Is an editable Bi-directional relationship possible without Automation?

Trying to switch over from Airtable, and this is a major deficiency of Coda. Are tables not relational?


Simple use case:

  • Table of Projects
  • Table of People

People have a lookup so I can add them to projects.

Now when I’m look at a project there is no way to add someone to the project. I have to individually look up each person in the people table.

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Any update on this discussion @Al_Chen_Coda?


Dear @Ryan_Martens

I felt to share this post that might be of your interest:

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Thanks @Jean_Pierre_Traets. Looks like we are still waiting for that functionality.

So I was playing around with this, and it looks like a good deal of the functionality that we want is actually already present, without automation rules. And it doesn’t even feel hacky, I think Coda’s designed to work like this on purpose.

What we can do
If you have a table with a lookup column (not formula), and then in that table being referenced, create a column with a formula that filters the rows referencing it (see embed below), then you add, remove, edit, delete, and create records from both tables from the perspective of either table.

You just need, as others have mentioned, the details view. And it seems the formula must be =Filter(something) (ie, FormulaMap(), Lookup(), and probably other methods of generating rows work don’t work as well – either failing to display as tables in the view or unable to add rows). Therefore, it’s still not a truly bi-directional relationship, because one of them is still technically an uneditable formula.

I’ve written more notes about the possiblities and limitations of this kind of linking below.

Here’s an alternative method using multiple selects and buttons. I expected it to be pretty simple to set up, but my formulas ended up getting surprisingly convoluted… therefore it’s likely too much work / too complicated to be useful for most applications. But I’ll put it here anyway in case someone likes it. (same document, duplicated tables)

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I answered @ABp 's questions on this yesterday coincidentally: Connecting Lookup Tables via Join Row?

Note the use of a Button column to bypass the Detail View restriction (a bit).

As said before though:

  • These reverse lookups tend to be costly, so given performance considerations probably not the way forward.
  • It’s still not a true bi-directional editable relationship.

And I wanted to jump in here too and comment that this is really great work guys @GJ_Roelofs and @Ryan_Martens. Pretty advanced though, and I know I could not do most of this on my own - I wonder how many non-devs could. Ryan, curious why you think this is done by design? It took me a while to figure out when and when you cannot access the subtable in Details view.

If you have any more time, would love to get your take on whether you think this stuff could be presented in the Coda UX, perhaps via simple wizards, to allow for non-devs to implement this?

You may find this usefull. It’s the best way I’ve found to add from either table


yes, thanks you @Saul_Garcia, in particular the use of the third table, as this is something I was trying to utilize here:

Connecting Lookup Tables via Join Row?

to associate the “adjoining” tables’ data via the “middle” table.

I have to say though as much as I appreciate these solutions, way over my head. Most of you here in the community are probably crack engineers in your day jobs, respect! But unfortunately for me as somebody trying to build the basics of my team app without the use of a developer, this doesn’t really make me think I will be that successful with what I want to accomplish without a Herculean effort to master all the subtleties of Coda!


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It looks like @Saul_Garcia has designed a clever solution with this functionality to make things more straightforward for the end user, but you’re right @ABp, it’s not necessarily straightforward for the maker with little database experience.

However @ABp, the basic version of this really is simple to create in Coda. Take a look at this example (actually same example but I got rid of some of the extra fluff):

Go ahead and try out the following steps to see how simple it is to create your own two-way table link:

  1. Create a new People table (or just use the existing one in my doc)
  2. Create a Cities table
  3. Create a new column in the People table that is type “Lookup” to the Cities table (using the blue plus button, if you search column type “Cities” it will suggest a lookup to the Cities table)
  4. Using the same blue plus button method, create a new column in the Cities table that is a lookup to the People. (If you choose the option with the blue dot beside it as in the screenshot below, it will automatically write the correct formula for you.)
  5. Create a Details view of the Cities table
  6. Customize the layout, and fully editable People subtable will automatically appear.

And there you have it! The main limitation still applies, of course, that you can only edit the People subtable in the detail view and not in other views, but at least it’s there!


hey @Ryan_Martens great post!

What I’d really like to see is this functionality better presented somewhere - in the Coda Intercom pages, here in the community, even the YouTube channel. I spent hours upon hours trying to figure this out, and I’m afraid other non-db experts will stumble on this without this being laid out more.

I wrote a post here:

Grouping, and adding to Groups - Guidelines request

asking for some guidance as well. I would hope that the Coda team might be able to start building out some documentation, how to’s, other stuff that would explain the workings of Coda that are known, but very hard to figure out if you are not a developer. Such as in this case the fact that you have to have those multi-select options on both the “allow multiple selections” and “allow quick adding of items” under Item Settings, at least I think.

The fact that bi-directional linking itself is not possible also tripped me up. Much of the time I spent trying to figure this out was not being able to get a grip on the lack of the bi-directional capability, something I assumed - and I think it was a justified assumption - would be a built-in feature of LookUps.

Expanding the Coda Knowledge Base with this material doesn’t require any development bandwidth, so I hope the team can prioritize this without the need to have any features put on backlog while this is accomplished. My own experience in Coda is compromised frequently by not being able to figure out what’s going on in things like lookups, grouping, and layouts (as discussed here.)

Thanks again for the response!

Your welcome :slight_smile:

If you spent hours trying to figure out this functionality I think that’s good feedback for the team as an indication to document the functionality better in the help files.

But I think the real solution is yet to come, when we finally get a truly bidirectional lookup (without formulas and without automation) like exists in AirTable.

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@Ryan_Martens thanks!

Yes, this is a pain point with me since I started extensive use of Coda about a year ago. I am not a developer, but well-versed in most other productivity apps out there, and fairly proficient in Excel outside of formulas and functions. I have found that I will hit a roadblock between beginning something I am trying to set up in Coda, and getting to the end of making it work as I desire.

I am not sure how many users of my skillset are in Coda now, and if this is the target segment of the vision of Coda. I would say about 90% of what I read in the community is on a very advanced level, so if the sample of users here is where Coda is targeting moving forward, I am probably not an ideal user/Maker. In fact, I’ve started to think that Coda may head in the direction of multiple other frameworks out there that are basically platforms for development given the expertise needed to master it and the time necessary to gain that expertise, especially if you are not a developer.

Perhaps you’re familiar with the fact that nowadays there are dedicated teams, not just individual positions, within larger software companies for Jira admins. I find Jira actually less complex than Coda, but it’s complex enough all the same to require companies to hire specialists. I could see companies actually hiring “Coda admins” over time.

The bottom line for me is that I will spend a lot of time looking at things I am setting up and getting stuck in the “why isn’t this working as I think it should,” which usually leads to those hours of time spent trying to figure out what’s going on. Almost all the time these roadblocks wind up with me having to work through some formulas which challenge me if I’m trying to do anything with a level of sophistication such as here:

And just in case this is useful feedback for others in the forum, I can say that I had a lot of trouble for a while mastering the notion of “thisrow” in formulas. I think it would be great to see a dedicated section in the Coda Knowledge Base about thisrow, written for novice Makers. Thisrow is an essential in the Coda Formula Language, but not easy to master at all if you are not a developer used to formulas.

I hope all that is useful! Thanks again for responding!

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Hello @Al_Chen_Coda, are bi-directional editable relationships something that you’re still considering on a foreseeable timeline? It would make Coda so much more usable. Tables and relationships between them are at the core of Coda’s value, and this seems like an essential step to advance them.


Second this. Would really like to see Coda releasing something that allows for more arbitrary connection of rows. It is still quite a few steps when you are in “flow” mode working in Coda to create relationships, at least that is my experience.

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Another vote here, connecting data in a intuitive way and making editing existing and adding new connections is at the code of information management. I’m trying to set up a personal Knowledge base, as a Notion user I’m used to creating multiple tables (databases, silo’s, whatever you wanna call them) and then linking all of them together to surface relevant information on the right dashboards.

As it is right now coda has a lot of superior features to Notion which is why I’m looking to switch over, but the lack of relation management between tables is potentially a blocker.


+1 for this feature. Please implement soon as this is the main reason I can’t fully move to Coda right now.

In addition, now that Notion is adding API access, I think you’ll lose even more customers as Notion catches up with Coda in this area.

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+1 for this as well, Having to get really inventive to work around this is fun for me but not so much for my team


Please, Im struggling with a question:
I have 2 tables, one fore parent and other for children. I connected both through a lookup column and added a lookup reference on the other. The relation can be edited one way, whereas back in Notion it could easily be edited both ways. But I cant edit it bothways because “a formula field cannot be edited”. How can I solve this problem without the “six-column and lots of formulas” or the automation workarrounds?