Heads up! This is a guide for admins. If you're not an admin yet, ask your Beacon admin to promote you so you can start managing fields.

Most of the time, you only need to store data that's static: data that doesn't change unless you change it. Sometimes that's not enough though - for example you might want to add several number fields together to calculate a score, or divide a total payment amount by the number of instalments you'll make.

Enter smart fields. Intelligent, read-only fields that auto-calculate their values every time you update a record in Beacon.

In Beacon there are three ways of using smart fields:

  • Formulas - These can be used with short text fields, number and currency fields, and date fields. You use these by writing what you would when working with Excel or Sheets (e.g. =(1+3); =IF( X > Y , "Yes" , "No" ))

  • Templates - These are used to combine text from multiple fields without needing to use a formula (e.g. displaying a person's name and membership number on a single field)

  • Rules-based - These are useful to auto-categorise records (e.g. payments into "income streams") based on rules that you define. Drop-down fields only.

Once you've taken a look below, you might want to check out:


How to create a formula smart-field

Formula smart fields are where the real power of smart fields lies. With formula smart fields, you can use many of the functions and operators that you're used to using in Excel, including:

  • Maths: +, -, *, /, ^, %

  • Logic: IF(), AND(), OR(), NOT(), XOR()

  • Comparisons: =, >=, >, <=, <, <>

With formula fields, you can use all of the above to build out smart fields that automatically update, to calculate things like the balance that a member still owes you, or a flag to determine if a team member should call someone or not. Let's go over how to do it:

  1. When creating a new field, choose the Number, Currency, Short text, or Date type depending on if you want the output to be a number, currency, text, or a date.

    Click the "Is smart field?" toggle.

  2. Create an Excel-like formula in the template. Most excel formulas will work; feel free to send us a message if you get stuck!

    Screen Recording 2021-09-20 at 06.30.38 pm


    Note: If you're working with dates (either displaying a date in a particular way in a short text field, or manipulating dates for a date field), see our guide here for more detail

  3. Click 'Create' and then 'Save' on the Card: overview. You'll now see a smart field value has been automatically set.

You'll need to give Beacon a short time to calculate your smart fields - especially if it's having to sort through lots of data! For larger databases, it make take a few minutes for your smart fields to update.

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How to create a template smart-field

Templates are smart fields that don't require any formulas. They are used to join up text from other fields and are very useful for labelling records in Beacon. They're often used for setting labels on records like donations, e.g. "£10 from Jess".

To set up a template field:

  1. Create a new field and select short text as your field type.

  2. In the Add Template field, use the rightmost menu to select the fields you'd like to include. Make sure you include spaces and any other characters you'd like to include.

Smart field template

You'll need to give Beacon a short time to calculate your smart fields - especially if it's having to sort through lots of data! For larger databases, it may take a few minutes for your smart fields to update.

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How to create a rules-based smart field

Rules-based smart fields are only available for drop-down fields. They allow you to automatically categorise your records based on rules that you define.

Data often lives in different places in your database. Rules-based smart fields can use data from a variety of different places to standardise data into a simpler list of categories.

Note: Rules-based smart fields are particularly useful in a finance context to auto-categorise your payments into "income streams"; often referred to as "ledger codes" in accounting systems.

Each rule can use:

  • Fields on the current record type (e.g. payments)

  • Fields on record types that are pointed at by this record type (e.g. person)

To set up a rules-based smart field:

  1. Create a new field and select drop-down list as your field type.

  2. Toggle Is rules-based smart field?

  3. Add as many rules as you like! Here's an example of rules you can use for an "Income stream" field:

    Screenshot 2021-07-08 at 09.33.21

  4. Click and drag rules to re-order them by priority (higher priority at the top)

    Screen Recording 2021-07-08 at 09.43.27 am

  5. Add a fallback value, which will be used when none of your rules match.

    Screenshot 2021-07-08 at 09.34.51

You'll need to give Beacon a short time to calculate your smart fields - especially if it's having to sort through lots of data! For larger databases, it may take a few minutes for your smart fields to update.


Frequently Asked Questions

What triggers a smart field to update?

Smart fields are triggered by other fields updating:

  • Any field on the same record

  • A field referenced by your smart field

Which functions are supported in Beacon?

Loads! Beacon supports the vast majority of common Excel functions to build your formulas, but there are some exceptions that are NOT supported:

  • ISBLANK

  • IFS (nest regular IF statements instead)

  • COUNT/COUNTIF/COUNTA (because these are based on cell ranges)

  • VLOOKUP (just... no 🤨)

  • CONCAT (as it's based on cell ranges - use CONCATENATE instead)

  • TEXT (if date related, use DATEFORMAT instead)

  • ISNUMBER (except when nested within other functions, i.e. IF(ISNUMBER("Value"), "Yes", "No"))

  • FIND (Will produce 0 instead of no value if a string is not found - use SEARCH instead)

  • Regular expressions

Can I use TODAY() in my formula smart fields?

Smart fields in Beacon recalculate when fields change. Today's date isn't a field that's updating so whilst your formula will calculate correctly when you create it, as soon as tomorrow comes it might not be accurate anymore!

For example:

You have a field that calculates 'Age' using the years between someone's date of birth and TODAY(). Bob is 65, but his birthday is tomorrow. When his birthday comes and goes, his 'Age' will still show 65, unless something triggers the smart field to recalculate and update to 66.

Workaround: Manually trigger the field to update.

If there's a field that includes TODAY() that you want to use, you will want to update something on any of the records you want to update. You could choose any field, but often it's easiest to have a checkbox for this sole purpose, such as 'Update age?' or 'Recalculate smart fields?'.

Bulk updating this field to be ticked, and unticked again, will ask your smart field to check that it's correct and you'll have correct data!

In a smart field, can I reference other smart fields?

Yes, absolutely!

In a smart field, can I reference rollup fields?

You sure can!

In a smart field, can I reference other smart fields on a linked record?

Go for it!

In a smart field, can I reference rollup fields on a linked record?

No. Rollup fields one step away don't play nice with smart fields.

In a smart field, can I reference another smart field on a linked record via a rollup field?

For example: Reference the 'Amount (Net)' smart field via a 'Last payment' rollup field on People.

No. There's a bunch of very complex stuff going on behind the scenes with both smart fields and rollup fields, so trying to do one via another is not currently possible.

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