Types of files in a LookML project

A LookML project is a collection of LookML files that tell Looker how to connect to your database, how to query your data, and how to control the user interface's behavior. You can access LookML project files either from the Develop section in Looker or from the UI, as described on the Accessing LookML project files documentation page.

Project files are organized by your Looker developers using folders in the IDE.

A LookML project consists of at least one model file and at least one view file, and possibly some of the other types of files described on this page. All project files have extensions, although the extensions are hidden in the IDE list if your project isn't enabled for folders in the IDE.

Select the following links to get more information about each of the types of files that can be used in a LookML project:

Once you have created a LookML project, you can access the project files and add new files and folders to the project using the Looker IDE.

Model files

A model file specifies a database connection and the set of Explores that use that connection. A model file also defines the Explores themselves and their relationships to other views. An Explore is a starting place for querying your data. In SQL terms, an Explore is the FROM clause of a query. The Explores you define in the model are seen by your users when they look at Looker's Explore menu.

In other words, the model file is where you define which data tables should be used (as included views) and how they should be joined together, if necessary.

See the Managing LookML files and folders documentation page for instructions for creating LookML project files, including model files.

Structure and general syntax

Within an Explore's curly braces, { }, you define parameters for the Explore. You can use join parameters to join other views to an Explore in a model file.

In the following example, the LookML in a sample model file defines an Explore called inventory_items, along with its joined views:

connection: "thelook_events"

explore: inventory_items {
  join: products {
    type: left_outer
    sql_on: ${inventory_items.product_id} = ${products.id} ;;
    relationship: many_to_one

  join: distribution_centers {
    type: left_outer
    sql_on: ${products.distribution_center_id} = ${distribution_center.id} ;;
    relationship: many_to_one

This LookML definition causes Inventory Items to appear in the Explore section of the Looker navigation and joins data from the products and distribution_centers views to the inventory_items view.

The Distribution Centers, Inventory Items, and Products views can be accessed from the field picker for the Inventory Items Explore.

For more specific information on the LookML structures in a model file, see the LookML terms and concepts documentation page.

Read the Model parameters, Explore parameters, and Join parameters documentation pages to learn more about LookML parameters in the model file.

View files

A view file generally defines a single "view" within Looker. A view corresponds to either a single table in your database or a single derived table. The view file specifies a table to query and the fields (dimensions and measures) to include from that table so that users can create queries with those fields in the Looker UI.

See the Managing LookML files and folders documentation page for instructions for creating LookML project files, including view files.

Structure and general syntax

Within each view's curly braces, { }, are field definitions, which usually correspond to a column in the underlying table or a calculation in Looker. Looker categorizes most of them as either dimensions or measures.

In the following example of a view file, the orders.view file includes definitions for the id, status, and user_id dimensions, the created dimension group, and the count measure:

view: orders {
  sql_table_name: demo_db.orders ;;
  drill_fields: [id]

  dimension: id {
    primary_key: yes
    type: number
    sql: ${TABLE}.id ;;

  dimension: status {
    type: string
    sql: ${TABLE}.status ;;

  dimension: user_id {
    type: number
    # hidden: yes
    sql: ${TABLE}.user_id ;;

    dimension_group: created {
    type: time
    timeframes: [
    sql: ${TABLE}.created_at ;;

  measure: count {
    type: count
    drill_fields: [id, users.id, users.first_name, users.last_name, order_items.count]

The definition of these fields in the orders view exposes the Created Date, ID, Status, User ID, and Count fields in the field picker for the Orders Explore.

Users who have access to the Orders Explore can query the Orders Explore by selecting and filtering on these fields.

In addition to dimensions and measures, you can also create several time-based dimensions at once using dimension groups or specify a filter for your users with filter fields. Visit the View parameters documentation page to learn more about LookML parameters in view files, and visit the Field parameters documentation page for information about the LookML parameters used to define dimensions, measures, dimension groups, and filter fields in LookML.

Dashboard files

Looker supports two types of dashboards:

  • User-defined dashboards, which can be created by non-developer users without using LookML. For details, see the Creating user-defined dashboards documentation page.
  • LookML dashboards, which are stored as version-controlled files that are associated with the project.

If your project contains LookML dashboards, they will be defined in dedicated dashboard files in the IDE, with the extension .dashboard.lookml.

For more information on LookML dashboards, see the Creating LookML dashboards documentation page.

Document files

Looker document files let you write documentation or other notes about your Looker data model using GitHub-flavored Markdown. This can be helpful for your users to become acquainted with how your organization uses Looker.

See the Managing LookML files and folders documentation page for instructions for creating LookML project files, including document files.

Viewing the document outside the IDE

To see a document outside the IDE, which you will need to do to take advantage of the navigation features described on this page, choose the View Document option from the See file actions menu for the document file:

You can distribute the URL of the resulting page to other users so that they don't need to navigate through Looker's developer section to reach it.

Adding a navigation structure to your document

You can add a sidebar to your document files so that users can easily see the structure of the information and navigate between documents.

To add sidebar navigation for a document, create a navigation section starting on the first line of the document. Mark the start and end of your navigation section with three dashes (---).

You can use the following parameters in the navigation section:

You can use navigation: true in a document file to add the navigation sidebar to that document. For example, you can add the following code to the top of a Markdown file:

navigation: true

This code adds to the document a navigation sidebar with links to all the project's documents. If you include only navigation: true in a document, the sidebar of that document lists all the project's documents in alphabetical order by filename.

Also, you might find that organizing by alphabetical filename is not ideal, or you may have some documents that you don't want to appear in the navigation:

The sidebar lists Document Four, Document One, Document Three, and Document Two in alphabetical order, along with a document titled Do Not Display.

In this example, you might want to list the documents Document One, Document Two, Document Three, and Document Four in numerical order rather than alphabetical order as well as to hide the document Do Not Display from the navigation sidebar.

To change the order of the documents in the navigation sidebar, or to show only a subset of your documents in the sidebar, you can use this format:

  - document_one
  - document_two
  - document_three
  - document_four

Now the navigation will show only the document files that you want to be shown, and they will appear in a more logical order:

The sidebar lists the documents in numerical order, and the document Do Not Display is no longer shown.


By default, the sidebar displays the document's heading (if the document begins with a heading), or the document's filename if there is no heading in the file. You can add a title parameter at the top of a document to change how the document is displayed in navigation sidebars:

title: New Title for Users

This title will be used as the link text in the navigation sidebars of all documents unless you specify a different label in the navigation section of a document.


If you want to change the way a document is listed in the navigation sidebar, you can use the document and label parameters like this:

  - document_one
  - document: document_two
    label: Customized Label for Document Two
  - document_three
  - document_four

The label value defines how a document is shown in the document's sidebar navigation, even if the document to which it refers has its own title parameter.

The preceding example looks like this in the document's sidebar:

The page document_two is listed as Customized Label for Document Two in the sidebar.


If you want to break the navigation sidebar into sections, you can use the section parameter like this:

  - document_one
  - document_two
  - section: My Section Name
  - document_three
  - document_four

In this example, the section parameter adds a section break and the text heading My Section Name to the sidebar.

The text heading is not a link itself; it does not refer to any of your document files.

Data files

Data files are JSON files with file extension .json, .topojson, or .geojson.

The map_layer parameter lets you use a JSON file as a custom map that can then be used to plot your data in Looker.

You then use the map_layer_name parameter with a dimension so that you can associate a data value (like "Paris") with a geographic region on your custom map.

You can edit a JSON file in the LookML IDE and then select Save.

For debugging, you can choose View Raw by selecting the See file actions menu next to the name of the file to view the file in raw format. If you have the proper extension to view JSON in your browser, you will also have the option to view the file in a Parsed format.

See the Managing LookML files and folders documentation page for instructions on uploading a JSON file to a LookML project.

Project manifest files

Your project may contain a project manifest file, which is used for the following tasks:

Each project can only have one manifest file, and it must be named manifest.lkml and located at the root level of your project's directory structure and in your Git repo.

See the Managing LookML files and folders documentation page for instructions for creating LookML project files, including project manifest files.

Manifest lock files

Manifest lock files are created automatically when a remote dependency is added to the project manifest file. Looker uses the manifest lock file to track the version of the remote projects that are specified in the manifest file. The manifest lock file is listed in the file browser panel of the Looker IDE and has the filename manifest_lock.lkml.

Looker developers do not need to create or edit a manifest lock file, since lock files are managed automatically by Looker.

For more information, see the Importing files from other projects documentation page.

Locale strings files

If you are localizing your data model you will need to create locale strings files for each locale you want to localize to, including your default locale (for example, often English in the USA).

Locale strings files list key-value pairs for each label and description that you are localizing in your model. The strings file for each locale should provide that locale's translation for each label or description. More information about creating locale strings files appears on the Localizing your LookML model documentation page.

See the Managing LookML files and folders documentation page for instructions for creating LookML project files, including locale strings files.

Explore files

An Explore is a view that users can query. An Explore is the starting point for a query or, in SQL terms, the FROM in a SQL statement. See the Viewing and interacting with Explores in Looker documentation page for information on how users interact with Explores to query your data.

Explores are usually defined within a model file. However, sometimes you need a separate Explore file for a derived table, or to extend or refine an Explore across models.

See the Managing LookML files and folders documentation page for instructions for creating LookML project files, including Explore files.

Data test files

Your project may have data test files used for verifying the logic of your LookML model. Data tests can be contained in model files or in view files, but if your developers want to use the same data tests across several different models, it may be helpful to keep the data tests in their own, dedicated file.

See the Managing LookML files and folders documentation page for instructions for creating LookML project files, including data test files.

Refinements files

Your project may have files used for LookML refinements. With LookML refinements, you can adapt an existing view or Explore without editing the LookML file that contains it. LookML refinements can be contained in model, view, or Explore files, or in their own, dedicated file.

See the Managing LookML files and folders documentation page for instructions for creating LookML project files, including refinements files.

Other files

Many LookML elements can be housed in different files in your project, or in their own dedicated files. For example, data tests can be housed in model files, view files, or their own dedicated .lkml files.