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Compare and Configure Notion's Database Formats: Tables, Lists, Galleries, Boards and Timelines

This is a free version of a lesson from Notion A-to-Z. The full course includes all lessons in a natural sequence, along with videos, duplicable demos, practical exercises, and practice questions for Notion's certification exams.

When creating a database, Linked Database or view, you choose one of six visual formats, which affects the utility and aesthetic quality. Each format is best suited for particular types of information and interactivity, but they all support these functions:

This lesson offers a sense when and how to use each format.

The Six Database Formats


The Table format is most familiar to users and most commonly used. Each column represents a property of the database, and each row is an item. Tables are widely versatile and well suited for all types of collections. They make it easy to view, edit and add items in bulk, and to summarize properties for all items in a view.

Notion Database Table

Customize Tables

As with all formats, be sure to filter and sort items in your tables, as well as selectively display and order properties. With tables, also take care to adjust the width of each property to suit the contents.

Unless your table displays Relation property with many values, you'll likely want to enable Wrap cells via the database's ••• menu. This creates line breaks within cells to display their full contents rather than a single line that runs out of view.

Summarize Properties

To perform a calculation on the aggregated values of a property, hover over the area below the column and click Calculate. That will display a variety of options for the property type.

This is particularly useful in an Expenses database, for example, where you can summarize the values within a currency-formatted Number property. The sum will include only the view's visible items, excluding any filtered items. That means you can quickly total expenses by category, month and other helpful parameters.

In the above view of our Tasks database, the Task property displays the total number of tasks via the Count all option, while the Complete property calculates the Percent checked. (Access a duplicable demo in Notion A-to-Z.)


The simple List format works best when you need to display few properties, if any, and make no edits without opening items as pages. Lists require less space than other formats, making them useful for views displaying many items. They also work nicely within columns.

Notes and meetings are commonly displayed as lists and sorted chronologically.

Notion Database List

Customize Lists

As with all formats, take care to filter and sort list items, and selectively display and arrange properties. The example above displays our tasks with their status and assignee, sorted by deadline. (Access a duplicable demo in Notion A-to-Z.)

Icon Aesthetics

Taking the time to populate icons for all list items creates a particularly nice aesthetic, as seen in The NBA — in Notion:

Notion Database List Icons


The Board format is Notion's take on the traditional Kanban board. It groups items into columns by a Select, Multi-Select or Person property, which you can specify by clicking Group by within the database's ••• menu.

Boards are useful for visualizing items in a pipeline, such as sales stages or project statuses, as well as distributing items among classifications, such as resource categories or task assignees.

Dragging an item to a new group, such as a sales stage or category, automatically updates its value for the grouping property.

In the example below, the board groups our tasks by status. (Access a duplicable demo in Notion A-to-Z.)

Notion Database Board

Customize Boards

Within the ••• menu of any group, you can choose to Hide it from the view or Delete it from the database entirely. You can also drag groups to reorder them.

As with all formats, be sure to filter and sort items in your boards, as well as selectively display and order properties. Because boards display items as cards, you can also specify the size and preview, as explained later in this post.

Summarize Groups

Atop each group, a number displays the group's card count. You can change this number to perform various calculations on the aggregated values of a specified property. To do so, click the number, choose a calculation, then select the property to aggregate and calculate.

For example, a database of sales opportunities might have a Value property—a Number formatted as a currency. For each sales stage, a board could display the total or average value.

In the example above, the "Group by Assignee" view, displays the percentage of tasks completed for each assignee. (Access a duplicable demo in Notion A-to-Z.)


Like boards, the Gallery format displays items as cards, but in a unified mosaic rather than groups. This suits them well for databases where you want to present items with visual appeal and make them easy to open as pages rather than edit them from the gallery view.

Because text wrapping remains unsupported within cards, galleries work best when items have shorter Titles, and when the properties you want to display are also short. They're even better when you can naturally apply a cover image to your cards, which you'll learn bout in Card Formatting section.

For these reasons, the Gallery format is a poor option for our Tasks database; instead, the example below displays the People database, sorted by last name, with the Email and Organization properties visible. Each person's headshot serves as the Card preview. Additionally, each person's company is an item of the Organizations database, populated via a Relation property. The logos are the icons of the related pages, which creates a nice aesthetic. (Access a duplicable demo in Notion A-to-Z.)

Notion Database Gallery

Customize Galleries

As always, be sure to filter and sort your gallery items, as well as selectively display and order properties.

Because galleries employ the card format, you can also choose a size and preview, as you'll learn. In the example above, the cards are sized small, with the person's headshot displayed as the preview.


The Calendar format displays database items as bars within a traditional monthly calendar. By default, Notion begins weeks on Sunday, but you can begin yours on Monday by visiting Settings & MembersLanguage & region.

A Date property dictates the placement of each item on the calendar. Notion chooses that property be default, but you can select an alternative by opening the database's ••• menu and clicking Calendar by. When that property contains an End date, the item's bar will span the full period between dates. Dragging, expanding or minimizing an item automatically updates the value of its Calendar by property. Clicking an item opens it as a page.

Calendar days offer little space for each item's Title and properties. Therefore, I recommend making the containing page full-width, or converting the calendar from an in-line database to its own page.

Notion Database Calendar

Customize Calendars

As with other formats, you can filter and sort items within a calendar, as well as selectively display properties. The example above displays each task with its assignee and status. (Access a duplicable demo in Notion A-to-Z.)

Calendar Navigation

At the top-right of calendars, you'll find arrows for jumping to the next or previous month. Between those arrows, you can click Today to return to the current month.


Similar to calendars, timelines display database items as bars, but along a linear timeline. The bars are stacked horizontally as rows, with the horizontal position dictated by a Date property. Notion chooses a Date property by default, but you can choose an alternative by clicking Timeline by in the database's ••• menu.

Dragging, expanding or minimizing an item's bar automatically updates the value of its Date property. You can also click a bar to open the item as page.

Notion Database Timeline


From the dropdown menu at the top-right, the viewer can choose the scale of the perspective, from hourly to yearly. Adjacent to that dropdown, arrows allow the viewer to jump forward or backward in the timeline. Clicking Today centers the current time.

When an item falls outside of the current perspective, you'll see an arrow along the edge of its row pointing forward or backward in the timeline. Click any arrow to bring that item into view.

Your configured scale and position settings will affect first-time viewers, but users who have previously viewed a timeline will see their most recent perspective.

Timeline Tables

Below the database title, a double arrow lets you expand a table, with a row for each item in the timeline. Within this table, you can selectively display properties and summarize values, just like the standard Table format.

You can also toggle the table from the Properties option within the database's ••• menu. However, timeline tables are unable to be expanded when viewing the database within a toggle, as in the above example. To see the table, open the database as a full page via the two-way diagonal arrow adjacent to the ••• menu.

Customize Timelines

As always, be sure to filter and sort timelines. When it comes to displaying and arranging properties, you can customize both the bars and table via the Properties option in the database's ••• menu. Typically, you'll want properties to display in one or the other—not both. That includes the Title property, which Notion in at least one location, but you can choose to display it both the bar and table.

Unlike calendars, timelines arrange properties horizontally within bars, which often causes them to extend beyond the bar. Therefore, try to display shorter properties within the bar and reserve longer ones for the table.

The above example displays the Task (Title) property within the bar, with Status and Responsible viewable in the table. (Access a duplicable demo in Notion A-to-Z.)

Timeline Limits

The quantity of timelines available in your workspace depends on your Notion plan:

Timeline Usage

Given all of the above characteristics of timelines, you want to use them selectively. They're best suited for databases where:

"Sprints" found in many project management frameworks make an excellent example.

Card Formatting

In database formats that display items as cards, including the Board and Gallery formats, you have the option to specify a size and preview of the cards. To do so, choose Properties within the database's ••• menu.

For the size, you can choose Small, Medium or Large.

The Card preview adds a visualization to the top of each card. That can preview the textual content of the inner page, but most users choose to display an image, as demonstrated in the above Gallery section. You can source that image from three places:

Once your Card preview image is in place, you can reposition it by hovering over the item, clicking Reposition, then dragging.

Within the database's ••• menu, then Properties, enabling Fit image will ensure the entire image displays in the Card preview, with whitespace filling unoccupied areas. Otherwise, Notion crops the image to fill the Card preview area.

If you hit any snags as you experiment with the various database formats, feel free to tweet @WilliamNutt.

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