A linked record field allows you to represent the relationships between related records by creating links between them. This is particularly helpful when you have multiple tables of related items or concepts—for example, if you have a table of contacts and a table of companies, you can use a linked record field to link each contact to the company that they work for.
Linked record fields contain blue link tokens; each token represents the link from one record to another record. Clicking on the link will expand the record that has been linked to.
You'll definitely want to use a linked record field if:
- You have two tables of different types of items (e.g. books and authors), and you want to model the relationships between those two different types of items
- You want to access important information from another record in another table with a single click
- You want to avoid duplicating information across tables (which can lead to problems if you update it in one table but forget to update it elsewhere!) by using a lookup field
- You want to summarize information from another table using a rollup field
Basically, a linked record represents a relationship (a link!) between two different objects, ideas, or people.
Unlike a traditional spreadsheet, an Airtable base works like a relational database—which means that it's been designed from the ground up to represent the relationships between people, projects, ideas, and items. To represent these relationships, you use linked record fields, which link records in one table to records in another table (or the same table).
Linked record fields represent two-way relationships between records—for example, a linked record field called “Author(s)” in a table called “Books” doesn't just mean “This book was written by this author,” it also means “This author wrote this book.” Therefore, this means that linked record fields are reciprocal: whenever you create a linked record field in one table, another linked record field will be created in the table that you linked to. (The only exception to this is when you create a linked record field that links to its own table—see more on this below.)
If you delete a linked record field in one table (or change it to a different field type), the link gets broken and the field in the other table is converted to a single line text field.
If you want to learn more about how to model the different types of relationships that might exist in your base, try reading this beginner's guide to many-to-many relationships, which outlines the differences between one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many relationships, and explains how to represent these relationships in Airtable.