Airtable vs Excel - [10 Key Features You Should Consider]
Airtable and Excel are two major traditional spreadsheets and software for data manipulation, the first is rather tracking workflow software, while the latter is used for calculations and data analysis. Although both can be used for similar functions, they have some significant differences worth mentioning. In this Article vs Excel article, we’ll have a glance at these aspects.
Table of Contents:
What Is Airtable?
Airtable is a spreadsheet-database hybrid software and cloud collaboration service. It’s also a no-code database, so it features an easier interface and functionalities. Airtable works very similarly to other spreadsheet programs, using fields as cells. These fields have different types, such as ‘phone number,’ ‘check-box,’ and more.
In Airtable, you can create data structures, databases, column types, and link tables and generate collaboration and connectivity between members of your teamwork.
What Is Microsoft Excel?
MS Excel is one of the most relevant traditional spreadsheet software on the market. This program is a standard data manipulation application that allows you to extract information and insights from data in various formats.
It also allows a user to store data in a tabular format and interact with it in several ways. The most common use of Excel is to sort and filter data, use mathematical formulas and pivot tables to manipulate the data, and create new insights. It is also used for data entry and creating records.
With Excel, you can easily import and export data, which allows you to share your data entry with all the members of your team or external users.
This spreadsheet software is also great as an external database and data analysis software. It’s also helpful in creating reports, data storage, mathematical calculations, and more.
What is Airtable Used for?
Airtable is mainly used for tracking and managing workflows. In this regard, Airtable is a great tool for collaborating with other team members or other tasks for large enterprises. Airtable is the best choice if you need:
- Running a content calendar;
- Planning and executing marketing campaigns and events;
- Tracking employees' productivity and inventory;
- Reporting & visualization.
What is Excel Used for?
As you may know, Excel is mainly used by most people to calculate and analyze data. This function allows users to manage large amounts of information, perform mathematical calculations, and draw related conclusions. Excel is perfect for:
- Financial data analytics;
- Business analytics;
- Advanced data visualization.
Airtable vs Excel: Key Differences
Now, let’s go directly to the ten most interesting differences we believe are worth mentioning regarding these two applications. This way, you can make a good decision and select the best software for your goals.
Interface and Functionality
Both software feature a spreadsheet configuration but in different ways. Airtable is a relational database that’s simple and elegant. Its interface may look like a spreadsheet grid, but it’s more of a database you can use to build apps. Most Airtable templates work in this way.
The database ‘cells’ of Airtable work like a store where you can save hundreds of thousands of records. All the information you keep in those ‘cells” is stored in a backend database. If you change the data either automatically or manually, all the records change in the backend.
Besides, Airtable allows you to view the information in multiple ways, such as spreadsheets, calendars, etcetera.
MS Office Excel, on the other hand, is a spreadsheet app. Thus all its processes work under this system. This way, sorting the data is very easy and intuitive since you organize the information in columns, rows, and a grid view.
You can insert any amount of numerical data and text in the cells, and run both simple and complex calculations. In this regard, Excel’s interface is simple.
Both Airtable and Excel have multiple pre-built templates for different purposes.
Airtable features hundreds of useful templates for workflows that are designed to be easy to use. In addition, most Airtable templates are micro-apps that include automation, relations, and workflows set up ready that you can add data and track the progress.
Excel templates are thought for calculations and presenting data. Excel features thousands of premade templates, many of which you can get free on the Internet. Besides, you can also find top templates in Excel on your computer and the Microsoft website library.
In short, at this point, there is not a major difference between both software since either Airtable or Microsoft Office Excel offers multiple templates for specific purposes.
Formulas and Procedures
In a few words, Airtable lets you use simple and complex data and formulas like the Excel app, but with limited functionality.
As you may know, if you’re a basic user of Excel, each cell contains specific data. This data may be directly related to any cells and data you want from the spreadsheet.
Formulas in Airtable work in a different way. In Airtable, you create formula fields, i.e., you can’t sum or subtract two specific cells or values. Here, the formula applies to an entire column.
Although this may sound a bit counterintuitive, you can still insert multiple criteria for columns and apply the calculation if you do calculations occasionally.
However, if you need a more intuitive and direct application of formulas or seek more flexibility when performing big calculations for small businesses, Excel is your partner.
In short, Airtable was designed to facilitate all the operations within your organization. As we mentioned, its interface is very simple. Thus most newbies can learn the basics and most categories in no time.
Most spreadsheet applications are very intuitive. Excel is not an exception. Basically, you can learn basic and medium-difficulty features in a matter of hours. If you know how the formulas work and how to implement them, then a big part of the topic is solved.
File-sharing is probably one of the most important aspects when it comes to working on a team. In this regard, both software allows you to attach documents but with subtle differences.
Airtable, unlike other apps, allows you to attach documents to your existing fields. This way, you’ll create an independent space for attachments. This is a great tool for other users to know what is what and where to find what they’re looking for.
In Airtable, you can attach any type of document you want. Even the app will create a thumbnail for some types of documents, such as Word documents, and Excel files, so you can find them easier. You can also see a full-screen preview of the document you attached. Last but not least, you can set documents for only one person to be capable of editing.
Excel allows you to attach documents to columns and cells individually. This way, documents are not floating in the platform and are an integral part of the spreadsheet. But, being realistic, shareability is more robust in Airtable since it allows you to drag and drop files from one field to another.
Since Airtable was designed for creating and managing workflows, the collaboration between team members and external partners is the cornerstone of this software.
However, both programs allow you to work on documents with other users as well as leave comments and solve inconsistencies in real-time and chat with colleagues.
Anyway, Airtable has a point in its favor: you can drag and drop tasks easily from one in progress to another completed. You can also automatize Slack messages and integrate them with several other applications.
But still, Excel 2021 has a co-authoring feature through which you and your colleagues can collaborate and work on the same document and the same data. Thanks to this, you can see each other’s changes in real time. You’ll see other’s interventions on the same sheet in different colors.
To share the document, just select “Share” in the upper right corner. Then type the email addresses and choose a cloud location.
One of the strongest functions of Excel is its capability to display great visualizations of numerical data and percentages. Excel does not have limits on how many visualization tools you can use. In these terms, you can manage big data and display it as you believe it’s best.
Regarding visualization, Airtable is a bit rigid since it doesn’t have a built-in data visualization on the base. Airtable needs extensions and additional tools to display visualizations. In other words, if you need to add a pivot, table, chart, graphs, or whatever, you have to do it manually via the extensions folder in the database.
Still, after using external extensions in Airtable, both software has pretty much the same visualization tools performing an equivalent level of customization. That said, choosing which software is better for visualization depends on the type of visualization your organization needs.
For example, Airtable is a great app for displaying org charts and flowcharts because they need to be interactive. In this regard, Airtable provides you with the right tools for that.
Excel, instead, and as we mentioned earlier, is better for numerical data visualization. Besides, consider that Excel won’t limit you to a certain number of graphs, which is the main difference between both applications.
Both programs have their respective mobile apps, as we can expect from modern applications. Both are pretty functional and let you do the same as you can do in the desktop versions. However, as Excel is a spreadsheet and project management tool, it can be a bit difficult to achieve complete functionality in a smartphone.
Regarding the Airtable mobile version, it’s not so functional. For instance, you can’t create field formulas, which can be a big pain. Still, since it was created to design small apps referring to a database, Airtable can be more user-friendly in these terms.
Airtable boasts many options when it comes to the view. Just like Excel, the grid view is the default one. Other view options are the following:
- Kanban View. This option is very similar to what you find in Trello. Here your records are stacked in cards on a board. This way, visualizing and tracking in-process work is pretty easy.
- Gallery View. This shows you the records organized in large cards. As its name suggests, it’s designed for displaying images.
- Calendar View. In this alternative, Airtable makes it easier to track data since it is arranged as events on the calendar. This option has more sense when it comes to team time-based projects.
- Timeline View. In this view, you track your documents and progress by using a horizontal scrolling timeline. This is a perfect choice when you need to track many tasks and plan content.
- Gantt View. This alternative displays the data as a Gantt chart. It allows you to check any task of any team member from start to finish, which is great for tracking integrations and dependencies between tasks.
Excel also provides some view options. The default view is regular, whereas the spreadsheet style is the rule. Excel’s view is designed for organization and convenience, and this does not change too much. In these terms, options in Excel are basic. Still, you can hide some UI features to have more space for data.
Pricing and Availability
As you can see in the image above, Airtable offers several plans for different types of customers. The free option is for newbies. Anyway, with this option, you will receive the following benefits:
- Unlimited bases;
- Unlimited commenter & read-only users;
- Up to 5 creators or editors;
- 1 extension per base;
- 1 sync integration;
- 1,200 records per base;
- 2GB of attachments per base.
The other alternatives are thought for teams and companies with a major number of participants. Both USD$10 and USD$20 options add multiple benefits, such as:
- 5,000 and 50,000 records per base, respectively;
- 5GB and 20GB of attachments per base, respectively;
- 6-month revision history & snapshot;
- Automatic table syncing.
- Gantt & Timeline views.
- Personal & locked views.
- Field & table editing permissions.
You can acquire Microsoft Excel by subscribing to the Microsoft 365 service, or by purchasing the Microsoft Office suite or its standalone version. The latter option costs USD$159.99. On the other hand, the subscription to the Microsoft 365 service starts at USD$6.99 per user per month.
The best option is to acquire a reliable and legit CD Key from a third-party seller, such as RoyalCDKeys. On this platform, you’ll find several versions of this suite, from Microsoft Office 2019 Professional Puls Key Retail to Microsoft Office 2021 Pro Plus Key Retail Global. The starting price is around €1,80.
Excel vs Airtable - Bottom Line
Both Airtable and Excel are good spreadsheet software. Although the first is a database hybrid, it can still be considered in this group. Of course, there are other alternatives, such as Google Sheets, which is part of Google Workspace.
Excel and Google Sheets share many similarities, more than Airtable and Excel. Both Google Sheets and Excel are great for calculations and complex formulas. Airtable is more for organizing data and creating apps.
We can say that Google Sheets is like a free version of Excel but with fewer features. Anyway, this is the subject of another article.
Just to say that, if you need to organize and link your data easily, the Airtable app is the cloud-based software you need. On the other hand, if you have a small business and need to perform mathematical calculations, percentages, create tables, and display data, Excel is your choice.