What are linked records?

You’ve probably heard people talk about the power of connecting data and you started to wonder how. There are many ways to connect data, but one of the easiest ways to do it is by using linked records in Airtable. Read on to learn more about linked records.

Linked records in Airtable 

Linked records are aptly named. With a quick link, you get the power of seeing your data in one place—and the ability to cross-reference your data in multiple places. And that data stays automatically synced and up to date, so you don’t have to track down and eliminate conflicts. Okay, so what does that really mean? We’re glad you asked. 

In order to truly demonstrate what’s possible with linked records, we’ll expand on the same example throughout this article. Let’s say we’re a furniture company with the following tables:

  • Inventory (name, images, status, in stock, etc.) 

  • Orders (order number, status, product name, etc.) 

  • Production (item name, production date, ship date, etc.) 

Add information in one place, see it everywhere else

Linking records in Airtable lets you enter information once, then view that data across the tables in your base. That means you can view your information in different contexts—and with different relationships—without duplicating information. 

For example, if you’re in your “Inventory” table and one of your orders has shipped, you can update that order directly from the “Inventory” table by clicking to expand the record and updating the status. And because you’ve got one source of truth, there’s no need to worry about updating the order in any other table.

When you update information in one table, it’s automatically synced across the rest. This ensures everyone on your team is working from the latest, most accurate information—without needing to manually adjust or re-enter the same information in multiple places. 

Easily get additional context from wherever you’re working

Clicking to expand a linked record will display additional information from its linked table. This enables you to easily get additional context without needing to switch between tables or add the same information in multiple places.

For example, if you need to know the materials used in a couch, you wouldn’t store that information in your “Orders” table. But you can still access that information by clicking the linked record. From there, you can get the answer you need and see where that information is stored.

Gain insights by understanding how information fits together

We’ve got one last point to make about linked records. They help you better understand how different parts of your work fit together and gain insights that previously required database knowledge or SQL. There are three special field types that allow you to compute values based on information in your connected tables:

Try this field type:

To….

By...

Count: Avoid manual data entry by counting the number of linked records for a specific field Answer questions like “which services are the most popular?” Counting the number of projects for each service
Lookup: Reference a specific field from one table in another and ensure they’re up-to-dateView the latest status for a project when taking notes in the Clients tableLooking up “Status” from the “Projects” table
Rollup: Summarize the relationship between multiple linked records Answer questions like “What’s our highest value project?” Running a rollup calculation to associate service cost with services for each project

You can learn more about each of these special field types here

When to use linked records 

So, when exactly should you use a linked record? If you have more than one table in your base, there’s a good chance you can find value in linked records. Here are some simple rules of thumb to help identify when and where to use them: 

  • Information is relevant to or may be referenced across multiple tables—e.g. client name showing up in both the “Projects” and “Client” tables, or release date for an upcoming launch showing up in both the “Tactics” and “Campaigns” tables. 

  • You may want to view additional context that doesn’t necessarily belong in the table—e.g. Associated costs for different services may be helpful to view at times, but doesn’t necessarily belong in the “Projects” table 

Your turn: Create a linked record 

Here are some ways you can easily get started with linked records:

  • Create a source of truth, ensuring data is accurate and up to date 

  • Reduce the need for manual entry, saving your team time 

  • Allow you to reference additional relevant information, keeping tables focused and reducing the need to switch between tables 

  • Help uncover insights by simplifying queries across multiple types of information 

Psst…before you go, we have to let you in on a secret. Once you create your first linked record, you’re seeing the power of relational data as a whole new level. At the beginning of this guide, we  promised we wouldn’t get into the technical details of databases, so you’ll just have to take our word for it. Okay, now give it a try, database pro. 

If you need additional help, you can view step-by-step directions in our support center.

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