Refreshing Sync Tables on Demand with NoOp Actions

For a few different Packs now (Copper, QuickBooks), I’m running into the following workflow issue:

  • I sync-table some data from an outside SaaS tool
  • I make some changes in the outside SaaS tool, that I want to update more or less instantly in Coda (so that users can take further actions, or so that Automations can be triggered)
  • This isn’t possible, because you can’t…
    • Tell Coda to refresh a sync table via formula, automation, API…, nor
    • Push data into a sync table via Zapier/Integromat

So you’re kind of left choosing between Zapier and Packs, and accepting tradeoffs:

  • Sync table is guaranteed not to be missing anything, but doesn’t update fast
  • Zapier updates fast, but may miss changes, fall out of sync without warning, etc.

But I just thought of somewhat of a workaround:

Create Actions in your Packs that do not in fact take any action, but instead just return a sync table row. You’d call them something like RefreshCustomer()

  • Users could attach this to a Button column if they want to be able to manually refresh a certain row
  • When something changes on your outside data source, have Zapier/Integromat fire a record into a support table (could be a single-column table with Customer ID), triggering an automation to call the action on the relevant row.


*Important caveat: This doesn’t get us around the problem that Actions cannot return objects with dynamic schemas. So if you have rows with partially dynamic schemas, you’re still out of luck, in that even actions that have impacts on your data will not show updates to dynamic columns until you refresh the entire sync table

Edit Sept 2022: Dynamic schemas are now supported in actions! However see below for a new caveat: there is currently a bug preventing references (Lookups) to other sync tables from working correctly


What a creative idea! I was pondering something similar the other day, but never got around to testing it out.

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@Nick_HE, I’ve trying to update a specific row, and I’ve followed the approach described here (Approximating two-way sync - Coda Pack SDK). The issue I see is that the updates rows stop matching any filters - i.e. they all of a sudden disappear from a filtered view.

Is what you’re describing different than what’s in the link above?

@Dan_Guberman That shouldn’t be happening. What data is in the relevant cell before and after the update? I think it’s more likely that you have a different issue going on (e.g. the update formula isn’t returning quite right or something). In theory if you have a button that updates “Status” column from “In Progress” to “Done”, but its date is still “June 17th”, it should still appear in a table filtered to “June” for example. (Note: you don’t even have to send “June 17th” again as part of the update; if you send null/undefined for that property, or you don’t specify that property, it’ll just keep the “June 17th” value it had from before)

I was digging a bit deeper (was just about to post a new topic).

This happens when it’s filtered on a reference field. So, say, if I have 2 tables: Employees and Departments, and an Employee has a reference field to Department, then when I update the Employee record, it breaks the reference, even though I set the same reference data (id and name for the department).

That’s causes the filter to exclude that row.

So, the real issue is how to keep the reference field during an update without breaking it.

If I explicitly delete that reference property from the updated object - that works, but that’s a pain to do across the board, and it doesn’t allow updating the reference itself (like changing departments) - I’d much rather return the full object that originally created the row.

There is indeed a bug with references. I’m doing exactly this in my Sync Tables Pro pack (the RefreshRow() function) and I just omit the references for now. It’s not ideal but it’s better than not having the sync action at all, and hopefully Coda fixes this soon enough.

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@Paul_Danyliuk - thanks for confirming.
Do you know if this issue is being tracked, and is there a way to upvote it?

EDIT: I understand now what this warning from documentation means - I think it literally tells us that reference fields cannot be updated by a formula, even if it returns the same object.

EDIT2: Apparently, it doesn’t do a deep-merge.
I have an array items of objects that each has a reference to other tables. I can’t just delete the reference field in each item; I need to delete the entire array items. Pretty big limitation on refresh, unfortunately :frowning:.
// cc: @Eric_Koleda

@Eric_Koleda are there any plans to fix that?

@Dan_Guberman and @Leandro_Zubrezki - We don’t currently have a public issue tracker, but we are tracking this internally and I just pinged the team about it. The fix is unfortunately blocked by some larger infrastructure changes. Those changes are making some progress, but it’s been slow and had some setbacks. Unfortunately I can’t provide an ETA for a resolution.