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When you look at a dataset page (e.g. pick one from the datasets list), you will see 3 tabs:
The Data section is the way to explore and view the main contents of the dataset through the website. The About section presents a description of the dataset and other metadata that helps you know how to interpret the data and how you can use it. The API section is aimed at developers and analysts who want to query the data or view all details, presenting machine readable metadata about the dataset.
To get to a familiar spreadsheet-like tabular view of the data, you need to start locking down the dimensions of the data - like applying a filter.
Once all but one of the dimensions are locked, you'll see a table with geographical areas as the rows, and the dimension you left unlocked as the columns. So for example if you want to see a table showing change over time, you can leave the Reference Period dimension unlocked, so that all values of Reference Period are shown.
Once you have filtered a dataset to get a table, you can download the contents of that table as a CSV file, for viewing in a spreadsheet or other application. See the button labelled '.csv' below the table itself.
You can filter the table to show only areas of a particular type using the drop-down menu above the table.
All blue-coloured text in the site is a link, that you can click on to get more information. Click on the header of a column in a table to see more options. You can sort the data in the table according to the value of that column, view the data on a map or chart using the 'Visualise this column' option (see Maps and Charts for more detail), view the definition of the column header, or add the column to your data cart. (See the 'help' tab on the data cart page for details).
Click on an individual cell in the table to find out more about that data point (also known as an observation). That takes you to a page that provides more detail on that observation, including showing it in the context of related observations. This might include a time series or bar chart.
Most of the data on the website is statistical data, published in the form of multidimensional datasets. You don’t need to know about this to use the site, but some background knowledge on working with multidimensional data may be useful.
Most pages in this site have an API tab which includes contextual details of how to access the data programmatically. The API tab on the Getting Started help page describes some overarching principles.