Airtable is an incredibly flexible tool that lets you take advantage of the power of relational databases and cloud collaboration to help you better organize your business processes. However, it can be cumbersome to set up and sometimes, specialized tools–especially in areas like project management–can do a better job than Airtable while requiring less setup time and configuration.
In this list, we’re having a look at some of the best Airtable alternatives. The items we’re looking at here are generally more limited in scope than Airtable and in many ways, this is a good thing. To paraphrase the Unix philosophy, it’s always better to do one thing and to do it well.
Best Airtable Alternatives
1. Google Sheet
Who it’s for: Users who want something simple
If Google Sheet is Microsoft Excel on the cloud, consider Airtable as Google Sheet on steroids. But what if you are not looking for advance options anyway? Well, then Google sheet should work just fine.
In fact, there are few things, you can do in Google sheet that is not possible on Airtables. For instance, since Airtable is a combination of a relational database and excel, the data always stays with the record, meaning if you delete a record the data (its corresponding rows) associated with it, will also be deleted. Google sheet is much more flexible in this respect, you can delete selective columns or row and it’ll have no impact on the other rows and columns. Similarly, Google Sheet allows you to perform separate functions to each cell, Airtables, doesn’t offer this flexibility, it’ll apply the first function to each entry in the cell. Here is a good video by Gareth Proovost explaining it.
Google Sheet is also 100% free for any number of users.
That said, there are a lot of features Google Sheet lacks over Airtables. Unlike Airtables, which allow you to input data in multiple forms be it a word file, text, images, etc, Google sheets only take numbers and text input. If you are using Google sheet with groups, there is no option for other users to comment, create a deadline, change the view and much more.
Overall, Airtbale is a niche product that attracts a selective set of customers, if your needs are not specific, Google Sheet should work fine for you. We at Techwiser use Google Sheet all the time for bookkeeping and Topics management.
Who it’s for: Users who want a simpler, focused tool for Kanban-based task management
Airtable is packed with features that make it so much more than spreadsheet-based collaboration tool. But having so many features can be a big problem if you just want to take off a specific task set. This is where Trello really excels. It is a tool focused on task management, using the Kanban approach.
Now Airtable has Kanban functionality too. It can be used for task management and scheduling. But considering that it’s got applicant tracking, compensation management, and inventory management among others, it’s safe to say that it wasn’t designed with a specific job like task management in mind.
What does Trello let you do?
We use Trello, here at TechWiser, to keep tracks of monthly articles of each writer and it works like a charm.
Trello uses Kanban tables to let you monitor task progress in real-time. This is especially useful in situations where lean project management is desirable. Trello lets you define various Kanban bins. Users can then set tasks and use labels to update their status. For example, at Techwiser we use labels such as ‘Research’, ‘Writing’, ‘Publish’ etc, to keep track of articles’ progress in real-time. And at any point in time, if the editors have any suggestions, they can drop a comment, and the notifications are sent to card owner, either way, desktop or mobile app.
Trello supports integration with a range of other platforms like Slack and Google Drive. Integrations are called “Powerups” and they’re part of how Trello is monetized. Here at TechWiser, we have integrated Trello with Slackbot, so the editor gets instant notification for the article progress.
Trello’s Freemium model can limit your options
The free version only allows you to use one “Powerup” at a time. Moreover, Trello restricts free users from using fine-grained user access and permission settings, as well as restricting you to 10 MB file attachments. Trello offers several paid tiers. The $5 per month Gold tier is really just “freemium-plus.” Your powerup limit goes up to 3 and you can attach files up to 250 MB in size. We use the free version at Techwiser and it works fine for the team of 5-10 people.
Trello’s big drawback (apart from its monetization model) is that it’s much more limited in scope than Airtable. You get project management through a digital Kanban setup and that’s about it. If you something more similar to Airtable’s powerful database management system, you’ll need to look at other options like Jira.
- Very simple Kanban-based approach
- Doesn’t require special knowledge or training beforehand
- Limited to project management
- Freemium model limits your access to user controls and integration
Who it’s for: Enterprise users who are looking for a more powerful alternative to Trello with spreadsheet/database and reporting functionality
Jira is Trello’s big brother and its added functionality makes it a viable contender to Airtable when trying to, well organize your organization. Because Jira has more of an emphasis on project management tracking, it has a lot more built-in functionality in that area compared to Airtable. Airtable’s flexibility is a two-edged sword: you have to put more effort into your Airtable base to recreate some of the functionality Jira already offers out of the box.
Jira also offers greater automation, again making for a more convenient solution overall. Compared to Trello, though, Jira is considerably more complex and you’ll have to manually set up things like notifications and workflows. When you’re dealing with larger-scale projects or overseeing multiple teams, this makes Jira considerably better.
Jira is more flexible than Trello, but has a steeper learning curve
You have fine-grained control over user access, you can have multiple tracks to monitor different teams and different projects, and the reporting functionality makes it possible to turn all this into neat presentations for showing higher-ups. It’s biggest limitation relative to Airtable is, (just like Trello), that it focuses on project management whereas Airtable can be used to set up anything that makes use of relational databases. And, relative to Trello, there’s a much steeper learning curve. Project managers using Jira will need to spend time learning how to use it before getting viable real-world results. Cost is also a factor. For small teams (up to 10 users), Jira is affordable at just $10 per month. For larger teams, though, the price is $5 per user, which can easily turn Jira into a major cost center.
Plug Jira into Airtable to get the best of both worlds
Because it uses a relational database structure to store project tracking information, Jira is designed in a way that’s similar to Airtable. Airtable can actually connect to Jira so if you’re a large enterprise user, this would make it easy to connect your Jira workflow, dealing with project management, to other functions that you have running with Airtable.
- Fine-grained user access control
- Reporting tools demonstrate progress
- Considerably steeper learning curve than Trello
- Not as flexible as Airtable
Check out the Jira trial version
Who it’s for: Small business users who want a modular alternative to Airtable
If we haven’t emphasized it enough, we’re going to say this again: Airtable is great as a general-purpose tool and it’s useful in just about any business scenario that can benefit from data being stored in an Airtable database. Limited solutions like Trello are much more painless to use but when they’re too limited, you’re forced to go back to Airtable.
Fusioo modules let users pick the functions they need
The developers of Fusioo understood this and built Fusioo as a modular platform instead. The base Fusioo subscription gives you a powerful cloud collaboration tool that lets you create and manage databases, track projects, and manage permissions. Users who want added functionality can opt-in for free modular functions from the Fusioo App Marketplace. These include CRM functionality, applicant tracking, and expense management, among others.
Airtable lets you plug in your existing enterprise tools–for instance your existing CRM. However, setting up the interlinks can be time-consuming. With Fusioo modules, all everything comes under one big umbrella: you can get the Fusioo ATS module and the Fusioo CRM module and other modules like expense management, as needed. Each is built on its own database structure. Drag-and-drop functionality lets you customize these for specific needs.
Jack of all trades, master of none? Dedicate solutions are always better than Fusioo modules
The big drawback here is that full-fledged, premium enterprise solutions in each of these areas will offer you a great deal more than the Fusioo module. And you can always plug these into Airtable. This shouldn’t be a big issue, though if you’re a small-medium business owner and you just need basic functionality.
- Modules give small business users basic CRM, ATS, and other functionality without dedicated software
- Extra functionality is very limited compared to dedicated software
- Airtable plugged into a real CRM, ATS, and ERP would be significantly more powerful
Check out the Fusioo trial version
Each of these solutions has a different set of advantages and disadvantages relative to Airtable. They also cater to different types of users. Fusioo and Trello are great project management solutions “on training wheels,” for small business users who want to better organize their business processes without getting bogged down by the organizer itself. These solutions are pocket-friendly and require little prior experience. However, they become significantly less useful in large enterprise settings. If you want a very powerful project management solution to handle multiple teams, track progress, and generate reports, Jira is what you’re looking for. However, the time and money you invest in it need to be factors you consider.
Also read: Best Applicant Tracking Systems