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Airtable vs Google Sheets: Everything You Need to Know

Mariam Ispiryan • May 12, 2022 • 11 min read

Airtable and Google Sheets both operate with spreadsheet-like interfaces, so they might seem like similar tools at first glance.


However, they have different capabilities and lend themselves to unique use cases.


On one hand, modern database tools like Airtable let users view and manipulate their data in dynamic ways, are designed with collaboration in mind, and can be supercharged with a variety of integrations and SaaS platforms like Softr.


On the other hand, Google Sheets is perfect for those who want an easy, straightforward way to store and organize information, work with numerical data, or have existing workflows in Google Workspace.


This article has everything you need to know about Airtable vs Google Sheets, including the advantages and disadvantages of databases vs. spreadsheets. So, let’s get started.



Table of Contents


  1. Airtable vs Google Sheets: What’s the difference?
  2. Databases vs spreadsheets: Which is better?
  3. Let’s compare Airtable vs Google Sheets


One of the best things about Airtable is its flexibility.

Connect your Airtable database to Softr and build beautiful no-code web apps in minutes.

Airtable vs Google Sheets: What’s the difference?


While there’s some overlap between Airtable and Google Sheets, they’re two very distinct tools.


Airtable is a spreadsheet-database hybrid. It brings the best of both worlds together as it has all the features that spreadsheet users and database users love. 


Airtable goes a step further than traditional databases with innovative features like a variety of different field types, a large library of ready-to-use templates, and a huge ecosystem of related integrations and no-code platforms like Softr.


It’s important to note that Airtable can also act as a relational database. That means it can use linked records to bond different tables together.


Google Sheets is a much more traditional spreadsheet. It doesn’t look like anything fancy, but it gets the job done. The platform is reminiscent of Excel, but it has a few more modern features. For instance, it works pretty well for multiple users and collaborative teams as it updates in real-time.

Databases vs spreadsheets: Which is better?


To help you choose the right tool for your needs, let’s jump into some definitions.

Google sheets Business Report

The Google Sheets interface provides a good reference for how most spreadsheets look. They’re blank tables made up of rows and columns that are ready to store your data.

Source: Google Sheets



A spreadsheet is a two-dimensional electronic document designed to store, organize, and analyze data. They’ve been around almost as long as the internet has and are popular for practical uses, like sorting data and producing graphs, as well as technical uses, like crunching numbers and keeping track of budgets. Think of them as an electronic version of the paper.

Airtable database

Databases might look like spreadsheets at first glance, but they’re actually far more dynamic because of their wider range of features and different possible use cases.



A database also stores, organizes, and analyzes information, but is typically more scalable and reliable than a spreadsheet. It also has more functionalities, is compatible with a wider range of data types, and makes it easier to programmatically manage data.


Spreadsheets and databases both have a time and a place, so let’s talk about their strengths and weaknesses to figure out which one is best for you.



Databases: What are the pros and cons?


Pros

  • Easier to work with large amounts of data
  • Ideal for fast-growing businesses that need to scale
  • Can manage data programmatically
  • Handy for many different use cases like project management, customer relationship management (CRM), and eCommerce
  • Possible to use within applications
  • Typically more secure than spreadsheets
  • Modern databases have advanced fields so users can store many different information types
  • Some have powerful relational database capabilities


Cons

  • Often require some training, so there can be a learning curve at first
  • Platforms often require payment
  • It’s time-consuming to set up a database system when you’re starting from scratch
  • Can be more rigid that spreadsheets because they expect values to match the existing structure


Use cases


One of the biggest advantages to databases is the nearly limitless use cases they come with. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with your database tool and are feeling confident navigating it, you can turn it into just about anything you can imagine.


Here are just some of the ways you can use databases:



Airtable is one of the most popular database tools out there. The platform empowers users to store and organize data any way they want, allowing them to work more efficiently, streamline their processes, and create custom solutions for their needs.


It’s worth mentioning that modern databases like Airtable connect with third-party platforms like Softr, which makes them even more powerful. Softr’s key features allow users to build beautiful front-ends for their Airtable data, without writing any code, and bring even more use cases into the picture. For instance:


  • DS Automotive is a Jaguar Land Rover specialist located in the United Kingdom. They initially started using Airtable to manage their internal data, and later integrated Softr to create their employee portal.


  • SkillIt helps businesses work more efficiently by helping them create automations, choose the right tools, and improve internal processes. Airtable has been a key part of their tech stack for a while, but they recently added Softr into the mix to build their client portal.



Spreadsheets: What are the pros and cons?


Pros

  • Familiar to most people and easy to set up
  • Ideal if you want a simple way to store and organize information
  • Handy for crunching numbers and automatic calculations
  • Great for creating tables, charts, and graphs out of your data
  • Easy to sort and filter data
  • Usually free or inexpensive to use


Cons

  • The type of information you store is limited to numbers, letters, and keyboard characters
  • The amount of text you can add into cells is usually limited
  • If you’re storing a lot of data, it can get overwhelming fast in a traditional spreadsheet
  • Usually less secure than databases
  • Not ideal for long-term storage 
  • Spreadsheets just aren’t that interesting to look at (although supercharging them with SaaS tools like Softr can change that)


Use cases


Spreadsheets were initially created as a way to crunch numbers, but they’ve come a long way since then. Even though they’ve remained most popular for technical use cases, they’re also more flexible than they seem. Some key spreadsheet use cases include:


  • Business & accounting: Businesses of all shapes and sizes use spreadsheets to organize and analyze all their numerical data, particularly finance teams. For instance, for monitoring administrative work, creating budgets, and carrying out monthly accounting tasks and payroll.


  • General data storage: This use case is very basic, but it’s truly one of the most popular ways to use spreadsheets. When people have any kind of information they want to store and organize for future reference, they put it in a spreadsheet.



  • Education: Surprisingly, higher and continuing education institutions are some of the organizations that use spreadsheets the most. They come in handy for everything from keeping records on students to taking attendance to storing test results and calculating grades.

Let’s compare Airtable vs Google Sheets

Airtable features

Airtable is a fantastic tool for teams that want a dynamic way to store and organize their data, collaborate better, and carry out complex automations and workflows.



If you’re looking for a spreadsheet/database tool like Airtable or Google Sheets, there are lots of different criteria you should consider when comparing the two. Here are some of the most important.



Design and visuals


Overall, Airtable’s interface is much more interesting to look at when compared with Google Sheets. Its design is dynamic, intuitive, and fun to navigate. Different elements can also be customized and color-coded according to your preferences.


We also love that Airtable provides users with several different ways to view their dashboards. You can choose between timeline, form, grid, calendar, gallery, Gantt, and Kanban.


Google Sheets’ interface is simple, straightforward, and instantly recognizable as a Google product. It’s not going to win any design awards and isn’t particularly captivating, but it has a clean design and gets the job done.



Usefulness


A tool’s usefulness is subjective, so both Airtable and Google Sheets are useful depending on what you want them to do for you.


If you:


  • Work with large amounts of data
  • Want a relational database tool
  • Need a predefined set of field types
  • Want to manipulate and view data in a variety of different ways
  • Have a dynamic use case like project management or CRM
  • Are collaborating with multiple team members


Then, Airtable is a more useful platform. The possibilities it offers its users are simply wider when compared with Google Sheets.


However, if you’re looking for a quick and effective tool to store and organize your data, Google Sheets could be a very useful platform for you.



Collaboration


Both Airtable and Google Sheets have great collaboration features. They’re both cloud-based tools and update more or less in real-time, so they work great for asynchronous and remote teams.


Airtable has a larger range of collaboration-specific features like comments, mentions, advanced data fields, personal views, and the ability to access audit trails to see all the changes made to different documents.


Google Sheets has a slight advantage over Airtable because you can work offline. With Airtable, you can only work when you’re connected to the internet.



No-code


Airtable and Google Sheets are no-code platforms, so both tools are suitable for people without programming expertise to use.


Airtable is also integrated with a number of no-code tools such as Softr, which means you can build professional front-end websites, landing pages, marketplaces, portals, and online communities without any special knowledge.

One of the best things about Airtable is its flexibility.

Connect your Airtable database to Softr and build beautiful no-code web apps in minutes.

Integrations

Softr & Airtable

Softr empowers Airtable users to create professional web apps and sites out of their data, like this online community example.



When it comes to integrations, Airtable definitely wins. It has tons of built-in integrations like Typeform, Slack, Mailchimp, Asana, and Trello. You can also connect Airtable with over 1000 more integrations by using Zapier.


Even more than Airtable integrations, their robust API has spurred a network of third-party no-code tools like Softr, Make, and MiniExtensions that make their software even more powerful. For instance, Softr allows Airtable users to transform their databases into beautiful front-end web apps.


Google Sheets has fewer integrations than Airtable. However, since the platform has been around for a long time, you can integrate it within many of your favorite web apps like Slack and Typeform.



Complexity


Airtable is a more complex tool than Google Sheets. In fact, many people struggle to understand what Airtable actually does before they try it out for themselves. It has so many different features and ways to organize data that it can be overwhelming at first.


For that reason, it’s a good idea to try out Airtable’s free plan to get oriented with their software before making your final decision.


There are lots of complex ways to use Google Sheets as well, but it’s easier for people to get the hang of. Its interface feels familiar and many people have experience working with Google apps, so Google Sheets’ learning curve is less steep than Airtable’s.



Price


When it comes to pricing, Airtable and Google Sheets are pretty neck-and-neck.


Airtable has a free plan that works well for individuals and small teams just getting started. Once you’re ready to upgrade and use their more advanced features, paid plans cost between $12 and $24 per seat per month.


If you’re using one of Airtable’s paid plans, there are many interesting third-party tools you can connect with for free.


Google Sheets is also free as part of the Google Workspace tools suite.

GAP Consulting dives deeper into the differences between Airtable and Google Sheets, providing a great overview of both tools and evaluating their advantages and disadvantages. 

Finding the best database tool for your needs


All in all, both Airtable and Google Sheets are highly effective tools. The best way to figure out which option best suits your needs is by keeping this guide handy, doing your own research, talking with your professional community, and even trying them out for yourself.


If you want to make a quick decision, Airtable is a better all-around tool when compared with Google Sheets. It lends itself to a much larger number of use cases, has a more dynamic design, has fantastic collaboration features, and connects seamlessly with tons of useful integrations and no-code web app builders like Softr.


Regardless of the tool you end up with, remember that selecting the right spreadsheet-database platform and customizing it to your specific needs can truly change the way you do business for the better.

One of the best things about Airtable is its flexibility.

Connect your Airtable database to Softr and build beautiful no-code web apps in minutes.

Frequently asked questions about Airtable vs. Google Sheets

If you want to figure out whether Airtable is better than Google Sheets, you’ll have to ask yourself whether you want a database-spreadsheet hybrid or a more traditional spreadsheet tool. Because Airtable has the capabilities of both databases and spreadsheets, it’s a much more versatile platform that allows users to view and organize their data in a myriad of different ways. It also lends itself to lots of different use cases like project management, customer relationship management, inventory management, and event planning. On the other hand, Google Sheets could be a great option for you if you want a more straightforward tool to store and sort your data. Many teams also like using Google Sheets if they’re already working with other Google Workspace tools.

Yes. You can use Airtable to do the vast majority of things you can do on Google Sheets. Although the two database-spreadsheet tools are distinct, they have a lot of similarities. They’re both no code, operate on web-based platforms, have spreadsheet-like interfaces, and have many of the same use cases like project management, general data storage, inventory management, financial services, IT & operations, and start-up management.

To determine whether Airtable is better than Excel, you’ll have to consider your specific needs. Neither tool is necessarily better because they have distinct capabilities that work better for different contexts. Airtable is database-spreadsheet hybrid with a wide variety of use cases, so it’s a better choice if you have large amounts of data, want to create complex systems and processes, are collaborating with lots of different people, and want to use integrations like Softr to turn your backend information into front-end no-code web apps and sites. On the other hand, Excel could be a better choice if you’re looking for a simple, no-frills way to store and organize information or want a spreadsheet to use to crunch numbers and work with numerical data.

While both Airtable and Google Sheets are great tools, we think Airtable has a slight edge over Google Sheets. Here are some of the platform’s biggest benefits: 1. Interface design: Airtable has a dynamic interface that can be viewed in several different ways and is simply pleasant to look at. 2. Usefulness: While both Airtable and Google Sheets are handy depending on the situation, Airtable is useful for a much larger amount of use cases. 3. Collaboration: Airtable’s collaboration features are a step above Google Sheets’, including comments, mentions, collaborator fields, personal views, and even a Slack integration. 4. Integrations: Airtable has a much bigger network of integrations and related third-party apps like Softr that take the platform’s capabilities to the next level.

Google Sheets and Excel are similar spreadsheet tools, but Google Sheets is slightly superior because it’s more modern, is better for collaboration, and can be used more flexibly. Google Sheets is better suited for teams that work asynchronously and want their spreadsheets to reflect real-time updates. If you already use Google Workspace tools, it’s also handy that Google Sheets is free and integrates seamlessly with other Google apps like Gmail and Google Calendar.

Airtable has a free plan that’s perfect for freelancers, entrepreneurs, or small teams just getting started. It includes unlimited bases and up to five creators and editors. You can use the free plan for as long as you want, but they’ve also got three paid plans to choose from when you’re ready to upgrade.

Because Airtable is a spreadsheet-database hybrid with a huge array of potential use cases, it comes with lots of benefits. Some of the most notable include: - A free plan - A network of native integrations and complementary no-code web app builder tools like Softr - An elegant, intuitive interface that’s a pleasure to look at - A variety of different ways to view your data like grid, list, calendar, Gantt chart, and Kanban board - Complex fields that let users add everything from files to formulas to buttons into their databases - Powerful automations that help users avoid unnecessary manual work - An extensive library of ready-made templates - Great collaboration features that help teams work together better

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