Understanding Baserow Formulas

Baserow formula fields allow you to dynamically calculate values for each cell in the field based on a formula. These formulas are similar to those found in other spreadsheet tools, have a growing collection of functions available and are lightning fast.

This guide will first explain what Baserow formulas are and how to use them. See the baserow formula technical guide if you are a looking for a technical understanding of how formulas are implemented within Baserow.

What a Baserow Formula Field is

A Baserow Formula field lets you create a field whose contents are calculated based on a Baserow Formula you’ve provided. A Baserow Formula is simply some text written in a particular way such that Baserow can understand it, for example the text 1+1 is a Baserow formula which will calculate the result 2 for every row.

A Simple Formula Example

Imagine you have a table with a normal text field called text field with 3 rows containing the text one,two and three respectively. If you then create a formula field with the formula concat('Number', field('text field')) the resulting table would look like:

text field formula field
one Number one
two Number two
three Number three

As you can see the formula field cells are calculated using the text field cell for each row.

In the next section we break down the formula bit by bit. If you are familiar with formulas already feel free to skip to the section after.

Breaking down a simple formula

Let’s split apart the formula concat('Number', field('text field')) to understand what is going on:

  • concat
    • Concat is one of many formula functions you can use. It will join together all the inputs you give to it into one single piece of text.
  • (
    • To give inputs to a formula function you first have to write an opening parenthesis indicating the inputs will follow.
  • 'Number'
    • This is the first input we are giving to concat and it is literally just the text Number. When writing literal pieces of text in a formula you need to surround them with quotes.
  • ,
    • As we are giving multiple inputs to concat we need to separate each input with a comma.
  • field('text field')
    • This is the second and final input we are giving to concat. We could keep on adding however many inputs as we wanted however as long as each was separated by a comma.
    • This second input is a reference to the field in the same table with the name text field. For each cell in the formula field this reference will be replaced by whatever the value in the text field field is for that row.
  • )
    • Finally, we need to tell Baserow we’ve finished giving inputs to the concat function, we do this with a matching closing parenthesis.

What is a formula function?

A function in a formula takes a number of inputs depending on the type of the function. It does some calculation using those inputs and produces an output. Functions also sometimes only take specific types of inputs. For example the datetime_format only accepts two inputs, the first must be a date (either a field reference to a date field Or a sub formula which calculates a date) and the second must be some text.

All the available functions for you to use are shown in the expanded formula edit box which appears when you click on the formula whilst editing a formula field.

Using numbers in formulas

Formulas can be used to do numerical calculations. The standard maths operators exist like +,-,* and /. You can use whole numbers or decimal numbers directly in your formula like so (field('number field') + 10.005)/10

Invalid Number Error

If you see an Invalid Number in a formula cell it means that your formula for that row has tried to do one of the following invalid operations:

  • Divide a number by zero.
  • Convert text to a number using the tonumber function and failed because the text wasn’t a valid number.
  • Calculate a number which is larger than 10^50, the maximum value allowed.

Conditional calculations

If you need to do a calculation conditionally then the if function and comparison operators will let you do this. For example the following formula calculates whether a date field is the first day of a month, IF(day(field('some date')) = 1, true, false).

You can compare fields and sub-formulas using the >, >= <=, <, = and != operators.

Using Dates

Use the todate function to create a constant date inside a formula like so: todate('2020-01-01 10:20:30', 'YYYY-MM-DD HH:MI:SS'). The first argument is the date you want in text form and the second is the format of the date text.

Using Date intervals

Subtracting two dates returns the difference in time between the two dates: field('date a') - field('date b'). The date_interval function lets you create intervals inside the formula to work with.

Need to calculate a new date based on a date/time interval? Use the date_interval function like so: field('my date column') - date_interval('1 year')


Why can’t I change the value of a formula fields cell?

You cannot change the value of a formula field cell. This is because a formula field has one formula for the entire field which is used to calculate the individual cells values. Try converting the formula field back to a normal field if you are done with your calculation and now want to make specific edits to the results.

What happens when I delete a field referenced by formula field?

If you reference a field in a formula, if you then delete the referenced field, your formula field will become invalid and an error will be shown. To fix this you can either restore the deleted field, create a new field with the same name, change the formula to no longer reference the deleted field or rename another field.

Future Formula Functionality

Extra Functions

Many more functions will be coming soon, please let us know which in particular are most important for you on our community forum.

Unsupported Field Types

It is not currently possible to reference and use the following fields in a formula:

  • Link to table
  • File
  • Single select
  • Multiple select The ability to use these fields will be added in a future update.