Building your first base

Now that you know which process you’d like to improve with Airtable, let’s start building your base. Don’t worry, we’ll guide you the entire time. And it only takes five steps to get started. 

And remember: Making a better process is just the first step in building in Airtable. We’ll continue to guide you through bringing together organization, connection, and visualization until you’re building apps on your own.

P.S. Don’t worry too much about memorizing all the terms. We’ve dropped a cheat sheet at the end of the guide that you can reference whenever you need it.

 

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Step 1: Create your foundation 

First, let’s create your base (short for database), where you’ll store all the information related to your project or process.

☑ Add a base 

Once you’ve signed in to Airtable, hover over the “Add a base” button. It’s in the middle of your screen. Next, you’ll have a few options to choose from:

  • If you’re starting a brand-new project or process, but would like some guardrails (or help with structure), use a template. If your workflow is a common one—like a content calendar or project tracker—we’ve got a template that will act as a foundation for you.

  • If you’re creating a brand-new project or process but don’t need help with structure, you can select the start from scratch option. Next, name your base. This will drop you into your first table where you can start adding information.

  • If you’ve already got an existing project or process living in something like a CSV or a spreadsheet, import is the way to go. When you import existing work, you’re able to get all the power of Airtable as soon as you've finished your upload. 

In the next steps, we’ll walk through building a base from scratch, but we’ll highlight tips you can use no matter which choice you make here.

Step 2: Add your information 

Once you’ve created and opened your base, you’ll see your first table, conveniently labeled “Table 1.” A table contains lists of information of the same type—like people, ideas, or objects—and is made up of records, fields, and views (we’ll go through each of these terms below).

You’ll create a record for each individual item you want to track, and use fields to capture each item’s relevant details. By default, you’ll see your table’s records and fields organized into a grid of rows and columns.

☑  Name your first table 

The first table is where you and your collaborators will spend most of your time. Because of that, you’ll want to give it a clear name so that everyone can understand what information they’ll find in the table. To rename it, just double-click “Table 1” and start typing.

  • Example: If you’re using Airtable to manage your e-commerce orders, you’ll make your first table “Inventory” so you can easily see what’s in stock.

☑  Create your first fields

Your table will have a few pre-populated fields that are easy to change if you want to categorize different information—like a due date or collaborator. The first field, your primary field, is used to identify each record, so be sure to choose something like “Name” or “ID” that is unique to each record or row.

⚡ Airtable tip 

We know it’s tempting to use text for every field type at first, but selecting the most accurate option—like a single select or currency—will keep your information structured as you build. The right field types will help unlock Airtable’s most powerful features. 

We’ve listed a few field types above, but there are many more we haven’t mentioned. See a full list here.

  • Example: In an “inventory” table for e-commerce, you might have:  

    • Records that track individual items or SKUs

    • Fields that store information critical to our inventory:

      • Primary field: Item name (field type: single line of text)

      • Price (field type: $ currency) 

      • Stock (field type: # number)

      • Supplier (field type: single select, adding in the names of our three suppliers) 

☑  Add your first records 

Now, add your first record to your table and fill in the relevant information.

  • Example: Here’s our inventory table for the first three items:

Once you’ve added your first few items, you’re well on your way! Hopefully you’re starting to see how much you can customize Airtable to work for your specific workflow. 

☑  Add additional table(s) 

As mentioned above, tables contain lists of a specific type of information. Now that you’ve created your first table, go ahead and follow the steps above for other types of information related to your project. 

  • Example: For our e-commerce store, we’ll go ahead and create a second table for “Orders.” We’ll use “Order ID” as the primary field for each record and create fields for “Customer name,” “Items,” and “Order total.” 

If you're not sure what to put in your second table, no problem. You can always add more tables later on. 

☑  Set up linked records 

If you have information that spans across multiple tables—like tasks or clients associated with a project—you’ll want to create a linked record field. This way, you can easily associate information from one table to the next without needing to switch between tables or make duplicative updates.

Linked records is one of the most common ways new users are introduced to the power of databases. Like everything in Airtable, you can level up over time, so there’s no need to start out with a linked record right away. If you’re ready to create a linked record now, you can read more about how it works here.

  • Example: Since I need to track “Item name” across both my “Inventory” and “Order” tables, I will create a linked “Items” field in my “Orders” table. 

Step 3: Organize your information 

Now that you have your information in Airtable, let’s start exploring the different ways you can use it to share updates, make decisions, and more. Airtable provides a multitude of ways to customize both what and how your information is presented.

☑  Try sorting and filters 

At the top of your table, there’s a toolbar with different options to adjust how your information is displayed based on what’s most relevant to your work:

  • Reorder fields so highest-priority details show up first 

  • Sort by different fields so you can view tasks by upcoming due date or an alphabetized list of all customers

  • Group by any field in your table—like project status, project type, client, etc. 

  • Hide or filter fields to only focus on what’s most relevant to your work

  • Example: With an e-commerce store, you could group your orders by order number and filter out completed orders, so you can focus on fulfilling outstanding orders.

☑ Name your first view 

Once you’ve landed on a configuration you like, you can save it to easily reference later. Double click on “Grid view” in the upper left of the toolbar and give it a descriptive name. There you go! You just created your first view—we’ll tell you more about views in the next section.

Step 4: Visualize your information 

Views make it easy for you to adjust how you see and interact with your information in Airtable. The view you created above is just a preview of what’s possible. Changing how your information is presented gives you a new perspective on your data, so you can improve your workflows and make better decisions.

☑  Try out a few views

To the left of your new view’s name, there’s a toggle you can click to open the views sidebar. From here, you can create as many separate views as you’d like, whether another grid view or something different.

Here are a few powerful view types to try out: 

  • The kanban view groups records into stacks of cards. This way, you can easily see information at a glance—like which work is still in planning and which is nearing completion. And you can move work forward with a wave of your mouse.

Try the calendar view to stay on top of critical dates and milestones. If you notice you’ve got a lot of overlapping due dates, you can drag and drop to quickly make changes that’ll sync across every view.

  • If you’re on an Airtable Pro or Enterprise plan, you should try the Gantt view. You’ll be able to manage workflows that have important deadlines, sequenced steps, or dependencies between records. For example, if you can’t start production until your designs are locked, you can easily adjust the start and end dates in a click to ensure your work is sequenced properly.

Once you’ve got a few views set up for yourself, you can easily customize views to surface the most relevant information for different stakeholders. Have a co-worker who only needs to see what work is completed? You can set that view up with a few clicks and share it with them.

And here’s an ultra-important note: When you update information in one view, it’s automatically synced across the rest. That means that every member of your team is looking at the most up-to-date information. Even if your lead and your partner on a project have different views, they’ll see the same updates, in real time. Pretty cool, right?

Step 5: Share your new base 

Now that your information is in Airtable and you’ve created a few views, let’s go ahead and share it with your team.

⚡ Airtable tip

When you’re sharing from Airtable, you don’t need to share your entire base with someone. Instead, you can just share a view that filters out any irrelevant—or confidential—information.

Or you can link team members to their respective projects, clients, etc. This way, they’ll know when a task or new information is waiting for them and where they should make updates if needed. To do this, create a new “Owner” (or similarly titled field) and select the collaborator field type.

☑  Add collaborators

You have a few different options for the level of access you grant to team members based on their role in your project or process. Here are the privileges you can grant:

  • Creator: Can fully configure and edit your base. 

  • Editor: Can edit records and views, but cannot configure tables or fields. 

  • Commenter: Can comment on records and create personal views. 

  • Read-only: Cannot edit or comment.

Recap

You’ve made it through the hardest part: creating your first base. As you get more comfortable with Airtable, everything else—adding or updating information, creating your next base, and even levelling up with advanced features like automations and apps—will be easier and start clicking into place. 

And if you get stuck at any step, you can view step-by-step directions in our support center.

The Airtable base-ics

A handy cheat sheet for navigating Airtable.

  • A workspace is a collection of bases shared among a team of people.

  • A base (short for database) contains all of the information you need for a specific project.

  • Each base has one or more tables for different types of information related to your project (ex: projects, customers, team members).

  • Tables are made up of records and fields. You’ll create a record for each individual item and fields will track each item’s relevant details.

Creating your base (checklist)

  • 1: Create your foundation 

    • Add a base

  • 2: Add information

    • Name your table 

    • Set up your first fields

    • Add your first records

    • Add additional table(s) (optional) 

    • Set up a linked record

  • 3: Organize information

    • Try sorting and filters

    • Save your first view

  • 4: Visualize information

    • Try out a few views

  • 5: Share information

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