Tips, Tricks, and Timesavers
Mastering the basics of building visualizations and dashboards isn’t difficult or time-consuming. Most people achieve very good results without having to spend a lot of time learning the nuances of data visualization or mastering more advanced techniques.
In this post, you will learn some time saving tips for building new views, altering the default formats of fields and axis headers, creating new fields and customizing the content and appearance of Tooltips. These tips will help you save time, expand your knowledge, and will generally impress your readers. A trick for using legends to change the order in which data is presented in views will also be explained. After learning how to customize shapes, colors and fonts— useful advanced chart types will be presented that demonstrate how to create more advanced chart types that aren’t directly supported using the Show Me menu. The post will close by introducing some simple methods for creating subtle behavior in dashboards that will set the table for a more extensive treatment of dashboard-building in “bringing it all together with dashboards” post.
Saving Time and improving formatting
There are normally several ways to accomplish desired results in Tableau. Becoming faster at achieving the outcome takes a little practice. Knowing shortcuts that save seconds when you are creating an individual view can add up to hundreds of hours per year. If your team has many people using Tableau, the time-savings can be significant.
Double-Click Fields to Build Faster
A good way to see the data set quickly is to double click on any measure or dimension. This will display on the canvas in a way that Tableau thinks you will want to see the data. Alternatively, if you double click on the ‘Measure Names’ pill, it will display all the measures as a cross-tab. If your data set contains a time period, by double clicking this also, it will display as a cross tab. I find this useful to get an initial understanding of the data before I start to build the visualisations.
Note: This works better and quicker if your data source is Excel or Access. It may drag its heels a bit if the data source is in a data warehouse or is a very large dataset
Double-click on any field to quickly create a view or add it to an existing view. If you are working with a file-based datasource (Excel or Access), you can utilize the measure names and measure value fields to quickly create an overview of an unfamiliar data set.
Warning: Do not use this technique if you are connecting to a very large database as it may overload your system. Start your analysis by double-clicking on the measure names field. This will result in every measure contained in the data window being displayed as a cross tab— providing a quick view of the facts contained in the data set. Add a time element to see value breakdowns. Figure 7.1 required only three mouse selections to generate.
Figure 7.1: Double-click to review the set
When you drive into a data set for the first time, knowing measure totals, the number of records in the set, and the breakdown overtime helps you tie-out amounts in your views against source data batch totals.
Figure 7.1 was created by:
Reduce clicks using the right-mouse button drag
Normally when you select a field you need to drop the Dimension, Measure or Set in first, then apply the SUM, Average or alteration of Field Property. However, if you want to save yourself a click you can right click drag a field onto a worksheet by using a right click drag, once you let go you will be prompted with a window showing all the possible field dimensional properties or measure calculations.
It also saves time when you want to display dates, numbers, or text, use the right mouse button when you drag fields into a view. Using this method to place the field pills opens a dialog box that gives you access to more presentation options and significantly reduces the number of mouse clicks required to customize the result.
Figure 7.2 shows the three different dialog boxes that are provided.
Figure 7.2: Use right-click drag to expose options
Option one in figure 7.2 is the dialog box presented when a date field is placed with a right-click drag. Option two is for measures, and option three is for a non-date dimension. In each case the right-click drag and drop provides direct access to all the available options for expressing time, measure aggregation and different ways strings can be expressed.
Quick Copy Fields with Control-Drag
Holding the control button down while dragging an active field causes a copy of that pill to be created wherever it’s placed. This is particularly helpful if you want to build a table calculation using an active field, or if you want to use a measure or dimension that is expressed in the row or column shelf on the marks card as well.
When in a worksheet you will find that you are constantly dragging and dropping from the:
Once you drop one of these into a dashboard, normally we will go about creating table calculations or using the same measure, but running an average on that measure to provide a more detailed dashboard. To save you the time of going back to the sidebar lists, try clicking on a measure or dimension that is already in a display that you wish to copy and hold the control (CTRL) and drag it to where you need it to go.
tableau control and drag
Replace Fields by Dropping the New Field on Top
Dropping any measure or dimension on top of a field, already expressed in the view will result in that field being replaced with the new selection. This is particularly useful if you are exploring a data set for the first time and want to cycle through a variety of measures using the same view. After creating an initial view and then duplicating that chart, you can use this technique to quickly create a series of charts, each displaying a different measure.
Using Tooltips to drill into details exploring marks within a view generates questions when you find outliers. Figure 7.3 shows how you can use a Tooltip to expose the underlying source data.
Figure 7.3: Use the tooltip to expose the data
The tooltip contains a button on the far right that can be used to expose a summary of the mark’s make-up, all of the details contained in the data set pertaining to that mark, or selected details. Rearrange columns within the exposed table by dragging them manually. You can also sort the rows by clicking-on any column to toggle between ascending or descending sort of the data included in the column selected. If the tooltip doesn’t include the details you want to answer your question, this technique will provide access to all of the dimensions and measures available in the source data set.
Right-click to edit or format anything
If you don’t like the appearance of any element contained in a view, a quick way to get to the appropriate formatting option menu is to point at the objectionable element, right-click, and select format. A context-specific formatting menu will appear in place of the data shelf area on the left side of the workspace. Figure 7.4 shows how flexible formatting can be.
Figure 7.4: Right –click formatting
Special formatting in Figure 7.4 has been applied to rows, columns, panes, totals, and subtotals. Year headers are in a green font. The headings for each quarter, the subtotal heading for each year, and the grand total heading for the column displaying the grand total for both years are colored blue. The “All Years” text was edited from the default “Grand Total” heading text. A custom red color was applied to the year total panes, and a custom black bold font was applied to the column totals at the bottom of the crosstab by applying a custom font to the pane and the header of the grand total row. Finally, the red shades were applied to the row banding in the pane and in the header. While there is more than one way to apply these customizations, the easiest way is to point at the screen element , right-click, and Tableau will present the appropriate set of formatting controls on the left-side of the workspace.
Editing or Removing Titles from Axis Headings
Sometimes it is desirable to edit axis titles or remove them entirely. This can be done by pointing at the axis (white space or header) and selecting the Edit Axis option. Figure 7.5 shows the menu that is displayed.
Not only does the Edit Axis menu allow you to edit or remove the axis title (without removing the axis header), you can also modify the title or erase the title in the Title box as you see in Figure 7-5. Later in this post, you’ll see how a range selection can be used to create a Sparkline chart.
Figure 7.5: Edit axis menu
Speed Up Your Presentation Page Views
Making your presentations truly interactive by replacing static slide decks with interactive visualizations provides a powerful and flexible story. If your Tableau workbook has many different worksheets and dashboards, loading each new worksheet can cause delays as each worksheet or dashboard is materialized. Avoid delay by preloading your dashboard views.
Preloading the views is done by accessing the multiple worksheet view (the PowerPoint slide deck style view) from the tab in the upper right of the screen. Figure 7.6 shows all of the worksheets and dashboards contained within the workbook.
Figure 7.6: Worksheet window
Right-clicking in the worksheet window exposes a menu option refresh all thumbnails-that triggers tableau to query the data source(s) used for all the worksheets and dashboards in the workbook. Now as you run through your presentation, each worksheet and dashboard will be preloaded and will materialize instantly.
You can also trigger a query of all of the data sources via the filmstrip view of worksheets as seen in figure 7.7
Figure 7.7: Filmstrip view
Turn on the filmstrip view by clicking on the small up and down show filmstrip option in the lower right of the worksheet. Trigger the worksheet by right-clicking within the filmstrip sheet area seen on the right-side of figure 7.7.
A faster way to access field menu options
Hovering over a field pill that is placed anywhere in your work sheet will expose a drop-down arrow located on the right side of the pill. Clicking on the drop-down arrow exposes menu options related to the measure or dimension. Figure 7.8 shows the exposed menu.
Figure 7.8: Exposing a pill menu
An easier way to expose the same menu is to point anywhere at the field pill and click the right mouse button. The same menu will be exposed in a way that requires less precise pointing.
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