As started in the Moving from Excel to Coda thread, I have been working on building out content to help folks transition from Excel to Coda. I’ve got an early take at some of the key differences that I thought would be helpful to post here.
If you’ve been using Excel or Google Sheets, you’ll find a lot of familiar things inside of Coda, but there are some critical difference as you make the leap. Oftentimes in a traditional spreadsheet program, we need to force connections and relationships between data into existence and build reinforcements so that as our data changes, our spreadsheet can keep up (think duct tape and spit!). This manual process means it’s much easier to make a mistake which is why we’ve approached the problem of structured and unstructured data a little differently. Here are the core differences to be aware of:
1. No cell level formulas and no more dollar signs
In a traditional spreadsheet, each cell is independent of every other cell, and you have to manually construct connections using their coordinate in the grid. Coda is a bit more like a database so each row represents a “thing” (people, tasks, inventory, trip ideas, grocery items, etc.) and each column represents an “attribute” of that thing (gender, age, address, price, priority, and the list goes on). That’s because Coda docs are meant to help you answer questions you have rather than simply keeping a list of data.
This means that when you work with a row item, all of the column details come along for the ride because they are the metadata of that item. And, each column will have the same format (including formulas) because they represent the same object (e.g. Quantity x Price).
2. Goodbye VLOOKUP, hello lookup columns and formulas
Any traditional spreadsheet that’s of a certain size will most likely have a VLOOKUP formula under the hood. VLOOKUPs manufacture connections and can be a bit unstable as your spreadsheet grows. To make your life easier, you can accomplish a stable VLOOKUP-esque experience in 4 different ways in Coda:
- Simply type the ‘@’ symbol to reference any person or row
- Create a Lookup column
- Use a Lookup formula
- Use a Filter formula
3. Bi-directional updates
Beyond linking content together using Lookups, you can also create distinct Views of your Tables. Views let you create a filter to slice and dice your Table data for exactly what you want. The best part? Any updates you make in a View or the Table will be reflected in the other location.
4. Text, tables, and references
Inside of Coda you’ll be able to have your Tables live right next to your text and notes. In addition to the best of both worlds, remember that you can type ‘@’ to create a reference to Table content. When you hover over a reference, you’ll see all of the column data too. It’s a great way to connect your Table information to your text.
5. Formulas everywhere!
Just like references can be inside of your text, your formulas can also be there. Simply type = to write a formula anywhere inside of Coda.