Getting Started with Coda – Lesson 1: Tables, Lookups and Constraints

These lessons build on each other, but are also broken down into individual topics so that you can refer back to them regarding specific topics.


In this series of how-to articles, I will walk you through creating a basic to-do list that could be used for personal tasks, work assignments, or even bug tracking.  I’m going to use pedestrian examples like “Buy Milk”, but this could just as easily be “Resolve authentication error on app landing page”.

Creating a Table

Tables are the core of Coda’s functionality.  Start by creating a new table:

  1. Click the red “plus” icon
  2. Select “table”
  3. Your table will appear in the canvas with a default name (“Table 1”)
Creating a table in Coda
Creating a table in Coda
Tip: Since tables do not have borders, you can accidentally click the wrong one when two are right next to each other.  To avoid this, type two hyphens (“- -“) before and after each table as a pseudo-border.

Naming Columns

Although Coda tables look like a spreadsheet, they behave more like a database.  Each row represents a single item or entry.  Each column represents a property of that item, like name or age.

For this to-do list example, I’m going to name the columns as follows:

  1. Task Name
  2. Priority
  3. Status
Changing column formats in Coda
Changing column formats in Coda

By default, new columns accept any text input.  They will also adapt to certain inputs (like numbers) automatically.  You can manually change the column format by clicking the small down-arrow (4) on the column name, or by right-clicking the column name.  Format (5) is the first option in the menu along with a lot more options that we’ll cover in future installments.

Adding Lookups & Constraints

Before changing the format, however, let’s create one more table below our first table. Delete the 2nd and 3rd columns using the same column menu where format is located.  Rename the table something like “Values_Priority” (4) and the one remaining column something like “Values” (5).

Then return to the main table and change the “Priority” column format to “Lookup” with the following options:

  1. Lookup table: “Values_Priority”
  2. Accept multiple selections: “No”
  3. Default value: “” (Blank)
Creating constraints with a lookup column
Creating constraints with a lookup column

Now each row will accept a priority that you have defined in the second table.  You will no longer be able to enter text.  If you want to add a new option, add a new row to the second table, and it will instantly be available in the drop down box without any saving, syncing or reloading.  This lookup feature is one of the most flexible and powerful features in Coda, and we’ll cover it a lot in future installments.

Video Tutorial

Coda also provides documentation in text, video & interactive lessons listed on our resources page.

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