Smartsheet vs Airtable: Which Is Better?

Your Ultimate Guide for 2022


Before we get to our review, we want to tell you about a new PM software alternative to Smartsheet and Airtable. After using them both (and trying countless other PM tools), we realized that the PM software on the market today is missing a lot of important features … features that we needed to run our own business.

So, instead of waiting and hoping they would improve their tools, we simply built our own PM software! It’s called Teamly, and you can get an absolutely FREE account by clicking the button below.

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Overview

Smartsheet vs Airtable Overview

If you want to know whether Smartsheet or Airtable is right for your team, you’ve come to the right place! In this guide, we’ll share 10 main differences between Smartsheet and Airtable, review the pros and cons of each, tell you what their users think, and help you decide which one is right for your business.

Launched in 2006

Smartsheet is a spreadsheet-style tool that’s used for team collaboration, workflow management, and reporting. Although it was initially released to the public in 2006, people were slow to take to Smartsheet because of its confusing user interface (UI). As a result, Smartsheet, Inc. cut 60% of the application’s features and relaunched a more user-friendly version of the SaaS product in 2010.

The redesign did the trick and today, thousands of people rely on Smartsheet’s grids, which are similar to traditional spreadsheets, but much more powerful. With grids, users can allocate tasks, define subtasks, and manage resources.

To make the process easier, Smartsheet offers hundreds of time-saving templates that provide users with pre-established workflows, automations, and alerts. The tool also offers template sets which consist of prebuilt, customizable templates that have sheets, reports, and dashboards bundled together for a complete solution.

In addition to its default grid view, Smartsheet also offers card, calendar, and Gantt views, so users can review their data in multiple ways.

Launched in 2012

Airtable is the brainchild of former Salesforce Product Manager, Howie Liu. During the course of his time at Salesforce, Liu observed that despite the many things users could do with spreadsheets, they weren’t taking full advantage of their functionality.

For instance, rather than using spreadsheet formulas, most users were merely using spreadsheets to organize data. This realization inspired Liu to create a tool that was more than just a spreadsheet, but rather a database with extensive customization options.

In 2012, developers began coding Airtable, an online SaaS platform that allows users to build collaborative apps without having any coding knowledge. Airtable, which was publicly released in 2015, is best described as a hybrid between a spreadsheet and a database. Its platform is used for task management, team collaboration, and resource management.

Airtable relies on workspaces and bases (short for “databases”). Workspaces are a collection of projects that are shared among a team of collaborators. For instance, a large corporation might have HR, IT, and Marketing workspaces, whereas a small business might have just one workspace that’s shared by everyone on the team.

Workspaces contain bases, which are hubs that organize all the information you might need for a particular project or workflow--for instance, you might create a base for project tracking, your content calendar, or a product catalog.

Within a base, users can add various customized tables, linking them together to create dynamic relationships. This information can then be shared with other team members for collaboration.

Like Smartsheet, Airtable offers multiple views for users, including grid, calendar, form, kanban, and gallery. Pro and Enterprise Airtable users also have access to Gantt and timeline views.

Differences

Smartsheet vs Airtable: 10 Main Differences

1. Ease-of-Use

Airtable Interface

While both Smartsheet and Airtable come with a learning curve, Airtable tends to be easier to use.

With its simple, colorful interface, even non-technical users can manage project and workflow data using Airtable’s bases. Add Airtable’s extensive template options into the mix, and the platform becomes even simpler for new users to get up-to-speed with.

By contrast, although Smartsheet isn’t difficult to use, it can take some time to figure out how you can use it to derive the biggest benefits from the tool. Fortunately, as with Airtable, Smartsheet offers hundreds of templates for users in virtually every industry.

Additionally, users may feel more comfortable with Smartsheet’s spreadsheet-like interface, since it's similar to that of Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets.

Still, users on several review sites rate Airtable higher than Smartsheet for ease of use, which is why we selected Airtable as the winner of this category.

Our Vote:
  • Smartsheet
  • Airtable

2. Pricing

Both Smartsheet and Airtable offer different levels of membership pricing, although only Airtable provides a free plan.

As of this writing, membership pricing is as follows:

  • PRO - $7/month per license, billed annually
  • BUSINESS - $25/month per license, billed annually; 3 license minimum
  • ENTERPRISE - Contact sales
  • SMARTSHEET ADVANCE - Contact sales
  • -
  • FREE - no cost for teams with up to 5 creators or editors
  • PLUS - $10/month per seat, billed annually
  • PRO - $20/month per seat, billed annually
  • ENTERPRISE - Contact sales

*A seat is defined as a user with editing permissions

While cost shouldn’t be the only factor you consider when purchasing PM software, you’ll want to take note of the fact that Airtable is significantly cheaper than Smartsheet. Airtable also tends to be priced lower than other PM tools on the market that offer similar functionality.

Our Vote:
  • Smartsheet
  • Airtable

3. Free Plan Limits & Restrictions

Airtable offers a free plan for individuals and small businesses. Although Smartsheet doesn’t provide a free plan, it does offer a 30-day free trial of its Business membership, so you can get a feel for the tool’s capabilities.

With Smartsheet’s free trial, you’re permitted unlimited users, unlimited sheets per report, and unlimited dashboard widgets. At the end of the trial, your data becomes read-only for 30 days, then deleted unless you upgrade.

By contrast, Airtable’s free membership gives up to five users unlimited bases and a maximum of 1200 records per base. You also get access to grid, calendar, form, kanban, and gallery views. However, you need to upgrade to the Pro plan if you want to use Airtable’s Gantt and timeline views.

Additionally, Airtable allows free users to run 100 automations per month. These customized automations trigger various actions when certain conditions occur (i.e., if X happens, then perform task Y). For instance, you might create an automation that automatically posts a tweet once it’s been approved.

Because Smartsheet doesn’t offer a free plan, we’re Team Airtable on this one.

Our Vote:
  • Smartsheet
  • Airtable

4. Reporting

Smartsheet Reporting

Users can generate reports with both Smartsheet and Airtable, displaying data in various customized charts for advanced analysis.

For instance, with Smartsheet, you can consolidate information from multiple sheets into a single report. Even better, these reports are bi-directional, so if someone makes a change to one of the reports, the attached sheets are updated in real-time--and vice versa.

Smartsheet also gives you the option to export data to a CSV file for deeper analysis in another application, like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets.

Although Airtable doesn’t offer a reports tab, you still have multiple options for generating reports. For instance, you can group records together, say if you wanted to view a project’s tasks by status, assignee, or due date. And, as with Smartsheet, Airtable also allows you to export data in CSV file format.

If you want to create more sophisticated reports and dashboards, you can also take advantage of Airtable Apps, which are integrations that provide additional functionality to a base, such as enhanced reporting options.

Just keep in mind that users of the Free plan are limited to one Airtable App per base and Plus users can only use three Airtable Apps per base.

Our Vote: Draw
  • Smartsheet
  • Airtable

5. Mobile App

Smartsheet and Airtable Mobile Apps

Both Smartsheet and Airtable offer highly-rated mobile apps for iOS and Android users.

While Smartsheet users praise the app’s ease of use, functionality, and versatility, some users note that the app lacks basic graph and chart features. The Smartsheet app also doesn’t allow users to work offline, which some people found frustrating--especially when they were working at remote locations that didn’t have WiFi.

By contrast, Airtable users appreciate the app’s customization options and generally report that it makes organization and collaboration much easier.

Still, users expressed dissatisfaction about the app’s lack of a dark mode and tendency to freeze up. Additionally, some noted that the Airtable app is better for viewing information than for actually editing.

Since this category’s a close call, we’re going to go with user reviews here. Although the Smartsheet and Airtable apps have the same rating on the Apple App store (4.8), Airtable is rated higher on the Google Play Store--4.7, compared to Smartsheet’s rating of 4.3--which is why we’ve chosen Airtable for the win here.

Our Pick:
  • Smartsheet
  • Airtable

6. Customer Service

Both Smartsheet and Airtable provide multiple ways for users to get assistance--unfortunately, however, neither of the two competitors offers live chat or free phone support.

Instead, Smartsheet users can contact customer support via a form on Smartsheet’s site. They also have access to a knowledge base and curated learning tracks that contain tutorial videos on related topics.

If users want to spring for premium support, that’s an option too with Smartsheet’s Professional Support Package. For an additional fee of $8/user/month, the package provides 24/7 global phone support, one-on-one coaching sessions for users, and access to Smartsheet University eLearning, a hub that offers onboarding videos, instructor-led training, and Smartsheet certifications.

By contrast, Airtable offers on-demand webinars, a self-serve knowledge base, and email support to all members. In addition, Enterprise users receive priority support. Users can also access Airtable’s community forum to get assistance from other members.

Because Smartsheet offers phone support--even if users have to pay for the privilege--we’re going with Smartsheet on this one.

Our Vote:
  • Smartsheet
  • Airtable

7. Integrations

Smartsheet and Airtable Integration Options

Both Smartsheet and Airtable do well in the integration department. Each tool integrates with a wide number of popular apps, such as Slack, Google Drive, Gmail, Dropbox, and Google Calendar.

Additionally, both Smartsheet and Airtable users can use an integration platform like Zapier to connect to over 1,000+ different applications, if the app they want to use isn’t supported. Plus, both PM tools have an open API, so users can design their own integrations for maximum versatility.

Because both tools offer similar integration capabilities, we’re splitting this category right down the middle and calling it a draw.

Our Vote: Draw
  • Smartsheet
  • Airtable

8. Time Tracking

Airtable Time Tracking Feature

Time tracking is a valuable PM software feature because it allows project managers to figure out how much time various tasks take, as well as calculate labor costs.

Unfortunately, neither Smartsheet nor Airtable makes time tracking as straightforward as you might like. For instance, although Airtable offers a time-tracking app in the Airtable Marketplace, Airtable Plus members are limited to three apps per base--as such, they might find that they have more important priorities than a time-tracking widget.

Likewise, Smartsheet doesn’t do time tracking out of the box. Instead, users need to pay for Smartsheet’s premium add-on, Resource Management, or integrate with other time-tracking software.

Because Airtable’s time-tracking widget is free, we chose Airtable as the winner of this category.

Our Pick:
  • Smartsheet
  • Airtable

9. Budgeting

With Airtable, you can create a budget with a base. The base can be designed from scratch, imported from an existing budgeting spreadsheet, or created using an Airtable budgeting template. Airtable has several budgeting templates that can satisfy the needs of a wide variety of users, including individuals, small businesses, project managers, and corporations.

Likewise, Smartsheet also offers numerous budgeting templates that work well for a variety of businesses. For instance, sample Smartsheet templates include a Project Budget Template, Business Budget Management Template Set, and Project with Gantt and Budget Variance Template.

If you want more advanced budgeting capabilities, you’ll need to purchase Smartsheet’s premium add-on, Resource Management. This additional tool can be used for project budgeting, tracking planned hours vs. actual, and scheduling projects or tasks based on capacity.

Our Pick: Draw
  • Smartsheet
  • Airtable

10. Communications

Both Smartsheet and Airtable offer communication features.

However, with Airtable, your messaging options are limited--users can leave a comment in a record if they have the right permissions. While this is better than not being able to communicate in the tool at all, Airtable users may quickly grow tired of searching for records they want to comment on.

By contrast, in Smartsheet, users can record conversations at the row level, sheet level, or workspace level, and as with Airtable, everyone with the correct permissions can view or reply to comments.

For even better collaboration, both Airtable and Smartsheet integrate with Slack, so users can receive real-time updates in specified Slack channels.

Because Airtable only allows comments in records, Smartsheet is the clear winner of this category.

Our Pick:
  • Smartsheet
  • Airtable

Reviews

Smartsheet and Airtable Reviews

While reviews don’t paint the entire picture, they can offer some helpful insights into Smartsheet and Airtable. So, let’s take a look at how these tools stack up against each other on Trustpilot.

reviews-logo

Smartsheet Reviews

At the time of this writing, Smartsheet has 50 reviews and a rating of 2.1 out of 5. Generally speaking, Smartsheet users appreciate the software’s collaboration features, extensive template library, and regular updates introducing new features. Additionally, many users like Smartsheet’s clean interface.

However, not all the Smartsheet reviews are positive, and 24% of Smartsheet users rate the tool as “poor” or “bad.” For instance, some reviewers note that customer support is really unhelpful, the interface is lacking, and that data occasionally gets “lost,” requiring database restores.

reviews-logo

Airtable Reviews

Airtable’s rating on Trustpilot is roughly the same as Smartsheet’s. For instance, out of 71 reviews, Airtable has a rating of 2.0 out of 5, with 63% of users rating Airtable as “Poor” or “Bad.” That said, the reviews for Airtable aren’t all negative.

On the plus side, users commend Airtable’s ease of use, versatility, and great free plan.
Still, these positive reviews are outnumbered by Airtable complaints, which are primarily focused on two topics: shoddy customer service and sudden account deletions.

The general consensus on Trustpilot is that Airtable’s support team is very slow to respond to help desk tickets. Also, a number of users complained that their accounts were suddenly deleted for no reason.

According to Airtable, this occurs when users repeatedly violate Airtable’s terms of service. However, the company says that they do warn users prior to deleting their accounts.

Pros and Cons

Smartsheet vs Airtable: Pros and Cons

If you’ve read this far, you can see that there is no clear answer as to which tool is better. The right solution is going to depend on the size of your business and what you intend to use the platform for.

However, to help you make your decision, we’ve summarized Smartsheet and Airtable’s strengths and weaknesses below, as well as identified which type of business would best benefit from each.

Pros
  • Versatile - Sheets can be used for virtually anything, including budgeting, inventory tracking, project management, expense monitoring, CRM, and so on. While some tools are designed for PM only, Smartsheet has tons of potential uses, making it incredibly versatile.

  • Template Gallery - Smartsheet offers hundreds of templates and template sets for a wide variety of industries, including technology, professional services, entertainment, hospitality, retail, construction, and engineering. These comprehensive templates save time and effort, eliminating the need for users to create sheets from scratch.

  • Easy Automation - Smartsheet’s Workflows feature is substantially better than what you’ll find with many other PM tools. With Workflows, users can easily automate repetitive tasks and workflows using conditional logic. While that may sound complex, Smartsheet’s automation builder is so simple that even new users can quickly get the hang of it.

  • Spreadsheet UI - Although it can take time to learn how to take advantage of everything Smartsheet has to offer, the learning curve is flattened by Smartsheet’s familiar spreadsheet interface.

    Because most new users are accustomed to working with Excel, they can grasp the basics of Smartsheet pretty quickly. Additionally, because Smartsheet’s interface is less intimidating than those of other collaboration tools, user adoption tends to be less of a problem with Smartsheet.

Cons
  • Lacks Time Tracking - Smartsheet doesn’t offer built-in time tracking. Instead, users who want a time-tracking solution need to pay for Smartsheet’s premium add-on, Resource Management, or purchase companion software.

  • No Free Plan - Most PM tools on the market today offer a free plan for individuals, solopreneurs, and small businesses. However, Smartsheet discontinued its free plan in August 2021. As a result, small teams don’t have the opportunity to grow with Smartsheet for free--only paying once they’ve begun to scale.

  • Doesn’t Autosave - Unlike other cloud-based software, Smartsheet doesn’t autosave every keystroke. Instead, the software saves in user-selected intervals--such as every minute or when a sheet is closed. This can be frustrating, since most people are accustomed to autosave.

  • No Real-Time Updates - Although Smartsheet notifications occur right away, the sheets themselves aren’t updated in real-time. As a result, you’re forced to refresh the sheet you’re working on if you want to see the latest data entered by your collaborators.

Who Is Smartsheet Best For?

Smartsheet is best for businesses that:

  • Prefer a spreadsheet-like interface
  • Are medium-to-large in size
  • Don’t have a lot of users in remote locations (who may not be able to access WiFi)
  • Have the time, energy, and resources to take advantage of Smartsheet’s extensive customizations
Pros
  • Good View Options - One benefit of Airtable is that it offers users multiple views to choose from. For instance, its free plan provides users with five views: grid, calendar, form, kanban, and gallery. Users on the Pro plan also get access to timeline views and a surprisingly good Gantt chart.

  • Free Plan - Unlike Smartsheet, Airtable offers a free plan for up to five creators and editors. With that free plan, users can create unlimited bases. They’re also allowed unlimited commenters and free users. Although the free plan is limited to 1200 records per base, the plan still may be enough to suit the needs of some small teams.

  • User-Friendly - Although the word “database” can strike fear in the hearts of non-technical users, Airtable is actually quite user-friendly. Not only does it have an intuitive interface, but it also offers a number of clear, succinct tutorials that are available right within the software itself.

  • Good Data Tracking - For data integrity purposes, it’s crucial to be able to see who’s changed table data. Airtable allows users to view a log that identifies who edited specific tables and records for greater transparency and accountability.

Cons
  • Limited Commenting - Airtable only allows users to make comments within individual records, which can be tedious to locate. Ideally, Airtable would also offer a way for teams to communicate on more general topics.

  • User Permissions - Airtable’s permissions work similarly to those of spreadsheets i.e., users can have read-only access, commenting privileges only, and/or data editing permissions.

    The problem arises when you want to restrict users to specific views or table columns--say, for instance, if you wanted to limit some HR team members from viewing payroll data. Airtable doesn’t offer this ability, forcing users to find time-consuming workarounds.

  • Not Specifically for PM - Because Airtable isn’t specifically designed for project management, it may not be the best tool for organizations that frequently run large, complex projects.

  • Embedding Problems - According to reviews, many users run into problems when attempting to embed visual, media, or interactive content … creating a potential issue for companies that regularly work with large volumes of images or videos.

Who Is Airtable Best For?

Airtable is best for businesses that:

  • Have small teams and want a good, free collaboration tool
  • Don’t require robust communication features
  • Rely on spreadsheets and need a more powerful way to manage data
  • Want an incredibly flexible collaboration tool to improve company-wide visibility
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We’ve been building and selling software online since 2005

And along the way, we’ve used just about every well-known project management tool out there.


While they were OK, we never found one tool that offered all of the important functionality we needed to manage our large teams and projects. Instead, we were forced to patchwork together a few different PM tools to meet our needs … which wasn’t efficient or cost-effective!

Rather than continue doing that, we decided to build our own PM software. One that does EVERYTHING you need to manage a remote team of people, ultra-effectively … without all the confusing features nobody actually uses or the unbelievably steep learning curve that goes hand-in-hand with most PM software.

It’s called Teamly, and best of all, you can get your absolutely FREE account by clicking the button below.

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