Workflows are by nature powered by people and so your base will likely have details about your team, clients or vendors. You can choose to use a Collaborator field type for simple cases or create a Person table to hold the information about the people in your organization. This article will help you understand the different benefits of the two approaches to capturing and using person information.
Recognizing the patterns
A good first step is to determine if the tasks you want to do require detailed person information.
Is this you?
- Do you need to include additional information about your collaborators such as emails and phone numbers?
- Do you need to create an organizational chart?
- Do you need to create summary information for each person such as the number of requests they have made?
- Do you need to customize integrations per coworker such as sending a summary email of daily events to only those people with a certain title?
- Do you need to use additional information about your team in a block such as location information for a map block or department name for a matrix block?
Is this your base?
Does your base contain several collaborator fields?
How to choose
Your decision here boils down to either a simple and automated solution with collaborator field types or a more complex but customized solution by adding a person table to your base.
Recommended for simple solutions to get you going quickly.
- Automatic notification when you (as a collaborator) are added to a record.
- Automatically start “watching” any record you have been added to as a collaborator.
- Instant list of all people who are collaborators in the base.
- Use when you only need the person's name (collaborator fields do not allow for additional information to be added).
- If using integrations, the email information for the collaborator is not available which limits some use cases.
Recommended to manage the fine-grained details about each person.
- Can add additional detail about the person including email, department, location.
- Can use in blocks like the Map Block or the Org Chart block.
- Need to create custom integrations to get notified when added to a record.
- Cannot get notified about comments.
- Can create self-referencing relationships to record how people are connected to one another.
How to change from collaborator fields to a person table
For the following step-by-step instructions, the Project Tracker template from the template gallery is used as the example.
Change the collaborator field to a linked record field.
When you choose a linked record field, select the Create a new table option and give the new table a name such as Person.
In the Project Tracker example, the Project Lead field is converted to a linked record field type and the new table is named Person. Notice that each person is listed only once in the new table and all the related design projects are automatically linked to the correct person.
Change all other collaborator fields to linked record fields but use the newly created Person field as the linked table.
If you have a field with multiple collaborators, the conversion to a linked record field is similar to the first step. However, because the Person table already exists, existing person records will be matched to the right collaborators plus new person records will be created as needed.
In the Project Tracker example, several new people are added as a result of the conversion.
Add additional information to the person table as needed.
You can add emails, websites, phone numbers, resumes and any other relevant information to the Person table.
In the Project Tracker example, we add emails and assign people to different design teams.
Create views to group people for different purposes.
In the Project Tracker example, a view could be created for each design team using a filter.
Use the person information to create new blocks.
On the Pro Plan, you can add blocks to include information from the new Person table.
In the Project Tracker example, you can see which design teams have project leads for which projects using a Matrix Block.
Add custom email notifications using an integration.
You can create even more advanced functionality in Airtable using integration service such as Zapier, IFTTT or Integromat. These integration services can “watch” for new records in a table or a view and then perform one to many actions. A common integration is to send an email from your own Gmail account with a custom message. You could use the email in the Person table to send an email to the Project Lead on a daily basis. To learn more about integrations, check out our guide to getting started with Zapier.