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.

Resources

50 thoughts on “Google Tables: How I Use Google’s New Workflow Tool”

  1. Hi Ben,

    Thanks for the walkthrough and intro to tables.

    Can tables be embedded? If so is there any interactivity for people accessing the embedded eg sorting/filtering.

    One of the biggest blocks I have with embedded sheets is that users can’t slice and dice the data on the spreadsheet on the fly.

    Any info on embedded would be great.

    P.S Tables is currently US only.

    1. Hey Andy,

      Good question re embedding. I don’t think so at the moment (haven’t heard or seen anything about it). Will post here if I hear anything.

      Don’t know the launch timelines but I hope you can have access soon because it’s a great tool 🙂

      Cheers,
      Ben

  2. Looks interesting. Similar to Notion. But given Google’s history with introducing products and then discontinuing them (Google Reader), I won’t switch to any new Google products. If I use a tool, I need to know it’s going to be around for the long-term.

    1. Hi John,

      Yeah, it’s unfortunate that Google has shot themselves in the foot by having a history of dropping products. I’m rooting for this one and I’m bullish. It’s a fantastic tool and I think businesses will adopt it and get a ton of value from it. Let’s hope so!

      Cheers,
      Ben

    1. Tables can summarize your information very well but to do charts and dashboards you need to use Google Sheets. However, you can connect the two and pull your Tables data into Sheets with an Import formula.

  3. Hi Ben,

    This is very interesting, thanks for sharing. One common issue I have with Trello, Tasks, and similar tools is the lack of integration with my calendar. Ideally, I’d like to be able to view my todos using a Kanban board but also slot them in my agenda so that I can reserve time for them. And when I have completed 80% of one, I’d like to be able to move the remaining 20% around to make sure I set time aside to do it.

    Do you know whether this is doable with tables?

    Cheers, – jr

    1. Hi JR,

      Yes, I totally agree with this. I want to do something similar myself. There is no native Google calendar sync at the moment, but the team is working on an integration I understand. I’ll share this use case with them.

      Note, it’s also possible to sync calendar and Tables with Apps Script. I wrote a short script to send calendar events into a Table, using the Apps Script Tables advanced service.

      Cheers,
      Ben

    1. If you’re in the US you can use this tool now. If you’re based elsewhere then you’ll have to be patient for a bit longer yet 😉

      1. Hi Ben

        Thanks for this.

        Can one build this out like a wiki of some sort? Something like PBWorks?

        Also can only Sheets be used? Docs and other Google products?

        Thanks heaps.

        1. Yes, I’m sure you could built out a wiki. I’m not familiar with PBWorks though.

          I’m planning to move my business processes tracker into a new Table, which will then link out to individual Google Docs process notes.

          Atm, Tables syncs with Sheets. I hope we’ll see integrations with more Google products in time 🙂

  4. Thanks for the intro to the new Google Tables.
    My question is with listings….is it able to data sort?
    I’m looking for some form that will allow me to data sort as I add additional names to the listings.

  5. Thanks for the walkthrough, Ben. Recently, I’ve been thinking that Google will soon have its own answer to spreadsheet/database tools like Airtable, Notion. Still, it’s fantastic to wake up to this news.

    On the topic of weekly planners, what do you use for capturing to-do items? My beef with these database tools is that they look excellent on first try, but they are standalone apps. They lack integration, automation features etc and before long I find it too cumbersome to maintain a meager weekly planner in them.

    1. You have a few options at the moment: straight data entry, built-in forms and importing from Sheets. I click the “Add record” in Kanban view to add my tasks, then enter title, description (if needed) and add a tag and it’s done.

      I expect we’ll see integrations with other G Suite tools in time, like Calendar, which will be hugely valuable. Plus, with the easy Apps Script wrapper, you can code custom integrations.

      1. I’d like to see an integration with gmail so I can create ToDos that link back to the email that originated the task. I use Tasks or Keep for this now but both are very limited when it comes to applying Labels or Hierarchy to allow for logical sorting.

        1. Yes, I agree, this would be a super cool integration! Don’t know if it’s on the roadmap but I’ll pass the feedback on to the team. Cheers.

  6. Is Google team able to create something new? That’s a pure rip off from AirTable.

    I’m excited about this tool and yet sad the same time… the internet giants have so much money and just continue copying all other tools that proved to work.

    That’s not good… these giants are already more powerful than entire states. And they’ll keep getting more and more powerful due to the capital they possess at their hands.

    Therefore, sorry… I’ll better stay with AirTable and pay them (a much smaller company), rather than switch and get one of the internet giants even closer to an absolute world domination (which is DANGEROUS if you understand anything about monopolies, capital, economics & politics).

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      I think one way this will differentiate itself from AirTable is by being tightly integrated with G Suite, and that will be super valuable. But I agree that it’s great to have other, independent players in the space. It’s beneficial to consumers and businesses to have several major options.

    2. > the internet giants have so much money and just continue copying all other tools that proved to work.

      This is an inaccurate assumption and misstatement of fact because the litigation and brand equity risks are simply too great.

      Google and other near-codefree dev teams at Microsoft and Amazon are deliberately sequestered from seeing or using pre-existing products that they are specifically intending to compete with. While product management is able to convey business and technical requirements, the engineers are innovating in a closed environment and they are simply concluding many of the same UI/UX design choices that any rational engineer would assume are viable when making information apps.

  7. A little bit late. Given that we have Notion and it’s free for personal use. I can’t find a single reason to switch to Google Tables to be honest.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Of course, different for everyone and Notion definitely does some things Tables can’t.

      For me, it’s great as a replacement for Trello because it integrates better with G Suite and it’s one less tool to manage in my business. It also can replace some of the complex Sheets I use, as it’s a better tool for those workflow type purposes.

      1. Ben, you say it integrates better with GSuite. Does this mean that it can be managed from the GSuite Admin console? I’d check this for myself but I’m in the UK and its not launched here yet. 🙁

        1. Hi Michael,

          No integration with the G Suite admin console. I don’t expect that soon. I think they’ll focus on integrations with the front line tools like calendar, gmail etc. Let’s see! Hopefully you’ll get it in the UK soon.

          Cheers,
          Ben

  8. One thing I haven’t seen is an export function back into a spreadsheet. I see the ability to import but not export.
    I wonder if they plan on letting us export these back into a sheet or if the data formats would cause issues.

  9. Ben, thank you for demonstrating the simple To Do tracker. I like how you have used the Bots to move the completed items to an archive. Unfortunately, when I tried to build my own version, I didn’t have a bot option to move a row. I saw ‘Add Row’ and ‘Delete Row’ (I am experimenting with the free version) so I assume you have set your bot up to take both actions? Add to a new table and delete from current table? Is that correct? The thing that worries me about this solution is that I would lose the value from the “created time” attribute that I put in my ‘To Do’ table. Any work around ideas?

    Will you confirm that this add/delete with a bot is how you achieved the “Archive” function? Possibly you could update your blog post to show that or create a table that you can allow others to access publicly and clone?

    1. Hi Nadia,

      Great questions. Yes, I have one bot to add the row to the new table, and then a second bot to delete that row. I don’t think it’s possible to do them from a single bot. When I move things to the archive table it records the time that it was archived, but I could also have included the original creation time too.

      This is how I setup the archive bot:

      I’m using the “Set template value” to populate the columns of the archive table with values from their current table.

      Hope that helps! I’ll post more tutorials in the future, going into more detail.

      Cheers,
      Ben

  10. Thanks for sharing. I wonder if it would be available in South East Asia soon. Presently I am heavily reliant on GSheet and automation, I wonder if I click on the “import from sheets” it would be bring my scripts and automations over to GTable?

    I wonder how neat & tight is the handshake with other Gsuite products, Gmail, GDocs, etc..

    1. Tim,

      >>> I wonder if I click on the “import from sheets” it would be bring my scripts and automations over to GTable?

      It doesn’t. Sheets and Tables are two completely different products and despite the relatively good API (even at Alpha stage) Tables has not integral scripting like other Google documents and Google Cloud.

      But, I have successfully used Google Apps Script to do all sorts of automation processes in Tables including bots that compute column values based on other Tables columns (simulates formula support).

  11. Can this be linked with Drive and Sites? I would very much like to use this with a some what private Google Site that I am working on to gather members of our family tree. I have setup a form and a spreadsheet to gather and retain the data for each member then with a form submit trigger I use app script to enter the 30 bits of data into a Doc for each member for future editing with entries from the member. With the workspace concept it seems I could give members a much better experience with relationships showing related members with lookups and filters. Do you see this as a possibility?

  12. Hey Ben,

    Given this simple example…

    var tableRows = Area120Tables.Tables.Rows.list(tableName).rows;

    Where do I find all the other API prototypes for Google Apps Script such as …Tables.CreateRows(), etc?

    1. Hey Bill,

      In the Apps Script editor, if you type in…

      var tableRows = Area120Tables.

      and then look at the auto-complete you should see a list of endpoints.

      Cheers,
      Ben

  13. An Airtable rip-off obviously, which is ok.
    However, the limitations and lack of integrations and functionalities compared to Airtable makes the price to steep at the moment.
    Specifically, limits on rows, views, and forms for USD 10 per user per month is unacceptable.

    1. Hi Milos,

      It’s only just launched in Beta, so I think integrations and functionalities will come through thick and fast. There’s a free 3-month trial right now.

      Cheers,
      Ben

  14. I love your posts, Ben. Can you identify some key differences between Tables and AppSheet? Like others have pointed out, it’s hard to decide where to focus energy for fear of Google dropping one “product” in favor of another.

  15. Hi Ben,
    You mention using tables for your business process directory — any screenshots or tips for doing so? Our team has a ton of documentation in Google docs and I’m thinking this would be a good way of creating a one-stop clearinghouse that links and organizes everything, but I don’t have a lot of experience with any type of table. Thanks.

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