- 03 May 2023
- 6 Minutes to read
Linking records in Airtable
- Updated on 03 May 2023
- 6 Minutes to read
When you’re managing a workflow, there’s a lot of information to keep track of. Knowing which project connects to which client, or which venue you’re using for which event, is crucial to staying on task—and keeping all those relationships straight can get messy fast!
In Airtable, not only can you store every piece of key information in a record, but you can also easily link those records together to capture the dynamic relationships between them. In this guide, you’ll learn how to link records in Airtable today!
IN THIS GUIDE, LEARN HOW TO:
- Define the relationships between information that matters for your workflow
- Create the right structure to connect and easily reference related information
- Keep your information clean and reduce duplicate data entry
Step 1:Define your relationships
Concepts covered: base, table, record
Before you start building relationships between your records, you’ll want to make sure you know what those relationships should look like.
What information you’re tracking, and how it connects together, is completely dependent on your workflow. You might have a list of projects, a list of action items, and a list of clients. Or maybe you have a list of events, a list of attendees, and a list of venues.
In Airtable, it’s a best practice to capture each of these lists in a separate table, where you can store each item and all of its details. But keeping your lists in separate tables doesn’t mean they have to live in isolation—and they shouldn’t! Our projects have related action items, events have attendees, and so on. In the next step, we’ll talk about how to create these connections in your Airtable base.
→ For now, think about your workflow and map out which information you want to connect together. Make sure you have each piece of information stored in the right table before you move on (if you want more help thinking through the right table setup, check out this guide to structuring your base effectively).
Step 2:Create your relationships
Concepts covered: linked record
Now that you’ve got your lists set up in tables, it’s time to build relationships between your information. Airtable’s linked record field allows you to create connections between different records—and you have two options for how to set yours up.
Option 1: Create a link between two existing tables
The first step in creating those valuable relationships in your workflow—projects to action items or attendees to events—is to create a linked record field. Since you’re creating a link between both tables you can create this field in either related table.
Once you have your linked record field created, clicking on the + will bring up the records of the linked table to select from. You can now link individual records together, relating this project to these action items, for example. This will create the relationship between those two specific records.
Anytime you link two records together, you’ll notice that the association is mirrored in the other table. These reciprocal links allow you to see related information in each table so you know which action items are related to which project and which projects are associated with which action items!
→ Go ahead and create your linked records. First, create the linked record field to capture the relationships you had mapped out in the previous step between two related tables. Once you have the linked record field added, link relevant records together from either table.
Option 2: Convert an existing field into a new linked table
It’s normal that as your workflow grows in complexity, you will need to manage additional information. Using linked records, it’s simple to expand any dimension of your table into a separate, linked table so you can add more context.
For example, with only a few clients, it’s easy to keep on top of client–project relationships with a single select or single-line text field. In doing so, you limit client information to their name which is the option captured in the single select.
As your client list grows, you may want to track additional information for each client: their address, logo, preferred payment method, or point of contact.
To expand any dimension of your workflow, you can create a linked record from an existing field. This will create a new table from the values in your existing field, creating one record for each value. The new table will have linked records to the original table maintaining the existing relationship.
Now that the clients are tracked in a separate table, you can add additional information that’s important to the new dimension of your workflow without losing the connection to your projects.
→ Consider which elements of your workflow (venues, clients, products, or anything else!) you would like to expand the information tracked beyond a single field. For any element identified, turn that field into a linked record, and add additional details to the new linked table.
Step 3: Leverage your relationships
Concepts covered: expanded record , lookup field
Workflows are always evolving and so is the information they contain. With relationships established between your different tables, you can use your linked record fields to see relevant information at a glance and create a single source of truth.
Want to see the status of action items related to a project without leaving your table? Enlarge the linked record field to see additional fields for each linked record. Want to further hone in on a specific action item? Expand any linked record to see all of its details and fields.
With your linked record fields, you can also keep consistent information across your workflow. Using a lookup field, you can dynamically display information stored in linked records. Any updates to the original field will persist in the lookup.
Say you want to keep an eye on the project due date for your action items. To do so, you can create a lookup field in your action items table that will pull in each linked project’s due date. Any changes to the project due date will be automatically reflected across all action items tied to that project. Now you have a single place to update your information which gets rippled across your workflow keeping your information consistent and eliminating any duplicative data entry.
→ Try accessing your connected information across tables by expanding a linked record to view all of its details. Next, create lookup fields so you can see the information where you need it for any fields that could be relevant across linked tables (project due date, client’s email address, assets for a campaign, sprint status or anything else!)
You’ve taken three key steps to linking records in Airtable :
✓ You defined how your workflow’s information is related
✓ Then you created the relationships to link related information
✓ Finally, you leveraged your relationships to easily find relevant information and reduce manual data entry
Now that you’ve completed these three steps, you can stay on top of the multiple relationships that power your workflow without duplicating information!
Want to keep learning how to leverage your linked records? Check out our guide to rollups. Want to dive deeper into how to design your base? Check out our guide on relationship types.