Intro to databases

Intro to databases
In this Article

Databases in Notion are collections of pages. Here, we'll introduce you to the general structure of a database, walk you through the different menus and options, and deep dive into how to open and edit pages within a database. 🗃


There are three things that distinguish Notion databases from spreadsheets and databases you can build with other software:

  1. Every item is its own editable page: Every item you enter into your database can be opened as its own Notion page, where you can layer in any information you want. We'll cover this below!

  2. Customizable properties: Add properties to contextualize, label and augment any database item with more information, like dates, people, text, links, etc. Learn more about database properties here →

  3. Multiple layouts you can toggle between: Your data isn't stuck in a table. View the exact same database as a board, list, calendar, gallery, and timeline — whatever makes the information most useful. Learn more about views, filters & sorts here →

Every full-page database has the same menus and sets of options. Here's a quick walkthrough.

  1. Views: Edit and switch between all the different views of your database.

  2. + Add new view button: Add a new view to your database, with its own layout, filters and sorts.

  3. Filter menu: Apply filters based on property values. Filters are only viewable by you as a default, but you can save them to the view for your entire shared team if you prefer!

  4. Sort menu: Sort your data by a property. Similar to filters, they are only for you by default, but you can apply them for your whole team as well.

  5. Database search: 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.

  6. ••• menu: Located at the top right of your database, this allows you to edit your view layout, grouping, properties and more.

  7. 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 any database templates you've configured.

There are several ways to create a database inside Notion:

  • Create a new page in your workspace, then choose what database layout you want from the grayscale menu on that empty page.

  • Create a database page inside an existing page by typing / followed by the database layout you want (i.e. table, board, etc.). Choose the full-page version.

  • Create a database inline on your page by typing / followed by the database layout you want. Choose the inline version.

When you make a database, you’ll be given the option to select an existing data source from the workspace or to a create a brand new one.

  • We suggest selecting an existing data source if you want to consolidate disparate information, use the same properties from another database, or an existing view living elsewhere in your workspace would be helpful. You can search for existing databases and then choose the one you'd like to use.

  • We suggest creating a new data source if the information you're adding to the database is in a new category or if you want to keep it separate from other data. To create a new database, click + New database at the bottom.

Resource: For more insights on how to leverage databases and structure them within your workspace, check out this guide →

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. Each row is one property, with a name, type, and a value. Click on the value to edit.

    • 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.

Customize database pages

The top section of any page in a Notion database can include several things:

  1. Properties provide data about the page you're looking at, like project owner, due date, tags, and more.

  2. Comments capture conversation between you and your teammates. You can use them to tag each other, ask questions, provide feedback and more. 

  3. Backlinks indicate all the pages that link to the current page so you can easily navigate between them.

As with everything in Notion, you can customize the look and feel of these components. To access these options:

  • Click the ••• at the top right of any Notion database page and select Customize page.

  • You'll see this window pop up:

For properties, you can use this menu to choose which property fields you want to show at the top of the page, and how. For each one, select from:

  • Always show: Nothing changes, you continue to see the property field.

  • Hide when empty:  The property field will disappear from the top of your page if it has no value in it.

  • Always hide: The property field will not show up at the top of your page.

You can also access the Customize page menu by clicking the ⋮⋮ icon next to any property in the list at the top of your database page. This ⋮⋮ icon can also be clicked and dragged up or down to reorder how properties are displayed on your page.

Tip: If you have a database with dozens of properties, this is a great way to keep your pages streamlined so you don't have to scroll a ton just to get to your page content.

Note: When you hide properties, they get aggregated in a single menu item at the bottom of the list. You can click this to easily show any hidden properties.

For backlinks, you can choose:

  • Expanded: See all the pages that link to the current page listed in full.

  • Show in popover: In case you don't want to see all the pages, you can choose to see just the number of backlinks. Click to open a popup displaying all the pages.

  • Off:  Just hide all backlinks entirely.

For comments, you can choose to show them:

  • Expanded:  Show the full conversation at the top of the page.

  • Off: Hide comments on the page for a minimalist view.

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 layout from the grayscale menu.

  • Or type / followed by the database layout 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 Lock database.

  • 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.

Inline databases

Inline databases can live alongside all other types of content. One popular use case is adding them into documents.

  • Create an inline database by typing / followed by the database layout you want and the word inline.

  • Controls/menus for your database are hidden until you hover over it.

  • You can expand an inline database to full-page by hitting  at the top right.

  • You can turn an inline database into a full-page database by grabbing the ⋮⋮ and dragging into the sidebar as a top-level page.

  • You can DeleteDuplicate, move or copy the link to your inline database by clicking the ⋮⋮ icon that appears on hover in the left margin.

  • Your inline database will appear as a subpage of the page it's on in your sidebar.

When using a database in a shared workspace, Notion has features in place to precent accidental edits that could impact other teammates.

"Can edit content" permission level

Click the Share menu at the top right of the database to see all users and to edit their permission level. Learn more about sharing and permissions here →

The Can edit content permission level is only found on database pages, and allows users to:

  • create, edit and delete pages within the database

  • edit property values for those pages

Users with Can edit content permissions in a database will not be able to:

  • add, edit or remove database properties

  • add, edit or remove views

  • change filters or sorts

  • lock or unlock the database

Note: Users with Can edit content access will still be able to create linked databases and edit views, sorts, and filters in that linked database. Learn more about linked databases →

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.

Note that anyone with editing access can toggle Database lock on or off at any time. This is helpful as a quick safeguard against accidental edits in a database that you'd like many people to be able to change structurally.


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Database 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 🧩