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Build queries in Honeycomb

When working with a dataset, the primary control for constructing queries is the Query Builder. Below is an example of the Builder, ready for you to make changes to the query’s clauses and run it over your data by applying those changes.

The Query Builder

A query in Honeycomb consists of five clauses:

The default output for most queries will be a time series and a summary table, though the precise composition will depend on the composition of your query:

Let’s take a closer look at how to use each of these clauses, and cases in which each of them can be particularly useful. When we discuss the effects of each of these operations, events are inputs to the query (the series of raw payloads you sent that match a set of criteria). Results, on the other hand, refer to the output of a query after any applicable processing or aggregation.

Working with the Query Builder

Click on any box in the query builder to edit the clauses there. In this shot, the user has set Visualize to be count and has Grouped By hostname. Now, they’re adding a new Where clause on status code. Honeycomb autocomplete helps construct the query.

Screenshot illustrating editing the Query Builder


Honeycomb supports a wide range of calculations to provide insight into your events. When a grouping is provided, calculations occur within each group; otherwise, anything calculated is done so over all matching events.

For example, say you’ve collected the following events from your web server logs:

Timestamp uri status_code response_time_ms
2016-08-01 07:30 /about 500 126
2016-08-01 07:45 /about 200 57
2016-08-01 07:57 /docs 200 82
2016-08-01 08:03 /docs 200 23

Specifying a visualization for a particular attribute (e.g. P95(response_time_ms)) means to apply the aggregation function (in this case, P95, or taking the 95th percentile) over the values for the attribute (response_time_ms) across all input events.

Defining multiple “visualize” clauses is common and can be useful, especially when comparing the outputs of each of the visualizations (e.g. comparing the AVG to the P95 of some value).

While most visualize queries return a line graph, the Heatmap visualize allows you to create powerful Heatmaps, which allow you to see the distribution of data in a rich and interactive way; and allow you to use BubbleUp.

Visualize: basic case

Scenario: we want to capture overall statistics for our web server. Given our four-event dataset described above, consider a query which contains:

These calculations would return statistics across the entirety of our dataset:

COUNT AVG(response_time_ms) P95(response_time_ms)
4 72 119.4


Sometimes you want to constrain the events by some attribute besides time: ignoring an outlier case, for example, or isolating events triggered by a particular actor or circumstance.

For example, say you’ve collected the following events from your web server logs:

Timestamp uri status_code
2016-08-01 08:15 /about 500
2016-08-01 08:22 /about 200
2016-08-01 08:27 /docs 403

You can define any number of arbitrary constraints based on event values. Where clauses work in concert with the specified time range to define the events that are ultimately considered by any Group By or Visualize clauses.

Note that the Where clause does not require string delimiters or escape characters; to match a url of /docs, simply enter url = /docs.

Where: basic case

Scenario: we want to understand the frequency of unsuccessful web requests. Given our three-event dataset described above, consider a query which contains:

The Where clause removes the successful event (our /about web request returning a 200) from consideration, and only counts the first and third events towards our Visualize clause:


Where: multiple clauses

Scenario: we want to refine our constraints further, to span multiple attributes for each event. Combining where clauses returns events that satisfy either the intersection of all specified Where clauses, or the union*. Given our three-event dataset described above, consider a query which contains:

As all three events are considered by the Where clauses, only the first one satisfies both:

Timestamp uri status_code
2016-08-01 08:55 /about 500

Honeycomb also allows you to look at the union of clauses by setting to an OR.

Timestamp uri status_code
2016-08-01 08:55 /about 500
2016-08-01 08:27 /docs 403

Group By

Being able to separate a series of events into groups by attribute is a powerful way to compare segments of your dataset against each other.

For example, say you’ve collected the following events from your web server logs:

Timestamp uri status_code
2016-08-01 07:30 /about 500
2016-08-01 07:45 /about 200
2016-08-01 07:57 /docs 200

You might want to analyze your web traffic in groups based on the uri (“/about” vs “/docs”) or the status_code (500 vs 200). Choosing to group by uri would return two result rows: one representing events in which uri="/about" and another representing events in which uri="/docs". Each of these grouped results rows will be represented by a single line on a graph.

Grouping by more than one attribute will consider each unique combination of values as a single group. Here, choosing to group by both uri and status_code will return three groups: /about+500, /about+200, and /docs+200.

Grouping, paired with calculation, can often reveal interesting patterns in your underlying events—grouping by uri, for example, and calculating response time stats will show you the slowest (or fastest) uris.

TIP: Honeycomb supports grouping your data based on any attribute in an event, though you’ll likely receive the clearest results by choosing an attribute with an uneven distribution within your data.

Grouping and Visualizing: Better Together

Scenario: we want to examine performance of our web server by endpoint. Given our four-event dataset described above, consider a query which contains:

Pairing a Grouping clause with a Visualize clause results in events being grouped by uri; Honeycomb draws one line for each group, and calculates statistics within each group:

uri COUNT AVG(response_time_ms)
/about 2 91.5
/docs 2 52.5

This technique is particularly powerful when paired with an Order By and a Limit to return “Top K”-style results.

In this figure, the user has a VISUALIZE by COUNT, GROUP BY eventtype. The two curves, in purple and orange, show the two groups. The popup shows that the user is hovering the trace_span eventtype, which has a count of 1460 in that 15-second time range.

Query Builder with two result rows

When you roll your mouse over the results list at the bottom of the page, each group is highlighted in turn. The user has highlighted request and sees the orange line highlighted, and the purple line dimmed.

Query Builder highlighting the request row

Rollover for heatmaps is slightly different, and described on the Heatmaps page.

Order By and Limit

Order clauses define an ordering on results rows, while Limit clauses simply limit the total number of result rows to retrieve. They can be used independently but are most powerful together, to capture the “Top K” of some set of results.

For example, say you’ve collected the following events from your web server logs:

Timestamp uri status_code response_time_ms
2016-08-01 09:17 /about 200 57
2016-08-01 09:18 /about 500 234
2016-08-01 09:20 /404 200 12
2016-08-01 09:25 /docs 200 82

You can define any number of Order By clauses in a query and they will be respected in the order they’re specified.

The Order By clauses available to you for a particular query are influenced by whether any Group By or Visualize clauses are also specified. If none are, you may order by any of the attributes contained in the dataset. However, once a Group By or Visualize clause exists, you may only order by the values generated by those clauses.

Order: basic case

Scenario: we just want to get a sense of the slowest endpoints in our web server. Given our four-event dataset described above, consider a query which contains:

Remember that when no Visualize clauses are defined, we simply return raw events as the result rows:

Timestamp uri status_code response_time_ms
2016-08-01 09:18 /about 500 234

Order by: paired with Visualize and Group By clauses

Scenario: we want to capture statistics for our web server and know what we’re looking for (long response_time_mss). Given our four-event dataset described above, consider a query which contains:

Our Group By and Visualize queries influence what will be returned as result rows (uri and the P95(response_time_ms) for events within each distinct uri group), while the Order by determines the sort order of those results (longest P95(response_time_ms) first) and the Limit throws away any results beyond the top 2:

uri P95(response_time_ms)
/about 225.15
/docs 82

As you can see, any results referencing the event with uri="/404" was excluded from our result set as a result of its relatively low response_time_ms.

This sort of Top K query is particularly valuable when working with high-cardinality data sets, where a Group by clause might split your dataset into a very large number of groups.

Dataset Switcher

The dataset switcher allows you to change the dataset you’re working on without changing the query.

Screenshot illustrating using the Dataset Switcher

When you switch datasets, Honeycomb will load the existing query on that dataset, but it won’t run it automatically. You can execute it by typing Shift + Enter or clicking the Run Query button. You can also clear the query by clicking the Clear link underneath the Run Query button.

This functionality is especially useful when switching between testing and production datasets, where much of the schema overlaps. It’s also useful when you need to view a specific time range across multiple datasets (yes, the time range of the query is included when you switch datasets).

If there are fields in the query that do not exist in the new dataset, Honeycomb will display an informational notice letting you know that those fields were removed from the query.

Screenshot illustrating the informational message

Note: In Secure Tenancy environments, queries are not preserved on dataset switching.

Terminology Note

Earlier versions of Honeycomb used somewhat different terms:

In addition, the fields were ordered differently. You may find these earlier terms through the documentation and our old blog posts. Functionally, however, these are precisely the same.

Want more examples? Ask! We’re happy to help.