Usability needs to be improved (in comparision to airtable)

Hey community,
We have been using airtable in our company with around 100 employees for almost two years. Through the c’t I became aware of seatable and last month I took a close look at the software.

I would like to share my experiences on this forum and the especially the developers of seatable. I really like the idea of a self hosted airtable alternative but currently I cannot sell it to my colleagues. If you are used to the usability of airtable, it is difficult to like the work with seatable.

In airtable you can work completely with the keyboard and enter and edit data super quickly:
SPACE opens the detailed view, TAB to jump through the columns, ENTER to display the options, select with the arrow keys and confirm with Enter. This is not possible at all in seatable. The workflow is constantly interrupted because you have to grab the mouse.

It is not possible to add a new single select option just by typing a new string and press ENTER. A rating value cannot be defined with the number keys…

Here a screenshot from airtable.

My summary for now: seatable has a huge potential. A self hosted airtable alternative with a self hosted automation tool like n8n. Wow, that is what we are looking for. We will keep an eye on seatable and re-evaluate it in some months. If you could improve the usability we might consider to use seatable in the future.

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Welcome to the SeaTable Forum and thanks for your feedback, which is very appreciated.

We are working hard to make SeaTable a worldclass collaboration solution - in terms of features, usability and design. This said, it is true that there is still quite some room for improvement in the UI/UX department.

Please give us a little more time! SeaTable 1.0 was released in July 2020. Today, we have released SeaTable 2.1. I trust you agree that SeaTable has evolved enormously from one year ago.

I hope that you continue to follow the development of SeaTable with interest. Great things are around the corner! (You mentioned n8n, stay tuned!!) We’d be delighted to see to you switch from Airtable to SeaTable in the future.

I’d like to second this.

I’ve never use Airtable, but I was just adding a few rows in my SeaTable test base and also noticed that the workflow gets interrupted by switching back and forth between keyboard and mouse.
I wasn’t using the details view, but I was stumbling over adding single-/multi-select entries in the default view.

Thanks for listening :slight_smile:

@max38 Customer feedback is very important for us and we appreciate your comments a lot.

SeaTable 2.3 was released today and the new release ships with quite some usability improvements. Specifically, this are improvement I’d like to point out to you:

  • You can now navigate in the row details using TAB and arrow key now works as you described it (mentioned in your post above)
  • You can create a new option in a single select column by entering a value and hitting enter (mentioned in your post above)
  • When changing a column name, formulas using the column are corrected automatically
  • Columns can be duplicated
  • New single select options are automatically given different colors
  • First column supports single select columns
  • When changing a column type, you can select all (reasonable) column types
  • The link column wizard filters the already linked records
  • The option menu of multiple select columns remains open when selecting an option
  • A table context menu closes automatically when switching tables
  • … (this list is not comprehensive

This said, I realize that these improvements are unlikely to be sufficient to change your mind. But I hope it is testament to our effort to improve the user interface’s user experience.

And I hope that it encourages you to follow our development actively.

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This should be much better now in SeaTable 2.3.

Hey Ralf, hey community,

thanks for your answer and your time. It is great that your are actively pushing the issue.

The improvements implemented in the latest version look good. Keep up the good work!

But from my point of the view the improvements are far from being final. You write that the row details are improved therefore I had another look at it:

  • When I change the option in a single selection field, the cursor focus goes from the row details to the table
  • It is impossible to get out of a multiple selection field (ESC does not close the selection menu, but the modal of the row details)
  • The wizard for linked columns is not usable with keyboard
  • Images/files can’t be inserted with keyboard
  • I can’t open comments and logs with keyboard
  • I can’t scroll through the entries with keyboard
  • In the row details it is also not visually clear which entries are editable. This could be highlighted more clearly.

Let me also say this again very clearly: I am not only concerned with the row details! I had picked out these in my post only because the room for improvement was greatest there. Here are a few more examples that I just stumbled across when I tested again for a few minutes:

  • The TAB key does not work in the last column of a table - neither TAB (to jump to the next row) nor SHIFT + TAB (to go back one column).
  • I can create a new row with SHIFT + ENTER, but I can’t create a new column with the keyboard.
  • When I create a new column I have to take the mouse to select the column type. With TAB, I jumps over the column type.
  • If I press TAB several times, the cursor focus ends up outside the column creation window.
  • Creating a single selection column is clumsy. First I create the column and then I create the options in a separate step. That’s two steps where one should be enough. After all, who creates a single selection column and doesn’t create options? The design of Airtable is from my point of view much closer to the way the users use it.
  • I also have to specify the Rating Column with mouse.

Keep up with your great work. I will definitely follow the development of SeaTable.
Maybe there will be news regarding the n8n app?? :slight_smile:

@max38 Thanks again for taking the time to comment so extensively.

I can confirm all the issues you highlight. We’ll try to work on these (and more) in the upcoming releases.

We’ll also work hard on the n8n app!

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Plenty of good ideas there.
You may look at some UI/UX of Vikunja.
The Ctrl+R menu and the ‘quick add magic’
are two functions that may also bring some buttersmooth improvements

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