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Planning and Creating Charts

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As discussed in Built-In Dashboards and Charts, SignalFx provides a number of built-in dashboards for services you have integrated with SignalFx. These dashboards are populated with charts that track key metrics for the service. In many cases, you won’t need to create any additional charts or dashboards.

However, if you do need a chart that isn’t included in a built-in dashboard, the information in this section explains how to create one.

Planning a chart

Before you create a chart, you need to have an idea of which metric(s) you want to track. Metrics are added as signals on plot lines, or plots, on a chart. If you are unfamiliar with the metrics available, review your organization’s dashboards to see which metrics are already being tracked.

Also consider ways in which you might want to customize some default settings. For example, you might want to filter the metrics to include data for specific hosts, or specify a different default time range for the chart. Keep these requirements in mind as you plan your chart.


Instead of displaying metrics on a chart, you can also:

Creating a chart

Once you have come up with an initial plan for the metric you want to display on your chart, there are various ways to create a chart, depending on your starting point.


You cannot add charts to a built-in dashboard; for more information, see Modifying built-in dashboards and their charts.

  • To create one or more simple charts on a new or existing dashboard, see Create Simple Charts and Dashboards. Using this technique is also a good choice if you want to see what metrics are available, because you will be able to see them in the Metrics Sidebar.
  • To copy charts you see on a dashboard to a new or existing dashboard, see Copying charts.
  • To copy charts you are viewing in the Chart Builder, use the Save As option (see Saving a chart), change the name as desired, and choose the dashboard where you want to place the copied chart. If you have edited the chart, those changes will be reflected in the copied chart.
  • To create a chart based on a metric you have found in the Metrics Catalog, see Creating a chart from the Metrics Catalog.
  • To build a chart from scratch, see Creating a new chart using the Chart Builder.
  • To programmatically create a chart, instead of creating one through the user interface, you can use the SignalFx API.

Copying charts

Use the Copy capability to copy charts, from one or multiple dashboards, to a clipboard. This technique is useful, for example, if you are troubleshooting an issue and want to pull some existing charts together to view on a new dashboard (see Creating a new dashboard), or if you want to copy charts from one dashboard to another.

You can also use this method to “move” a chart from one dashboard to another; after copying a chart, simply delete the original chart.

To start, open the dashboard containing the chart you want to copy, then select Copy from the chart’s Actions menu.


When you copy a chart, a counter on the Create icon on the navigation bar indicates how many charts you have copied to the clipboard.


To copy additional charts to the clipboard, select Add to clipboard from a chart’s Actions menu, or click the Add to Clipboard icon. The counter increments as you add additional charts.


Different options on the Create menu let you paste the charts onto a dashboard. Pasting charts clears the clipboard.

  • To paste the charts into a dashboard you are viewing, select Paste charts from the Create menu. (You must have write permissions for the dashboard.)
  • If you see Dashboard with <n> copied charts on the Create menu, select that option to create a new, unsaved dashboard and paste the charts into it.
  • If you see Dashboard (unsaved) on the Create menu, you have already added charts to a new dashboard and haven’t saved the dashboard yet. Click this option to open the unsaved dashboard, then select Paste charts.

To clear the clipboard contents without pasting the charts to a dashboard, select Clear Clipboard from the Create menu.

Creating a new chart using the Chart Builder

Select Chart from the Create menu. Alternatively, you can click New Chart in the placeholder image that is at the bottom of every dashboard.


See also Choosing a chart type.

Creating a chart from the Metrics Catalog

Use the Metrics Catalog to find the metric you want to track. In the Preview pane, scroll down to the list of available metrics. Select one, then click View in Chart to open the Chart Builder, prepopulated with your metric.

See also Choosing a chart type.

Creating a chart using the SignalFx API

If you prefer to work programmatically, you can use the SignalFx API to create a chart.

Choosing a chart type

Available chart types are shown as icons in the chart’s title bar. (You can also choose a chart type in the Chart Options tab.) Hover over the icon to see what chart type it represents, then click an icon to display the chart in that format.

The selected chart type is shown in black instead of grey, with a small pointer underneath it.


Each icon represents a type of chart:


In some cases, you might want to create multiple charts for the same data displayed in different ways. One way to do that is to copy the chart and then change the chart type after you paste it from the clipboard. Another is to change the chart type and then use Save as to save it as a new chart (preferably with a new name).

Graph charts

Graphs display datapoints over a period of time. The first four icons in the chart’s title bar represent the four visualization options for graphs.


The following illustrations show how the same data is displayed in each of the chart types.

  • Line chart

  • Area chart

  • Column chart

  • Histogram chart


The chart type you choose here is applied as a default to all the plots on the chart, but you can choose a different Visualization type for individual plots.

To customize a chart, open the Chart Options tab.

Single value chart

This chart type displays a single number in a large font, representing the current value of a single datapoint on a plot line. (If the time period is in the past, the number represents the value of the metric near the end of the time period.)


To display an accurate value, the plot must use an aggregate analytics function that generates a single value for each datapoint on the chart, such as Mean, Sum, Max, etc. (If the plot line will always reflect only a single time series, no analytics function is needed. However, this is uncommon.)

If the plot line on the chart shows multiple values, i.e. one line per MTS when viewed as a line chart, the single number displayed on the chart might represent any of the values for a given point in time.



If multiple plots are marked as visible, the value represents the first visible plot in the list. For example, if plots A and B are visible, the value represents plot A. If you hide plot A, the value represents plot B.

To customize the chart, open the Chart Options tab. An especially useful option for this chart type is Color by value, which lets you use different colors to represent different value ranges.

Heatmap chart

This chart type displays the specified plot in a format similar to the Infrastructure Navigator, with squares representing each source for the selected metric, and the color of each square representing the value range of the metric.


To customize the chart, open the Chart Options tab.

List chart

This chart type displays current data values in a list format. By default, the name of each value in the chart reflects the name of the plot and any associated analytics. We recommend you give the plot a meaningful name, as in plot A below. Otherwise, just the raw metric name will be displayed on the chart, as in plot B below.


To customize the information shown in the list, open the Chart Options tab.

Event Feed chart

This chart type also doesn’t display metric data. Rather, it displays a list of events for one or more event types that you specify. For more information, see Adding an event feed chart to a dashboard.

To customize the information shown in the feed, open the Chart Options tab.

Text chart

This special type of chart doesn’t display any metric data. Rather, it lets you place a text note on the dashboard. For more information, see Adding a text note to a dashboard.

Sharing a chart with others

You can share a chart with others in a few ways, including linking to a copy of the chart and linking to the actual chart. You can also generate a visual representation that you can send directly or automatically display in a Slack channel. For more information, see Sharing a chart.

Editing a chart

To edit a chart, simply open it from any dashboard or the Infrastructure Navigator. Editing a chart is essentially identical to building a chart (see Plotting Metrics and Events in the Chart Builder).

If you don’t have write permissions for the dashboard containing the chart, or you are in a built-in dashboard, you will have to use Save as to save the edited chart.

Exporting chart contents

You can export the chart contents to a CSV file. The most recent 100 datapoints will be exported, along with the values of the dimensions associated with them. To export a chart, select Export Chart as CSV from the chart’s Actions menu.

Saving a chart

When you are finished creating or editing a chart, click Save, Save as, or Save and close at the upper right to save the chart. (The button text varies depending on how you created or opened the chart.) If the button is not labeled with the option you want, you can select other options from the chart’s Actions menu.


If you don’t have write permissions for the dashboard you are viewing, or you are in a built-in dashboard, you won’t see an option to save the chart. Instead, you will have to use Save as to save the chart.

If you don’t want to save your changes, click Close.


If you click Close, you will not be prompted to save the chart, even if you have made some changes. Any unsaved changes will be lost.

What’s next?

Once you have created or saved a new version of a chart, you can share it, or add and edit content in the Chart Builder.