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Airtable vs Retool: What are the differences?


Airtable and Retool are both popular tools that allow users to build and customize applications. While they share some similarities, there are key differences between the two platforms that set them apart.

  1. Data storage and management: One key difference between Airtable and Retool is how they handle data storage and management. Airtable is a cloud-based relational database management system that allows users to store and organize data in a tabular format similar to a spreadsheet. On the other hand, Retool focuses on connecting to existing data sources and APIs, allowing users to build applications that interact with data stored in external systems.

  2. Application building capabilities: Airtable provides a visual interface that allows users to easily create and customize applications using a drag-and-drop approach. It offers a wide range of pre-built templates and field types, making it suitable for users with little to no coding experience. Retool, on the other hand, is more focused on providing a powerful and flexible coding environment for building applications. It allows users to write custom code and connect to any data source or API, giving them more control and flexibility in application development.

  3. Collaboration and sharing: Another key difference between Airtable and Retool lies in their collaboration and sharing features. Airtable offers robust collaboration tools, allowing multiple users to work on the same database simultaneously and track changes made to records. It also provides various sharing options, such as granting view-only access or allowing users to edit and collaborate on specific records. In contrast, Retool is primarily designed for individual use and does not have native collaboration features. However, it does offer version control and the ability to share applications with others via URLs.

  4. Integration capabilities: Airtable and Retool have different integration capabilities. Airtable offers direct integrations with popular tools and services, such as Slack, Google Calendar, and Jira, making it easy to connect and synchronize data between different applications. Retool, on the other hand, focuses on providing a generic integration framework that allows users to connect to any API or data source. It provides extensive documentation and examples for integrating with various services, giving users more flexibility in integrating their applications with external systems.

  5. Customization and extensibility: Airtable provides a range of customization options, allowing users to tailor the look and feel of their applications. It offers customizable views, conditional formatting, and the ability to add custom fields and formulas to manipulate data. Retool, on the other hand, emphasizes extensibility and allows users to build custom components and write custom JavaScript code to add complex functionality to their applications. This makes Retool a more suitable choice for users who require advanced customization and extensibility capabilities.

  6. Pricing and cost: The pricing models of Airtable and Retool also differ. Airtable offers a free tier with limited features and usage, as well as paid plans that offer additional features and higher usage limits. The pricing is based on the number of users and the storage capacity needed. Retool, on the other hand, offers a free trial and then moves to a subscription-based pricing model. The subscription pricing is based on the number of users and the level of support required.

In summary, Airtable and Retool differ in their approach to data storage and management, application building capabilities, collaboration and sharing features, integration capabilities, customization and extensibility options, as well as pricing and cost.

Advice on Airtable and Retool
Needs advice

I'm trying to set up an ideally "no- code" way to have a backend of 3 different tables and be able to find a value in table #3 (contains businesses & cities) by first finding a record in table #1 (7,000+ zip codes) that corresponds to a city (table #2 has the unique cities), and then finding which businesses are located in these cities ( in this specific, original zipcode lookup). And return the business and a description via an API to a front-end results page, which happens to be a WordPress page - but doesn't need to be. I've tried Airtable's API, AirPress (a finicky WordPress plugin for Airtable's API), and I've looked at Sheetsu and a similar spreadsheet as backend and a simple API. I run into the issue where they work fine when you just need to query 1 table, but when you need to use the result from that query in another query to a different table. I'm back in SQL land - where sure it could be done with SQLite - needing to probably create an intersection table or a JOIN and build an API off of that. Is there a way to accomplish what I want without going back to SQL queries and some API?

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Replies (2)
Max Musing
Founder & CEO at BaseDash · | 5 upvotes · 56.9K views

You're right that there isn't a great way to join tables with Airtable's API. The closest you can get is to use a linked record field, which acts as a pointer to another record. You still end up with the problem you mentioned of having to run another query on the second table separately.

Your best bet is to stick with an actual SQL database. Using an ORM should make your life significantly easier so you don't actually have to write raw SQL. If you still want a graphical interface to your data, BaseDash lets you view and edit SQL databases just like Airtable. A full API with join support is coming soon, so that could be your perfect solution to this problem.

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vikas vimal

Let me introduce you to integromat. It connects these services without you having to work any code. And it even has a decent database built inside it.

It makes is an easy process to develop multistep workflows with multiple services and it’s free tier is surprisingly functional.

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Pros of Airtable
Pros of Retool
  • 19
    Powerful and easy to use
  • 8
    Robust and dynamic
  • 6
    Quick UI Layer
  • 4
    Practical built in views
  • 3
    Robust API documentation
  • 0
    Great flexibility
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    What is Airtable?

    Working with Airtable is as fast and easy as editing a spreadsheet. But only Airtable is backed by the power of a full database, giving you rich features far beyond what a spreadsheet can offer.

    What is Retool?

    Retool is the fast way to build internal tools. Drag-and-drop our building blocks and connect them to your databases and APIs to build your own tools, instantly. Built by developers, for developers. Trusted by startups and Fortune 500s.

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    Sep 29 2020 at 7:36PM


    PythonSlackG Suite+17
    What are some alternatives to Airtable and Retool?
    Asana is the easiest way for teams to track their work. From tasks and projects to conversations and dashboards, Asana enables teams to move work from start to finish--and get results. Available at and on iOS & Android.
    Trello is a collaboration tool that organizes your projects into boards. In one glance, Trello tells you what's being worked on, who's working on what, and where something is in a process.
    Jira's secret sauce is the way it simplifies the complexities of software development into manageable units of work. Jira comes out-of-the-box with everything agile teams need to ship value to customers faster.
    A tool that simplifies the way teams work together - Manage workload, track projects, move work forward, communicate with people - Adopt a management tool that people actually love to use, one that's fast, and easy to use.
    It is an intuitive online project management tool enabling teams to increase productivity using cloud, collaboration, & mobile technologies. It provides your organization with a powerful work platform that offers exceptional speed to business value
    See all alternatives