As more teams say “enough of this (Google or Excel) Sheet” and begin building their own internal tracking tools, they’ve moved towards tools like Airtable and Coda that offer them the power and flexibility of relational databases to build task trackers, OKR databases, and asset management tools. If you look closely, they’re making their own unique business apps.
Airtable launched in 2012 as an online spreadsheet that meets a database. As Google Sheets started becoming common-place in the work setting, users began building hacky no-code tools with their Sheets, connecting to other apps, and creating online relational databases. Airtable came as something like a Sheet but built like the databases they were wishing to make. Airtable’s most recent round of funding came in September 2020 with $185M led by Thrive Capital (of Gong, Lattice, and Slack).
Coda came out of Beta in 2019 as a new type of doc that brings words, data, and teams together and blends a document and spreadsheet to create a central hub for collaboration. Companies are picking up Coda for familiar document writing like meetings notes and write-ups all the way to applications like project databases. The team has raised $140M with a Series C in August 2020 led by Kleiner Perkins (Slack, Figma, and Segment).
Each platform takes a slightly different approach, so I've gathered from personal use, working with clients, and watching countless videos and reading many articles and forums (I've included the top ) how their unique designs are benefiting their users.
While the Tables within Coda and Airtable feel similar, Airtable on a whole is going to feel like a delightful Google Sheet whereas Coda will start more like a Google Doc that can grow into a Sheet. Both can eventually feel like an internal app with views and custom layouts similar to Trello or Salesforce. Any time you have a spreadsheet that should probably be a database, bring it over to Airtable or Coda.
Airtable is an easy-to implement relational database with formulas, connectivity, and views for different end users. The Low Code community has utilized Airtable to drive their apps (either within the tool or extending into other systems). Because of this, Airtable is investing more in composable blocks for building, the API, and automations.
Coda is a doc with tables that can become databases (DB) so that you can write briefs and take notes in the same place that you track work or inventory. Lookups allow connectivity between tables and views show different visuals for the underlying data.
What people are making
See what can be done in both tools through webinars (, ), forums (, ) and a gallery of staff and customer examples (, Airtable + + ). Common business scenarios include tracking (properties, assets, projects) and creating databases / libraries / repositories of information. Airtable is used by WeWork to track their , TIME is , and PBS for their . Coda is used by Thumbtack for their , Uber for their , and Figma for their .
Both products are software as a service (SaaS) and charge a monthly subscription fee for usage, though each gives you ample space to play around and get started for free for however long you want.
Airtable starts a $0/user/month, but most teams are between $12-24 user / month. For a team of 20 users, expect to pay ~$300/month. Coda starts at $0/month. You’ll only pay for Doc Makers, the people making the docs. Other users such as editors and viewers are always free, which makes Coda usually much cheaper than the traditional $/user/month plans (including Airtable) to share writing and data more broadly. Each Doc Maker is usually between $12-36 / month. If you have a team of 20 people (and 4 Doc Makers), you can expect to pay ~$100/month.