Airtable is an interesting project management tool that seems to want to do everything a little differently than its competitors, and succeeds. There's a lot to like here, but its unorthodox approach makes it unsuitable for some. Check out our full Airtable review for the details.
Free plan available
Airtable is an online collaboration tool that allows you to organize anything, including projects. It bills itself as part spreadsheet and part database, which allows teams to work how they want. We’re going to take a close look at it in this Airtable review.
It has several high-profile clients, including Time, BuzzFeed and Slack. Last year, it raised over $50 million in funding, so it has the cash to build and improve for the long-term.
To give you a head’s up on what we thought, we liked Airtable a lot. It does a good job of combining powerful features with enough guidance to help you use them. It isn’t perfect, but it’s worth looking at for its strengths. That said, it belongs among the best project management software.
For another example of a management app that borders on being a spreadsheet and scored well with us, take a look at our Smartsheet review.
Some of Airtable’s features are unusual and could save you a lot of time in addition to the typical advantages of keeping your projects tracked and organized. It is worth taking a close look at what Airtable has to offer, to find out if any of its niche components are of use to you.
If you only need an easy way to assign tasks and tick them off as you work, read our Asana review to see a simpler take on project management.
- Impressive selection of ways to manipulate data
- Lots of useful templates
- Plenty of help & guidance
- Automatic code generation for its API
- No dependency management or subtasks
- Limited communication options
- Sometimes hard to figure out
Airtable is organized around “bases,” which are effectively independent projects. They can be grouped into workspaces, if you want to grant a team access to a particular group of them.
Bases contain data, which can be organized to represent all sorts of things. The sample application is a bug tracker, but you can easily create project tracking systems, staff management tracking or sales target projects.
Bases can be set up using the range of supplied templates or, once you’ve gotten the hang of it, you can build them from scratch.
Though its default view is just like a spreadsheet, you can you view your data in several other ways.
Its kanban view lets you move items in categorized columns from left to right as they approach completion. If you are interested in a more focused kanban application, take a look at our Trello beginner’s guide. Trello is easy to use and free. Read about another kanban-based project management app in our LeanKit review.
When you open the kanban view for the first time, you get asked what fields the data should be grouped by, making it easy to control. If you want to make different choices, you can create multiple views of the same type but filtered or grouped using other data.
You can easily create calendar views to show you when tasks need to be done. Unfortunately there are no subtasks and dependency management is unavailable. If you need those, have a look at our Wrike review for an excellent tool that includes them.
Its “blocks” are extras that enable you to add functionality to your bases. They can be as simple as charts or tables, but there are many surprises, too.
There’s a Google Hangouts block, as well as one that uses Google to translate your conversations on the fly. There’s also a Google Vision module that can extract text and information from images for you automatically.
They are easy to add and setup. As with most things in Airtable, you are guided through the process of adding them. All you have to do is pick the block you want from the list and, perhaps, choose a field to use (for example, the search field for a search block).
If you make an error, deleting a block is just as easy, so you can experiment with confidence.
Airtable doesn’t have much in the way of built-in communication options, though there is support for using external services via the blocks. There is a window for discussion with its support team, but it vanished into the bottom right of the screen with no obvious way to retrieve it when we closed it.
With its focus on communication, Basecamp is a good alternative, if Airtable is too limited for you in that respect. Take a look at our Basecamp review for more details.
If you want to expand Airtable further, you can do so via Zapier. It will allow you to work with all kinds of platforms, including Dropbox, Slack and WordPress, as well as other project management software, such as Asana and Basecamp.
You get plenty of storage space with Airtable. Attachment space is allocated by base, and all account types can have as many bases as they want, effectively making storage space unlimited.
It sounds too good to be true, but if you only want to use one base to manage your project, that makes it a lot more limiting.
If you’re interested in setting up a dedicated storage solution for your team, read our best online storage for teams article for an overview of the options.
In addition to the browser version, it has mobile apps for Android and iOS and desktop apps for Windows and macOS, so you should be able to access it wherever you are and on whatever device you are using.
We found a lot to like in Airtable. It lacks key features, such as task dependencies and subtasks, though. Its communication options aren’t the strongest, either. That said, its blocks and templates offer you many options for getting set up quickly and the blocks, in particular, include powerful functionality.
We give it high marks in this category. If you don’t need the few things it lacks, it might suit you well.
Airtable Features Overview
As a combination of spreadsheet and database, Airtable isn’t the most enticing looking proposition for new users, but its team has done a great job of making it friendly and approachable.
The website and user interface are composed of well-chosen colors and attractive art, making it pleasant to use as well as decent to look at.
Signing up couldn’t be easier, and you can get started within minutes after entering optional data. You are welcomed to the application with a brief video and a link to a longer 12-minute walkthrough for the features is available to you.
After that, you get a help pop-up in the bottom right and another pop-up explaining how bases work, so there is plenty of assistance provided early.
Getting Started with Airtable
Instead of presenting you with a blank sheet, you start with a sample application based on one of Airtable’s many templates. In this case, it’s a bug tracker. Using it shows you how you can use Airtable’s basic features to build something more complicated.
When you create a base, you can use the templates to give you a head start. There are loads of them, sorted into 20 categories, typically with a couple of dozen options in each one. That said, there is some overlap between them.
In addition to the bug tracker, they include the standard project management templates, as well as templates for blogs, filming schedules and many other use cases.
There’s a step-by-step pop-up tour that teaches you how things work, as well. We prefer learning by doing over watching videos, so we enjoyed going through it.
The tour uses clear text and animations, which match with highlighted areas in the application. It is easy to use and an excellent introduction to the platform.
Bases contain records. In Airtable’s basic spreadsheet view, records look like rows, with columns showing each kind of data attached to them. Each record can be expanded to see a summary of this related data, including, for example, who the item is assigned to, its status and priority.
The columns can be altered to hold whatever information you need. You can also group and filter the records, which will define the structure of your information and control how it is presented to you.
You can attach files to items and leave comments, too. Having a comment thread on each item means you can keep related information in one place.
Inviting other users to your bases is a cinch. You just click the “share” button and a form pops up that allows you to send invitations by email. The form also lets you assign permissions, which can be anything from a full creator to read-only, so you can send information to plenty of people without having to worry that they’ll mess up your data.
There’s also a good selection of keyboard shortcuts, with a list of them accessible from the help menu. In addition to being nice to have, their high visibility can be a big help to your productivity, as well as that of your team members.
Building things from scratch is harder than using the templates. It isn’t always intuitive and, at times, we found ourselves expecting to be able to do something that we couldn’t. Despite the quality and range of templates, there is a learning curve when it comes to setting things up how you want them.
Airtable scores well because of its easy-to-add options and the amount of help it gives you. It scores bonus points for the friendly UI and is to be commended for making a spreadsheet-based tool as pleasant to use as it is. Though a few marks were knocked off for occasionally being hard to figure out, it gets a strong score here.
Airtable has a free plan, so it won’t cost you anything to give it a whirl. In addition to having more features, its paid plans increase the available storage space and allows you to put more records on your bases. Even on the free plan, though, you get as many bases as you like, which sounds generous to us.
The free plan includes the basic views and features you need and gives you 2GB of storage space with 1,200 records per base. The Plus tier increases those limits to 5GB and 5,000 records.
At the Pro tier, you get advanced features, such as its block integrations and customization options, as well as extra security features and priority support.
Enterprise clients get individualized training and dedicated support, as well as more features for managing large teams.
New users can try the Pro plan for 14 days before choosing to sign up or continue with the free version. Airtable also offers $10 in credit for every user you invite who signs up, so you could save a lot of money if you invite a large team.
Payment is by credit card, though Enterprise customers can pay by purchase order, wire or check if they prefer.
Airtable scores well on price because its free version offers plenty to get started and its larger packs are a good value for what they offer. If you’re thinking of using Airtable, cost shouldn’t be a barrier.
If you’re wondering how it compares to the competition on price, take a look at our best project management software guide.
Airtable uses strong encryption, with traffic using TLS 256-bit and stored data using AES 256-bit. It has SOC 1, SOC 2 and ISO 27001 certifications, so its credentials have been verified. It also conducts bug bounty programs to help ensure the integrity of its systems.
Two-factor authentication is available, too. If you’re not sure what that is, you can read about it in our what is two-factor authentication article.
Enterprise customers can use SAML-based single sign-on for additional security.
We take privacy seriously here at Cloudwards.net and if you have concerns about it, read our how to protect your privacy guide for good advice.
Your data can be exported from the platform at any time, either to a .csv file or via its API, so you aren’t locked in and are free to move to another service if you want. It also allows you to view recent account activity, giving information on which IP addresses your account has been accessed from. That’s useful if you suspect your password has been stolen.
If you are concerned about password theft, or related problems, read our article on cybercrime to get an overview.
Airtable does everything right in terms of security, with strong encryption, two-factor authentication and useful options to manage your team. It scores well in this category.
Airtable has a help center with several options if you get stuck. They include an excellent selection of articles, which are well-written and full of images. There are videos to help you get started, too. If you prefer self-help to reaching out, you are covered.
There’s also a selection of webinars to help you master the basics and teach you some of the advanced features. There aren’t many of them, but they allow you to interact with Airtable’s team and other users. You can view questions asked by other users in the same webinar and ask your own, so there is a good amount of knowledge to be gained.
It has an active community, with most forum questions getting answered quickly and plenty of help coming from other users and Airtable’s staff. In most cases, you’ll be able to find help if you ask for it.
The Airtable Universe is a cool feature that lets you browse bases other users have shared. Since Airtable is so versatile, it is a great way to get ideas for how to use the platform. It also has a useful blog with information on how different people use it.
If you want to go deeper, an API is provided, so you can link your data to your website or integrate it with your own applications. The documentation for it is excellent and it also allows you to automatically generate code to access your data and perform various operations on it.
If you want to get in direct contact, an email address is provided on the website and there is a contact wizard in the app’s help menu. There’s no phone support, but Airtable lets you know that, instead of just not listing a number and letting you hunt for it.
We contacted Airtable with a question about task dependencies and got an answer in about three days. That isn’t the quickest response time, and it’s the only real blemish on Airtable’s service and support. Faster support is available on the more expensive plans, though.
Airtable gets a good score here because of its many useful support offerings, but it lost a few points for its slow response time.
Airtable is much more fun to use than it should be and gives you all sorts of ways to build useful projects quickly. It feels well-developed, with everything working correctly and no major bugs or problems encountered during our testing.
We also found that its blocks offer unusual functionality and anyone looking to manipulate data in interesting and advanced ways should take a close look at them. You just might be able to automate a critical part of your business and save a ton of cash in the process.
It offers an impressive array of templates, too. In fact, Airtable may have the best selection we’ve seen in the project management category. That means those getting started will have many useful options to help them.
Airtable is well worth investigating. It takes the humble spreadsheet and turns it into a powerful tool for running projects and businesses of all kinds. It is good at the basics, but also has excellent features for data manipulation when you dig deeper and get to know the platform.
If you’ve used Airtable, please let us know what you think of it in the comments below. Thanks for reading.