The no-code community often puts a spotlight on Airtable but how does it compare to Google Sheets? And for those building with no-code, which one do you choose for your database? There are a few differences that are important to keep in mind when choosing one for your next no-code project.
Google Sheets is tried and true and focuses on the spreadsheet. If you only need to store data, Google Sheets may be all you need especially when using it with Zapier in a no-code project. Airtable, on the other hand, reminds me of all-in-one tools like Coda and Notion. While Airtable is centered around the tried-and-true spreadsheet table they’ve packed a whole lot more in that makes the database visual and interactive.
Airtable’s foundation is a basic spreadsheet layout called Tables but it offers multiple views and ways to interact with the data. Google Sheets is a static spreadsheet.
Airtable’s Tables have Rows/Records, Cells, and Columns. But, with Airtable, you can easily switch the view of each Table to show things like a Calendar or a Kanban board like Trello.
Google Sheets is all about the spreadsheet. When thinking about your no-code project, if you need to interact with your data in different ways, go with Airtable. If you just need a database to store your data, go with Google Sheets.
Use Google Sheets for a no-code database.
Some people swear by Airtable (like Ben Tossell of Makerpad) because interacting with the data on Airtable is more flexible. This makes sense if you're building something complex because you need to make sure your data is easily viewed and manipulated.
Airtable has better design and visuals when compared to Google Sheets. If you have a team of people who get scared by rows of data, Airtable may be the safer bet. But if you only need a spreadsheet that doesn’t need to be visually appealing, Google Sheets is the better option.
I know there’s a lot of you out there who just need things to look pretty. I get it. You’re probably better off exploring Airtable if you’re visual.
When connecting Airtable or Google Sheets to other apps in Zapier it’s important to understand what role each app plays. Apps connected in Zapier often resemble how software is built. With Zapier, you can build without code (we call it no-code). So, let’s use software principles to understand whether you should use Airtable or Google Sheets to build with no-code.
We will look at four main parts of software and see how Airtable and Google Sheets fit in. We’ll look at the User, the User Interface (UI), the Logic, and the Database:
Google Sheets is best as a Database whereas Airtable is best as a UI with a secondary purpose as a database:
Google Sheets is the clear winner here. With Zapier, you can do a whole lot more with Google Sheets than you can with Airtable.
Google Sheets has 18 different triggers, actions, or searches you can use in Zaps to automate your workflows with other apps. There’s little you can’t automate with Google Sheets. Check out all of the options here.
Airtable has a limited Zapier integration. You’ll have the basics, but not much more.
At the moment, Airtable only has 6 triggers, actions, or searches in Zapier. See the full list here.
Because Airtable has so many different views, options, colors, built-in automations, etc., it’s naturally more complex than Google Sheets. There’s a steep learning curve.
If you’d like to learn more, here’s a fantastic and free Airtable tutorial from Aron Korenblit I recommend.
Airtable makes it easy to have relational linking. This means having a column that points to some other table. Google Sheets relies on formulas which makes it more difficult to link data.
Google Sheets is free with a gmail account.
Airtable has a free account, but limits things like Blocks (which are native integrations with other apps), visual customization, team features and more to paid plans.
If you’re on a tight budget, try using Google Sheets first.
Airtable is best if you need to interact with the data in visual ways. Google Sheets is best if you need a simple and free database that has a robust integration with Zapier. But try both! See what you like best and stay flexible.
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