Online Spreadsheets with the power of a Database – FieldBook

Posted May 14th, 2018 in Misc. Tagged: .
Fieldbook has been shut down in June, 2018. More info here.

Two of the most commonly needed software applications by any organization are spreadsheets and a database. While spreadsheets are used by each and every employee to organize data clearly, the database comes handy to cross-reference and link detailed information related to the data saved within spreadsheets. To better understand the setting, here’s a short scenario.

Imagine you save the names of all employees in the different departments of your organization within a workbook, segregated into different worksheets by departments. Now you can add more information to each of those employees by creating more columns filled with more data like the projects / clients they work for, their phone numbers, their SSN numbers etc. But imagine how complicated that workbook would become if you also needed to stuff in more data pertaining to each employee like their payroll information, their leave information, benefits, bonus computations, time-tracking information, stories assigned to them in different sprints, and so on and so forth. You get the super complex multi-dimensional picture, right?


Now what does that scenario make you realize? It’s that spreadsheets are great for crunching numbers, but not so great at referencing data from other sheets in order to treat each cell entity as the top of a tree with its own set of branches. Well you can do it, of course, but you won’t be able to do it “simply”. And the same vice versa situation comes into picture when we talk about databases. They’re great at managing heaps of data related to different entities but you can’t exactly ask a database to perform a really complex mathematical computation on a selected data set within a click.

Okay enough with painting pictures. What we want to get you at is the need to find a mid-way, a sort of cross between a spreadsheet application and a database which lets you not just organize large data sets but also cross-reference more data from them to form a web of heaps of data that is so organized it’s like a complete system in itself.

Thankfully, some very creative guys have already developed this convenient and truly useful hybrid system. It’s called Fieldbook and this post is dedicated to finding out its best aspects.

Fieldbook – the simplicity of Spreadsheets combined with the power of a Database

Fieldbook is essentially a database app that has a front-end resembling a spreadsheet application. You can import your existing spreadsheet data into Fieldbook, have it suggest column names as per the content type, and when everything’s filled, put it to work. What that means is that Fieldbook will allow you to link records from the database to specific columns within the spreadsheets so that you can keep detailed info about, say, your products, and easily populate that data into every order automatically, and then use that linked data in your functions.

With an application as sophisticated as Fieldbook, you can quickly fill your database with details (manually, through custom online forms, or through forms shared and filled by others), instantly search for any data through a convenient search bar, create and display information as views, and manage all your data the not-so-difficult way.

Some of the best features of Fieldbook include:

  • Spreadsheet like functions including tables, sorts, filters, data groups, etc.
  • Ability to link data together to automatically update it in multiple places simultaneously
  • Project Management, Task Management, and Time Tracking support
  • Ability to share spreadsheets with your team and work together
  • Facility to view each row in Fieldbook in a full-screen detail view, where you can add as much detail as needed
  • Can be used for scenarios like usability test scheduling, product roadmap planning, managing recruiting pipeline, and much more

There literally is a lot more to Fieldbook which you can find out from the tool’s homepage.

Fieldbook - screenshot 1

How it works

Now let’s come to the part that interests us the most.

  1. Visit and click on the green button that says “Try Fieldbook for free”
  2. Without even asking for a sign-up the tool takes you to a basic dashboard of sorts where you get to choose from one of two options:
    1. Create a new blank book
    2. Import a spreadsheet or CSV
    3. Choose from numerous templates
  3. We wanted to start from scratch so we created a new blank book. This was where we were asked to sign-up. And this action is the same for any other option you choose in step 2
  4. A quick sign-up later, we landed on our actual dashboard where the following options greeted us:
    1. A sample 3×5 spreadsheet with random data in the middle of the screen
    2. Options to view / create Saved Searches or Forms or link the current sheet to another one
    3. Option to create a new sheet
    4. Settings within the left hand panel which expanded by clicking on the more icon in the top left cornerFieldbook - screenshot 2
  5. All entries within the worksheet were of course editable and additionally, every column head had a drop-down arrow displayed adjacent to it. Clicking on this arrow opened up a whole lot of other options indicating edits we could do on the data within the sheet.Fieldbook - screenshot 3

It was a little tough for us to get around using the tool in first go but we got the hang of it after a little while.

Pros VS Cons

The biggest plus point with Fieldbook is the way it manages all of your data through a single interface. “Database + Spreadsheets” is an ultra-unique idea that is a time and effort saver on a massive scale.

The biggest negative about the tool is the learning curve associated with it. You will need to spend significant amount of time to find out what each option does and how you can use it. Plus, as of now there is no offline version of Fieldbook so you need to be online to use it. Another minus when compared with other desktop spreadsheet applications.

  • Think Spreadsheets combined with the power of a Database. Think Fieldbook! @fieldbookapp via @supermonitoring

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You could call Fieldbook a completely online version of popular spreadsheet software Excel or Open Office, but it has a lot more to it than that. While it works on a very simple concept, it is not every man’s tool, meaning it needs you to learn it first before you can actually make good use of it. But we assure you that once you do, you won’t find any other tool as efficient and organized as Fieldbook.

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