So you've just made your first new base—now it's time to make it your own! First, we'll learn about the different parts of a base, then, we'll learn how you can customize each of them to fit your needs.
- Each base is made up of one or more tables. A table contains a list of items of the same type—like people, ideas, or projects.
- Each table is comprised of records and fields. By default, a table looks like a grid, with records as the rows and fields as the columns.
- A record is an individual item in a table.
- Information related to each record is stored in rich fields. Each field can store a different type of information, like text, checkboxes, file attachments, ratings, select options, and more.
- You can change a field's type and adjust its formatting with the field customization menu.
- You can expand a record to see all its associated details in a card-like layout.
Let's imagine that you're a record label executive in charge of scouting new talent and managing artists. You need some way to track all of your artists. Who are the up-and-coming prospects, who are we in negotiations with, and who is currently signed to the label? When does each artist's contract expire? What genres of music does each artist specialize in? What music has each artist released through our label?
Rather than trying to fit our existing workflow to prebuilt software, we can make our own Airtable base from scratch to manage all this information (and more!).
When you first make a base from scratch, you'll see a single blank table containing a grid with three empty example rows (which are called records) and three empty example columns (which are called fields).
A table contains a list of items of the same type—like people, ideas, or objects. Each base needs at least one table, and if your base is tracking different types of items, it'll probably make sense to divide your base into multiple tables. For example, a base for a sales pipeline could have separate tables for sales leads, companies, and deal opportunities, whereas a base for planning a wedding could have separate tables for potential venues, attendees, and wedding registry items.
Toward the top of your base, you'll see a tab that says "Table 1." Our new base starts out with just this one table. Eventually, we might want to add more tables to our base, but for now, let's just rename Table 1 to "Artists." This table is where we'll put all the information that we want to track for the artists.
To rename a table, click on the dropdown arrow next the to the table name, select the Rename table option, and type in the desired new table name.
Each row that you see in the grid is called a record. A record is an individual item in a table and could be many different things: for example, if you're making a table of tasks that need to be completed, then each row in your table is a task; if you're brainstorming a list of new ideas, then each row in your table is a new idea.
Since this is our Artists table, each record in in the table is going to be a different artist that we want to store information about. Let's go ahead and fill in the names of three artists in the first column (the one that says “Name” at the top).
We'll want to make a few more records to fill out this table. There are a couple of ways you can make new records. You can click the last row at the bottom of the grid to create a new blank row. If you right-click on a record, you can also select the menu option to add a new record above or below the currently selected record.
Additionally, you can also select any cell and use the keyboard shortcut Shift + Enter to insert a new record below the selected cell. Now, using whatever methods you want, go ahead and add some more records to this table.
When you're done, your table should look something like this. Feel free to download this CSV to use yourself, or directly copy the artist names in this embedded table and paste them into your own base.
By default, you'll see three columns in your table: Name, Notes, and Attachments. These columns are called fields, and they give you a structure in which you can put the details that are relevant to each record.
Each field has a special field type that determines what kind of rich information you can put in it, like long text notes, drag and drop file attachments, checkboxes, dropdown select options, and more. By picking and choosing the correct field types, you can make a base that's custom-fit for your unique needs!
The three fields that you start with all have different types. The Name field, for example, is a single line text field, which is suited for short, unique pieces of text. It's a great place for our artists' names to go, so let's leave them there for now.
The Notes field is a long text field, which is good for holding multiple lines of text. We can use this to store biographical information or other notes about each of the artists. Just click into a cell and start typing to add info to a long text field. If you'd like, you can click the arrow button to expand the cell.
The Attachments field lets you upload one or more files to individual records, including photos, mp3s, PDFs, and word documents. We can use this field to store pictures of the different artists. You can drag and drop files into the individual cells, or you can click on the gray plus sign button that appears when you click into a cell to bring up an image upload dialog.
After filling out your first three fields, your table should look something like this:
Feel free to download this CSV to use yourself, or directly copy and paste the cells in this embedded table and paste them into your own base.
Of course, there's much more information that we could store about each of these artists—for example, the status of their contract (if they have one), the date their contract is slated to end, their preferred musical genres, or the albums they've released through our label. Let's make some more fields that will let us organize all the information we need!
You can add a new field by clicking the + button in the header row. Alternatively, you can right-click on the header row, then select the menu option to Insert left or Insert right.
By default, this will create a new single line text field called "Field 4" and open up the field customization menu for that new field. Let's rename this field to "Status," and use it to track the status of each artist's contract (or lack thereof). Go ahead and click the blue Save button to save your change to the field name. Now we can go ahead and start typing information about the status of each artist's contract in the Status field.
As we fill out more fields, you might notice that some of the values start to repeat—unlike artists' names, the statuses of an artist's contract aren't unique. Actually, there's only a few stages that keep appearing:
- Prospect: when we've found a promising new artist that we might be interested in signing.
- In negotiations: when our team and the artist are trying to negotiate a contract.
- Active: when an artist's contract is active.
- Inactive: when an artist's contract has expired or negotiations have failed.
In this case, a single line text field isn't actually the best field type. It gets repetitive typing the same few things in over and over again, and what if you accidentally type "actve" instead of "Active"? Since the status of an artist's contract (or lack thereof) is just one option of a predefined set of options, we should turn this field into a single select field, which lets you pick one option from a dropdown list when you're editing the cell.
To change the field type, click on the dropdown arrow in the field header, then select the Customize field type option. This will bring up the field customization menu again.
Next, click on the dropdown menu where it currently says "Single line text" to bring up the list of possible field types. You can scroll through the list to find single select, or type "Single select" in the search bar.
Once you've chosen single select as the field type, you'll see a message explaining that by changing the field type from single line text to single select, the existing cell values will be converted into four options. This is exactly what we want to happen, so we'll go ahead and click the blue Save button. You'll see a confirmation dialog alerting you that converting from single line text to single select could potentially clear some cell data. In our case, this won't be an issue, so go ahead and click the blue Convert button.
Now your statuses have been turned into colorful tokens. Now, if you click into a cell, instead of getting a space where you can type freely, you'll see a dropdown menu from which you can select the desired option.
If you return to the field customization menu, you can edit existing options, add new options, change the color of existing options, or make all the options colorless.
Airtable has dozens of field types to choose from, and you can have as many as you'd like of each kind. Here are just a few of the basic ones you can use. (You might already recognize some of them!)
- Single line text: best for short, unique pieces of text (like the names of musical artists). If you have a single line text field and you find yourself typing in the same values over and over again, consider converting your single line text field into a single select or multiple select field.
- Long text: great for when you need a place to store freeform notes or otherwise add multiple lines of text. A long-text field automatically expands, giving you more room to work, and you can even @mention a collaborator inside the text to send them a notification.
- Attachment: allows you to attach files to records and preview or download them later. Upload files from your computer, from a URL, from a web search, or from a cloud service like Google Drive or Dropbox.
- Checkbox: when you need to represent information in a binary true/false format, use a checkbox field. With the checkbox field, you can click on the cell to check or uncheck it. By default, a checkbox field will appear with a green check mark, but if you're on a workspace with a Pro plan, you can customize the shape and color of the checkbox symbol.
- Single select: ideal for when you want to choose only one option from a set of options that you have predefined. You’ll see a dropdown list of these options when you edit the cell. Workspaces on the free and Plus plans offer 7 colors for select tokens; if you're looking for even more colors, Pro plan workspaces offer 40 different colors for select tokens.
- Multiple select: like a single select field, a multiple select field works well in situations where you want to select options from a predefined list of potential options; however, unlike a single select field, you can choose as many of the options as applicable. Each select option can be removed by clicking the X. Workspaces on the free and Plus plans offer 7 colors for select tokens; if you're looking for even more colors, Pro plan workspaces offer 40 different colors for select tokens.
- Date: lets you enter a date and (optionally) a time. When editing a date, you will be presented with a calendar widget that makes it easy to select a specific date. From the field customization menu, you can choose which date format you want to display and whether or not you want to provide a timestamp.
- URL: formats the text within it as a URL. Clicking on a URL within a URL field will open up that page.
- Rating: rate your records on a numeric scale for the purposes of ranking or quality assessment. From the field customization menu, you can set the maximum rating allowed (from 1-10) and—if your workspace is on a Pro plan—change the style and color of the field's rating symbol from the default yellow star.
- Number: only accepts number values. You can customize whether you want numbers to display as integers or with decimals, the number of significant digits, and whether or not negative numbers are allowed.
- Currency: formats numbers as currency. You can customize which currency symbol the field will use, the precision, and whether or not negative numbers are allowed.
Now that you've read about some of the different field types you can have, let's go ahead and make a couple more new fields and customize them for our Pacific Records base.
First, we'll make a field to track which genres each artist works in. Make a new field and title it "Genres." What field type should this new field be? Well, we'll likely be entering some of the same genre tags over and over again (like "R&B," "Hip-hop," or "Pop"), so it makes sense to have a select field. But since artists can span different musical genres, it makes sense for us to pick a multiple select field rather than a single select field.
Once you've picked multiple select as the new field's type, you can enter in a couple of genres using the + Add an option button, and pick whichever colors you'd like for the options (or even pick no colors, if you'd prefer). When you're ready, click the blue Save button.
Don't worry about covering every possible genre when setting up the field—you can also add new select options on the fly as you're filling out the cells in the multiple select field.
Next, we'll make a field to track the dates when our artists' contracts end. Make a new field, call it "Contract End," and pick Date as the field type. You can choose a different date format if you'd like. We don't need a timestamp for this field, so leave the Include a time field toggle alone for now. Go ahead and click Save once you're done, then add in some contract dates.
Artists marked as prospects don't have contracts with us yet, so we can leave those cells empty.
Lastly, we'll make a field in which we can list albums by our artists released on our label. Make a new field and call it "Albums." Since album titles are relatively short and have unique names, we'll leave this new field as a single line text field... for now.
Now that we know how to customize our fields, we can also go back and give the Attachments and Notes fields more specific names like "Photos" and "Bios."
At this point, our table is starting to look a lot more full.
💡 You can make each field's column more narrow or wide by clicking and dragging on the dividers between the columns in the header row. You can also rearrange the order of fields by clicking and dragging the column headers.
You might have noticed that you can't move the leftmost field out of its position. That's because this field is a special field called the primary field. The primary field is intended to hold unique names for each of the different people, objects, or ideas that you're tracking in your table. Since values in the primary field are supposed to be unique identifiers for those records, you can't use certain field types for the primary field—like single or multiple select fields, or checkboxes. You also can't delete the primary field.
If you're looking for a little more elbow room when working on a particular record, you can expand any individual record to see the field values for a single record arranged vertically on a large page. You can expand a record by by clicking the expand button that appears when you have a cell selected or mouse over a record, or by pressing the space bar when a cell is selected.
An expanded record will also show the record activity feed, which shows record-level revision history—so, who made changes to the record, when—as well as any comments that have been made on the record. You can leave comments on a record to communicate changes, elaborate on issues, and collaborate with other people.
You've now learned how to put information into Airtable in a way that matches your unique workflow. In the next lesson, we'll learn how to customize the ways you can look at and interact with this information.