Sigma basics

This document introduces you to some basic concepts and terminology used in Sigma.

Core components

A Sigma project has the following components:

Data Source
The source of the data used to drive analysis is usually tables from a cloud data warehouse such as Snowflake or BigQuery. Sigma does not store the data itself; it accesses the data through a connection. Sigma can connect to a variety of data stores and also supports uploaded .csv files. Sigma Admins create and manage data permissions for connections.

When users access a Dataset or Workbook that has been shared with them, that document owner's permission to the source data is evaluated within Sigma and then the queries to the cloud data warehouse are run using the warehouse user account credentials that have been set in the connection's settings. The exception to this is if the connection is configured to use OAuth authentication. In this case, users' data permissions are controlled using Roles in the warehouse and queries are run using users' personal credentials.
Raw data from a data store may need some manipulation, pruning, additional calculations, and filtering to be most useful in analysis. In Sigma, you create a dataset from your data store and use it to drive the data in one or more workbooks. It's more efficient to create and reuse the same dataset for different workbooks, than to always use the raw data and re-do any modifications. See Data modeling In Sigma.
Workbooks display the tables and visualizations used to communicate your analysis. Workbooks contain pages, much like tabs in a spreadsheet. Pages contain the tables, charts, controls (filters), free-form text, and images used to relay information to people who view the workbook. If you've worked with other BI products, a workbook page is like a dashboard. See Workbooks overview.
Use the Sigma REST API to programmatically access a broad range of Sigma features.

Workbook concepts


Workbooks have pages, which are like spreadsheet tabs. You can use a page as a traditional BI dashboard and display or export it. For more information see Workbooks overview.


Elements are the objects that you put on a workbook page. Element types include:

  • Data elements (tables, visualizations, and pivot tables)
  • UI elements (text, images, buttons, embeds, spacers, and dividers)
  • Control elements (filters and parameters)

You can use an element in a workbook as a data source for another element. We call the source element the parent, and the element using the data the child.

For more information see Intro to element types.

Table concepts

Columns, not cells

Traditional spreadsheet tools provide data and formulas on a per-cell basis. Sigma manages data at the column level. Calculations and formatting changes apply to every cell in a column. This approach scales better for large amounts of data. For more information about columns in workbook tables see Create and manage tables. To see a column's formula, among other details, see View column details.

Grouping columns

Columns organized into groups are called groupings. By organizing your columns into groups, you can calculate information about each individual grouping. This is useful for metrics such as sign-ups per week, sales per region, cost per product line, or any other metric that applies to specific groups of data. For instructions see Create and manage tables - grouping.Β 

One way to think of groupings is as a one dimensional pivot table. However, Sigma table groupings give you access to a much wider library of calculations than the aggregates you can do in a pivot table.


Filters limit the displayed results in visualizations to show only data that meets certain criteria. For example, you can show only the values that fall within a certain range, or events that occurred after a certain date. A special workbook element called a control is essentially a filter.Β 

Sigma supports many types of filters for workbook elements as well as datasets, such as Include, Exclude, Number Range, Date Range, Text Match, and Boolean. For more information see Intro to control elements and Data element filters.


Access to functionality in Sigma occurs across different groupings of people:

OrganizationAn organization is the highest level grouping and normally correlates to a business entity.
TeamTeams are sets of users. Teams make it easy to share connections, datasets, and workbooks with a group of people.
UserUsers are individuals with accounts in Sigma. There are different types of users who have different permissions in the system:
- Admin: Manages the system, including data connections, user permissions, and more.
- Creator: Creates datasets and workbooks.
- Viewer: Views the workbooks, navigates through pages, clicks to change control filters, drill downs, and more.

Exports and reports

Viewers, given permission, can see workbooks directly in Sigma. In addition, Admins and Creators can schedule emails that contain attachment versions of a workbook in relevant formats such as .pdf or .csv. Slack notifications are also supported.

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