Grist – Open core alternative to Airtable and Google Sheets

Grist – Open core alternative to Airtable and Google Sheets

Grist is a modern relational spreadsheet. It combines the flexibility of a spreadsheet with the
robustness of a database to organize your data and make you more productive.



(By popular request: we have a specific write-up of Grist vs Airtable that may be helpful).
Grist is a hybrid database/spreadsheet, meaning that:

  • Columns work like they do in databases. They are named, and hold one kind of data.
  • Columns can be filled by formula, spreadsheet-style, with automatic updates when referenced cells change.

Here are some specific feature highlights of Grist:

  • Python formulas.
  • A portable, self-contained format.
    • Based on SQLite, the most widely deployed database engine.
    • Any tool that can read SQLite can read numeric and text data from a Grist file.
    • Great format for backups that you can be confident you can restore in full.
    • Great format for moving between different hosts.
  • Convenient editing and formatting features.
    • Choices and choice lists, for adding colorful tags to records without fuss.
    • References and reference lists, for cross-referencing records in other tables.
    • Attachments, to include media or document files in records.
    • Dates and times, toggles, and special numerics such as currency all have specialized editors and formatting options.
  • Great for dashboards, visualizations, and data entry.
    • Charts for visualization.
    • Summary tables for summing and counting across groups.
    • Widget linking streamlines filtering and editing data.
      Grist has a unique approach to visualization, where you can lay out and link distinct widgets to show together,
      without cramming mixed material into a table.
    • The Filter bar is great for quick slicing and dicing.
  • Incremental imports.
    • So you can import a CSV of the last three months activity from your bank…
    • … and import new activity a month later without fuss or duplicates.
  • Integrations.
  • Many templates to get you started, from investment research to organizing treasure hunts.
  • Access control options.
  • Can be self-maintained.
    • Useful for intranet operation and specific compliance requirements.

If you are curious about where Grist is going heading,
see our roadmap, drop a
question in our forum,
or browse our extensive documentation.

Using Grist

There are docker images set up for individual use, or (with some
configuration) for self-hosting. Grist Labs offers a hosted service

To run Grist running on your computer with Docker, do:

docker pull gristlabs/grist
docker run -p 8484:8484 -it gristlabs/grist

Then visit http://localhost:8484 in your browser. You’ll be able to create, edit, import,
and export documents. To preserve your work across docker runs, share a directory as /persist:

docker run -p 8484:8484 -v $PWD/persist:/persist -it gristlabs/grist

Get templates at for payroll,
inventory management, invoicing, D&D encounter tracking, and a lot
more, or use any document you’ve created on

If you need to change the port Grist runs on, set a PORT variable, don’t just change the
port mapping:

docker run --env PORT=9999 -p 9999:9999 -v $PWD/persist:/persist -it gristlabs/grist

Building from source

To build Grist from source, follow these steps:

yarn install
yarn run build:prod
yarn run install:python
yarn start
# Grist will be available at http://localhost:8484/


Like git, Grist has features to track document revision history. So for full operation,
Grist expects to know who the user modifying a document is. Until it does, it operates
in a limited anonymous mode. To get you going, the docker image is configured so that
when you click on the “sign in” button Grist will attribute your work to
Change this by setting GRIST_DEFAULT_EMAIL:

docker run --env GRIST_DEFAULT_EMAIL=my@email -p 8484:8484 -v $PWD/persist:/persist -it gristlabs/grist

You can change your name in Profile Settings in
the User Menu.
For multi-user operation, and/or if you wish to access Grist across the
public internet, you’ll want to connect it to your own single sign-in service
Grist has been tested with Authentik and Auth0.

Why free and open source software

This repository, grist-core, is maintained by Grist
Labs. Our flagship product available at is built from the code you see
here, combined with business-specific software designed to scale it to many users, handle billing,

Grist Labs is an open-core company. We offer Grist hosting as a
service, with free and paid plans. We intend to also develop and sell
features related to Grist using a proprietary license, targeted at the
needs of enterprises with large self-managed installations. We see
data portability and autonomy as a key value Grist can bring to our
users, and grist-core as an essential means to deliver that. We are
committed to maintaining and improving the grist-core codebase, and
to be thoughtful about how proprietary offerings impact data portability
and autonomy.

By opening its source code and offering an OSI-approved free license,
Grist benefits its users:

  • Developer community. The freedom to examine source code, make bug fixes, and develop
    new features is a big deal for a general-purpose spreadsheet-like product, where there is a
    very long tail of features vital to someone somewhere.
  • Increased trust. Because anyone can examine the source code, “security by obscurity” is not
    an option. Vulnerabilities in the code can be found by others and reported before they cause
  • Independence. Grist is available to you regardless of the fortunes of the Grist Labs business,
    since it is open source and can be self-hosted. Using our hosted solution is convenient, but you
    are not locked in.
  • Price flexibility. If you are low on funds but have time to invest, self-hosting is a great
    option to have. And DIY users may have the technical savvy and motivation to delve in and make improvements,
    which can benefit all users of Grist.
  • Extensibility. For developers, having the source open makes it easier to build extensions (such as the
    experimental Custom Widget). You can more easily
    include Grist in your pipeline. And if a feature is missing, you can just take the source code and
    build on top of it.


Environment variables

Grist can be configured in many ways. Here are the main environment variables it is sensitive to:

Variable Purpose
ALLOWED_WEBHOOK_DOMAINS comma-separated list of permitted domains to use in webhooks (e.g.,
APP_DOC_URL doc worker url, set when starting an individual doc worker (other servers will find doc worker urls via redis)
APP_HOME_URL url prefix for home api (home and doc servers need this)
APP_STATIC_URL url prefix for static resources
APP_UNTRUSTED_URL URL at which to serve/expect plugin content.
GRIST_ADAPT_DOMAIN set to “true” to support multiple base domains (careful, host header should be trustworthy)
GRIST_APP_ROOT directory containing Grist sandbox and assets (specifically the sandbox and static subdirectories).
GRIST_BACKUP_DELAY_SECS wait this long after a doc change before making a backup
GRIST_DATA_DIR directory in which to store document caches.
GRIST_DEFAULT_EMAIL if set, login as this user if no other credentials presented
GRIST_DEFAULT_PRODUCT if set, this controls enabled features and limits of new sites. See names of PRODUCTS in Product.ts.
GRIST_DOMAIN in hosted Grist, Grist is served from subdomains of this domain. Defaults to “”.
GRIST_EXPERIMENTAL_PLUGINS enables experimental plugins
GRIST_HOME_INCLUDE_STATIC if set, home server also serves static resources
GRIST_HOST hostname to use when listening on a port.
GRIST_ID_PREFIX for subdomains of form o-, expect or produce o-${GRIST_ID_PREFIX}.
GRIST_INST_DIR path to Grist instance configuration files, for Grist server.
GRIST_LOGIN_REDIRECT_HOST host of cognito-based login helper, if applicable (usually
GRIST_MANAGED_WORKERS if set, Grist can assume that if a url targeted at a doc worker returns a 404, that worker is gone
GRIST_MAX_UPLOAD_ATTACHMENT_MB max allowed size for attachments (0 or empty for unlimited).
GRIST_MAX_UPLOAD_IMPORT_MB max allowed size for imports (except .grist files) (0 or empty for unlimited).
GRIST_ORG_IN_PATH if true, encode org in path rather than domain
GRIST_ROUTER_URL optional url for an api that allows servers to be (un)registered with a load balancer
GRIST_SERVE_SAME_ORIGIN set to “true” to access home server and doc workers on the same protocol-host-port as the top-level page, same as for custom domains (careful, host header should be trustworthy)
GRIST_SESSION_COOKIE if set, overrides the name of Grist’s cookie
GRIST_SESSION_DOMAIN if set, associates the cookie with the given domain – otherwise defaults to GRIST_DOMAIN
GRIST_SESSION_SECRET a key used to encode sessions
GRIST_SINGLE_ORG set to an org “domain” to pin client to that org
GRIST_SUPPORT_ANON if set to ‘true’, show UI for anonymous access (not shown by default)
GRIST_THROTTLE_CPU if set, CPU throttling is enabled
GRIST_USER_ROOT an extra path to look for plugins in.
HOME_PORT port number to listen on for REST API server; if set to “share”, add API endpoints to regular grist port.
PORT port number to listen on for Grist server
REDIS_URL optional redis server for browser sessions and db query caching

Sandbox related variables:

Variable Purpose
GRIST_SANDBOX_FLAVOR can be pynbox, unsandboxed, docker, or macSandboxExec. If set, forces Grist to use the specified kind of sandbox.
GRIST_SANDBOX a program or image name to run as the sandbox. See NSandbox.ts for nerdy details.
PYTHON_VERSION can be 2 or 3. If set, documents without an engine setting are assumed to use the specified version of python. Not all sandboxes support all versions.
PYTHON_VERSION_ON_CREATION can be 2 or 3. If set, newly created documents have an engine setting set to python2 or python3. Not all sandboxes support all versions.

Google Drive integrations:

Variable Purpose
GOOGLE_CLIENT_ID set to the Google Client Id to be used with Google API client
GOOGLE_CLIENT_SECRET set to the Google Client Secret to be used with Google API client
GOOGLE_API_KEY set to the Google API Key to be used with Google API client (accessing public files)
GOOGLE_DRIVE_SCOPE set to the scope requested for Google Drive integration (defaults to drive.file)

Database variables:

Variable Purpose
TYPEORM_DATABASE database filename for sqlite or database name for other db types
TYPEORM_HOST host for db
TYPEORM_LOGGING set to ‘true’ to see all sql queries
TYPEORM_PASSWORD password to use
TYPEORM_PORT port number for db if not the default for that db type
TYPEORM_TYPE set to ‘sqlite’ or ‘postgres’
TYPEORM_USERNAME username to connect as


Variable Purpose
GRIST_TESTING_SOCKET a socket used for out-of-channel communication during tests only.
GRIST_TEST_HTTPS_OFFSET if set, adds https ports at the specified offset. This is useful in testing.
GRIST_TEST_SSL_CERT if set, contains filename of SSL certificate.
GRIST_TEST_SSL_KEY if set, contains filename of SSL private key.
GRIST_TEST_LOGIN allow fake unauthenticated test logins (suitable for dev environment only).
GRIST_TEST_ROUTER if set, then the home server will serve a mock version of router api at /test/router


This repository, grist-core, is released under the Apache License, Version
, which is an
OSI-approved free software license. See LICENSE.txt and NOTICE.txt for
more information.

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“Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching