Another great release from Metabase. I’m just ashamed that I’ve not been writing enough about previous updates. I’ll go through the new stuff in 48 plus some of the other recent additions to this rapidly developing software.
There’s a long list of bug fixes which surprised me as I rarely encounter any problems. Looking in more detail, most of what are listed as bugs are just deficiencies in how things work. For example, clicking the back button in your browser losing your work. It’s good to see bad design improved, I’m just not sure it counts as a bug!
The biggest changes, for me, are the improvements in Dashboard Tabs. They were introduced a few releases back to allow Excel-style multiple sheets in a dashboard. They’re a great way to reduce clutter in a dashboard. The improvements are that you can now drag and drop questions between dashboards. More importantly, question queries are only executed when the tab is selected. Previously, all questions on all tabs would run when the dashboard first loaded which could take a while.
For those (like me) who find connecting the same filter to every question in a dashboard boring, there’s a new feature that automatically connects the filter to the questions where the same database field exists. That will mean quicker dashboard creation and fewer errors (I’m sure that I’m not the only person to select ‘end date’ instead of ‘start date’. Hurrah!
There’s a whole bunch of improvements in the User Interface. Mostly warnings about navigating away from a page and losing all your work. Good to see.
CSV uploads have been improved with more flexible support for date formats and (more importantly) primary key detection. Must admit, I’m not a fan of uploading data yet. I’d like to see more options for incremental uploads and management of data once uploaded. Time will tell.
Now for the bad news. With the introduction of the improved Metabase Analytics Collection in the Professional and Enterprise editions, there will no longer be any usage data in the Open Source version. That means that users of the free edition won’t be able to tell who is using which questions and dashboards.
Highlights from previous, recent updates
In no particular order:
- Dashboards can now be downloaded/emailed as pdf documents.
- Can set the default login page to display a dashboard instead of recent history. Only one dashboard per site rather than per user.
- The grid is now more granular allowing finer control on positioning questions.
- Dashboard tabs (improved even more in 48)
- Hide questions (cards) that have no results. Mixed usefulness as it just leaves a blank space rather than reflowing the rest of the content. I’d hoped to use in a data quality dashboard so that problems would float to the top. I’d prefer to see the option of text to display or reflow.
- New text type that allows full width text. Great for header text on a dashboard. You can also embed parameter values in text.
- Some of the cards can be shrunk down to just 2×2. Useful for displaying lots of summary information.
- CSV uploads. Still not a fan!
- Actions – one of the biggest additions. You can define a button or form to do things like modify data in the back end database. Great for receiving feedback or correcting text data. It’s MySQL and Postgres only for now.
- Models – another major addition. You can use an existing question as the source of other questions (as before) but also add additional metadata to explain to other users what the model does. Great for creating curated subsets of your data to allow ‘less skilled’ users to navigate on their own. the data can be cached for improved performance. Needs a few additions such as indexing but a good start. I’d love to see the option of columnstore indexes in Postgres for Models.
- The User Interface has been tidied up with some smart new icons. Sounds trivial but workflows have improved greatly.
- You can subscribe to a dashboard rather than just a question.
More stuff you should know about
Following a major security problem with H2 databases, the sample database no longer installs by default and you can’t add other H2 databases either. As ever: if you’re still using H2 for your Metabase database (it’s the default), you need to migrate to Postgres or MySQL. If you don’t know how, the contact box is at the bottom of the page.
LDAP is going to be removed from the Open Source edition.
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