Building LookML dashboards

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LookML dashboards are created by LookML developers and stored as version-controlled files. By default, they appear in the LookML dashboards folder of your Looker instance.

To compare and contrast LookML dashboards and user-defined dashboards, see the Comparing user-defined and LookML dashboards documentation page.

To create a LookML dashboard, you must have the following Looker permissions:

Additionally, you must have access to the LookML models for any data you want to use in the dashboard.

Creating a LookML dashboard file

To build a LookML dashboard, begin by creating a dashboard file, which has the extension .dashboard.lookml (although the .lookml portion of the extension is silent within the IDE). The steps to do so are as follows:

  1. Turn on Development Mode.
  2. In the Develop menu, navigate to your project.
  3. Select the Add file or folder plus icon at the top of the file browser panel in the Looker IDE to create a LookML dashboard file outside of existing project folders. Or, click a folder's three-dot Folder Options menu to create the file inside the folder. Click Create Dashboard to create the dashboard file.

  4. A Create File window will appear. Within the window, name the dashboard file in the write-in field and select Create.

Editing LookML dashboard files

When you create a LookML dashboard file, Looker pre-populates the file with several basic dashboard parameters, which implement settings for the entire dashboard. It also pre-populates the file with several sample dashboard element parameters, which are grouped under the elements dashboard parameter, and which define the function and appearance of dashboard tiles, text, and buttons. A newly created .dashboard.lookml file contains dashboard LookML similar to this:

- dashboard: order_analysis
  title: Order Analysis
  layout: newspaper
  preferred_viewer: dashboards-next
  tile_size: 100

  filters:

  elements:
    - name: hello_world
      type: looker_column

You can edit the dashboard file within the IDE as you wish, as long as you are in Development Mode.

You have several options for building your dashboard:

  • Manual creation: You can manually build a dashboard by using dashboard parameters and dashboard element parameters.
  • Copy a user-defined dashboard: You can create a copy of a user-defined dashboard by deleting the pre-populated dashboard LookML from the file, copying the dashboard LookML from a user-defined dashboard, and pasting it into your dashboard file.
  • Copy dashboard LookML of elements: You can copy the dashboard LookML from an Explore or a Look and paste it into your dashboard file.

When you're creating a dashboard, keep in mind best practices for dashboard construction. Find information and recommendations about building performant dashboards in the Considerations when building performant Looker dashboards Best Practices page.

Adding a visualization to an existing LookML dashboard

The easiest way to add a visualization to an existing LookML dashboard is to use the Explore page to build a query that you want to turn into a dashboard element:

  1. Once you have created the query and visualization that you want to add to a dashboard, click the Explore's Explore actions gear menu.
  2. Select Get LookML to expose the LookML.

  3. A Get LookML window appears. With Dashboard selected in the window, select all the LookML and copy it.

    Along the top of the Get LookML window, there are tabs for Dashboard, Aggregate Table, and Derived Table LookML.

From here, paste the LookML into your dashboard LookML file. When editing the dashboard LookML file, be sure to:

  • Verify that you are in Development Mode so that you can edit the dashboard file.
  • Paste the LookML under the dashboard's elements parameter.
  • Use the correct indentation when pasting LookML into the dashboard file. If possible, match the indentation to existing elements already in the dashboard file.

You can adjust the LookML parameters if desired, using the parameters described on the documentation pages for each individual element type.

Adding filters

Once you have dashboard elements saved in your dashboard file, you may want to add filters, which let dashboard viewers filter some or all elements on a dashboard. Filters can be useful for many possible reasons, for example:

  • Adjusting the time period shown
  • Adjusting the specific product category, customer type, etc being shown
  • Providing a "lookup" type capability for a client or customer

Be sure to build the type of filter you want. The two types are:

  • Filters that you hard-code into the dashboard elements, which dashboard viewers cannot change
  • Dashboard filters, which dashboard viewers can change

Filters hard-coded into dashboard elements

Filters that you hard-code into the dashboard elements, which users cannot change, usually get created automatically in the copy LookML step for a visualization or for a dashboard. In a LookML dashboard, those filters use the filters dashboard element parameter and look like this:

- name: element_name
  # lots of other element parameters here
  filters:
    dimension_or_measure_name: 'looker filter expression'

Dashboard filters

You can create dashboard filters that a user can change in two steps:

  1. Create the dashboard filter itself using the filters dashboard parameter and its subparameters.
  2. Apply the dashboard filter to dashboard elements using the listen dashboard element parameter.

Creating a dashboard filter

The first step is to create the filters that users interact with. To do so, add a filters section to your dashboard file, which will look something like this:

- dashboard: dashboard_name
  # possibly some other dashboard parameters here

  filters:
  - name: date
    title: 'Date Range'
    type: date_filter
    default_value: 30 days

  - name: category_name
    type: field_filter
    model: ecommerce
    explore: product
    field: category.name

The various options and parameters for these filters are described in more detail in the Dashboard parameters documentation page. One of the most important things to keep in mind is what type of input you're expecting from your users. You can assign a type to the filter, which will cause it to accept a specific type of input, such as numbers, dates, or strings. Or you can use the filter type to associate a filter with an underlying LookML field, in which case Looker will automatically select the correct type of input and, if the underlying LookML field is of type: string, provide filter suggestions to dashboard viewers.

As described in the Dashboard parameters documentation page, only filters with type: field filter use the explore and field parameters. If you include the explore and field parameters with any other filter type, you'll get LookML validation errors.

Applying a dashboard filter to dashboard elements

Once you've created a dashboard filter, you'll need to apply it to the proper elements using the listen parameter. The idea is that the element "listens" to one or more filters for user input, then adjusts accordingly. This parameter applies to all element types besides type: text and type: button, and details about its usage appear on the documentation pages for each individual visualization type. For a representative example of how listen works, see Area chart parameters for LookML dashboards.

For example, you may have an element that looks like this:

- name: approved_orders_by_day
  type: looker_area
  model: ecommerce
  explore: order
  dimensions: [order.created_date]
  measures: [order.count]
  filters:
    order.status: 'approved'

You can see that this element already has a filters parameter that restricts the element to approved orders (using the filter order.status: 'approved'). This can't be changed by the user.

Suppose you wanted the user to be able to filter this element using the dashboard filters created earlier in this example. To do so, add a listen parameter like this:

- name: approved_orders_by_day
  type: looker_area
  model: ecommerce
  explore: order
  dimensions: [order.created_date]
  measures: [order.count]
  filters:
    order.status: 'approved'
  listen:
    category_name: category.name
    date: order.created_date

If you don't want users to be able to adjust the date or category, simply don't add the listen parameter. You only have to add a listen to elements that you want the user to be able to adjust.

You'll see that the listen syntax works by first writing the name of the filter you created, then writing the name of the field that you want to apply the user input to.

A dashboard filter can be applied to any field (of the same data type) in any given element. For example, one element can apply a user's input to the order created date (date: order.created_date), while another applies it to the order ship date (date: order.ship_date):

- name: element_one
  # lots of other element parameters here
  listen:
    date: order.created_date

- name: element_two
  # lots of other element parameters here
  listen:
    date: order.ship_date

Including the dashboard file in a model

For your dashboard to be visible to preview in Development Mode or visible in production, it must be included in the model file on which the dashboard is based by using an include statement.

A common practice is to include all LookML dashboards in a model by using a wildcard:

include: "*.dashboard.lookml"

or, if your LookML dashboards appear within a folder in the IDE, use the path to their location

 include: "/path/*.dashboard.lookml"

You can also include a specific dashboard by specifying its filename:

include: "my_dashboard.dashboard.lookml"

Saving, previewing, and publishing the LookML dashboard

To preview the dashboard:

  1. Save the .dashboard.lookml file, by clicking the Save Changes button at the top right corner of the file.
  2. Include the dashboard in the relevant model file and save the changes to that file.
  3. In the .dashboard.lookml file you wish to preview, click the downward arrow See file actions icon and select View Dashboard.

You can make further changes to your .dashboard.lookml file, save them, and preview the dashboard again.

Once you are happy with your dashboard, you can publish it to production, which allows other users with the correct permissions to see it. The method for publishing the dashboard is the same as publishing other changes to LookML on your instance, and depends on the version control settings for your Looker instance.

LookML dashboards folder

Once published, LookML dashboards are saved in the LookML dashboards folder by default. The LookML dashboards folder is located in the Folders folder in the left navigation. The LookML dashboards folder is unique from other folders in a few ways:

  • You must include a LookML dashboard in at least one model file for it to appear in the LookML dashboards folder.
  • To see the LookML dashboards folder, users must have the see_lookml_dashboards permission.
  • To see dashboards within the LookML dashboards folder, users must have access to the LookML model that includes the dashboard.
  • To see any given tile within a LookML dashboard, dashboard viewers must have access to the LookML model that the tile is based on.
  • To edit a dashboard in the LookML dashboards folder, you must have the develop permission on the model that includes the LookML dashboard.
  • To Explore from Here on any given tile within a dashboard, dashboard viewers must have the explore permission for the model that tile is based on.
  • You cannot create a folder inside the LookML dashboards folder.

Moving LookML dashboards outside of the LookML dashboards folder

If you have the see_lookml_dashboards and develop Looker permissions as well as access to the LookML model a LookML dashboard is included in, you can move a LookML dashboard into any folder for which you have the Manage Access, Edit folder access level.

There are two ways to move the dashboard:

  • From the LookML dashboards folder, select the dashboard to move, click the Move button at the top of the dashboards section, and select the folder into which you wish to move the dashboard. See the Organizing and managing content documentation page for more information.
  • From the LookML dashboards folder, click the three-dot menu for the dashboard, select Move from the menu, and select the folder into which you wish to move the dashboard.

If you are in Development Mode, you cannot move LookML dashboards outside of the LookML dashboards folder. You can instead use the Import option to copy the LookML dashboard as a user-defined dashboard to another folder.

A folder that contains both user-defined dashboards and LookML dashboards displays the LookML dashboards in a LookML Dashboard section. From the LookML Dashboard section, you can move a LookML dashboard to another folder or pin a LookML dashboard to a board. However, unlike user-defined dashboards, LookML dashboards cannot be renamed or moved to the trash from a folder.

If the value of a LookML dashboard's dashboard parameter is changed, the LookML dashboard will automatically move back into the LookML dashboards folder.

Viewing the LookML for an existing LookML dashboard

If you have the see_lookml permission, you can navigate to the dashboard LookML for an existing LookML dashboard by selecting Go to LookML from a dashboard's three-dot Dashboard actions menu:

If the LookML dashboard is in the legacy dashboard style click Go to Dashboard LookML from the dashboard's gear menu.

When you select Go to LookML, Looker navigates to the dashboard file in which the LookML dashboard is defined.

Extending a LookML dashboard

Once you've created a LookML dashboard, you can extend the dashboard. This lets you create a second dashboard based on the original one, possibly adding or overriding some settings. Then if you change the first dashboard, the second one inherits those changes automatically (unless overridden in the second dashboard). See the Reusing code with extends documentation page for more information.

Improving dashboard performance using aggregate awareness

LookML developers may be able to improve LookML dashboard performance by using aggregate awareness. With aggregate awareness, developers can create aggregate tables under LookML explore parameters, which can optimize queries for one or more tiles in a dashboard.

Once you have created a LookML dashboard and are viewing it, you can use the Get aggregate table LookML option in the three-dot Dashboard actions menu, which is visible if you have the see_lookml permission:

For more information, see the aggregate_table parameter documentation page.