Intro to databases

Camille Ricketts
Mar 23 '19 · 18 min read · 746 views
Databases help you structure information in Notion in a variety of ways — letting you organize, categorize, label, filter, search, view, and utilize it to get jobs done. Below is a walkthrough of how Notion databases work and how to build your own 🏗

Database basics

There are three things that distinguish Notion databases from spreadsheets and databases you can build with other software:
  • Customizable properties Add properties to contextualize, label and augment any database item with more information, like dates, people, text, links, etc. More on properties here →
  • Multiple views you can toggle between Your data isn't stuck in a table. View the exact same database as a board, list, calendar or gallery — whatever makes the information most useful. More on views here →
  • Every item is its own editable page. This one is unique to Notion. Every item you enter into your database can be opened as its own Notion page, where you can layer in any information you want. More on this here →

Create a database

There are several ways to create a database inside Notion:
  • Create a new page in your workspace, then choose what type of database you want from the grayscale menu on that empty page.
  • Create a database page inside an existing page by typing / followed by the type of database you want (i.e. table, board, etc.). Choose the full-page version.
  • Create a database in-line on your page by typing / followed by the type of database you want. Choose the in-line version.

Full page vs. In-line

All databases in Notion can exist in two formats — as a full-page, or in-line on another page that contains unstructured data too (like a table in the middle of a written document).

Full page databases

  • Create a full-page database by creating a new page in your workspace and selecting a database type from the grayscale menu.
  • Or type / followed by the type of database you want (board, list, etc.) and the word full.
  • Full page databases appear just like any other page in your sidebar.
  • You can lock a full-page database so that other people can't change properties and value options by going to the ••• icon and switching on Database Lock.
  • To turn a full page database into an inline database, you can just drag the database into another page in the sidebar, which will turn it into a subpage.
  • Then navigate into the page, and click the ⋮⋮ icon, and select Turn Into Inline in the drop down menu to turn it into an inline database.

In-line databases

In-line databases can live alongside all other types of content. One popular use case is adding them into documents.
  • Create an in-line database by typing / followed by the type of database you want and the word inline.
  • Controls/menus for your database are hidden until you hover over it.
  • You can expand an in-line database to full-page by hitting at the top right.
  • You can turn an in-line database into a full-page database by grabbing the ⋮⋮ and dragging into the sidebar as a top-level page.
  • The Properties, Filter and Sort menus are all tucked within the ••• icon at the top right of your database.
  • You can Delete, Duplicate, move or copy the link to your in-line table by clicking the ⋮⋮ icon that appears on hover in the left margin.
  • Your in-line database will appear as a sub-page of the page it's on in your sidebar.

Properties

Add properties to your database items to give them all kinds of context — due dates, task owners, relevant URLs, last edited timestamps, etc. Then use these properties to filter, sort, and search your data. Here are all the properties you can add to a database and what they do:

Basic properties 👌

  • Name: Whatever you're calling your item, i.e. the title of the page in your database.
  • Text: Basic text for notes, descriptions and comments about database items.
  • Number: Numerical formats like currencies and percentages. Useful for price, etc.
  • Select: Dropdown menu of tags that can be selected one at a time. I.e. status or priority.
  • Multi-Select: Dropdown menu of tags letting you add more than one at a time.
  • Date: Accepts a date or a date range, allowing you to timestamp and set reminders.
  • Person: Lets you mention other users in your workspace (or assign them to things).
  • Files & Media: Allows you to upload files relevant to your database item.
  • Checkbox: Simple checkboxes that indicate whether something is done or not.
  • URL: Accepts a link to a website relevant to your database item.
  • Email: Accepts email addresses and launches your mail client when clicked.
  • Phone: Accepts a phone number and prompts your phone or computer to call it when clicked.

Advanced properties 💪

  • Formula: Lets you perform calculations or trigger actions based on other properties. Full guide to formulas here →
  • Relation: Lets you add items from another database as a property. More on that here →
  • Rollup: Runs calculations based on properties in a related database. More here →
  • Created Time: Timestamps an item's creation.
  • Created By: Automatically records the user who created the item.
  • Last Edited Time: Timestamps an item's last edit.
  • Last Edited By: Records the user who edited the item last.

Managing properties

Every database has a Properties menu toward the top right. (In in-line databases, this menu is tucked inside the ••• icon at the top right). It gives you these options:
  • Add a new property: Click + Add a Property.
    • This will bring up a menu where you can name your property and select what type to use.
  • Delete, Duplicate, or Rename a property: Click the ⋮⋮ icon to the left of any existing property (or right click on it) to bring up these options.
  • Hide or show a property: Turn the toggle switches off or on to either hide or display existing properties in your database.
  • Rearrange properties: Change the order in which your properties display in your database by using the ⋮⋮ icon to drag them up or down.

Edit property values

Any data put into a property is called a value. The way you edit values is different for each type of property. Here are just a few examples:
  • For Select and Multi-Select properties, you'll be prompted to add tags by typing what you want and pressing enter after each. Colors are randomly assigned.
    • You can add as many unique tags to these menus as you want.
    • Edit tag names and colors, or delete them by clicking on the property field (i.e. the table cell), then on the ••• icon that appears to the right when you hover over any property.
    • Reorder tags by grabbing the ⋮⋮ icon to their left and dragging.
  • For Date properties, clicking to add data will bring up our date picker, where you can select the day relevant to the database item — maybe it's an event date or deadline.
    • Click Remind to set a reminder in this property that will notify you on the date/time.
    • Switch on End Date to define a range of dates in this property.
    • Switch on Include Time to choose an exact time, not just a day.
    • Click Date Format & Timezone to modify these settings.
    • Click Clear to remove any value in the date property.
  • For Files & Media properties, clicking on the field provided will prompt you to upload a file, or paste a link to embed a file.
    • You can also drag a file from your computer into the property to upload it.
    • You can add multiple files into any field at once.
    • Click on the ••• to the right of uploaded files to Delete, Download, Full Screen or View Original.
    • Use the ⋮⋮ to the left of uploaded files to drag and re-order them.
  • In a Person property, you can tag other members or guests in your workspace.
    • Just type their names and press enter after each.
    • To delete anyone tagged, click on them, then click X next to their name.
  • Values automatically appear for these properties: Created Time, Created By, Last Edited Time, Last Edited By.
  • You can simply type (or paste) values for URL, Email, Phone and Number properties, just like you would for a Text property.
  • Editing values for Relation and Rollup properties requires multiple steps. You can learn all about that here →

Hide & show properties

Let's say you have a task board, and you want each card to show who's assigned to the task and its level of priority — but you don't want them to show due dates or URLs. You can hide these two properties. They remain in your database, but won't show up on the cards.
  • Click the Properties menu at the top right of your database.
  • Turn off the switch for properties you want to hide. Turn the switch on to show them.
  • In tables, switching off a property will hide its corresponding column.

Filter

Notion makes it easy to filter your database so it only displays the items that meet specified criteria, i.e. have (or don't have) certain properties.
For example, you can apply a filter that shows only tasks assigned to you, or only high priority projects, or both! Here's how:
  • Click Filter at the top right of your database, then + Add a Filter.
  • Choose the property you want to filter by and what that property should or should not contain. You database will change in real time.
  • You can add as many filters as you want, or remove them by clicking the X to their right.
  • Change the order that multiple filters are applied by dragging them up or down using ⋮⋮.
  • Filtering by the Date property (or Last Edited Time or Created Time properties) works a little differently. You'll be asked to set up a condition to only show items dated exactly on, or before or after, or within a date or range of dates:

Sort

You can sort your database so that items are displayed based on properties appearing in ascending or descending order.
For example, you can order them based on priority, or last edited, or alphabetically.
  • Click Sort at the top right of your database, then + Add a Sort.
  • Choose the property you want to sort by, and whether you want it Ascending or Descending. Your database will change immediately.
  • You can add as many sorts as you want, or remove them by clicking the X to their right.
  • Change the order that multiple sorts are applied by dragging them up or down using ⋮⋮.
  • For Select and Multi-Select properties, you get to define what sorting order means.
    • Click on the property, then drag tags up or down to tell your database what ascending or descending order should look like (i.e. P1, P2, P3 for priority).

Views

You can view the same database in multiple ways, and switch back and forth between them depending on your needs in the moment. Here are all your choices:

Table view

  • This is the most traditional way of viewing a database. It allows you to see your dataset as rows of pages, with every property represented by a column.
  • Learn more about tables here →

Board view

List view

Calendar view

Gallery view

Create a view

Everything to do with views can be controlled from the dropdown at the top left of your database.
  • If you don't have any views yet, click the + Add a View button at the top left. This becomes the dropdown menu where you can see, add and select views.
  • Give your view a name in the text box, and choose the type of view you want it to be.
  • When you have more than one view, you'll see the name of your current view at the top left. Clicking it opens a dropdown menu where you can switch between views or add a new one.

Edit views

Click the name of your current view to see a dropdown of all your existing views.
  • Click ••• to the right of any view to edit the type of view it is (table, board, gallery, etc.), rename it, Duplicate it, or Delete the view.
  • Re-order your list of views by dragging the ⋮⋮ icon next to any view up or down.

Filtered & sorted views

Views aren't just about toggling between tables, boards, lists, etc. You can also create views of your database with different filters and sorts applied. That way you don't have to re-create a filter whenever you want to see it.
  • Create a new view in your database by clicking + Add a View.
  • Choose the type of view you want and give it a name.
  • Then apply the filter or sort by clicking Filter or Sort at the top right of your database. Set the criteria you want, and your database will respond.
  • Now, whenever you want to revisit that filter or sort, you can just click on the name of your current view, and select the filtered/sorted view from the dropdown.

Navigating views

In your sidebar, views show up as nested items inside any full-page database. You can tell they are views because they'll have a to their left.
  • Click on any view in your sidebar to jump right to it.

Open & edit database pages

Every item in your database, whether it's a row in a table or a card on a board or calendar, is its own Notion page that you can build, format and nest content in like any other page.
Here's how to open database items as pages:
  • In tables, hover over your first column and click the ⤢ OPEN button that appears.
  • In lists, just click on the title of the item.
  • In boards, calendars, and galleries, click anywhere on the card.
  • Pages will always open in preview mode. Click ⤢ Open as Page at the top left to view in full-page mode.
  • In this page, you'll see all your database properties at the top. You can edit them in this view. Just click their fields.
    • Click the ⋮⋮ that appears to the left of each property on hover in order to: drag it up or down, change the Property Type, rename it, Duplicate or Delete it.
  • Underneath your properties is free page space, where you can add any type of content block, including sub-pages or an in-line database.
  • Because database items are pages, any other type of content you drag into a database (like bullets or to-do items), will automatically turn into pages.

Menus & options

Every full-page database has the same menus and sets of options. Here's a quick walkthrough.
  • View menu: At the top left of your database. Let's you add, switch between, and edit all the different views of your database.
  • Properties menu: Toward the top right of your database. Let's you add, edit, hide and show properties.
    • For boards and galleries, you can choose Card Size (small, medium or large) and Card Preview (which image you want to display if any).
    • If you do display an image, turning on Fit Image makes sure the entire image fits inside the card frame. Otherwise images will be cropped to fit the frame.
    • Turning off Name in this menu hides the title of the card, allowing you to only see images.
    • Learn more about displaying images with Card Preview here →
  • Filter and Sort menus: Both let you specify criteria for the data you want to show. You can add as many as you want. They'll be applied in the order they're listed.
  • Search: You can type in any word, whether it's in the name of a database item or in a property, and your database will change to only show items that fit that search.
  • •••: Located at the top right of your database, this is an odds and ends menu where you can Copy Link to View, and see who edited the database last and when.
    • Includes the option to Wrap Cells in tables so text can run o multiple lines.
  • New button: Click this to add a new item into your database that instantly opens as a page. Click the down arrow to the right of this button to access database templates.
  • Database Lock: Find this option in the ••• menu at the very top right of the Notion window. Switch it on to prevent anyone from changing properties and views in your database. They'll still be able to edit the data it contains 🔒
  • Group By: Is a menu you'll only see for boards. Click it to group your cards using a different property.
  • Calendar menus: At the top of calendars, you'll see a By [property name] menu if you have multiple date properties in your database. This lets you toggle between calendars for each of those properties.
    • You may also see No [property name] at the top of your calendar — it's a menu that contains the items that don't have the Date property filled in.

Database descriptions

Every full-page database gives you the option to add descriptive text underneath its title. Use this space to provide extra context, instructions, or whatever you want.
  • To add a description, hover over your database title and click Add Description. You'll see a cursor pop up in the space provided.
  • If you have content in your description, you can still hide it. Just hover over your title again and click Hide Description. You'll see a circled i pop up to the right of your title.
  • To show a hidden description, either click on the circled i or Show Description (which appears above your title on hover).
🎒
Tip: You can add an emoji into Notion using your computer's system shortcut — cmd + ctrl + space on Mac or windows key + . on Windows 10.

Database templates

Let's say you want to add the same type of page to your database repeatedly — like a bug report, or product spec, or gratitude journal. Database templates let you define a page structure and properties you can replicate with one click.
  • Create and edit templates by clicking the down arrow on the blue New button at the top right of any database.
  • To use a template, either select it from the New button's dropdown, or choose it from the grayscale menu on a new page.

Linked databases

You can create copies or excerpts of a database on another page in your workspace. Let's say you want to reference your content calendar on a page about your marketing plan. Linked Database is the right block for the job.
  • To add a linked database to a page, type /linked and press enter.
    • Type the name of the database you want to copy and press enter.
  • You can change the view of this data (i.e. board, calendar, etc.), filter it or sort it without impacting the data in your original database.
  • If you change any property values or content inside a linked database, those changes will be reflected in the original.
  • To delete, move, or copy a link to a linked database, click the ⋮⋮ icon that appears in the left margin on hover. Linked databases work just like in-line databases in this respect.
  • Linked databases allow you to put multiple views of the same database on the same page to create a dashboard.
  • Much more on linked databases here →

FAQs

  • How can I prevent people on my team from making changes to my database setup?
    Go to the ••• menu at the top right of your Notion page, and switch on Database Lock. This will prevent other people from changing the way your database properties, views, select and multi-select options are set up. They'll still be able to add data, though! Helpful for maintaining the structural integrity of a database many people use. Anyone with full access to the database can switch the lock off.
  • How can I add tags to my work in Notion?
    You can use a database to tag pages in Notion, making them easier to find later.
    • Store the pages you want to tag in a database (table or list view works great).
    • Add the Multi-select property to your database. Create named tags there.
    • Whenever you want to add a new tag, just type it in the Multi-select property and press enter.
    • To show only the pages with a certain tag, filter your database so that tags must contain a certain value.
    • You can also use the Select property, but this only lets you choose one tag per page. This is helpful for progress tags like Not Started, In Progress, and Done, or priority tags like P1, P2, P3.
🎒
Tip: Find all our commonly-asked database questions here →

Related guides

Something we didn't cover? Message us in the app by clicking ? at the bottom right on desktop (or in your sidebar on mobile). Or email us at team@makenotion.com ✌️
Updating...

Share on