Building User Defined Dashboards

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Looker lets you organize your favorite Looks on dashboards, combining tables and charts in useful and interesting layouts. This tutorial teaches you how to use the Looker UI to create a new dashboard and populate it with visualizations (you can also create dashboards using LookML, which is described here).

Dashboard Introduction

A dashboard is essentially a collection of saved Looks, displayed all on one page. You can move elements and add filters to make the dashboard interactive. After you’ve configured a dashboard to your liking, you can share it with your team. You can create as many dashboards as you want, so you can tailor each dashboard to the specific needs of the people who use it.

Creating a Dashboard

Dashboards must initially be created from the Explore page. After you configure a Look you can add the visualization to an existing or new dashboard by clicking Add to Dashboard. Depending upon your version of Looker, this may be its own button above the data, or an option in the gear menu in the upper right. This diagram summarizes the process:

There are a couple things to keep in mind:

  • If you haven’t saved the Look yet, Looker will prompt you to give it a name and save it to a particular Space.
  • Think about the number and complexity of elements that you add to a dashboard. More elements require more browser resources, which increases dashboard rendering time. If rendering becomes an issue, consider creating multiple dashboards with less elements.

You can manage your saved dashboards by going to Spaces and opening the appropriate Space. Click the dashboard name to open the dashboard:

Configuring a Dashboard

Making a Dashboard Editable

You’ll need to put the dashboard in edit mode before you can change it. This helps to prevent unintentional changes when a user is interacting with a dashboard. To enter edit mode, simply click the Edit button in the upper right of the dashboard:

Add Tiles to a Dashboard from the Dashboard Itself

You can only add Looks to a dashboard when they are both saved in the same Space. If you would like to add Looks from a different Space, first copy the Look into the same Space as the dashboard.

In addition to adding a Look to a dashboard from the Explore page, it’s also possible to add Looks to a dashboard from the dashboard itself. From the gear dropdown in the upper right corner of the Dashboard, select Choose Looks:

This will bring you to a menu where you can manage the Looks that are already on the dashboard, and add new Looks from the Space that the dashboard is saved in:

In order to add a new Look, click Add to the right of the Look’s name. If you’d like to remove a Look that already exists inside the dashboard, click Remove.

Click Update Dashboard to save any changes you made from this menu.

Move, Resize, and Edit Dashboard Tiles

If you have imported your dashboard from LookML, you many need to change its type to newspaper, which is described here.

You can move and resize tiles on a dashboard by clicking and dragging. Simply click on the 3-line icon in the upper left to move it, or the bottom right corner of the tile to re-size it. To remove a tile, click on the gear icon in its upper-right corner and select Remove.

To edit a dashboard tile, choose the Edit … option from the gear menu in its upper right. This will bring you to an exploration pop-up that will allow you to edit and save the underlying Look of the tile. Keep in mind that editing the Look will impact everywhere that the Look is used, such as in scheduled deliveries or other dashboards.

Add Dashboard Headers and Text

You can add headers and text to your dashboards to split up information more easily, or provide descriptions where needed. To do so, choose Add Text from the gear menu in the upper right:

This will bring up a window where you can add a title, subtitle, and/or body. All of these elements are optional, allowing some freedom about what type of text is used.

Once you save you will see your header/text tile appear at the bottom of the dashboard. It can then be moved and re-sized like any other tile to suit your needs:

Add Dashboard Filters a User Can Change

Filters can be added to a dashboard so that users can narrow the dashboard’s results to the data they are interested in. Adding a filter consists of 2 major steps:

  1. Create the filter itself, which is what the user will interact with.
  2. Decide which dashboard tiles should “listen” to that filter. If you don’t actively do this, a tile will simply ignore the filter.

Select the Add/Edit Dashboard Filters… option from the gear menu in the upper right of the dashboard:

This will bring up the dashboard filters dialog:

Follow these instructions to add a filter to the dashboard:

  1. Click New Filter to create a new filter. New filters show up on the left hand side of the filters pop-up. You can drag and drop the filters to control the order in which they appear on the dashboard.
  2. Give your filter a name.
  3. Choose the type of filter you want to create. You are able to create a “date”, “string”, “number” or “field” filter. The “date”, “string”, and “number” type allow the user to enter any value they like of that type. The “field” type allows you to choose a specific LookML field from which Looker will create suggestions for the user.
  4. Add a default value if desired. This value will be suggested to the user when they load the dashboard, but they can change it if they like.
  5. Decide what tiles the filter should be applied to and turn them on. Then, choose the LookML field to which the value of the filter will be applied.
  6. Decide which other filters the filter should be applied to and turn them on, as described in the following section. If you want to use this feature, you’ll need to save your new filters first.

Faceted Filters

Dashboard filters of the “field” type can be applied to other “field” filters. For example, you might have an “Airport State” filter and an “Airport Name” filter. One thing you may want to do is update the “Airport Name” filter based on the “Airport State” filter:

By doing so, only the airports that are within the chosen state will be suggested to the user:

Edit Dashboard Settings

To edit the settings for a dashboard, first open the dashboard, then click the gear icon in the upper right-hand corner of the page and select Edit Dashboard:

Several settings can be adjusted from this interface:


The Title that you assign in this interface will be displayed both at the top of the Dashboard, and in the Space that the Dashboard is saved into.


The Description can be any text you want. The description appears below dashboards on the Spaces page, and is also used as help text if you are using the Lookerbot Slack integration.


This option will only be available if you imported your dashboard from LookML.

Under the Layout drop-down menu, drag must be enabled in order to drag and drop tiles. A message will prompt this change if the Dashboard has recently been imported from a LookML dashboard. Any dashboard created through the UI is already in drag layout.

Run On Load

If Run On Load is set to On, each element on the Dashboard will automatically run when the page is first loaded. If Run On Load is set to Off, each element will show up when the page loads, but will not display any information until the Run button is pressed.

Dashboard Auto Refresh

If the Dashboard will be on display, it might make sense to refresh the data regularly to ensure up-to-date statistics. To do this, toggle Dashboard Auto Refresh to On, then select how frequently you would like the entire dashboard to be reloaded.

Caution: Frequent dashboard updates, especially on large dashboards, can place a significant strain on some database systems. You may wish to discuss this consideration with one of your Looker Admins.


If you only want some elements to refresh, instead of all of them, you can toggle Refresh to On next to each element and define its refresh time.

Exploring and Updating Dashboard Data

Looker dashboards aren’t static pictures of data from a specific time. Looker fills dashboards using data from your live database when you load the page.

If you’ve already loaded a dashboard and want to get fresh data, click the gear icon in the upper right and select Clear Cache & Refresh to rerun the queries for all elements on the dashboard. If you want to refresh a specific dashboard element, click the gear icon on any tile and choose Clear Cache & Refresh.

Dashboards are also starting points for further exploration. You can click the gear icon in the upper right of a tile, then choose to explore the underlying data. From there, you can continue to adjust the query for your particular interest.

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