How to use an R interface with Airtable API

How to use an R interface with an Airtable API

Hi folks, so this blog is about how to use an R interface with an Airtable API. We are going to be using this interface and API to pick our winner for our T-shirt draw. We will also be using the dplyr function sample_n().

Airtable is a cloud collaboration service. It is a spreadsheet-database hybrid, containing the features of a database but applied to a spreadsheet. The fields in an Airtable table are similar to cells in a spreadsheet, but have types such as ‘checkbox’, ‘phone number’, and ‘drop-down list’, and can reference file attachments like images. If you use Airtable you can create a database, set up column types, add records, link tables to one another, collaborate, sort records and publish views to external websites! As we are demonstrating, you can also link up with different interfaces: in our case this will be R, to use, and manipulate the data with code.

There are a couple of different R packages that you can use but I used Darko Bergant’s package from GitHub. You’ll also need to use devtools.

Set up

To install devtools all you need to do is run install.packages("devtools").

Now you need to install Darko Bergant’s package. devtools::install_github("bergant/airtabler")

Next you need to generate the airtable API key from your Airtable account page.


Now that you have devtools and bergant/airtabler installed you need load them into the session to be used. First library(airtabler), then library(dplyr).

Retrieve the data as a data.frame

To retrieve the data as a data.frame you’ll need your Airtable API key.

Sys.setenv("AIRTABLE_API_KEY"="<Your API key") #example key**************

Then you need to add the base that you want to pull the data from.

airtable <- airtabler::airtable("<base key>", "<Tab/sheet name>") #base key can be found in the API docs

Now you need to select the data that you want to use

airtable <- airtable$`<Tab/sheet name>`$select_all()

In your enviroment you should now see in data: airtable x obs. of x variable. You can click to the right of that to open the table if you want.

Using the dplyr function sample_n()

We now have all the data we need in a data.frame, so we can use the dplyr function. We just want to pick one row to be our winner.

sample_n(airtable, 1) #1 is the number of rows we want

This is our result.

ID : 17 re*************
Twitter Handle : @amymcdougall96
Win a T Shirt : Yes
Name : Amy McDougall
Created Time : 2018-05-18T13:38:58.000Z

(Note i used myself here as the example)

Other bits you can do

If you don’t want to select some random data here are a few other things you can do:

If you type

airtable$`<your tab/sheet>`

You can get a list of functions available for you to play with

function (offset = NULL, recursive = TRUE, filter_by_formula = NULL) 
    list_records(air_options, table, offset, recursive, filter_by_formula)
environment: ***********

function (record_id) 
    retrieve_record(air_options, table, record_id)
environment: ***********

function (fields) 
    create_record(air_options, table, fields)
environment: ***********

function (record_id, fields, method = "PATCH") 
    update_record(air_options, table, record_id, fields, method = method)
environment: ***********

function (record_id) 
    delete_record(air_options, table, record_id)
environment: ***********