Metabase’s two core concepts are questions and their corresponding answers. Everything else is based around questions and answers. To ask a question in Metabase, click the Ask a Question button at the top of the screen.
When you click the Ask a Question button, you’ll see that there are three ways to ask a specific question in Metabase:
This page will cover the simple mode.
After you select the Simple Question option, you’ll need to pick some data that you have a question about. Just pick one of the databases that’s connected to Metabase, and you’ll see a list of all the tables inside of it. Pick the one that you have a question about; it could be a Users table, or maybe it’s something like Events, Orders, or Downloads.
To ask a question about a table of data, we usually do some filtering and/or summarizing.
Filtering just means narrowing things down based on certain criteria. You’re probably already familiar with filtering when looking for something online, like when shopping. Maybe you only want to see olive-colored pants, or books where the author’s last name is “Steinbeck,” or pictures of people wearing olive-colored pants reading John Steinbeck.
You can do the same kind of thing with data in Metabase. Just click the Filter button in the top-right of the screen to open the filter sidebar. You’ll see a list of all of the columns in this table, as well as columns from tables that are related to the one you’re looking at. Depending on the column you pick, you’ll see slightly different options for your filter.
Broadly speaking, there are three types of columns, each with their own set of filtering options:
One important thing to understand when filtering on a date column is the difference between specific and relative dates:
Specific dates are things like November 1, 2010, or June 3 – July 12, 2017; they always refer to the same date(s).
Relative dates are things like “the past 30 days,” or “the current week;” as time passes, the dates these refer to change. Relative dates are a useful way to set up a filter on a question so that it stays up-to-date by showing you for example how many users visited your website in the last 7 days.
If your Metabase administrators have created special named filters for the table you’re viewing, they’ll appear at the top of the filter dropdown in purple text with a star next to them. These are called “segments,” and they’re shortcuts to a combination of filters that are commonly used in your organization. They might be called things like “Active Users,” or “Most Popular Products.”
Once you’re happy with your filter, click Done, and your data will be updated with your filter applied. If you want to edit your filter, just click the little purple token at the top of the screen. If you click on the X, you’ll remove your filter. You can add as many filters as you need.
When we have a question like “how many people downloaded our app each day this week?” or “what’s the average age of customers who visit each of our stores on the weekend?”, we’re asking for a summary of the data. A summary is usually made up of two parts: one or more numbers we care about (called a “metric” in data-speak), and how we want to see that number grouped or broken out. So in our first example:
There are two very common ways you’ll tend to summarize your data:
And a lot of the time, you’ll then group that number by:
To do this in Metabase, click the Summarize button in the top-right of the screen, and the summary sidebar will open up.
The sidebar has two main parts: the top is where you pick the number (“metric”) you want to see, and the part below it is where you pick how to group that number (or how to “break it out”).
By default the “count of rows” metric will be selected, since it’s super common, but you can change it to something else by clicking on it. You can also select more than one metric to view: just click the “add a metric” button. You can remove any selected metric by clicking on the X icon. The different basic metrics are:
Count of rows
Cumulative sum of…
If your admins have created any named metrics that are specific to your company or organization, they will be in this dropdown under the Common Metrics section. These might be things like your company’s official way of calculating revenue.
Depending on the grouping column you select, Metabase will show you what it thinks is the best default visualization or chart for this summary. So if you select a date column, you’ll see a line chart like this:
When you click on a different grouping column than the one you currently have selected, the grouping will switch to use that column instead. But if you want to add an additional grouping, just click the plus (+) icon on the right side of the column. To remove a grouping, click on the X icon.
Some grouping columns will give you the option of choosing how big or small to make the groupings. So for example, if you’ve picked a Date column to group by, you can click on the words by month to change the grouping to day, week, hour, quarter, year, etc. If you’re grouping by a numeric column, like age, Metabase will automatically “bin” the results, so you’ll see your metric grouped in age brackets, like 0–10, 11–20, 21–30, etc. Just like with dates, you can click on the current binning option to change it to a specific number of bins. It’s not currently possible to choose your own ranges for bins, though.
Once you’re done setting your metrics and groupings, click Done to close the Summarize sidebar and see your results in all their glory.
If you want to jump ahead and learn about how to change the visualization of your results, by all means, feel free.
Click on a record’s ID number (or primary key) to see more information about a given user, order, venue, etc. You can see all fields related to that one record and all connected tables that are hidden in the table view for the sake of readability. Press the right or left arrow keys, or click on the arrows to the right or left of the screen to page through the other records in the current list.
Each time you start modifying a saved question, Metabase will create a new question for you. It’ll give the new question a placeholder title, and let you know which question you started from.
So feel free to play around with any saved question, as you won’t have any effect on the existing question. When you hit Save on the question, you can choose either to save as a new question (the default), or you can overwrite the existing question you started from.
Check out sharing answers.
If you have a question that’s a bit more involved or specific, you can use the powerful notebook editor to craft a custom question.
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