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Show HN: Visual SQL (chartio.com)
512 points by thingsilearned 22 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 126 comments

I've seen a lot of products similar to this, and it looks like one of the nicer ones. But the use case in the video and screenshots make me immediately think it wouldn't be viable in any of the organizations I've written SQL for in the past 10 years.

At least 95% of the challenge in querying data doesn't come from the difficulty of writing SQL statements IMO, but from the complexity/brokenness of the data itself. Especially with the move to unstructured data streams, most data warehouses seem to have become pretty bad when it comes to extracting truth out of the information within. Many business users know some SQL but blanch at creating coherent reports from what's available to them. What BI people are paid for seems to be having knowledge about the problems particular to a domain.

If your data is relatively clean and follows a good model, this would be a great way to help someone join, group, and aggregate their data without knowing SQL. I think a lot of people would use Tableau for this if it didn't also have a steep learning curve / high expense. However as soon as you get into data where you're writing case statements, coalescing null fields, matching on different data types, decoding, partitioning over streaming data etc., it doesn't help someone without knowledge of the caveats within the data sources themselves. Show me someone who doesn't know SQL using this to produce insight out of compromised data and I will be impressed.

I fully agree with your experience here. We have a super hard mission at Chartio - it's not just about the interface but also how the data is setup. The interface, being as flexible as it is and also enabling full schema (instead of dataset) browsing is a pretty big part though in also allowing a more agile version of data modeling. It had that very much in mind and we've written a book (soon to be published with Wiley) on proper modern data governance techniques.


Our next phase is to help people get to that cleaner source of truth much more quickly than traditional dimensional modeling approaches. Tools like Visual SQL and DBT (https://www.getdbt.com) are really changing the complexities here.

I'd love to see the data modeling book. I spend a lot of energy shouting the virtues of The Data Warehouse Toolkit into the void. You are right it is outdated but it isn't entirely (or even mostly) wrong.

My coworkers seem much more interested in making a bigger EMR or adding nodes to Redshift than designing a reasonable data mart because "star schemas don't scale". I'm interested to see what you come up with, it is a huge gap in the current literature.

It's free to download on dataschool.com. I agree on the gap and that's why we wrote this book. We launched that on HN here 5 months ago


Oh wow, I missed this entirely, thank you for pointing it out and I will give it a read tonight.

I would love to be involved with that book. I'm a data engineer myself and I have built SQLBucket, a python library I have been told is similar to getdbt.com (although I'm not familiar with DBT, the similarities have been mentioned to me on various occasions).

Shameless plug: http://github.com/socialpoint-labs/sqlbucket

Oh awesome! I haven't heard of SQL bucket but I'll check that out as I love anything that encourages SQL based modeling. I was writing my own and then DBT came out and we push people there primarily. Send me a note - dave-at-chartio and I'd love to chat sometime.

Very interesting what you wrote in your article. Most interesting is how you seem to realize while designing your product that the spreadsheet surface is the most intuitive to users. They like also the baked results you present quickly. So you can see really the problem of your customer then.

What is really good is to assemble a library of visual queries for the customer. This is a good idea for the reason that many users have the same fundamental types of queries on their data. When finally you have enough of the basic queries that the user can do useful work without programming then you can find a way to customize this yes.

Have you data on how many similar queries customers use? Then you should know how to create the basic set of important operations.

I wish I could say that we had that insight from the beginning and that it worked right away, but we ended up failing into that realization after a lot of designs and prototypes.

So what you describe is somewhat built in to what we have now. Users still have to choose what columns they want to look at (there's no real way for us to guess that) and then we do apply some knowledge on what type of data they're looking at to help them get to what they're likely looking for.

We've also tried at times to make default dashboards for data sources when people connect. We can do this to some extent with known Schemas like connecting GA, SalesForce, Hubspot, etc, but for databases - that's proven to be a largely impossible task so far. Everyone's data is so different, and have such odd conditions to consider filtering by, that the auto dashboards end up being quite useless.

Yeah, doing ETL everyone wants me to use their data and perform magic with it, but I really want to see their stored procedures and queries running on top of it before I can understand the best way to "auto dashboard" anything.

Finding out the distinct set of values in any column helps a lot, referential integrity helps a lot, but without those queries its pretty dang hard.

Im one of those users, and I tend to use HeidiSQL or DBeaver for exploring.

Spot on. My favorite way to summarize this is:

SQL is easy. Data is hard.

If you aren't investing the work up front to make your data useful then no amount of tooling or magic beans will make writing meaningful SQL easy. If your reports (SQL) are hard to write it's because you have bad data.

Having said that making data exploration easier is always a worthwhile exercise. The more business people can self-serve their questions the better. It falls to data people to make that possible not just with tools but with the data itself.

SQL is easy like solving differential equations is easy. If you know how, you just work througH it, but that’s only because you already learned all the prerequisites and then spend a year getting good at it. Anyways the point is that either way, you’ll never have an entire organization working at this level with SQL or solving equations and that’s fine. The CEO doesn’t need it, sales don’t need it. They do need numbers though, so having a dumbed down interface that can show some curves after clicking “net sales” and “country” let’s them move forwards with what matters to them, without having to learn the difference between an inner and outer join, which doesn’t matter to them.

Not everyone needs to be a programmer even if they do need the value typically buried in programmer interfaces.

100x yes.

Questions to be made on data are always an afterthought, after the systems to gather and produce this data have already been designed.

The idea that it’s ok to just give a BI tool to business people later, and not involve them at the beginning to inform the system and data model design, is maybe why we’re in the tar pit.

A really excellent process/tool would help business figure out what kind of questions they need answered, and work backwards to the data model and implementation.

Sometimes it's not for lack of trying, though. I've done a decent amount of data model design in my career and as I got more experienced, I learned to make a point of asking the business people what specific questions they'd need the data to answer. Very often I got only very vague answers that were of little to no use in informing my design. I've seen this repeatedly at a variety of companies over the years. The business people are often winging it as much as the engineers are.

What do you guys think about a system that would 'guide' the user through the process of creating a star schema data warehouse (Kimball style)?

The advantage of this approach would be the fact that you do the dirty laundry upfront during the modeling & population phases. The end result is a data structure that is fool-proof, i.e. there is only one way to join facts/dimensions, it's self-documenting. In fact pre-joined views could automatically be created (and persisted if need be), giving the business user a clean structure to interact with.

The payoff from having some engineers doing the T of ETL (transforming the data to be more queryable, denormalizing values etc) is insane if you have problems in democratizing data analysis/reporting

The dumb thing for people who don't know what this looks like: make a separate database. Create tables based on what you often want to query (but don't try to keep the same shape as the base data!). Then figure out how to fill in those tables from the base data

Agreed. I want to see more tools like OpenRefine.

We use SAS Enterprise Guide in my org it has a visual SQL generator similar to what is previewed it is quite good for simple queries but I find it falls down when you introduce complexities.

Joins between tables are one of the big pain points for me. I am not sure how the demoed product does joins but in SAS EG you join tables by click and dragging a line between the two columns you want to join together and then it gives you a pop up to select Inner, Outer, Left, Right etc. (although it uses plain English. I.e rather than saying "left join" it says something like "All Rows from Table 1 and matching Rows from Table 2) it also gives you a visual Venn diagram type preview. This is frustrating for a few reasons: if table is large i.e several hundred columns you have to scroll for an eternity to find the columns you want to join against which is frustrating (a drop down box you can use keyboard shortcuts to jump to column name would be much better UI IMO). It is difficult to do complex joins "Where A.Col1 Between B.Col1 and B.Col2" for example. Maybe just my org but this is common feature of our data we have a lot of Event driven stuff with Start and End date and then Raw time series data you need to aggregate between the event frames. SAS's Timeseries stuff is very good but SQL side not so much...

It is also very easy for unsuspecting users to join on unindexed columns which leads to very poor database performance. In general there are a lot of performance footguns with generated SQL user can have working query then change something in the GUI and suddenly query that ran in subsecond takes several minutes. I have developed the habit that for complex I use GUI to generate SQL then hand edit it before running it to make sure it will be performant. Or I just hand write it to begin with.

Pattern matching and filtering is another pain point the query editor lets you use "LIKE" but does a poor job explaining to user how it works people who only use the GUI are surprised when I explain you use "%" and "_" to do character expansion a lot of people blindly assume "*" is used and then complain their query isn't working

Microsoft Power BI also has a query editor I've used this program a little bit but do not have as much experience from what I experienced using it I found it to be a bit less flexible it seemed easier to do the data extract and transformation first then load it into Power BI.

Absolutely. I've been employed in healthcare IT for the last 5 years, doing data extracts for researchers and reporting. Many people don't quite appreciate the underlying complexities of extracting data from not only large EMR systems such as Cerner (with over 6000 schema-less tables), but integrating that with the countless other systems the hospital employs for things such as radiology, pathology, ICD-coding, etc. Many data aren't entered as you would expect, documentation is often lacking and there are very few people who can tell you where exactly the data sits, and how data is actually entered by medical staff doing various work all across the campuses. A simple research request becomes immensely complex when multiple systems are involved and you're using something as complex and as evolving as health data.

So I agree that while this tool may be handy for some, the real challenge with this sort of work is knowing where the (often unstructured) data sits, how it's entered and by whom, and how to extract meaning from it.

I think of use cases when I see this product other than what you mentioned. I don’t see this as an end user product for analysis. IMO a product like this can be used for iterating over backend design with other developers when discussing a new feature or model change. Imagine walking through a complex data model when discussing a new feature and needing to quickly visualize stuff. Now I write SQL by hand pretty quickly but I would love to use a product like this in a team design discussion where we want to visualize what we would be pulling from the DB and instead of having to hand write all the joins and filters as you walk 5-6 tables you can quickly and easily see what data is going to be provided to your DAO layer. You can spend way more time focusing on the discussion and less time waiting around for data access changes to be visualized. Then in the end the developer can take the auto generated SQL and use it as a base to start writing code for the DAO layer. Then the developer can do the optimizations and cleanup to the query you mentioned in your post.

So the agile world of data we're looking to bring about is one where your DAO or marts, are still regular schemas - not just flat tables or cubes. So the developer teams would be creating these mart schemas, and then business users could be doing much of their own self-serve exploration and visualization with Visual SQL. I wrote about some of these modern architecture approaches here https://chartio.com/blog/cloud-data-management-book-launch/

First I want to applaud the effort here, this looks like a great tool for BI/dash boarding and Ive signed up to demo it.

I'm not here to poo-poo your product at all but want to explain why I think this cant work in all cases, and that is totally fine!

The application that is my bread and butter is about 25 years old and started as a mid 90s power builder application. Its since migrated to a 3 tier .NET enterprise app and the data model has been dragged along with it largely unchanged. The data model is full of cruft and unnatural keys that are the result of a ton of technical debt. The newer tables in the database are more sane and follow most SQL best practices, but there is a large portion that was written (and I know the original data architect who SWEARS this is true) in no-vowel notation, unless the table starts with a vowel, or maybe throw a random e in there too. A few examples:

Sane column name -> actual column name AccountDetailAccountCode -> AcctDtlAcctCdeID AccountingPeriodID -> AccntngPrdID PlannedMovementBatchID -> PlnndMvtBtchID Provision -> prvsn

There are about 1000 tables in this database, so part of the problem with SQL is that you have to know about the table structure to know about the database. Another is that a lot of this data is constructed in stored procedures, functions or views.

Most people need at least 12-18 months to totally grasp the application and the data model in a real way. I have to create database diagrams still to find a path to get the data I want, and Ive been at it for 10+ years. What I would love to see is a way to show table relationships that is filterable in some way- e.g. not just because there is a key relationship. To me its much more useful if I knew that table a is related to table b and both table a and table b have some threshold of row counts. I don't care if there is a key that joins table a and table b if table b has 0 rows. Building that intelligent meta data about the database would be hugely helpful.

> At least 95% of the challenge in querying data doesn't come from the difficulty of writing SQL statements IMO, but from the complexity/brokenness of the data itself.

More and more of our consulting gigs are this - collating and cleaning crappy data, and then putting BI reporting on top of it.

I agree with this as well. Products like this seem to be designed primarily for well-structured and lovingly maintained databases. If you are lucky enough to have one of those, congrats!

Dave, founder of Chartio here. We're so excited to launch what we call Visual SQL today. It's been a lot of work based on customer feedback and extensive prototyping and user testing. If you'd rather skip the story attached here you can also check out our product walkthrough video or give it a spin yourself here:


Congratulation on the launch!

I sit in a monthly "metrics review" meeting where we mostly speculate about why the dashboards are broken, and what the data team will have to do to fix it.

If our TPM was able to self-service this through an intuitive interface it would be a massive productivity win.

Same here! Seeing how useful tableau (a far less powerful tool) has been for our company, it's clear that there is a big market for empowering everyone to dig for data-driven insights.

I love the product. I am sure most people don't want to allow direct connections to their databases. I haven't used the software so it might put a lot of load on my database that the server is not able to handle. It will be best if I can import a SQL dump and then use the software on a copy of my data. The alternative right now is to run a separate server just so I can try out the software.

It's not clear to me, but this looks like a SaaS offering and not a client I can run in my own environment? If that's the case, I'm sure there's a market, but definitely not something I could use.

Yes, right now it's part of Chartio. I'd love to eventually open it outside of that, but there are no immediate plans.

Good to know. Thanks. Looks pretty sweet.

Looks nice, but like others here we need something that can be self hosted or even better – run offline.

Somewhat related: does anyone know of any good components/libraries that can be embedded in a web page to let users interactively build SQL queries of reasonable complexity? By that I mean something that not only lets you pick columns and filter and maybe group things, but also do joins on other tables as well.

Edit: just to clarify, it doesn't have to be be visual only. In fact, something that lets you edit a query interactively either by visual components or actual SQL code is perfect, especially if it's bidirectional so that edits in the code also show in the UI and vice versa.

I don't know about embedding, but I've been happy with the Metabase UI for building these kinds of queries:


Thanks for this comment. I am working on something very close to this vision at https://boomadmin.com

The idea is to have an open source (but commercial use paid license) that people can self host and totally have it offline or have it hosted on cloud with a single click.

I quit my job last month to work on it fulltime to work on an MVP. If you’re interested please add your email for an early beta.

I would love your feedback.

If you want an offline, no code, visual data transformation tool, please check out our new product: https://www.easydatatransform.com/

Thank you, I'll take a look!

Just want to clarify – it doesn't have to be no code. In fact, a bidirectional workflow where you can edit the query either by writing SQL or clicking buttons is ideal.

For offline I would recommend SQLeo[0]. It has been around for a long time but I have yet to find something more powerful when exploring a new database or visually constructing queries. You can also visualise queries not created using SQLeo. Don't be put off by the dated look and feel, you can change the look and feel using some startup parameters.


https://perspective.finos.org/ supports simple SQL-like operations, group by, filters and sort e.g.

It would reallllly be nice if you set up a web demo. I looked all over trying to find the link that would let me just TRY this marvelous thing you're telling me about, but it's all behind sign-ups and accounts and I just want to see the product. Not in a video-- I mean play with it.

Can you make a demo session with dummy data for people with play with?

Ah yeah, you do have to signup to try it out (though it does start you off with demo data). We wanted to offer a non-login version but it makes things more complicated for a company that obviously needs to prioritize security highly.

This video is maybe the closest you can get without trying yourself - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBXMTipHGfQ

Is the security story why you prevent signups from gmail.com also?

No, sorry that's a marketing/sales team decision. I'll talk with them about it.

Why would they want to ban them?

They want users to signup with their company email. I think a few companies in the enterprise software space do something similar.

Or even just a simple GIF that demonstrates putting together a simple query. Something that shows how to use the product in under five seconds.

As someone who used to work on ETL systems, from a distance, this looks basically like Tableau to me. (My first thought was actually "oh, neat, someone made an open-source Tableau clone!", but it's not open-source, is it?) You should describe how it's different.

If I'm going to pay money for a hosted application for serious work, I'm going to tend to prefer an established service that I'm confident will be around for a while. I'm sure you've got something good here but I'm not sure what it is.

We do compete very directly with Tableau and are often used along side it as well. In the article I explain a lot of what's different about it from other BI products like Tableau. The main things are - it's way more flexible as a visual language, and through a lot of prototypes and user tests has shown 80% of business users can write significant queries on their first try.

As for an established service - Chartio's been around for almost 10 years, we're profitable, and are the main data interface behind some really great companies and brands https://chartio.com/customers/

    Over the years, we’ve found that even power users who know they’ll eventually go into SQL mode prefer to start in the visual mode, as the grouping, date formatting, and joins are all done automatically.
This is huge, right here. I can use and understand SQL well enough, but the syntax annoys me constantly. Avoiding that would be a huge boon.

Yeah - changing date formats, double typing things you're grouping and ordering by, remembering the oddities of each dialect, typing out full join paths - it's a nice experience to have that done automatically.

Right now the SQL we write is very proper - with quotes around all of the column names and table names listed before each column name. It's not what a human would write. I'd love to one day make it a little more human so that the switching into SQL mode will feel even better. It'll be a fun project.

What do you think of Looker's idea of turning SQL into a higher level analytic DSL (which can be written/implemented by data engineers)? This DSL then makes it easy for end users to do a more complicated analytics.

One issue I've had with pure SQL for analytic purposes is that a user can't build a library of higher-order functions that can be parameterized (imagine a window function to do a cumulative returns across various time periods, applied to different underlying source columns), so its difficult to build up a common business domain language without taking the typical approach of constructing SQL through glueing string fragments together typical of most programming language SQL libraries.

All of my other SQL tools are running right on my machine. I hope there will at least a self-host version of this (or something just like it) available.

It would be amazing to have something like this embedded in Azure Data Studio.

Ah, unfortunately there isn't. We're 100% cloud hosted - though we call ourselves a Hybrid cloud solution because through our reverse SSH tunnel connections (where your servers SSH into ours) we also work well with on-prem data.

If security is your main reason for wanting self-hosting you may be interested to know we're also SOC2, HIPAA, and GDPR compliant.

That's great you're compliant with those! For HIPAA, do you enter into a BAA with prospective customers who deal in HIPAA data (PHI)?

EDIT>> The implication being that you may not be HIPAA compliant if you don't enter into a BAA. IANAL, so I defer to the experts, but I figured I'd ask the original question anyway. If you are above board on all of this, I will definitely take this tool to my boss.

yep, Chartio does enter BAAs with customers to deal with HIPAA data! I worked with several healthcare customers and lawyers here to make that happen. Happy to connect and share more.

Awesome, thanks for the info! I will gladly forward this up the chain to my boss, the first chance I get. I think this tool would be great for us, just had to be certain about that. I would love a self-hosting option, but I understand that your core business model might not allow for such an option.

Can we self-host, please? Is there a standalone app? We deal in PHI (HIPAA) and we cannot have a tool like this have any access to our data store unless it's private and secure.

I think there are health-specific AWS clouds; are they strictly client-side, or is there a managed instance you can deploy from AWS marketplace?


We already have a live product using servers from a host that specializes in HIPAA. I'm not asking about how to host HIPAA-related data. I'm asking specifically about being able to use this tool. I'm not going to hand over credentials to our database to an untrusted party (meaning, not our company). So the hope is that we can either self-host this tool, or use it as a desktop application.

They are HIPAA compliant

Yes we are! No plans to go on-prem yet but security is obviously a giant focus and necessity


Does that include signing a BAA? (I asked this in another thread on this post, sorry for double-posting, but I'm curious the answer).

It would have to, in order to be useable.

Yes it does

Metabase is primarily self-hosted

Redash can be self-hosted

(and our SeekTable also has on-premise version)

>Please enter your business email address. This form does not accept addresses from yahoo.com.

But my business address, right now, is @ yahoo.com

Or, I don't want to give you my real business address yet because I don't want spam at that account.


... you might work at yahoo?


Then you would have a mail account @yahoo-inc.com

That is super cool.

But as a sort of tangent / related thing:

As a visual learner I don't feel like I usually have problems visualizing SQL (that doesn't mean I wouldn't have use for this product, quite the opposite).

On the other hand I personally have been playing with Firebase and OH MAN do I have problems visualizing what is going on with document type databases, I start writing code and think of the DB and my brain starts sputter like there's sand in the gears ;)

To be clear - this isn't about making visualizations from SQL results (though that does happen). This was us making a visual query language. It's a very flexible interface that writes SQL for you - and has been proven to be intuitive enough for 80% of business users, so they can write SQL now too.

The interface right now only works for structured data sources and my brain also starts to sputter when I think about making a visual language for anything not structured :).

Awesome app. I'm keen to give this a go. I'm currently running my data visualisations using python and plotly. Flexible but tedious sometimes.

Looks good!

Worth noting, the idea of "visual SQL" appeared long, long ago, it was called "Query by Example" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Query_by_Example.

Congratulation on the launch and thank you for having PostgreSQL support. (Side-question: any reasons why you have mirrored Postgres logo?)

Thanks! Hadn't noticed that the icon was mirrored, thanks for pointing it out!

I like the user-research-first approach here a lot. Very different than many other BI tools in a refreshing way. In the past I've hesitated to consider Chartio for my organization because most people don't know SQL, but I'm excited to give it a try now.

I also love how everything is a table. Looker does this, and it's great (though Chartio's implementation looks better). Tableau does not, which makes certain things a headache.

I do wonder how well this will scale to large datasets and columnar databases, though. Showing a preview of the tables is really cool and useful, but it is not what data warehouses like Redshift are designed for. The preview probably wouldn't load in time for my users to see it unless they just sit there waiting for it.

Thanks, the user-research-first part was definitely enlightening and important to do. Our first many iterations were very wrong.

As for large scale datasets - we do cache those sample tables and we only grab the first 10 rows. Also, BigQuery actually has a great API for fetching a set of sample data that we utilize heavily. They made it because of exactly the potential concerns you outlined around columnar stores.

Oh neat, I didn't know that about BigQuery. Thanks for the tip!

Looks like a modern version of Microsoft Access :)

I didn't see the visual joins that you can do in MS Access, though I just looked at the first page. If it's anywhere near that useful this product is way overdue.

Yup - if you grab columns from multiple different connected tables (or schemas) the join will happen automatically for you and can be adjusted to different paths. This is actually a really hard problem, especially since 70% of datasources these days don't have foreign key information and we have to detect that automatically.

We also have the ability to with our visual language join data from multiple different queries/datasources. You can see how that happens here https://chartio.com/docs/visual-sql/merge-queries/

More like Power Query.

Congratulations, looks like a really nice product! As many people here ask for a self-hosted solution, Apache Drill and SuperSet might be an alternative.

Yes we do require a work email to signup as our target audiences are businesses. We've discussed launching a public version which I'd love to have sometime soon.

The pricing is a bit too high – if I'm reading correctly it starts at $200/month. It's hard to justify such a spending for a startup where utility of the tool is unknown and 14 days trial is not enough to evaluate that. It makes sense to charge that much power users, but to get involved I'd love to see a cheaper plan.

I'm not them, but a price too high can be a way to make sure to get only a few client at first. They clearly like to test stuff, and it's much easier to do it with a few client, than thousands of them.

We also often forget the indirect cost of supporting a client, at my current job our software is great for small companies, but we found out that under 50 employees, it was just not worth it to support them.

You can also always lower a price, nobody will complains for a lower price ;), but making it higher without justification is much harder.

So all that to say, it can makes sense to start with a price way too high,

I appreciate the feedback. We are discussing a few different pricing models, and if your team size is below the 5 seat minimum you can reach out and we're quite flexible there.

Is there a self hosting solution an engineer can test for free? I love Metabase, but this solutions seems worth a try. The comparison with AWS/Google Cloud on being SaaS is not viable because there is almost always (?) an engineer testing out the software at the workplace, that’s why it have to be free to test and OnPrem.

I have some data in BigQuery (for some personal project) for which I'd love to use Chartio and the visual SQL builder. The sign up page just shows company login - is the product not intended for standalone consumers?

An awesome research project in this area: https://people.csail.mit.edu/ebakke/sieuferd/

"sql easy, data is hard". perfectly written.

why even use sql if you are simply looking for patterns in static data? why not use an app dedicated to analytics, of which many exist? sql comes into play when data needs to be shared, and those types of apps need coders who would not struggle with sql. i simply do not buy the argument that sql is difficult to learn for competent coders.

If you have a solid data model and team or person that is charge of preventing people from implementing bad ideas, it becomes trivial for people to do data discovery on their own. The problem is many orgs have pushed far to the opposite direction, unstructured, undocumented, unspecified data structure. While this is better than "no data" is puts tremendous burden on the user to interpret it later. As the old rule says: crap in crap out

I would honestly much rather have a powerful IDE where I write my own sql and my query output is visualized than any of this UI stuff.

Yeah we're somewhat targeting a different audience here but I also think this will end up being a much better experience even for the power users than an IDE.

I believe most data exploration just shouldn't be SQL/text based. It's just faster to do it visually if there aren't extra steps added and the interface is good/flexible enough.

Even as developers we spend most of our time in a GUI environment vs the command line. It's not just that it's easier/better for business users - it's also just better for everyone.

Really like what you’ve done Dave. I’m working on a very similar idea but a different niche (turning databases into a cms + simple charts) at https://boomadmin.com

Totally the future is hybrid. Quickly press some buttons to get to a starting SQL and then go complex from there on if needed.

My principle is that “simple things should be simple, complex things are possible”

I think LINQPad does something similar?


I'm not going to lie, this really hurts my brain to try and wrap around, it's a lot of cognitive overload in one place.

Ha, sorry about that! Are you talking about the interface, the idea, or the content?!

The interface, it's very dense

Just a detail. Have you seen Microsoft Access query builder? Please do check it, especially how you create joins. As far as I have seen tools for building queries none came close. Maybe sqlyog.


If the alerting story is amazing, then this thing would be very compelling.

Nowadays people use an amalgamation of random tools: Grafana, Redash, Superset, Tableau, etc. But they all have rudimentary alerting or none at all.

Self hosting is another feature that is important. Enterprise customers simply won't buy if it's SaaS only.

Looks interesting. Alas, no support for VPNing into DB.

Like what mode.com is doing with its "bridge": https://mode.com/help/articles/how-mode-connects/#bridge

We do have a reverse SSH tunnel connection https://chartio.com/docs/data-sources/tunnel-connection/

If I understand, it involves changes to the DB server? That would be a show-stopper for me.

Haven't used Chartio in a while but when I did the reverse ssh tunnel was just a standard reverse ssh that you could deploy on any server in your vpn. It doesn't have to be on the actual db server, it could be on its own server acting as a bridge between Chartio and your db. Also, you could use whatever ssh client you wanted - you didn't have to install anything from Chartio in your vpn.

This made me think id need to do something on the DB server which I cannot:

“On your database server, run the following to install autossh”

It's always a tug of war between "power-user features" and "simplified-interfaces for common users". It seems like Chartio is using visual interfaces to bridge this very gap and it seems like a very polished outcome.

I think the elephant in the room though is that this is a technical solution to a non-technical problem. You can't teach all users to be highly proficient in your app through a perfect interface - because the perfect interface does not exist. You teach them through traditional training methods and continuous training investments and infrastructure.

Going through their landing pages it seems like Chartio is offering support and training packages, so there's definitely nothing wrong with them supplementing that with better visualization tools.

In general however I just wish more companies would invest in the training layer earlier and not try to bail themselves out with the perfect redesign - cough reddit cough.

Totally - it's not a solution to everything. We can though do as much as possible making the UI intuitive, flexible and fast. Those gains are not just for business users but for everyone.

Every product needs some education (excel is still of the most popular online courses) and we knew ours would be no exception which is why we've also last year launched DataSchool - our free online community driven courses on data


How does this product relate to https://www.sigmacomputing.com/? It superficially feels very similar.

Sigma and Chartio have similar missions but a very different product approach and functionality. Sigma also tries to bring the influence of spreadsheets into the query building/data exploration phase.

We do this though as a very flexible visual language, where you can create a pipeline of actions including merging queries from multiple different datasets and then doing some post query computation.

How does your hairdresser relate to yet another hairdresser? It’s a business. People have ideas and implement them in different ways. That’s just business.

I made this in an internship except that I get the metadata from Entity Framework and those subqueries but those woudn't have been hard to implement.

Postgres' pgAdmin software is still a huge pain for many operations, especially for creating functions and views. I believe they could learn a lot from this.

To me, pgAdmin seemed like a very light header on the administrative (hah) end of pg. Checking which instances are running, and seeing if the databases are healthy etc.

Seems reasonably interesting, but I can’t get past the claim that they made 21 figma boards every day, including weekends, for 3 months.

For some reason, it reminded me of Kirix Strata [1]...well, it feels like it in a way.


The page stopped my media playback (which happens when another piece of media is played). Why?

No idea. Thanks for reporting. We'll look into it

I think it's because your looped demos are autoplaying videos. Modern browsers can control media playback, and presumably these autoplaying videos are hijacking the currently played media for some people?

As an aside, I was actually looking for a comment about the opposite issue: I have a browser which blocks autoplaying videos, it took me a while to realise that what I thought were static images, were in fact videos without playback controls (and a little bit longer to work out how to re-enable playback controls!).

Either way, once I got them playing, it looked like a slick experience, congrats on the launch!

I typed in a basic text query to "count reps per account". Then I clicked the visualize button ... no re-visualization. This is an extremely basic feature in every visual query tool the past 20 years (at least the ones worth paying for). You would be limiting yourself to their canned charts and "demo magic".

For some reason I read 'Viral SQL', these days...

Reminds me a lot of DabbleDB, acquired by Twitter long ago.

airtable seems to be dabbledb du jour

No visual has beaten SQL for the last 40 years

It's not a competition where one solution has to beat the other. Querying through a textual language and through a visual interface complement each other.

I consider a product to be a success when it combines the best features of both and makes them available to the user so that he may organise his work flow according to the own preferred style.

That is true, you are right. What I'm saying is that eventually things that need be SQL are either SQL... or sometimes R. The language is more expressive and it takes less time to 'select something from something where conditions group by something', rather than drag and drop it. and is the reason why SQL is so fundamental to all areas of information technology and particularly when data is involved.

besides, SQL is DATALOG which is PROLOG which is to 'program logic', which gets as close as it can to 'wiring' logic. many attempts to visualize this process has failed so far, because... they are more complex and more specific.

SQL takes like 30 chars and dozen keywords to master. any visual paradigm - takes more.

Signup to try — no, thanks.

Seems like a fair trade, you get to try out for free as long as you let them know that you are interesting in trying it out. They are aiming for business users who don’t mind dropping an e-mail for a quick eval.

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