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Glossary of Metabase and analytics terms

Action Menu

The UI popup that presents options for drilling through the data. To see how it works, check out Create charts with explorable data.

Aggregation

The act of summarizing data with a mathematical function, such as a summing up the values in a column, or counting the number of rows in a table. The resulting number might be called a metric, which is distinct from metrics in Metabase.

Alert

A notification that gets delivered by email or Slack when a condition or goal is met on a saved question. See Getting alerts about questions.

API

An application programming interface is an app’s defined way that other programs can communicate with it. Typically the interface is web-based (like Metabase’s API), using internet addresses like /data/id=123 called routes to specify different actions for the application to carry out. Check out Working with the Metabase API.

Breakout

Grouping aggregated results by a dimension, e.g the count of users broken out by country.

Column

A list of values of a particular field, vertically displayed in a table. See also custom column.

Cross-filtering

Clicking on a chart or table in a dashboard to filter everything else in the dashboard. See our Learn article on cross-filtering.

Custom column

Sometimes called a “calculated” column. You can use custom expressions to add columns to the results of your query in the notebook editor. For example, adding a column that calculates the difference between the total and subtotal.

Custom destination

On dashboards, you can customize the click behavior of a question card to determine what happens when people click on the card’s table or chart. You can set up a chart to send people to another question, dashboard, or external URL. You can also use values from the chart to parameterize the URL, for instance, by inserting an ID into the URL string. See our Learn article on Custom destinations.

Custom expression

Similar to formulas in spreadsheet software, you can use custom expressions in the notebook editor to create custom columns, or to create more advanced filters and aggregations. For an in-depth guide, check out Custom expressions in the notebook editor.

Custom question

A question composed using the notebook editor.

Collection

A collection of items in Metabase, such as questions, dashboards, Pulses, and other collections.

Dashboard

A page in Metabase that arranges questions and text cards in a grid. You can add filter widgets, and wire up them up to individual cards on the dashboard by selecting the field to filter. See our docs on dashboards.

A dashboard with three question cards, and three filter widgets.
A dashboard with three question cards, and three filter widgets.

Dashboard subscription

Dashboard subscriptions allow you to send the results of all the questions on a dashboard via email or Slack on a schedule. Check out our docs on dashboard subscriptions.

Database

An application that optimizes the storage and retrieval of information. In Metabase, databases contain tables, which are made up of fields.

Data lake

A place to store both structured and unstructured information, typically as files or blobs. Everything from Distinct from a structured data warehouse. See also Which data warehouse should you use?.

Data model

The structure of your information, including how that information relates to itself and the real world.

Data reference

Found at /reference/databases or by clicking on the book icon throughout Metabase, the data reference section lets you add and look up metadata about your databases and their tables and fields. See Exploring data with Metabase’s data browser.

The data reference section showing details on the Orders table in the Sample Dataset.
The data reference section showing details on the Orders table in the Sample Dataset.

Data sandbox

An Enterprise Edition feature, data sandboxes are a set of boundaries that define access to data down to both columns and rows. You can coordinate data sandboxes with your SSO setup. To see a big-picture view of how to use data sandboxes, check out Embed Metabase in your app to deliver multi-tenant, self-service analytics.

Data warehouse

A database used for analytics. The database could be a relational database, or a database designed specifically for analytical queries. See Which data warehouse should you use?.

Dimension

An attribute of an entity or object by which a measurement or metric can by grouped and filtered. For example, the category of an ordered product is a dimension of an order, and the total number of orderes (the measure) could be grouped or filtered by that dimension.

Embedding

Using an iFrame (an inline frame) to place either a single question or a dashboard in another app. The Enterprise Edition offers full app embedding, which lets you embed the whole Metabase app inside your own app.

Making parameters editable and enabling dark mode before publishing a dashboard for embedding.
Making parameters editable and enabling dark mode before publishing a dashboard for embedding.

Entity key

Sometimes called a primary key, the entity key is a unique value that identifies a row in a database table.

Field

Sometimes called a column, a field is an attribute of a database table. You can think of it like the “heading” of a column. For example, in the Sample Dataset, the Products table’s Category field contains the values “Doohickey,” “Gadget,” “Gizmo,” and “Widget.”

Field filter

Field filters are special variables you can use in SQL queries that let you create “smart” filter widgets, and connect your SQL-built charts to dashboard filters. If you write queries in SQL, you should definitely learn how these work, as you can do things like create pre-populated dropdowns in your filter widgets. Check out Field filters: create smart filter widgets for SQL questions.

Field formula

The equation that powers a custom expression, like the formula you’d enter in the cell of a spreadsheet. For example, = [Subtotal] - [Discount].

Filter

A predicate expression (a question that resolves to either true or false) that you apply to a field to limit the results returned by a query. For example, you could limit the results of orders by only including orders where the value of the Total field is over 100. In this case the predicate expression would be “Total > 100?”. In SQL, queries are filtered using a WHERE clause, like WHERE Total > 100. See also filter widgets.

Filter widget

A UI element on a dashboard or SQL query where you can input a value or select one from a menu to filter results, like selecting CA to limit results to the state of California.

Two filter widgets on a dashboard, allowing people to filter results by Customer ID or Customer Name.
Two filter widgets on a dashboard, allowing people to filter results by Customer ID or Customer Name.

Foreign key

The foreign key is an ID field in one database table that corresponds to the entity key (a.k.a. primary key) of another table, establishing a relationship between the two tables.

GUI Question

GUI stands for Graphical User Interface, and GUI questions are queries built in either the simple or custom query builder in Metabase.

Joins

Joining tables refers to combining results from multiple tables. To join two tables, say table A and table B, you’ll generally want to connect the foreign key in table A to the entity key in table B, so the database knows how to organize the results. Check out Joins in Metabase.

Measure

A numeric evaluation of an attribute belonging to an object of interest, like the count, the height, the average age, the sum total, etc. Measures are often broken out by one or more dimensions.

MetaBot

The friendly resident robot of Metabase who can integrate with Slack to help out with finding questions.

Metadata

Information that describes data. You can add descriptions and assign data types to tables and fields in the data reference and data model sections of your Metabase to help people understand the nature and value of your data. See also The Data Model page: editing metadata.

Metric

In general in analytics, metric is synonymous with a measure. In Metabase, a capital-M Metrics is a saved aggregation with or without filters based on a single table. Admins can create Metrics to help keep your analytics organized by standardizing the way everyone calculates things like revenue, or lifetime value, or other key aggregations your organization relies on. See our docs on metrics.

Native query

A query written in the database’s query language, usually SQL. The native query editor includes a sidebar with three tabs: data reference, SQL variables, and SQL snippets.

The native query editor, with the data reference tab open on the sidebar.
The native query editor, with the data reference tab open on the sidebar.

Notebook editor

The GUI interface for custom questions. You can also start with a simple question, and open up the notebook editor at any time. The notebook editor allows you to join tables and create custom column. Like questions composed with the query-builder, questions composed with the notebook editor will benefit from the action menu.

The notebook editor.
The notebook editor.

“Our analytics”

The root collection in a Metabase instance.

Parameter

A variable that maps to a dimension that can be changed by the user of a question or dashboard via a filter widget (or via the URL query string — the “address” of the question).

Personal collection

Your semi-private collection in Metabase (Admins can see the contents of all personal collections). Your personal collection is a great place to draft questions and dashboards, which you can move to a public collection when they’re ready to go.

Pivot table

A pivot table is a table that groups rows and columns, and includes summarial rows with aggregate values for those groupings. These aggregate values are usually referred to as subtotals and grand totals, though these aggregates could also be other values, such as averages.

The reason they’re called pivot tables is because you can rotate (“pivot”) a column 90 degrees so that the values in that column become column headings themselves. Pivoting values into column headings can be really helpful when trying to analyze data across multiple attributes, like time, location, and category. You can pivot multiple columns, or not pivot any at all.

Check out How to create a pivot table to summarize your data.

Pulse

Pulses are a set of questions, along with a schedule and email or Slack recipients, which will be run and sent out on that schedule. Note: Pulses will be deprecated in favor of Dashboard Subscriptons sometime in the near future.

Primary key

See entity key.

Question

In Metabase, a question is a query and its visualization. There are three types of questions: simple, custom, and native queries. Questions can be added to dashboards and collections. You can also set up an alert on a question.

Query builder

The graphical interface for simple and custom questions.

The query builder summarize interface.
The query builder summarize interface.

Segment

A specific subset of a larger group of items, like a certain grouping of your customers. In Metabase, admins can define a segment, which is a named filter or set of filters, that can be applied to a GUI question to standardize how your organization defines a certain subset. See our docs on segments, or for a higher-level view, check out Keeping your analytics organized.

Sample dataset

A small database that ships with Metabase so you can start asking questions and creating dashboards before you connect to your database. The Sample Dataset contains four tables: Orders, People, Products, Reviews. It’s an H2 database, and you’ll see the Sample Dataset used in examples all over Learn.

Simple question

A question built using the GUI query builder.

SQL

Stands for Structured Query Language. Developed starting in the 1970s, SQL is the reigning champion for talking to relational databases. See our Best practices for writing SQL queries

SQL snippet

A snippet is a named bit of SQL code that you can insert in a SQL query. For an in-depth guide, see SQL snippets: reuse and share SQL code, or check out our docs on snippets. The Enterprise Edition lets you organize snippets into folders – check out our docs on SQL snippet folders and permissions.

SSO

Stands for Single Sign-on. An authentication system (often called auth) that lets people log in to access multiple, independent applications. See Authenticating with SAML and JWT-based authentication. For a high-level view on how SSO works with data sandboxing, check outEmbed Metabase in your app to deliver multi-tenant, self-service analytics.

Table

Data’s natural habitat. In a database, a table is a series of fields, with the values of those fields arranged in rows, each row with a value corresponding to a field. A table is also a type of visualization, or chart, that resembles a spreadsheet, with columns corresponding to fields (or aggregations in the case of custom columns). Check out Everything you can do with the table visualization.

Text card

Cards on a dashboard where you can enter Markdown text to give context for your dashboard. Text cards can also be used as dividers on a dashboard. See Fun with Markdown in your dashboards.

Time series

Typically a line, bar, or area chart where the x-axis is time, and each point on the line is a value at a fixed interval (once an hour, or once a day, etc.). See our Learn article on time series comparisons.

A time series showing the count of orders per month over time.
A time series showing the count of orders per month over time.