What are the pros/cons to using a Checkbox vs Yes/No Single Select vs Text Field

Are there any considerations I should be making when deciding whether to use a Check Box, a single select field with the options “Yes/No” or just a text field in regards to automation triggers and general data governance?
Are they all (more or less) equally valid approaches?
Is there a generally agreed upon best practice or is it more dependent on the situation?

The key thing to know is to never use a text field to trigger an automation. That’s because Airtable continually evaluates the field while the person is typing, so the same automation will fire multiple times in a row while the person is typing.

Checkboxes and single-select fields are the 2 best field types to trigger automations.

I really like creating “Action” fields which are single-select fields. These fields give my clients a list of automations to choose from, and then the automation will update the field with either “Done” or “Error” so they know what happened.

See screenshot below for an example of this.


I like this approach. Thanks!

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A check box has two states: checked or unchecked.

A single-select with yes/no choices had three states: yes, no, and blank.

When it comes to triggering automations checkboxes and single-selects work equally well. However, there are some other considerations.

  • With a checkbox field, the user must be able to see the field name to understand the value. In large grid views, glancing back to the column name to identify the field can be more work than you want. The more checkbox fields you have, the worse it gets. With a single-select, you can give choices more meaningful names so that you can tell what the cell value means without referencing the field name.

  • If you use a single select to trigger a lengthy automation sequence, you can have multiple values indicating the progress of the automation. For example, have one select choice that the user sets to trigger the automation. Then have the automation change the single-select to an “in progress” value at the start of the automation, and finally have the automation change the single-select to a “done” or reset value as the last action.

  • in general, checkbox fields can be changed with a single click, but single-selects take two clicks to change. This means that it is quicker and easier to check checkboxes, either on purpose of on accident.

  • Overall, I prefer triggering automations with single-selects versus triggering them with checkboxes, unless I just need a quick on-off for testing purposes.


Fantastic analysis, @Kuovonne! :sunglasses: :raised_hands:

This is one of my Top 10 Pet Peeves in Airtable! The inability for column headers to wrap text & dynamically expand vertically.

I love doing this, too. Ironically, I actually use that technique in the base that I used for the screenshot above. However, I didn’t scroll down far enough to show the other options that show up while the automation is actively running.

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Small annoyances to note:

  • Checkbox field cannot have a pre-set default value. Single select field can.

  • Single select field can be easily over-written with a non-wanted value and then I have to manually remove that value from the list of values. Doesn’t happen with checkbox.

I use CTRL+C, as I always do (or simply a mouse gesture if you have a gesture app installed to copy past). In error, I copy instead of value from the checkbox (which is either 0 or 1) some other text and past into checkbox, nothing happens. Do the same into single select field and I have additional headache of deleting the newly added text string from the single select field. I wish that selection list was possible to lock somehow.

Field permissions could be your best friend depending on which pricing plan you have. You can “lock” a field so that no one can add any new options (even forms and automations if you want). No more whoopsie copy and paste.

If you don’t have access to field permissions: when you do whoopsie copy and paste, you can undo it (command + z on mac) to remove the new text string from single select field way faster than opening the field settings to delete it and click save.

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Field permissions yes but it’s a bazooka tool. I still want to be able to select to choices for the records.

(Note, although similar scenario happens with a linked field too, there is a way to lock the target table by making the primary field a formula field. So I avoid accidentally adding records when copy-past)

Cmd + Z, okay but only effective to do that right away.

If you use an interface, you can turn off the ability to add new select choices in the field configuration for the interface.

I like the idea of an action field to host multiple triggers :ok_hand:

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If you are working through a list of records:
If you use a checkbox, which the default value is unchecked, then how would you know if you’ve entered a “no” (by leaving the checkbox unchecked) if it was unchecked to start with. With a select field, which starts off emply, you can enter a yes or no and know which ones you’ve filled in so far.