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Three Tips for Using Columns in Sigma Computing

Updated: Oct 8, 2023

Sigma Computing burst into the analytics world with a goal of improving the spreadsheet everyone knows and loves. Spreadsheets are one of the most fundamental tools in all businesses across industries and sizes. And columns are the driving force behind the functionality. Sigma, combined with Snowflake’s processing speed – businesses can operate even faster.

With this in mind, here are a few tips and tricks for using columns in Sigma.

What is a Column in Sigma?

First, let’s identify what Sigma refers to as a column. A column is any collection of data points organized and grouped by a header. In Sigma, all columns are calculated fields meaning they either refer to a column from a data source or are a function added by the user. This is a nominal difference for most users, but can be helpful with renaming or adding new columns from data sources. Columns available for use can be found on the left side of the Sigma workbook screen and are listed under the column header.

Sigma’s Column Pane in a Workbook
Pro Tip: All columns are calculated fields meaning they either refer to a column from a data source or are a function added by the user.

Tip #1: See a Profile of the Column’s Data

One of the most valuable tools in an analysts belt is the ability to understand the data making up a column. However, no one wants to waste time scrolling through pages and pages of data. Sigma offers a quick and easy way to see a profile of your data. Simply right-click on the column in either the columns pane or your data element and select “Column details…” The above section shows the current column name and type (i.e., string, number, array) and the source column from the data source. This can be extremely helpful when columns have been renamed.

The Top values section shows a descending bar chart based on the row count for each value in the column. The summary section can lend itself to the quality of your data by showing total counts, nulls, and distinct values. Statistics will show things like min and max, most helpful with numeric columns.

Example Column Details View

Tip #2: Add Column Descriptions

Oftentimes, the names of a column do not equate to their data source column names. This can make troubleshooting very difficult sometimes. Or maybe your data has very similar names or acronyms, making it difficult to know what’s what only from the name. Sigma offers the ability to add descriptions (like mini tool tips) to your columns to help resolve these difficulties.

To add an explanation or comment, right-click on the column name in either the column pane or data element, select “Set Description,” and type in your comment. Then when you hover over the column name, your description will appear to the right.

Example Column Description

Tip #3: Hiding vs. Unchecking Columns

In Sigma, Creators can either hide or uncheck columns from the column list. Each of these options has different ramifications. Hiding (right-click on the column name and select hide) removes the column from the display. The column’s data is still present in the element. This can help create a custom sort calculation that dynamically updates based on parameter selections – the end-user doesn’t need to see the column but needs to interact with the data. Hidden columns can still be referenced in other formulas as well.

Unchecking a column, in comparison, removes the column from the data table. This means the column cannot be referenced in a calculation and does not appear in any child elements. Unchecking can be a great way to keep your tables organized and not include unnecessary data. To uncheck a column in edit mode, look at the bottom left corner and expand the up arrow (^) to show the data source.


Columns are a foundational element of spreadsheets in general, and Sigma is no exception. However, each analytics tool offers slightly different column interactions. Hopefully, this blog can help you better understand how to use Sigma’s columns to gain actionable insights from your data.



How can I see a column or calculation’s source?

Sigma offers several ways to find a field’s source. For example, if you are looking at a visualization element, in the top right corner of that element click on the three dots and select Element Source then Go to Source Element. A second way in edit mode is to look at the title of the data source listed under the column list on the far left side of the page. Lastly, you can use the data lineage tab (bottom left of your screen) to see how all of your elements are connected.

This content was originally posted on phData’s website. Click here to read the original post


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