New to Tableau? Or been working with it for a while but find yourself clicking on that back button a little bit too often? Tableau is a great tool for visualization, and it’s easy to use and start playing with. However, it also comes with a few quirks that might catch you offguard. The good thing is, the Tableau community is flourishing. It is easier to find help now than it was a few years ago. There are also already a few books out if you wanted to immerse yourself in Tableau (besides working with the tool and reading the online help).
If you haven’t already, I highly recommend reading 5 things I wish I knew about Tableau when I started by The Information Lab.
Here are a few more tricks you can use to save yourself some time when working with Tableau:
1. Blue vs Green
Knowing the difference between these two alone can save you a lot of time.
Blue = Discrete = produces headers
Blue pills represent discrete data points. By definition, discrete means “individually separate and distinct”. When you drag a blue pill onto a shelf, it will produce headers or labels.
Green = Continuous = produces axis
Green pills represent continuous data points. Continuous is defined as “forming an unbroken whole; without interruption”. When you drag a blue pill onto a shelf, it will produce an axis.
There is also a misconception that dimensions are always discrete and measures are always continuous. That is not the case. In Tableau, we can change the behavior of measures and dimensions. Date is a good example. In the screenshot below you will see that there are two Order Date pills in the shelves, but one is blue and another one is green. The blue pill gives discrete headers (January, February, March etc), while the green pill provides a date axis.
2. Right click drag from data to shelf to open context menu
Sometimes you may be dragging dimensions or measures to your shelves, but needing to open up the properties again to make some changes. One trick you can try is instead of dragging the data field, right click drag the field. On placement, a context menu will pop up and you can make your changes without having to do an extra click.
3. Ctrl + drag to copy a pill
You can easily copy a pill from shelf to shelf, or from shelf to card, or card to shelf, by holding the Ctrl key while you drag the pill. If you don’t hold the Ctrl key, the copy isn’t done, and you’re going to end up moving that pill (which is probably not what you want).
4. Double click measures to create text tables
The easiest way I’ve found to create text tables is by double clicking on the measures. When you double click on the first measure, you will see that the pill be placed on on the Marks card as a label. When you double click on the second measure, you will notice that what’s placed on the Marks card is the Measure Values pill, and new Measure Values card appears.