These are the docs for the Metabase master branch. Some features documented here may not yet be available in the latest release. Check out the docs for the latest version, Metabase v0.49.

The SQL editor

If you ever need to ask questions that can’t be expressed using the query builder, you can use SQL instead.

What’s SQL?

SQL (pronounced “sequel”, or sometimes as S.Q.L. — people argue about this) stands for Structured Query Language, and is a widely used standard for getting data from databases. We won’t try to teach you all about SQL right now, but to learn more about it, check out Working with SQL.

Even if you don’t understand SQL or how to use it, it’s worthwhile to get an idea of how it works inside Metabase, because sometimes other people will share SQL-based questions that might be useful to you.

Starting a new SQL query

Select + New in the main nav bar. If you have the permissions to use the SQL editor, you’ll see an option to start a new SQL query next to a little console icon.

After clicking SQL query, you’ll see an editor where you can write and run queries in SQL (or your database’s native querying language).

SQL editor

To try it out, make sure you’ve selected the Sample Database, then paste in this short SQL query:

SELECT
    sum(subtotal),
    created_at
FROM orders
GROUP BY created_at;

Don’t worry if you don’t understand this just yet. Click the blue Run query button to execute your query.

You’ll notice that the table that comes back is the same as if you had used the query builder to ask for the sum of Subtotal in the Orders table, grouped by the Created At date.

Running query selections

You can run your SQL query by pressing ctrl + enter on Windows and Linux, or ⌘ + return on a Mac. You can also run only part of a query by highlighting the part you’d like to run before clicking the run button or using the run shortcut key.

Questions asked using SQL can be saved, downloaded, converted to models, and added to dashboards just like questions asked using the query builder.

You can also refer to models and saved questions in your SQL queries.

Using SQL filters

If you or someone else wrote a SQL query that includes variables, that question might have filter widgets at the top of the screen above the editor. Filter widgets let you modify the SQL query before it’s run, changing the results you might get.

SQL filter

Writing SQL queries that use variables or parameters can be very powerful, but it’s also a bit more advanced, so that topic has its own page if you’d like to learn more.

SQL snippets

You can use SQL snippets to save, reuse, and share SQL code across multiple questions that are composed using the SQL editor.

How Metabase executes SQL queries

When you run a query from the SQL editor, Metabase sends the query to your database exactly as it is written. Any results or errors displayed in Metabase are the same as the results or errors that you would get if you ran the query directly against your database. If the SQL syntax of your query doesn’t match the SQL dialect used by your database, your database won’t be able to run the query.

Question version history

For questions, dashboards, and models, Metabase keeps a version history for the previous fifteen versions of that item.

See History.

Your SQL syntax must match the dialect used by the database

Make sure your SQL dialect matches the database you’ve selected. Common errors:

Database Do this Avoid
BigQuery FROM `dataset.table` FROM dataset.table
Oracle FROM "schema"."table" FROM schema.table

For more help, see Troubleshooting SQL error messages.

Explore SQL question results using the Query Builder

On saved SQL questions without parameters, you’ll get the Explore results button. It will create a new Query Builder question that uses the SQL question results as a data source.

Explore results button

To enable drill-through, turn a SQL question into a model and set the data types

Visualizations created with SQL do not have drill-through capability. To enable drill-through on a SQL question, you can turn it into a model:

  1. Save the SQL question and turn it into a model.
  2. Edit the column metadata in the model’s settings. Make sure to set the data types for all the columns.
  3. Create a Query Builder question based on the model. You should be able to use drill-through on this question, if you configured the metadata correctly.

Learn more

Read docs for other versions of Metabase.

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