A database field is the equivalent of a column in a spreadsheet. In Airtable they look similar to columns, except that each field is of a particular type. Possible types include a long text note, checkbox, email address, phone number, file attachment, and more.
By piecing together the exact fields you need, your Airtable Base will become perfectly adapted to your own needs. Rather than having to contort your workflow to fit into an off-the-shelf app (if one even exists for your use case), you’ll have a tool that’s custom-fit to you. And you can easily adapt your Base as your needs evolve over time – adding a field here, changing a field there.
To explain fields, let’s imagine we’re part of the NASA team sending a manned expedition to Mars. For a successful mission to the Red Planet, we’ll need to track a variety of things — projects, supplies, vendors and people. We’ll put each of those things in separate tables and then add fields to each table to structure the data.
When we’re shipping supplies to another planet, it’s critically important that we test them to ensure that they will work in Mars’ extreme conditions. Let’s add a checkbox in our Base to track which supplies have been tested.
To add a field, click the [+] on the far right side of a table. You can also right-click (Ctrl + click on a Mac) on the header row to insert a new field. After you’ve created a field, name it and specify a field type. Don’t worry about getting everything exactly right. You can easily make changes in the future.
Basic field types
We currently offer 16 basic field types, some of which provide additional customization options for colors, formatting and default values.
You can create multiple fields of the same type in a table. For example, we could add two attachment fields to our Mars base, storing photos in one and training manuals in another.
Airtable offers these basic field types:
- Single line text – best for short, unique pieces of text. In our Mars base, this could include product names, locations and brief descriptions. If you repeat the same values frequently, consider using some of the other field types – single select, multiple option, or linked record – described below.
- Long text – great for when you need to keep notes or 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. Long text fields are common in Bases because they’re a great way to capture notes that don’t fit in other fields.
- Attachment – allows you to attach files to records. Upload files from your computer or cloud services like Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, and Evernote. This field type is useful for collaborating on files because all the collaborators can preview and download files from any device.
- Checkbox – add a green check mark your record, or remove it. Just as you’d expect, you can click the cell to check and uncheck it. In our Mars example, we could use checkboxes to mark when a task is complete or when an astronaut has been selected for a mission.
- Single select – ideal for when you want to choose one option from a set of options that you have predefined. You’ll see a drop-down list of these options when you edit the cell. Use this in situations with only one possible value. For example, in our Mars base, we would never want a status field to be both “In Progress” and “Done.” You can add, remove, and edit the option values by clicking the column header and selecting the “Configure” button.
- Multiple option select – similar to a single select, except it allows you to select more than one option. Use it to tag records with multiple values. Each option value appears as a small tag and can be removed by clicking the “X.” For instance, if you wanted to assign multiple people to a task, this is the field to use.
- Date and time – lets you enter a date and time (optional) into a column. When editing this field, a calendar will appear to make it easy to select a date.
- Phone number – this will format values as a US phone number in the form (XXX) XXX-XXXX. On mobile, we’ll show convenient buttons to call or text that number.
- Email – this will format the text in the field as an email address. If you click on the email address, it will open up your computer’s native email client with the To: field addressed to the email you just clicked on.
- URL – formats the text within it as a URL. Clicking on a URL within a URL field will open up that page.
- Number – only accepts a numeric value. You can specify if the number is an integer or decimal, the number of significant digits, and whether it can be a negative number. If we wanted to track the quantity of each supply in our Mars base, we’d use a number field.
- Currency – formats numbers as currency, using the currency symbol of your choice, in the form of $1.00. With this field type, we could track the cost of each type of Mars supply.
- Percent – formats numbers as a percentage. You can select the precision of the percentage.
- Autonumber – generates an automatically incremented number for each record in a table. It can be used to create unique IDs.
- Formula – calculates values based on functions. In Airtable, you enter formulas for a whole column (not for a specific cell like in a spreadsheet), and the same formula applies to every record in the column. For instance, we could calculate the total cost of our Mars supplies by multiplying the Price and Quantity columns.
Formulas in Airtable do not use the beginning equal sign and they reference field names instead of cell ranges. For more information, watch the following video or see our list of formula functions and operators.
Editing fields is as easy as creating them. Click the dropdown arrow in the header cell of a column to change its name or type. That menu also gives you options to add a description, copy it, or delete it.
Let’s say that NASA’s Office of Mission Safety decides that a single checkbox field for testing isn’t sufficient. They want to track three separate tests for each space bound item: vacuum pressure, extreme temperature and functional assessments. To do that, we’ll need to change the “Tested” field from a checkbox to a multiple option field.
In Airtable, the first column of every table is called the “primary field.” This field is special because it is used as the name of the record. For that reason, it’s important to use unique names for each record. The primary field cannot be deleted, moved, or hidden.
By default, the primary field is “frozen,” so it is always visible as you scroll right and left. You can add or remove frozen fields by dragging the divider on the right side of the frozen fields.
Next: Working with Records