Automations are one of the most powerful aspects of Coda. In fact, I’ve been able to completely replace the use of Zapier with Coda automations and packs! Are you using Coda’s automations correctly? Let’s dive in!
Coda Automation Basics
Before we get started, let’s talk a bit about what automations are in general. Automation is the technique by which something becomes automatic - an item, a process, or a system, for example. But why worry about making something automatic? Can’t you just do it yourself? Sure, you could! But by setting up an automation for things that are predictable and repeatable, we will eliminate inevitable human errors with those routines, and improve speed, and consistency. Basically, you’ll make your workflow way more efficient so you can focus on other things!
How to access Coda automations panel?
In Coda, we get to the Automations sidebar by clicking on the small gear symbol in the upper right-hand menu. From there, choose Automations and you’ll be able to get going.
Parts of the Automation
Knowing the two, or maybe three, parts of the Coda automation formula is crucial to understanding how they work.
- When - “When something happens in my table...” - this is where you tell Coda what to look out for. Watch the Task table for a row that changes in the Complete column. Watch the calendar for each Sunday of the week. Watch for when someone submits a form. Watch out for this webhook. Coda calls this entire first section the “Step 1 Result.” This part often stalls people in the process, but if you can think of it as this whole first part or the event that you’re having Coda watch for, that can help.
- If (optional) - “But only if...” or “And also if...” - these are the conditions you might want to place on that first part. Maybe you don’t care about if the task gets checked AND unchecked complete (which is what Coda would be looking for if you left Step 1 as is. Let’s say you only care about the row change when the Complete column becomes checked. That’s what this conditions section is for - you can get really granular with your requests to Coda.
- Then - “Do this thing” - this is the step where you tell Coda what you want it to do for you. Maybe you want a button to get pressed, or several buttons, or notify a user in your doc, send an email, send a Slack message, add a row, delete a row, etc.
So if we put our steps together, our template command to Coda could be something like this:
“Hey Coda, when a row is changed in the _________ table in _________ column, but only if it’s _________, then you can _________.”
“Hey Coda, when a row is changed in the Tasks table in Complete column, but only if it’s checked, then you can notify a user.”
In just a bit we’ll translate all of this into Coda’s formula language.
Coda Automations' Limits
One of the main limits of Coda’s automations is that they take some time to work because the commands are sent to Coda’s server computers, and then it has to get back to your doc to do the thing. Those automation commands might be traveling on an internet super highway, but they can still take a few minutes to make things happen in your doc. Sometimes it takes 3 seconds, other times it could take a few minutes.
You also do have limits on the number of times automation rules run. You have a monthly allotment and once your collective docs have used up that many instances of automations, they won’t run again until your month resets. This limit applies to the Free and Pro plans. If you have a Team plan on up, automations run instances are unlimited.
Types of Coda Automations
There are currently four pre-configured automation types in Coda:
- Row changed
- Form submitted
- Webhook invoked
This is the part that’s saying, “Hey Coda, when something happens [row changes, a certain day/time, form submitted, webhook]...”
This is useful for sending notifications, archive or delete rows, or create modification logs. Let’s say we have a Tasks table and we want to notify the user when the task is marked complete. Here’s the Coda way to say that in the Automations area:
Time-based automations are triggered based on some sort of cadence like hourly, daily, or even weekly. These are great for things like recurring tasks, or sending reminders. For this particular one, we don’t even need to include a condition. Instead, we can ask Coda to filter out the information we don’t want it to check for using a formula in the Then part of the automation:
This automation is triggered each tie a form is submitted from inside your doc, or from someone without access to your Coda doc using the published link. These are great to use for data population to create relationships in other tables, auto thank you emails, or simply just to notify you when someone presses that submit button on your Coda form! Here’s a super simple example below of using this to thank someone for signing up for something, but I go much more into best practices when it comes to using the Gmail pack in this video.
This method is triggered each time there is an incoming webhook, which are basically connections between two different applications. In this case, one of those apps is Coda. Webhook automations are great for sending notifications to different apps, digital product delivery after a purchase is made, real-time notifications of delivery services, and archive systems.
Video tutorial step by step
This method is super powerful and versatile, but can be tricky to explain. I walk through how to set up an archive system for your Coda docs using a webhook in my YouTube video about automation, Coda VS Zapier : Codas automations may put Zapier out of buisness at around the 13:45 timestamp. (The rest of the video is pretty good too, by the way.)
I hope this helps gets you started in the wonderful world of Coda automations, and as always, please get in touch with me if you have any questions about Coda!
Enjoyed learning more about Coda with this post and want to learn more? From Coda lover to Coda lover, we've selected some other interesting and useful resources we think you'll love. Check them below👇