—like Zapier, Workato, or your code—to store a copy of the attachment separately from Airtable.
Zapier integrations recommendations
For users relying on third-party integrations through Zapier that interact with Airtable attachments, we recommend the following steps to set up Zapier to store and use a copy of the attachment instead of the expiring download URL directly: 
  1. Go to an existing Zap that interacts with an attachment field. For example, you may have a Zap using the trigger "New record in Airtable" that emails an Airtable Attachment URL.
  2. In the above example, go to the "Set up trigger" step of that Zap, and set the option "Include file contents?" to "True."
  3. Adjust any later Zap actions relying on the Attachment field to use the new field instead. The new field will be named “Attachment field name File.” Note that this will only appear in Zapier due to updating the setting in step 2.

How do automations interact with the attachment field?

For Airtable automations that handle attachment records, there are 2 options for using attachment URLs:

  1. The attachment viewer URL property allows users to view the attachment but requires they are signed into Airtable.
  2. The expiring download URL property for use cases that intend to offer downloadable public links that will expire after some time.

We cover some deeper considerations related to image use in the Send email action in this article.

How do formulas interact with the attachment field?

Any attachments used as the output of a formula is no longer invalid and can’t provide access to the attachment. If you need access to the underlying expiring attachment download URL, please use the Attachment field directly:

FAQs

What is an attachment download URL?

Every file uploaded to Airtable in an attachment field has properties, including a unique ID, a URL directly to the file, a file name, and other data related to the file size, type, etc. The download URL property links to those files and will expire every few hours.

What kind of links will be impacted? If I have a link to a Box or a Google Drive folder, will it be affected?

Only links to attachments stored in Airtable will be affected. Links added to single line, long text, and URL fields are unaffected by this change.

How many hours will the download URLs remain active before expiring?

While Airtable may change this exact window, we will ensure that download URLs stay active for at least 2 hours after receiving them.

I use APIs to obtain an URL to an Airtable attachment, and this usage is integrated with other tools, e.g. Zapier. It seems the URLs will expire. What should I do?

If you, or a third-party integration, are using API processes to obtain attachment URLs from Airtable, then it’s important to note that the URLs obtained will only be active for a short period of time (~2 hours). Using Airtable as a CDN has been and continues to be discouraged in line with this change.


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