- 15 Aug 2023
- 16 Minutes to read
Troubleshooting Airtable automations
- Updated on 15 Aug 2023
- 16 Minutes to read
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Tips for troubleshooting
At times, you may experience issues with your automations. Though this article is not exhaustive, we do feel that this represents the bulk of the automation issues that Airtablets run into. Below are a few tips that will set you up for success when troubleshooting automation issues.
For instance, the "When a record is created" trigger is great to use for form submissions because all of the information in the record is submitted at the same time. However, if you are manually adding new records within Airtable, then another trigger will work better as the "When a record is created" trigger will run the automation before you have any time to enter information into the various fields in your base.
At times, a particular record may be missing information in a certain field that is imperative for your automation to test or run successfully. Knowing what the test record for your automations is can be extremely helpful in the troubleshooting process.
Individual automations can have only one trigger, but multiple action steps. When looking at the run history for an automation, you can click the drop-down and see which trigger or action(s) are failing. Here's an example of what a failed action step would look like:
If your automation is on and all steps have tested successfully but you are not seeing expected behavior, then it's necessary to look through your run history for more clues. Automation runs can fail for a variety of reasons. It's worth looking through multiple failed runs to see if there is a common trend.
You might see the following statuses in the run history section:
- Ran successfully - The automation was triggered and completed all of the actions for that particular automation run.
- Pending - The automation is currently working to complete all the neccessary actions related to the automation that was triggered. This may appear longer for automations that include complex scripting or other process-heavy actions.
- Run cancelled - The most common reason for this to show up is that an automation was turned off while it was in a pending (triggered) run state.
If you have multiple automations turned on, then look through those automations and consider their potential implications elsewhere in your base. For instance, an automation set to update another record may meet the conditions set in another automation that results in further changes to that record and/or makes it appear that the first automation has not run.
This example below is simplified, however, automations can be quite intricate. So, the testing rail is a great way to look at the entire automation and quickly identify which part(s) are currently experiencing an error or invalid setup. In the example below, we can see that the trigger is properly tested and performing nominally, but the "Send an email" action needs some attention.
Hovering over the warning symbol ⚠️ will provide additional context about the issue.
Automation on/off switch
This can be caused by an authentication issue, such as a password change, in automations that are connected to some other external software such as Google workspace, Facebook, Jira, Microsoft Teams, etc. To remedy, try reconnecting to the external software by choosing "Manage connected accounts" in the automation:
More info on connecting and managing external accounts can be found here.
Typically, an automation will not turn on if a trigger or an action step has not been fully set up. To remedy this, look back through your automation and check that all steps have been tested and any fields that should contain information have been configured.
An error in the trigger step is most often associated with these occurrences:
- There are no records that meet the conditions that have been set in the automation. The same holds true for external triggers. For example, there needs to be at least one row in the Google Sheet that you are connecting to Airtable in order to properly test the "New row trigger for Google Sheets." To solve this, add a new "test record" (or matching external condition) to the particular table and/or view that the automation is watching. This new record needs to contain information that will match any conditions set forth by the trigger step that was set up. For example, if the trigger has been set up to watch for any records containing a "Finished" status, then make sure that the record's status field is set to "Finished."
- The trigger links to an external service that is not currently connected to your Airtable account. For Google Workspace, Outlook, or other externally-based triggers, make sure that you have successfully connected (authorized) the external account with Airtable. Those processes are discussed in the linked articles above.
Errors in action steps can happen for many reasons. The most common reasons are:
- The trigger step in the automation has not been successfully tested yet. To fix this, go to the trigger step and retest that step so that you see the "Test ran successfully" message.
- A record that triggered the automation to run is missing a necessary value for the action step to run. An example of this might be the "Send an email " action where a valid email address is needed for the email to send out. To fix this, look at the run history for information on which failed runs were associated with records missing an email address. You can add the email address into that particular record's email field and rerun the automation.
- If you see an error containing the phrase, "Could not parse number", the action is probably failing because you are attempting to set a field's value using a mathematical operation. We do not currently support using mathematical operations to set field values within Automation actions.
- New records can no longer be added because the base that the automation is attempting to create a record in is currently over its plan’s record limits. To fix this issue, upgrade the workspace for the base in question to increase its record and storage limits. Alternatively, you can reduce the total number of records in the base until it is once again under its workspace plan’s record threshold.
Sometimes, automations will become broken due to something outside of Airtable's control. An example of this is when an automation uses a Google Sheets trigger. After an automation has been successfully set up and tested, renaming the Google Sheet used in the trigger step will break the automation. There are many different ways this kind of asynchronous, background breakage can happen. When a situation like this occurs an error icon will appear next to the automation that is broken. Additionally, the automation's configuration window will show a message.
To resolve this behavior investigate the various parts of the automation and consider changes made outside of Airtable that may have caused the automation to break.
This error usually means:
- The Automation action is trying to update a field or a table with editing permissions enabled.
- There are some restrictions on the linked table preventing the automation from creating a new record. This can be attributed to the fact that either table-level permissions are enabled or the table is a synced table and thus new records can't be created.
- An automation action is attempting to insert a value into a computed field type. (Formula, Rollup, Lookup, Count, etc.)
- An automation action is attempting to insert a value into the primary field of a linked record field and there isn't a direct match to that value as the primary field of an existing record on the linked table. In these cases, the automation will try to create a new record on that table with that value. This scenario could encounter any of the other three permissions issues discussed above and therefore cause this error message to appear.
I received an email that an automation failed
If an automation fails to run, you should receive an email with the subject, "Something went wrong with an automation". See the example below for what that email looks like.
To fix this, click the "View automation" button in the email and then look at the run history for information on which runs failed and to help determine why the failure occurred. Here, you'll also have the opportunity to rerun the failed runs.
Sometimes, clicking the rerun option will also fail. It's possible that some part of the automation is broken and needs to be updated. However, even after updating the automation to run correctly, the rerun option will still not work. This is because the automation is still attempting to run the automation in its previous state, the configuration state of the automation when the run was first attempted. In this case, you may need to build out a custom automation using a different manual trigger, such as a checkbox field, to "rerun" the automation.
Unexpected automation output
Here are just two common examples of when a record might retrigger an automation that has previously run:
- Record restoration - A deleted record that is restored from the base's trash may cause additional automation runs to occur if the record that is restored matches any of the trigger conditions set in the automations currently enabled in that base.
- Record "re-enters" a view - Records may enter and exit a view multiple times depending upon the filters that have been configured for that particular view. This means that a slight alteration to the record might cause it to either enter or exit a view. Since the "When record enters a view" trigger fires each time a record enters a view, even a brief change of state where a record entered, or exited and then re-entered, a view will cause an automation to run again. Checking the revision history of a record that unexpectedly triggered the automation to run will often provide clarity of the cause of the automation run.
When sending an email via Automations, hyperlinked text can support URLs up to 1,000 characters long. If a URL string is more than 1,000 characters, the text cannot be hyperlinked and the full URL string will be displayed in the sent email instead.
The places we most commonly see issues surrounding this issue include:
- A field being referenced in the automation is blank, which leads to a blank result somewhere else in your base.
- A change or changes were made in the base, but the trigger and action steps were not retested to match the base's current configuration.
- Automation is configured, but not turned on.
- Another automation is conflicting with this automation resulting in unexpected values.
Looping automations can occur when:
- The action step of your automation is retriggering the trigger step of your automation. One example would be using the "When a record enters a view" trigger alongside the "Create a new record" action. If the conditions in the automation cause the newly created record to enter the view from the trigger step, then, once turned on, this automation will loop endlessly until you've exhausted your workspaces plan limits. Reach out to our support team if this occurred on accident so that we can help to reset your run counter for the month.
- Two or more automations within the same base are conflicting with one another in a way that causes one automation to trigger another and so on. To remedy this, turn all of your automations off, then go through the automations and check for any potential overlapping triggers and actions. Finally, turn on each automation one by one. If turning on a particular automation causes a loop to begin, then you can identify that automation as the root or at least part of the issue.
The places we most commonly see issues surrounding this issue include:
- An automation's action step is causing a new single or multiple select choice to be created. This could be due to mistyped characters, hidden characters, or case-sensitivity issues.
- An automation's action step is triggering another automation to run.
You can create a formula field using DATETIME_FORMAT() (see formula field reference for more info) to format the field data value as you wish. Do this by using your chosen datetime format specifier, then reference the formula field from the automation. Using a formula field to specify formatting can also help with number and duration fields.
It is important to remember that automations do not append information, they replace (overwrite) information. This means that if a field happens to be cleared in a certain record, then the automation output would clear the field being updated in another Airtable record. In other words, the information previously held in the updated record will be removed. It is possible to build an automation that will output information in a way that it looks to be appended, but the process will vary depending upon the workflow and Airtable base setup.
When uploading an attachment in Airtable, the file is first staged in a temporary upload status. Once fully processed, the attachment is fully loaded and available from Airtable's servers. In automations that depend on attachment fields to run properly, this can lead to 2 different unexpected outputs:
- Doubled automation runs - Both the temporary upload status and the fully processed attachment can trigger an automation run. This can lead to two automation runs when only one attachment has been uploaded.
- Mismatched URLs - It is possible for an automation to use a URL to our temporary uploads bucket instead of a reference to a persistent URL once the attachment has been fully loaded on Airtable's servers.
Why aren't the date, or time-based, conditions in my "Find records" action, conditional logic, or "When a record matches conditions" trigger evaluating correctly?
Automations run on GMT since that is the default timezone that Airtable operates on behind the scenes. When setting up time-based conditions in Automations you may need to adjust times manually or create a formula to auto-adjust times so that the conditions evaluate according to your timezone.
Tips when contacting support
If the previous steps didn't fix the issue, then our Support team is able to provide guidance, however, full workflow buildouts are not currently something we can support. Please include an online-hosted screen recording (Loom, CloudApp, etc.) in your request to our Support team so we can speed up the troubleshooting process. We discourage sending MP4 files in your support request or uploading videos to Google Drive as these often prevent our support team from accessing the screen recording file.
For the best support, slowly walk us through the entire automation workflow including the bullet points listed below:
- A brief summary of what you are trying to accomplish.
- Where you perceive the error to be occurring.
- Show the trigger test output and any related fields in Airtable.
- If the trigger you've chosen for the automation is related to actions that occur in an external service (Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), then please show us that process as well.
- Show the action(s) test output and any related fields in Airtable.
- If applicable, show the Run History and a failed run's details.
If you can't create a screen recording, then you can alternatively provide the following screenshots:
- A screenshot of the table and view used for the Automation (please include any related fields if possible).
- A screenshot of the Automation trigger and any related fields in the base. (Make sure the trigger has successfully been tested)
- A screenshot of the Automation action and any related fields in the base. (Make sure the action(s) have successfully been tested)
- If applicable, a screenshot of the Run History and a failed run's details.
Automations are designed to run almost immediately. However, if the load on the base is high, they will be delayed because they are queued behind earlier base operations.
Things to try:
- Test the trigger and all actions in order. Check that the tests pass. Sometimes, the test for a step will fail because the step uses data from a previous step, but that previous step has old test data.
- Are you referencing data from a previous step that isn't there when the automation runs? (E.g. Are you trying to insert a field value from a record into an email, and that record field value is blank?)
- Test all previous steps in order and make sure those tests pass.
- See "Why is my automation failing?"
When an automation is turned on, it will trigger when its trigger conditions have been satisfied from that moment forward. Records that were already meeting its trigger conditions when it was turned on will not trigger the automation unless they can meet the trigger conditions again. In this scenario, you can get an automation to trigger on existing records by editing them or the automation so that they no longer meet the trigger conditions, and then making it so they do meet the trigger conditions again.
For example, if your automation trigger was "when a record matches conditions" and your condition is when Status = "Done", you could change the Status field to a different value (i.e. "In progress") and then back to "Done".
Alternatively, you could create a new field specifically to trigger this automation -- a checkbox field works great for this! Once you've created the field, add a condition to your automation trigger: when Checkbox field = ✅ AND Status = "Done". Since no records currently match both conditions, if you tick the Checkbox field for a given record that also has a Status of "Done", it will satisfy the new trigger conditions and trigger the automation.
The user who last switched it on.
This could be for a variety of reasons. For example:
- If you're seeing repeated executions for the same triggering event, this could be because the automation is stuck in a loop, where one automation causes another to run. This then causes the first automation to run again.
- If you're using the "When record enters view" trigger, note that modifying the view filters could cause records to exit and then re-enter the view, which would trigger the automation to run.
The expression builder is designed to prevent you from inserting data that does not match the expected data shape of your current input field, so it may prevent you from inserting an array or object-like item into an input that expects a string or number.
Likely, the cause is that the test record's email field is blank. If you know how to determine the test record, then you can use that information to troubleshoot and find a solution.