Google Tables: How I Use Google’s New Workflow Tool

Here’s something to get excited about: Google just launched a new workflow automation tool!

Google Tables is a tool for teams and businesses that combines the flexibility of a spreadsheet with the power of a database.

Best of all, it provides a more visual way to present information than a spreadsheet.

There are so many ways to use this tool, and I’ll show some of them later in this post. I could see teams and individuals using it to organize and track projects for both work and home life, similar to how many people already use tools like Trello, Asana or Airtable — and yes, there’s even a kanban view!

Google Tables frees your data from boring spreadsheets and puts it into dazzling Tables like this:

Google Tables Bug Tracker

Then you can group and link these tables into Workspaces to create process workflows:

Weekly Planner workspace with 4 tables
Weekly Planner workspace with 4 tables

Finally, sprinkle them with automation magic to save yourself time, using customizable, no-code Bots:

Google Tables no-code bot
No-code bot to move a record from the Weekly Planner Table to the Archive Table

What is Google Tables?

Spreadsheets excel (sorry!) at working with small tabular datasets. They’re perfect for analyzing your business data or keeping track of your finances.

But even if you love spreadsheets as much as I do, they’re not suitable for everything.

We’re all guilty of using spreadsheets to do things they’re not designed for.

For example, they’re not the best tool for managing workflows and automating multi-step processes. Spreadsheets set up like that often end up being complex and unwieldy to use.

Those workflows we track with spreadsheets — managing events, onboarding new hires, managing complex projects, etc. — are better suited to managing with this new Google Tables tool.

Google Tables is a product from Area 120, Google’s in-house incubator.

Google Tables Basics

Tables are the fundamental construct of the Google Tables product. They’re containers that hold structured data, i.e. ordered data recorded in rows.

Workspaces are collections of Tables grouped together. Tables can belong to multiple workspaces. When you open a workspace, you open all the Tables included in that workspace.

Columns in each Table are strongly-typed, meaning the data type you store in that column is predefined when you select the column type. This is different from a spreadsheet where you can store any type of data in any cell (unless you have data validation in place).

Views are saved versions of a Table with the data shown in a specific way. You can have multiple saved versions of a single Table, for example with different filters applied.

How much does Google Tables cost?

Google Tables is generally available to anyone with a Google account in the US at the moment.

Every country has different rules and norms around data privacy etc. so the team is starting in the US and will expand around the world in time. If you’re outside the US, you can express your interest via this form.

It’s currently a beta version, which means the product is still evolving and improving.

Free and paid tiers are available.

The paid tier costs $10/month and gives you additional storage, more tables and more bot (automation) actions. There’s a 3-month free trial of the paid tier, so you can try out all the features.

How I Use Google Tables

I’ve had access to the alpha version of Tables for the past 6 months. It’s quickly become an indispensable tool for the day-to-day running of my business.

I use it for two major workflows at the moment:

  1. My weekly planner
  2. An issue tracker for my courses

I also plan to move several other workflows from Google Sheets into Tables in the near future: my site content planning / SEO spreadsheet, my newsletter tracker, and my business process directory.

Workflow 1: Weekly Planner Kanban Board View

For years I used Trello’s kanban board (card) layout to manage my business week-to-week tasks.

Now I use Google Tables to do that.

I use it as a sort of rolling 7-day calendar, but I prefer it to a calendar because of the flexibility it affords.

Ultimately, it’s a combination of Trello (kanban board) + Tasks (To-Do list) + Calendar (events).

Google Tables Weekly Planner

Zooming in a little, here’s an example of my tasks for a given day:

Google Tables Weekly Planner

Each record is a row of data in a Table, presented in the kanban board view. I can drag records to move tasks to a different day. I can easily add new tasks or notes, and I can archive tasks when I complete them, using a bot.

Automation With Bots

Bots are automations that carry out a predefined set of instructions. In Tables, bots are created without writing any code.

In this weekly planner, I use them to move records from one Table to another.

For example, I like to archive tasks when I complete them.

I check an archive checkbox and then a bot moves the record into the Archive table.

Google Tables no-code bot
No-code bot to move a record from the Weekly Planner Table to the Archive Table

You can do lots of other things with bots too.

They can be triggered when something happens (e.g. a record gets added), on a set schedule (daily or weekly) or even by another bot.

They can perform actions like modifying records, adding records, sending emails or pinging webhooks (to send a chat notification to Slack for example).

Accessing Tables With Apps Script

And yes, whilst we’re on the subject of automation, Tables has an API and is also accessible programmatically via Apps Script!

(Here’s a Google Apps Script explainer if you haven’t used it before.)

For Apps Script, you must first enable the Tables API under the Advanced Service menu. Then you can access Tables by the Table ID, found after the /table/ part of the URL.

A basic Apps Script code to get the Table rows looks like this:

var tableName = "tables/XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX";
var tableRows = Area120Tables.Tables.Rows.list(tableName).rows;

Workflow 2: Issue Tracker For My Online Courses

The other workflow I’ve setup in Tables is an issue tracker for my online courses.

Whenever someone contacts me with an issue on one of my courses, I log it in this Table, with tags to indicate which course, how urgent it is, where I’m up to etc.

It’s much easier to organize and see the issues compared to a plain data table in a spreadsheet. It requires a lot less effort to view the information.

Here’s an example of the issue tracker in a simple Google Sheet:

Google Sheet bug tracker

And here is that same tracker in a Google Tables workspace:

Google Tables Bug Tracker

It’s pre-filtered by course and the information is organized and emphasized with the use of colored tags.

It’s much, much easier to navigate and get a sense of the overall picture.

Using Forms To Submit Tickets

Google Tables includes forms to allow users to submit data. These are not the same as G Suite Google Forms, but rather a form builder specific to the Tables product.

I’ve created a Form for my course issue tracker Table.

And now that Google Tables has officially launched, I can include this Form in my online school so students are able to submit tickets directly.

Google Tables Form

FAQ About How To Use Google Tables

Can I turn my existing Google Sheets into Tables?

Yes! When creating new Tables, you can import data directly from existing Google Sheets.

Tables Import From Sheets

How is Tables different from Google Sheets?

The simplest way I can describe it is that Google Sheets is for your data and Google Tables is for your information.

Google Sheets does calculations, summarizes large datasets and creates charts and dashboards. Tables doesn’t do any of those things.

Instead, Google Tables makes it easy to store and organize information, and automate actions. Tables lets you quickly create workflow documents that are easier to use than spreadsheet equivalents.

Should I move to Google Tables from Trello or Airtable?

The Kanban board layout within Tables is similar to how Trello operates. The bots in Tables allow you to automate tasks in a similar way to Trello’s Butler tool.

Google Tables is similar to Airtable in many ways too. Like Airtable, Google Tables combines some of the best features of spreadsheets with databases, to create an ideal small business workflow and information tool.

Trello and Airtable are more mature products so they do have deeper feature sets, but Tables is new and is bound to develop quickly. Google has deprecated products in the past but I think this is a great tool with enormous potential and I hope Google Tables becomes a major player in this space.

What Else Can You Do With Google Tables?

Google Tables is designed for businesses, so anytime you’re using spreadsheets for tracking a process, ask if that’s something better suited to Tables.

The Tables team have created a huge number of templates to get you started, everything from a Product Roadmap to an Employee Directory:

Google Tables Templates

I plan to share more experiences, tips and use cases for Tables in the coming months.

I’m really excited by this product and see so many opportunities in my own business to improve my existing processes.

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