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Build dynamic text columns with Compose
Build dynamic text columns with Compose

The compose feature lets you build dynamic formatted text in table columns

Updated over a week ago

Have you ever wanted to compose dynamic text that references values in each row? Maybe you want to send messages that contain dynamic text, such as status updates. This used to require using multiple formulas. Now you can do all that and more with the Compose feature.

With this feature, you can build templated canvas columns that reference column values and formulas with formatting. With the freeform editor you can reference columns (using @), format text (add bullets, bold and more) and formula results (accessed via =). The dynamic content can then be referenced by other columns, such as Gmail Pack button to send the content in an email.

Similar to formulas, values in the generated column are not editable directly and can only be changed via the Compose editor accessed through the column options dialog.

Within this article you’ll find...

Add a new Compose column

To add a new Compose column, just follow these steps:

  1. In the upper right corner of your table, click the plus icon (+) to add a new column

  2. For the column type, choose Compose. This will create a new Canvas column. bring up the options dialog where you can build the dynamic text. Create your dynamic text here.

  3. Create your dynamic text here. The inline preview shows you what each value will look like per row.

  4. Tap outside the dialog to commit any changes. Hitting Esc will cancel any changes.

  5. If you want to turn off in-cell preview, go to the Settings tab and toggle that setting off.

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If you need to access this editor again, you can do so by right clicking on the column header, and selecting Column options. Then you can make edits in the Compose tab.

Reference other column values

You can reference columns by typing @ and choosing the column you want to reference from the dropdown menu. You can format these values by selecting the column chip and using the selection menu to bold, underline, italicize and more.

COMPOSE bold a column.gif

Use formulas

You can include more complex calculations by using = to bring up the formula editor. This can be useful when you want to perform function on a column per row such as calculating if a Launch date is overdue etc. To learn more about writing in Coda’s formula language, check out this article.

By default, any formulas you enter here will reference the current row (think, thisRow). If you want to reference other rows, tables, etc., you’ll need to reference them by their full name.

Compose write a formula.gif

Format text

You can format text in your Compose column by typing / (forward slash), which will bring up a list of elements such as headings, bullets, emojis, and more. You can also highlight existing text to bring up the text formatting bar.

Convert to editable

By default, all Compose columns start as formulaic columns - they are determined by the underlying instructions you’ve provided in the column settings. This means that you can’t manually edit a specific cell.

But if you want to make your Compose columns editable, you can simply convert the column back to a normal canvas column. To do so, just right click on the column header, select Column options, then click the Convert to editable option towards the bottom of the dialog. Choosing this option will remove the Compose tab and store the current values in the column. The values are now editable in cell and will no longer update based on any previously referenced column values or formulas.

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How is a Compose column different from a normal canvas column?

Canvas columns allow you to put pages within the cells of a table. Each cell of a canvas column is directly editable and can be manually modified - without affecting any other cells in that column.

A Compose column, on the other hand, allows you to generate dynamic page content within the cells of a table. You predetermine what should be in each cell “behind the scenes” - so the contents for each cell are automatically calculated and created for each new row. Each cell of a Compose column is not manually editable. The contents of each sell and pre-determined based on the settings of the column.

Why can’t I delete the contents of a Compose column cell?

This is because Compose columns aren’t manually editable. In other words, you can’t manually edit individual cells. Instead, you use the column settings to create dynamic content - then Coda auto-fills the cells based on that info.

If you want to make your Compose column manually editable, check out the Convert to editable section above.

Can I put non-text objects in a compose column?

Compose columns primarily support text, dynamic text, and formatted text. You can also add images by either copy/paste, or by referencing an image column. Aside from that, you cannot add other Coda objects (buttons, tables, reactions, etc.) to Compose columns.

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