Notion Foundations: Using Notion Databases

In the previous lesson, I introduced the concept of Notion databases. We covered the basics of adding databases, editing database pages, and customizing database properties. 

This lesson will build on that by introducing database views, filtering, and sorting pages. Notion databases are more than just a table!

Sounds good? Then, let’s dive in!

Sorting Databases

Like Excel, you can sort your database by any property. You can do this in ascending or descending order.

  • To sort your database, click on the Sort button at the top right of your database.
Sort database
  • Select which property you would like to sort. In this case, we’re selected sort by Status.
Sort by property
  • Select if you’d like the sort to show an Ascending or Descending order.
Sort by Status

As you can see from the example above, you can also add additional sort criteria. Notion will choose the property sort order from top to bottom. Click on the six dots to drag the sort order around.

To change the Sort view, click on the “Status” text to bring up the menu (or click the Sort button again).

Filtering Databases

One of the most powerful features of Notion databases is the ability to filter the entries. This enables you to set the context for a database:

  • Showing tasks for one particular project or only due this week
  • All the books you have read this year
  • Blog post ideation phase only

You may not need database filtering when you first start. However, as you continue to add entries, you’ll unlikely need to see everything at all times. For now, we’ll just stick with simple filters, meaning we will only target a single property.

  • Like Sort, click the Filter button at the top right of your database.
Filter database
  • Again, let’s filter by Status type. Select the “In Progress.” This will only show you the “In progress” property type entries. You add Advance Filters and additional filter rules in the top right ellipsis (…). We’ll park this topic for another post, as it can get complicated!
Status filter
  • You will end up with a database table like this:
Filtered database

The “Status” property is quite unique in that you can filter by a pre-determined list of attributes. If you change the filter to the “Name” property, which is a text-based property, you will be presented with a different menu.

Logic filters

These are logic filters and work as they are read. For example, you can filter for “Name” that “Contains” that has the value “Notion Foundations”. This means the database entry must contain “Notion Foundations” to display it.

Spend some time experimenting with these filters to get used to them.

To change the Filter view, click the “Rule” text to bring up the menu (or click the Filter button again).

Advanced Database Filtering

As you dive deeper into the Notion databases, you’ll appreciate the power of advanced filtering using AND/OR logic. This allows you to create more specific views of your data by combining multiple criteria.

  • AND Logic: This is useful when you want your filtered results to meet multiple conditions simultaneously. For instance, if you’re filtering a task database, you might want to see tasks that are both “High” priority AND “In Progress.” By using AND logic, you can ensure that only tasks meeting these criteria appear.
  • OR Logic: This is beneficial when you want your results to meet any one of several conditions. Let’s take a book database as an example. You might want to view books that are either “Fiction” OR “Fantasy.” By applying OR logic, your filtered results will include books from both these categories.

Keep in mind that with great power comes great complexity! While AND/OR filters can be incredibly versatile, they can make your database view more intricate.

It’s always a good idea to double-check your filters, especially when combining multiple AND/OR conditions, to ensure that the results are exactly what you want.

Database Views

Type Of Database Layouts

The last item I want to cover in this lesson is database views. In our example, we have started with a Table view. There are six available layouts:

  • Table – a traditional database view with rows and rows of data
  • Board – a Kanban board view that gives you an excellent holistic view of the status of each item
  • Timeline – a Gantt chart view
  • Calendar – a monthly Calendar view (unfortunately, it’s only fixed to a monthly view at the moment)
  • List – a trimmed-down version of a table – it’s literally a list of all your database entries
  • Gallery – an image-oriented view of your database. I’ve got a tutorial on adding images to a gallery view here.

How To Add A New Database Layout

You can create as many views of your database as you’d like. To create a new view, click the “+” at the top of your database block.

New view
  • Type in a name for your view in the “View name” text box and select the type of layout you want. In this example, let’s choose “Board”. Under the “Group by” setting, select “Type.”
Board view settings
  • As we grouped by “Type” property, each board heading is based on the Type. Another feature of the board view is that you can drag each entry into another column, and the property will be automatically updated. The board view is also handy with a task manager database, providing a holistic view of all your tasks.
Board view

As mentioned, you can have as many views as you’d like and see them listed across the top of the database block. Switching is as simple as clicking on the tab name. You can access the views via the sidebar menu if you have a full-page database.

Pro tip – I create additional views on the original database. You can then create links to the pre-made views. This saves you time using the same database view across several pages across your workspace.

Linking Between Databases

One of Notion’s most robust features is the ability to link databases.

By linking databases, you can pull relevant data from one database to another, relate entries from various tables, and even roll up data to comprehensively view your information.

Let’s break down the core components.

Relation Property

The Relation property allows you to connect an entry in one database to another. This effectively “bridges” the two databases.

Imagine you have a Projects database and a Tasks database. Using the Relation property in the Tasks database, you can link each task to its corresponding project in the Projects database.

Here’s how to set it up:

  • Within a database, add a new property and select the type “Relation.”
  • Notion will prompt you to choose which database you want to link to.
  • After setting it up, you can click on any entry under this property and select related entries from the other database.

Rollup Property

Once databases are related, the Rollup property lets you pull specific information from the related database entries. Essentially, it “rolls up” data from one database into another.

Continuing with the Projects and Tasks example, you could use a Rollup in the Projects database to calculate the number of tasks completed for each project.

Here’s how to set it up:

  • After creating a Relation, add a new property and select the type “Rollup.”
  • Choose the relation you’re basing this rollup on, then which property you want to display or aggregate from the related database.
  • Depending on the property type you’re rolling up, you can perform different operations like count, sum, average, etc.

Check out this guide to take your databases up another notch and learn about relational databases in Notion.

Additional Database Tips & Tricks

Formula Properties

Within Notion databases, there’s the added feature of creating formula properties. This lets you generate dynamic content by applying formulas, similar to what you’d do in Excel.

For example, you could set up a formula to automatically calculate the number of days until a task’s due date or determine a project’s priority based on certain criteria.

Hide Properties

If your database has a lot of properties that aren’t always relevant for every view, you can hide certain properties to declutter your workspace.

This doesn’t delete the property; it simply hides it from the current view, and you can always toggle it back on when needed.

Page Mentions & Linking

Notion databases allow you to reference other pages or databases by mentioning them (@ followed by the page/database name). This feature is particularly useful when associating one database entry with another page or note in your workspace.

For example, in a task database, you might want to link to a resources page or a meeting note relevant to that task.

Frequently Asked Questions

How come my filters aren’t showing the right data in my Notion database views?

Make sure your filter conditions don’t contradict each other. Double-check the properties you’re filtering by and the criteria you’ve set.

If you’re using multiple filters, remember they work in combination and can exclude entries if not configured accurately.

Why can’t I see some properties when I switch to a different view in my database?

Different views in Notion (like Table, Board, List, etc.) have customizable properties visibility. If a property isn’t showing up, click on the “Properties” option in the current view’s settings and ensure that the desired properties are toggled on.

Can I save a particular sorting and filtering configuration for easy access later in Notion?

Yes, you can! Notion allows you to save specific database configurations as “views.”

After you add a new view at the top of your database, name it and choose the layout (Table, List, Board). Then, apply your sort and filter criteria. This view will be saved, preserving your sorting and filtering setup. This now allows for quick access in the future!

Wrap Up

In this guide, we’ve covered some of the main features of Notion databases. You are now ready to create your own productivity tool, incorporating blocks and databases onto your personal dashboard.

As I’ve mentioned, experiment and get your hands dirty – you’ll be surprised at your final product!

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