Is there a better way to create tasks automatically than using Copy Master and Details Records?

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[The Quick Base Knowledge Base is your library of frequently-asked questions that help you better customize your apps to solve your business problems.]

Introduction

Many customers come to us wanting to automatically create standard records, such as standard tasks for a project, so they can save time and reduce error. Copy Master and Details Records has been widely used to accomplish this. However, Quick Base Automations are more powerful and address many of the limitations of Copy Master and Details Records. Read on to learn how to upgrade your app by swapping out Copy Master and Details Records buttons with automations.



The problem

While Copy Master and Details Records buttons have served an important purpose, they suffer from a few serious issues. To use these buttons, you need to manually click the Copy Master and Details Records button, which you might forget to do if you're in a rush or if someone's talking to you while you're entering data. You also need to train your end users so they understand that they need to click the button to drive their workflow.

Finally, as those of you who've seen the dreaded "looping relationship" error know, those Copy Master and Details Records buttons aren't even available in apps with certain configurations.





How automations can help

An automation is a set of rules you define to automatically perform actions in Quick Base, with no need for code. You can use an automation to add a set of related tasks when a new project is created. The automation will then listen for a project record to be created, just like an email notification would. Then, the automation will add the related tasks without the person creating the project needing to click a button!

Using an automation, you log your standard tasks within the automation rather than creating them as template records. This means that users aren't able to accidentally overwrite or delete those records, you don't have to filter the template records out of all your reports, and if you have more than one set of template records users entering data in your app don't have to look for the right template and click the Copy Master and Details Records button.

To create an automation, open your app's home page and click "Settings". Under Advanced Features, you'll see the new Automations option. Click "+ New".



Next, we’ll walk through creating an automation for an example process. Feel free to follow along.

Example: Internet Service Installation

Imagine an internet service provider managing installation projects. What steps need to be followed depend on whether the install is for a residential or a business customer. 

Installing home internet service includes 4 steps:

  1. Anderson, my dispatcher, schedules the installation with the customer.
  2. Next, Dillon, my supply clerk, stocks the truck with the parts we need for the install.
  3. Then, my technician Beth drives to the customer's house and sets up their internet service.
  4. Finally, my customer service manager Narcisa follows up with the customer to make sure they have everything they need.
I created a simple app that contains projects and tasks tables. My tasks table includes a text field called Task Name, and a user field called Assigned To. I'll use the automation to create the tasks and fill in those two fields. The automation will listen for a residential install project to be added, create the appropriate tasks, and then relate them to the project.

Setting up the trigger

An automation includes a trigger and up to 50 actions. Here's how to set up the trigger:

  1. In the "Choose a trigger" dialogue, click When data changes.
  2. In the top-left corner, name your automation. Using a single phrase works well here.
  3. Choose what types of data changes the automation should listen for. Use the default, so the automation will only trigger when a new record is added.
  4. Choose which table the automation should listen for data changes in. Select Projects.
  5. I need to make sure the automation only runs when appropriate by filling out additional criteria. Since the automation will create a set of tasks for a residential installation, we want to make sure it only runs if the new project is indeed a residential installation. As in email notifications, click Additional Criteria to set that.
  6. Leave the first setting to "when any field changes", then set up criteria to check that the Customer Type on the project is "Residential", as seen in the image below.



Creating the first action


Next I'll create an action to add the first task record.

  1. Click Add an action.
  2. In the next window, choose Add a record, then click Next.



  3. In the next step, click Tasks, then click Finish.



  4. Click Select fields to choose which fields on the task record to fill in.
  5. In the drop-down that opens, select the Task Name and Assigned To fields, then click Add. The two fields then appear on the page.
  6. In the Task Name field, I'll enter "Schedule installation for " (with a space after the word "for").
  7. Also in the Task Name field, click the menu icon to insert the name of the customer who the project is for. Once I'm done with this step, my Task Name looks like this:



  8. In the Assigned To field, enter "aavans@example.com" (Anderson's email address). Since Assigned To is a User field, you need to use an email address for a QB user to set the field's value.

    TIP: You can also use an automation to add/edit a record which is not related to the triggering record. To do so, choose OR add a record to a different table and enter your criteria in the Add Record action the same way you would enter filter criteria for a report.
Creating the other three Add Record actions
  1. Move your mouse to the action on the left, and click the icon below to copy the action.



  2. Change the Task Name field to "Stock truck with needed parts".
  3. Change the Assigned To field to "ddove@example.com". (Dillon's email address)
  4. Copy the second action two more times, and edit those tasks so the automation so it creates a set of four related tasks:



    TIP: In the bottom-right corner, write a comment describing what your automation does. Especially for more powerful automations which include multiple types of actions, this helps document your business process and helps you easily read the automation if you need to make changes to it later. Feel free to use a few sentences here. For example: "When a project for a residential installation is added, add related task records and assign them to the appropriate team members."

  5. Click Save & close to finish building the automation.

Other Resources

This is just a small taste of what's possible using automations. For example, you can also use them to update existing records, as well as deleting records. Automations can even be run on a schedule!

To learn more, check out these great resources:

Photo of Brian Cafferelli

Brian Cafferelli, Quick Base Technical Marketing Manager

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Posted 4 months ago

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Cullen Coates, Champion

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It would be interesting to explain how users can specify predecessor relationships since that often is an important part of project management with sequential task steps.
Photo of Evan Martinez

Evan Martinez, Community Manager

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Hi Cullen,

When you reference predecessor relationships are you talking specifically about predecessor fields and the use of an Automation to cascade down the chain of predecessors. 

e.g. Task 1 is the Predecessor for Task 2 with that value being put into the predecessor field to make use of the predecessor function in Quick Base?
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Ken Casser

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How does this replace the CopyMasterDetail button?  You haven't copied a Master record, you've added a new one.  And, you're populating the Detail with boilerplate, not copying those detail records from a related Master.  It doesn't look like you've copied anything.  What am I missing?
Photo of QuickBaseCoach App Dev./Training

QuickBaseCoach App Dev./Training, Champion

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Ken, This would only replace the CopyMasterDetail button where there is a standard set of tasks being created.