If you've been following this guide, by this point, you've already learned just about everything you know to get started with Airtable's core functionality. But the ability to customize your bases to match your exact workflows doesn't end there. If you need to visualize your records as a chart or on a map, format them into a custom page layout, video chat with your teammates, or integrate Airtable with another service like Google Cloud Vision, you can do all of those things (and much more!) with the Airtable Blocks platform.
- Main points
- Building blocks for success
- API Keys
- Adding your first block to a base
- Organizing your blocks
- Airtable Blocks is a platform that allows you to add mini-apps (blocks) onto your base to further extend its capabilities. It's only available on Pro and Enterprise plans.
- There are dozens of blocks for you to choose from—like chart, page designer, matrix, org chart, or pivot table—and more are being developed all the time.
- Some blocks that integrate with other services—like map, send SMS, Vision, or Clearbit—require that you have an API key from that service.
- You can arrange a base's blocks into different dashboards, allowing you to better organize your blocks depending on how they're used or which team member makes the most use of them.
- You can view your dashboards in a split screen view or a full screen view, and rearrange the blocks on the dashboards to your liking.
For Pro and Enterprise users, Airtable has a whole library of mini-apps called blocks that you can mix and match to build just the right tools for your team. These blocks live on top of your base and can help you do many different things. Here are just a couple of examples:
- visualize and format your records by viewing them in the pivot table, custom page layout, or 3D space blocks
- import information from different sources and turn it into new records, using the CSV import, contact import, or XML import blocks
- enrich your base with external content by embedding it in an iframe
- keep your team on task with productivity tools like a time tracker, countdown, or group video chat
Some blocks that integrate with other services require that you have an API key from that service. Depending on what service the blocks uses and how much you're using it, this can cost you money.
An API, which stands for “application programming interface,” is a defined way to request information from a computer system. Airtable can use other services' and apps' APIs to request information from them to enrich your own base. In order to do this, Airtable needs your unique API key with that service. Airtable then shows this API key to the other service so that the other service knows who's making the requests (you!).
Since all the blocks are so different from one another, the best way to learn about how blocks work is to just go ahead and add one to a base. You need creator permissions to add blocks to a base, and every collaborator on a base sees the same blocks.
Let's return, once again, to Pacific Records, to make a chart showing our artists' total album sales.
(If you haven't been following along with the guide, then you can copy the embedded base above to get caught up.)
In the top right of your base, you'll notice a button that says "Blocks." Go ahead and click here to open up the blocks side panel. Click the big blue Add a block button to open up the blocks library, which will show all of the available blocks you can add to your base. Scroll through until you find the chart block, then click the Add to base button.
You'll be immediately brought to the customization settings for your new block. The first thing we want to do is make sure that the records being visualized are the records for our albums. From the Table dropdown, pick the Albums table; then pick a view that contains the album records you want to visualize. In this example, we'll pick “Released albums,” a view filtered to show only albums which have a release date earlier than today.
Next, you can pick which chart type you want to visualize. Let's stick with the bar chart option for now. Once you've picked a chart, you'll need to pick a field for your chart's X-axis. Since we want to visualize how many albums each artist has sold, we'll pick Artist as the X-axis.
Once you've set up the X-axis, you'll need to set up the Y-axis. By default, the Y-axis is configured to show the count of records associated with each value on the X-axis. In this case, this means that the chart is currently plotting the number of albums each artist has released. Since we want to know about the album units sold, we need to pick Field instead of Count, then select Certified units/Sales (k) as the Y-axis. We can now visually compare how many units each of the artist in our roster have sold over time. There are many other things you can do to customize your chart, but for now, let's just admire what we have.
Congratulations! You've successfully set up your first block. You can add multiple copies of the same type of block, so if you wanted to make another chart block that compared the sales numbers for each album, you could do that too. Or you could add other kinds of blocks to your base: like an embed block to embed a Soundcloud playlist of your artists' top singles, a record list block to show artists whose contracts are expiring soon, or a map block to show where in the world your artists are based. It's all up to you!
Just keep in mind that different blocks work very differently, and may have different setup steps than the chart block. If you have questions, please check out the specific support documentation for each block.
Once you start getting more blocks, it becomes important to keep them organized. You can view your base's blocks in a split screen view or a full screen view. To switch between the split screen and full screen view, click the expand button in the top right corner of the blocks panel. When your blocks panel is in split screen mode, you can click and drag the dividing line left or right to change the size of the panel.
You can also expand an individual block to fill the whole screen by mousing over it and clicking the expand button.
Blocks are arranged into dashboards, collections of related blocks. Right now, we just have a single dashboard, Dashboard 1. Let's rename it to "Visualizations."
We can add a new dashboard by clicking on the dropdown arrow next to the name of the current dashboard, then clicking the Add a dashboard option.
You can rearrange blocks on a dashboard by mousing over the block you wish to move, and clicking and dragging using the drag handle in the top right corner. To resize a block, click and drag from the bottom right corner.