The Essentials of Airtable Formulas

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airtable formulas

Airtable is a helpful and strong tool that lets you oversee tasks, keep track of items, and work with teams together. It does so much more too! Airtable’s formulas are one of its best features. In this Airtable tutorial, we will learn all about Airtable formulas. They can change how you handle data in big ways! 

If you want to start your own business or someone working inside wants better processes, this guide will give you what’s needed. Airtable can be used most effectively using the knowledge and tools from here.​

What Are Airtable Formulas?

Airtable formulas are strong tools to change data, count things and help understand your database better. Like the formulas in usual spreadsheets like Excel or Google Sheets, Airtable is better and more flexible. They can be used for many tasks.​

Although formulas are often associated with math and numbers, Airtable formulas can be used for other purposes as well. You can use formulas to create advanced calculations, manage budgets, set recurring events for project management, and much more. The possibilities are endless, and formulas give you the opportunity to use Airtable in creative and inventive ways.

Also read: What is Airtable & Why Should You Use It?

How Do Airtable Formulas Work?

At its core, an Airtable formula is simply a field type. When you are working in an Airtable base, you can select the formula field type from the available options in the table. To write a formula, you can choose from pre-existing functions or create your own. The formula will yield an output of a date, number, or string, and you can adjust the formatting preferences to display the output as desired.

Airtable formulas are applied to an entire column, rather than a single cell, allowing you to include information from other tables and resources within Airtable to enhance your formulas. This integration and flexibility make Airtable formulas a powerful tool for data management and analysis.

Common Terminology in Airtable

Before diving deeper into Airtable formulas, it’s important to understand some common terminology used within the platform. This will help you navigate Airtable and effectively utilize formulas within your bases.

  • Base: An Airtable base is equivalent to a workbook in Excel. It is a file that contains all of your tables and data.
  • Table: Tables are Airtable’s equivalent of worksheets in Excel. They contain separate sets of data and can be linked to other tables.
  • View: Views are different ways of organizing and viewing data within a table. They can be in the form of grids, calendars, galleries, and more.
  • Field: Fields are equivalent to columns in Excel. They represent different types of data within a table.
  • Record: Records are similar to rows in Excel. They contain individual sets of information stored within fields.
  • Cell: Cells are individual data points within a table, just like in Excel.

Understanding these terms will help you navigate Airtable and effectively utilize formulas within your bases.

The Basics of Airtable Formulas

Formulas in Airtable are excallent when it comes to data manipulation. They allow you to go beyond the limitations of standard date and time fields and create custom fields tailored to your specific needs. With functions for numeric operations, logical operations, and text operations, the possibilities are endless.

To get started with formulas in Airtable, simply create a new field and select the formula type. From there, you can write formulas directly in the field’s text box and format them as needed. Don’t worry if you’re not a math genius – Airtable provides a range of pre-existing functions to use as a base for your formulas.

Now that we have a basic understanding of formulas and functions let’s dive into the date functions that will take your Airtable formulas to the next level.

1. Changing Your Date Format

One of the fundamental tasks in data manipulation is formatting dates correctly. Airtable provides the DATETIME_FORMAT() function to help you achieve this. This function allows you to specify the output format of your date, providing flexibility and control over how your dates are displayed.

To change the format of a date, simply use the following syntax:

DATETIME_FORMAT(<date>, '<output format>') 

For example, if you want to display the current date in the format “YYYY-MM-DD,” you can use the following formula:

DATETIME_FORMAT(NOW(),'YYYY-MM-DD') 

With the DATETIME_FORMAT() function, you can quickly generate date formats that suit your specific needs. Whether you’re working with international collaborators or need to include additional details in your dates, this function has got you covered.

2. Calculating the Duration of an Event

Another essential date calculation is determining the duration of an event. The DATETIME_DIFF () function in Airtable allows you to calculate the difference between two dates, giving you the precise duration of an event.

To use the DATETIME_DIFF() function, you need two existing date/time fields in your table and the desired units of measurement. The syntax is as follows:

DATETIME_DIFF(<date1>, <date2>, 'units') 

For example, if you want to calculate the duration between a start date and today in days, you can use the following formula:

DATETIME_DIFF({Start date}, TODAY(), 'days') 

This function is incredibly versatile and allows you to measure time durations in various units, including weeks, months, minutes, and hours. With the DATETIME_DIFF() function, you can easily keep track of the duration of your events and make informed decisions based on that information.

3. Automatically Adding to a Date

The DATEADD() function in Airtable is a powerful tool for adding a count to a date and time in your table. This function is particularly useful when you need to automate tasks that involve adding or subtracting time from a specific date.

To use the DATEADD() function, you need another date field in your table and a count and unit to add to that date. The syntax is as follows:

DATEADD(<date>, <#>, 'units') 

For example, if you want to subtract one month from a deadline date, you can use the following formula:

DATEADD({Deadline}, -1, 'month') 

The DATEADD() function opens up a world of possibilities for automating tasks and keeping your data up to date. Whether you need to calculate project deadlines, schedule recurring events, or create countdowns, this function has got you covered.

4. Turning Text into a Legible Date

In some cases, you may need to convert a text field into a readable date format. The DATETIME_PARSE() function in Airtable allows you to do just that. This function is particularly useful when importing values from external sources or dealing with dates that are not initially recognized by Airtable.

To use the DATETIME_PARSE() function, you need to provide the text field, the input format of the text, and the locale if necessary. The syntax is as follows:

DATETIME_PARSE(date, <'input format'>, <'locale'>) 

For example, if you have a text field with the value “4 Mar 2017 23:00” and want to convert it into a readable date format, you can use the following formula:

DATETIME_PARSE("4 Mar 2017 23:00", 'D MMM YYYY HH:mm') 

The DATETIME_PARSE() function allows you to convert text fields into readable dates, making it easier to work with your data and perform calculations based on that information.

5. Setting up Recurring Yearly Events

If you frequently deal with recurring events, such as birthdays or anniversaries, the DATETIME_FORMAT()  and DATETIME_PARSE() functions can be used in combination to set up automated recurring events in Airtable.

First, select an existing date field and extract the month and day from it using the DATETIME_FORMAT() function. Then, combine the formatted month and day with the current year using the DATETIME_PARSE() function. This will ensure that the recurring events are updated to reflect the current year automatically.

Here’s an example formula to set up recurring yearly events:

DATETIME_PARSE(DATETIME_FORMAT({Date},'MM/DD') & "/" & YEAR(NOW())) 

By leveraging these functions, you can save time and effort by automating the process of setting up recurring events in Airtable. Whether it’s birthdays, holidays, or any other annual events, you can ensure that the dates are always up to date without manual intervention.

6. Automatically Displaying and Updating Deadlines in Work Days

Deadlines are an essential aspect of project management, and having a countdown to a deadline can help keep everyone on track. TheWORKDAY_DIFF() function in Airtable allows you to calculate the number of working days left until a specific date, excluding weekends.

To calculate the number of working days left, simply use the following formula:

WORKDAY_DIFF(TODAY(), Date) 

By default, the WORKDAY_DIFF() function includes both the start and end day in the total number of days. However, you can choose to exclude specific dates, such as bank holidays, by manually adding them to the formula.

For example, if you want to exclude the dates’ 2021-09-23′, ‘2022-01-21’, and ‘2022-08-19’ from the calculation, you can use the following formula:

WORKDAY_DIFF(TODAY(), Date, '2021-09-23, 2022-01-21, 2022-08-19') 

The WORKDAY_DIFF() function is a valuable tool for project management, allowing you to display the number of working days left until a deadline and ensure that everyone is aware of the time constraints.

7. Automatically Populating Your Project with Due Dates

If you frequently work on projects with fixed timelines, you can automate the process of populating due dates in Airtable using the DATEADD() function. By establishing a set timeline for your projects, you can create fields for each step of the process and automatically populate them relative to the final due date.

For example, if your first draft is always due seven days before the final due date, you can use the following formula:

DATEADD({Final Due Date}, -7, 'days') 

By leveraging the DATEADD() function, you can automate the process of setting due dates for each step of your project. This saves time and ensures that everyone is aware of their deadlines, improving collaboration and productivity.

8. Generating the Week, Month, or Quarter Number

To prioritize and organize your tasks effectively, you can use Airtable formulas to generate the week, month, or quarter number for a specific date. By breaking down dates into their respective positions in the year, you can group records, sort tasks, and gain valuable insights into your project timeline.

To generate the quarter number for a date, for example, you can use the following formula:

CONCATENATE("Q", DATETIME_FORMAT(Date, "Q YYYY")) 

By swapping out “Q” with “W” or “DDD”, you can also generate the week number or day number, respectively. This allows you to customize the formatting according to your preferences and gain a deeper understanding of your project timeline.

9. Displaying Specific Messages Based on the Day of the Week

If you want to add a personalized touch to your Airtable projects, you can use the SWITCH()  and WEEKDAY() functions to display specific messages based on the day of the week. This is particularly useful if you’re using Airtable in combination with a website or app and want to provide dynamic content based on the current day.

To configure a specific message for each day of the week, you can use the following formula:

SWITCH(WEEKDAY({Date}), 

0, ‘Sunday fun day!’, 

1, '#MondayMotivation', 
2, 'Have a good Tuesday!', 
3, 'Happy Hump Day!', 
4, '#TBT', 
5, 'Thank God it's Friday', 
6, 'Enjoy your weekend') 

By customizing the messages for each day, you can create a dynamic experience for your users and keep them engaged with your content.

10. Using IF Formulas Along With Date Fields

IF formulas are a powerful way to add conditional logic to your Airtable base. When combined with date fields, they can help you determine whether a given date is before, after, or the same as another date. This can be useful for displaying time-related messages or triggering specific actions based on the date.

The syntax of an IF formula is straightforward, with three arguments: the logical test, the value to return if the logical test is true, and the value to return if the logical test is false. For example, to determine if a date is today, you can use the following formula:

IF(IS_SAME(Date, TODAY(), 'days'), "It's today", "It's not today") 

By leveraging IF formulas, you can add a layer of depth and personalization to your Airtable base, making it more interactive and responsive to changes in the date.

11. Setting Time Zones and Locales

As businesses increasingly work with collaborators across different time zones, it’s essential to ensure that your data is displayed accurately for each user. Airtable allows you to set time zones and locales on a per-field basis, ensuring that dates are presented correctly to everyone.

By default, Airtable stores data using Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). However, you can choose to use the same time zone for all collaborators or display dates based on each collaborator’s local time zone. To set a specific time zone for a field, you can use the SET_TIMEZONE() function, along with the desired time zone.

For example, to display a date in the ‘Europe/Oslo’ time zone, you can use the following formula:

SET_TIMEZONE({Appointment time}, 'Europe/Oslo') 

This allows you to accommodate users in different time zones and ensure that they see the correct dates and times based on their location.

In addition to setting time zones, Airtable also allows you to set locales, which determine the formatting of dates and times based on a specific language or region. By combining the SET_LOCALE() function with the DATETIME_FORMAT() function, you can create a truly personalized experience for your users.

Also read: 8 Best Airtable Examples and Use Cases

Real-World Examples of Airtable Formulas

Now that you have a basic understanding of Airtable formulas, let’s explore some real-world examples to showcase the power and versatility of these formulas.

Example 1: Calculating Length Using LEN(string)

One simple yet powerful formula in Airtable is LEN(string), which calculates the length of characters within a string. This formula has numerous practical applications, such as ensuring password length requirements, limiting character counts in social media posts, and managing meta descriptions within a desired character limit range.

For example, if you have a table for managing blog post workflow, you can use Airtable formulas to display a warning message if a meta description exceeds the desired character limit. This helps you maintain consistency and optimize your content for search engines.

Example 2: Locating Characters with Find() and Search()

Airtable formulas allow you to find specific characters within a string using functions like FIND() and SEARCH(). This functionality is useful for various purposes, such as finding file names within attachments, isolating specific portions of text, and checking for the presence of a name within a body of text.

By leveraging these formulas, you can quickly search through large amounts of data and extract the information you need with precision and ease.

Example 3: Date Formulas for Monitoring Deadlines

Dates play a crucial role in project management, and Airtable provides numerous date formulas to help you track and monitor deadlines effectively. These formulas allow you to adjust date formats, set recurring events, calculate the difference between two dates, and more.

One commonly used date formula is:

DATETIME_DIFF([date1], [date2], 'units')

It calculates the difference between two dates in a specified unit (e.g., days, weeks, months). This formula is invaluable for tracking project timelines and ensuring timely completion of tasks.

Example 4: Combining Text Strings with CONCENTRATE()

CONCENTRATE() is a powerful formula that allows you to combine multiple text strings into a single cell or value. This is particularly useful for summarizing information from multiple fields in a concise format.

For example, if you have a table with customer survey data, you can use the CONCENTRATE() formula to combine the first names and home states of each respondent into a single column. This enables you to quickly analyze and understand the data without the need for extensive sorting or filtering.

Example 5: Conditional Statements Using IF() Formulas

IF() formulas are among the most powerful features of Airtable formulas. These conditional statements allow you to perform different actions based on specific conditions or criteria. With IF() formulas, you can automate decision-making processes and streamline your data management.

For instance, you can use an IF() formula to evaluate customer satisfaction scores. Then, display different labels based on the score range. You can categorize customers as “Very Satisfied,” “Somewhat Satisfied,” “Neutral,” or “Unhappy” based on predefined criteria.

Getting Started with Airtable Formulas

Now that you have seen some real-world examples of Airtable formulas, you are ready to start using them on your own basis. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started:

Step 1: Map Out Your Formulas and Practice

Before diving into your Airtable bases, take some time to map out the formulas you want to create and practice them. By planning ahead and practicing in a safe environment, you can avoid mistakes and ensure the accuracy of your formulas.

Consider writing down what you want to achieve with each formula and use Airtable’s Formula Playground to experiment and learn.

Step 2: Add a New Field and Select the Formula Type

Once you are ready to apply your formulas, open the desired base in Airtable and add a new field. Choose the formula field type from the available options.

Step 3: Write Your Formula

Now it’s time to write your formula. You can use pre-existing functions or create custom formulas based on your specific requirements. Experiment with different functions and syntax to achieve the desired results.

Step 4: Ensure The Readability of Formulas

As your formulas become more complex, it’s essential to ensure their readability. Break long formulas into multiple lines. This makes them easier to understand and helps identify any errors.

Step 5: Format the Results

Finally, decide how you want the output of your formulas to be formatted within the table. Airtable has different ways to change how dates, numbers and words look. This lets you set it up the way you like best.

Conclusion

Airtable formulas are a strong tool that can change your data handling and study. By using formulas, you can make tasks easier. You can also choose automatically with help from computers and learn important things from your data. Airtable formulas help you to handle your data and get important outcomes.

To learn more about Airtable and use it well, try joining an Airtable lesson or class. These tools give detailed instructions and useful examples. They help you learn how to be an expert in Airtable.

Ready to unlock the full potential of Airtable formulas? Enroll in the Airtable Essentials at NoCode University and become an expert in data management and analysis. Harness the power of Airtable and take your business or projects to new heights.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can I use Airtable formulas for calculations involving multiple tables?

Yes, Airtable formulas can include information from other tables and resources within the platform. This allows you to perform calculations and derive insights from multiple data sources.

  1. Are Airtable formulas similar to formulas in Excel or Google Sheets?

Airtable formulas are similar to traditional spreadsheet formulas in Excel and Google Sheets. However, Airtable formulas offer more advanced functionality and versatility, making them ideal for a wide range of use cases.

  1. Do I need to have prior programming knowledge to use Airtable formulas?

No, you do not need prior programming knowledge to use Airtable formulas. The platform provides a user-friendly interface. It also has pre-existing functions. This makes it accessible to users of all skill levels.

  1. Are there any limitations to Airtable formulas?

While Airtable formulas are powerful, there are some limitations to consider. For example, formulas cannot be used in certain field types, such as attachment or collaborator fields. Additionally, complex formulas may impact the performance of your base.

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