How To Use Airtable Automations To Get More Out of Your Bases (2 Methods)
Manually updating databases can take hours out of your day. But someone’s got to do it, right? Sure, but after days of clicking the same dropdown field across a hundred records, you might start looking for ways to cut corners. Then, maybe, while looking into shortcuts, you happen on Airtable automations. Could they be the solution to your copy-paste problems?
There are two main methods you can use to set up Airtable automations. One is within Airtable, and the other relies on a little help from Unito.
First method: using Airtable’s automations
Did you know that you can automate simple actions without leaving Airtable? Airtable’s automations use simple trigger→action logic to automate all sorts of actions, even from Airtable to other tools.
Here’s how you can use Airtable automations.
First, you’ll want to click Automations at the top of your base.
When you do, you’ll see this screen.
While this might seem overwhelming at first, there are two places where you can start. Look at the menu on the left. You can pick common, pre-built Airtable automations, like “When Status is Done, send an email” or “At 9:00am Monday, email records where Status is Done.”
Alternatively, you can build your own by clicking +Add trigger.
These triggers are the events that’ll kickstart your automation. If, for example, you pick When a record is created, this automation will run every time a new record is added to your Airtable base. Let’s pick that trigger.
Alright, we’ve run into a screen that’s a bit more complex here. On the left, you’ll now find a list of all your automations. So far, you’ll only have Automation 1, and you’ll notice that it’s off.
In the center, you’ll see a tree representing your automation. Right now, there’s only a trigger, since we haven’t added any actions yet.
On the right, you’ll see the trigger’s properties. The only thing you need to do here is to make sure that the Table dropdown (under the Configuration header) shows the table where your automation should run. In this case, that’s Table 1.
Now, it’s time to add an action, the thing the automation will actually do. Click on +Add action.
Here, you’ll find a ton of actions for your rule, from sending emails to updating records. If you scroll down, you’ll also find a ton of integrations you can use for this automation, including Slack, Gmail, Google Sheets, and more.
For this first automation, let’s keep things simple. Let’s pick Update record.
You’ll get a Properties panel just like before, which you can use to customize your action. Here, we’ve created an action that automatically sets the Status field to Todo when a record is added to our table.
Now, let’s turn this automation on and try it out. We’ll go back to our table…
Add a new record…
And just like that, its status is automatically updated to Todo!
Congratulations, you’ve just built your first Airtable automation! Note that this is as simple as it gets, and there’s a lot more you can do with this feature. You could add multiple actions to this automation, like sending a Slack message whenever a record is created and sending data to a Google Sheet.
Limitations of this method
Airtable automations have two advantages; they come with Airtable and they’re super easy to build. But are they the best solution for your workflow? Not necessarily. Here are potential dealbreakers for you:
- It’s one-way: Trigger-action automations are easy to build, but they have one big problem. They only work in one direction. That’s great if you’re looking to automate simple, repetitive work, but you won’t be able to keep anything in sync after that.
- Limited integrations: Airtable’s automations can integrate with 17 tools, like Google Sheets, email clients, social media platforms, and more. But if your tool of choice isn’t on that list, you’re out of luck.
- It (can be) pay-to-play: If you’re using Airtable’s free plan, their automations might be disappointing. For one, you’ll only get 100 runs a month across all your automations. Not only that, you won’t have access to what Airtable calls “premium” integrations, like Jira, Salesforce, and Google Docs.
Airtable automations are a great place to start if you want to eliminate the manual work that comes with database tools. But there’s another method that you should know about.
Second method: create your own Airtable automations with Unito
Unito is a no-code workflow management solution with the deepest two-way integrations for some of the most popular tools on the market, like Airtable, Asana, Trello, and more. With a Unito flow, you can create your own Airtable automations and keep everything in sync across all your bases.
Here’s why Unito is the best way to create Airtable automations:
- It’s two-way by default: Do you need to sync data back and forth between your Airtable bases? You can’t do that with Airtable automations, but it’s a built-in feature for Unito.
- It works with more tools: With Unito’s 30+ integrations, you’re sure to find something that works for your workflow, whether you’re using Asana, Jira, Azure DevOps, or HubSpot.
- You get more bang for your buck: Yes, Unito is a paid service. But where Airtable might force you to bump up your plan just to get more runs from your automations, when you get a Unito plan, you get a lot more.
Here’s how easy it is to set up your first Airtable automation with a Unito flow.
- Start by connecting your tools and picking the Airtable table you want your automation to start from. Then, pick the tool you want that automation to end up in.
- After that, you can set up rules to filter out records you don’t want to automate. For example, you might decide that any records with a specific option in a single-select field should be excluded.
- The last step before launching your flow is mapping fields across your tools. This lets Unito know where information should be going, even if those fields are completely different in each tool. Note that Unito can map similar fields for you automatically, but you might have to customize the ones that don’t already match up.
And that’s it! Once you’ve mapped your fields, you can launch your Unito flow and watch your automation go.
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