How to Set Custom Airtable Permissions (Tables, Records, Fields)

June 20, 2022
min read
Lizzie Davis, Growth Marketer, Stacker

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Airtable lets you add four types of workspace collaborators to a base:

  1. Owner/creator.
  2. Editor.
  3. Commenter. 
  4. Read-only.

Each type of collaborator has different permission levels, which allow or prevent them from taking certain actions. For example, editors can do things like add, modify, and delete records, while commenters can only comment on records.

While useful, these collaborators can only be added at the workspace or base level. As a result, there’s no way to share only a portion of your base (like a single table) with collaborators. Collaborators can always access the entire base they’re invited to, which is a problem if you don’t want them to see the data in a specific table, record, or field.

Outside of creating new bases for each different collaborator, there are two workarounds to this issue, but they have significant downsides:

  1. You can create a view inside a base and send a view share link that provides access only to that view and no other records. However, these links are read-only, meaning you can’t share editable views. If you need people with the link to be able to edit something in your base, this method won’t work. 
  2. You can create a view link and a form, where the link shows people only certain records or fields, while the form lets them add new ones. Besides being more time-consuming and tedious, this workaround can be used only to add new records or fields, not to edit existing ones.

In this article, we’ll show you how you can overcome this issue with Stacker — our tool that helps businesses who have data in Airtable (or other platforms) customize how that data is presented and set advanced permissions for users to interact with that data.

Specifically, you’ll learn how to set granular permissions for who can see and edit your Airtable data at the table, record, or field level. We’ll also go over three real-life examples of how Stacker’s permission settings helped our clients build apps on top of their Airtable data, like client portals, internal tools, and more.

Note: Start a free 30-day Stacker trial here, so you can follow along and set advanced permissions for your Airtable data today.

How to Set Highly Granular Permissions for Your Airtable Data

The first step is to sign up for Stacker and connect to your Airtable data. This is a really quick thing to do, as you only have to create a Stacker account and enter your Airtable API key. 

Connect Your Data Sources to Stacker

If you have multiple Airtable accounts, you can still sync all your bases into one Stacker account, so all your data is available on one platform.

After you enter your API key, Stacker starts syncing to your Airtable base. This means it automatically brings in pre-built formulas, and linked records.

Syncing Your Datasets with Stacker

When the sync is complete, Stacker immediately builds a workable app based on how your Airtable base was structured. We’ll show you examples of different Stacker apps in the next section. 

But first, let’s focus on setting granular permissions for who can see and edit your Airtable data.

Create Permission Rules at the Table, Record, and Field Levels and Assign Them to Users

To create a new permission rule, go to App Settings → Permissions. There, you’ll find a list of all the tables in your Airtable base, with a “Add permissions” button under each table name.

Setting Permissions for Your Airtable Data

When you click the button, you’ll be able to create a new permission rule that applies only to that table. 

How to Add Permissions to Your Airtable Data

By default, the rules you create apply to everyone with access to the table. However, you can easily change that by choosing which User Roles receive the permission. 

Customize Permission Sharing with Your Airtable Data

Next, you can use the ownership filter to grant users access only to the records linked to them.

Setting up an Ownership Filter with Airtable’s Linked Records

As you can see in the screenshot above, ownership filters are based on a single condition that must match between the record and a user's record. This means you’ll need to use linked records in Airtable to set up the ownership filter. 

For example, the screenshot below shows a link from a “Clients” table to a “Properties” table.

How to Link Records in Airtable

In general, linking Airtable records lets you connect the information in them so you can capture their relationships. Stacker uses these Airtable links to understand the structure of your data and power the permission system. If you aren’t familiar with the topic, check out this article on linking records for more details, as this is an important functionality.

Besides records, you can set even more granular permissions for each specific field. When you scroll down, you’ll see a list of all fields in the table, with Read, Update, and Create options to the right.

How to Let External Users Update Fields

For our job application portal, you can let candidates update fields like Name and Email, but give read-only access to the Application Status field since that should be updated by your team. For the hiring managers, you could do the opposite — give them read-only access to the Name and Email fields and let them update the Application Status. 

You now know the basics of creating granular permissions for your Airtable tables, records, and fields. For even more details and best practices for setting up permission rules with Stacker, refer to our article on the topic.

Create User Roles

You can set up User Roles by going to App Settings → Roles → Enable Roles.

How to Create User Roles in Stacker

Each role’s permissions (which we’ll set in the next section) determine what data a specific user can access and how they can interact with it.

For example, say you’re building a job application portal where candidates can enter their information and track the status of their applications. In that case, candidates should have access only to the data that pertains to them — their name, email address, the status of their application, etc. Additionally, hiring managers should have permissions that let them see all job candidates’ data and update the status of their applications. 

With Stacker, you can accommodate this use case by creating two different User Roles: one for the job applicants and one for the managers. And since User Roles have fully customizable permissions, instead of pre-set ones, you decide what action users can take in each table (read, comment, delete, etc.).

Real-Life Examples of Customizable Apps Built with Airtable Data

As mentioned above, because Stacker syncs to your Airtable data, it automatically builds a workable app with a layout based on the structure of your base(s). 

Besides setting permissions as we showed above, you can also customize the app’s front-end by:

  • Choosing which tables are displayed on your navigation.
  • Dragging and dropping design elements such as widgets, banners, headers and pipelines. 
  • Visualizing your data more clearly by creating nested views for your tables.
  • Editing your layout, choosing to display items as cards, rows, a kanban board, or table, and more.

All of these front-end customizations can be done without coding or design skills. And since your Airtable data is synced, all changes made by users on the front end will automatically be reflected on the back end (i.e., your data). 

Combine this ability to customize layouts with the granular permission settings we showed above and you can build all kinds of useful apps for your business without writing a single line of code. 

In fact, let’s look at three examples from our clients:

Example #1: Zapier’s Internal Tool for Managing Budgets

Zapier is a tool that lets users create automations between different web apps, (e.g., from Gmail to Airtable or from Salesforce to Twitter).

Their accounting team was using several Airtable bases to track employees’ budget spending. However, the budget data was visible only within the accounting team, so they’d get several questions about what employees had spent and how much budget they had left.

Brandi Shuttera, Accounting Manager at Zapier, said this about her team’s problems with Airtable’s limitations: 

“Permissions were the number one thing we needed. I didn’t share Airtables with the whole company because I didn’t want everybody to see everybody else's information, and it was hard to navigate through when you have 600+ employees data to scroll through.”

To solve their issues, Brandi and her team used Stacker to build an easy-to-use portal on top of their Airtable data. With this portal, people can log and track their budgets, while only seeing the information that’s relevant to them.

How Zapier Uses Stacker to Manage their Budget out of Airtable

As a result, the accounting team at Zapier saves hours every week, as they don’t have to constantly answer questions about employee budgets or go into Airtable and manually pull out the data people ask for. Instead, Zapier employees simply log into the portal and find the relevant information on their own.

Example #2: Growth Collective’s Tool for Facilitating Work Between Freelancers, Clients, and Partners

Growth Collective is a platform that helps clients hire pre-vetted freelance marketers.

The company used Airtable to store information about their customers and freelancers, but they didn’t have an interface that let each group only access the data relevant to them.

At first, Growth Collective’s team built a portal for clients to view and schedule time with matches.

 How Growth Collective Uses Stacker to Improve Workflows

After using Stacker with their clients, Growth Collective’s team decided to implement our tool throughout their entire business. They built a separate portal where freelancers can edit their profiles and view their matches. Also, they built portals for external partners (like the company's accountants), which only displays data that’s relevant to their jobs.

Example #3: University of Central Arkansas’ Portal for Connecting Staff and Students

The University of Central Arkansas is a public university founded in 1907 that serves more than 8,000 undergraduates.

Dr. Gary Bunn — Director of the Office of Candidate Services — and his team used Airtable to track and manage education students’ data. 

However, they didn’t have a way to communicate important information with students that applied to become professional educators. For example, students couldn’t track the status of their application, read personalized information about the next steps, or update their contact information, if needed.

As a solution, Dr. Gary Bunn and his team built a Stacker portal for students.

How the University of Arkansas Uses Stacker’s Permissions to Connect Staff and Student

By logging into the portal, each student sees all the relevant information about their applications, without having access to everyone else’s data.

Getting started with Stacker: Above we covered three examples of apps with granular permissions and fully customizable layouts, built on top of Airtable data. 

If you want to set advanced permissions for your Airtable data and have a fully customizable app like the ones we showed above, sign up for a free 30-day Stacker trial.

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