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Tableau Desktop

Resource guide to get you started.


Learning Objectives

  • Familiarize readers with the Tableau Desktop User Interface.

A typical Tableau Desktop User Interface (UI) looks something like this:Tableau Desktop user interfaceUI is composed of following six components:

1. Menus

Like in most application software UI, drop down menus in Tableau provide a wide range of functionalities. File menu, for example, allows the user to create a new project (called a workbook in Tableau), open an existing workbook, or to import/export workbooks. We will learn more about these Menus through tutorials presented in this guide.

2. Toolbar

Toolbar provides quick access to common actions such as:

  1. navigates to the start page.

  2. takes to Connect pane from where user can connect to a new data source.

  3. creates a new worksheet.

  4.  hides everything except the worksheet (view).

  5. is a smart, handy button which helps user choose a view by highlighting chart types that can be (options) and should be (recommended) used with the selected data fields.


3. Side bar

The side bar has two panes: Data and Analytics.

Data pane display the data fields that are present in the connected data source. It is further organized into several areas:

Dimensionscontains category data where the values are often strings or Boolean types.

Measurescontains numerical data that can be aggregated. Measures fields are by default assigned to be continuous. This, however can be changed by clicking on the field and choosing discrete assignment.

Analytics pane provides drag-and drag access to common analytic tools. One can also access these tools from the Analysis Menu.

4. Cards

One can simply drag-and-drop fields on shelves or cards, and discover the most effective way to present the data.

  1. Rows and Columns: Allows you to create the rows and columns of a data view.
  2. Filters: Exclude data from the view.
  3. Pages: Create pages
  4. Marks: Control marks properties such as type, color, shape, and so on. It is a very powerful visualization tool set especially when you are trying to pack a lot of information through your chart.
  5. Legends

5. Sheet (also termed View)

This is the window of prime interest as the visualization/output is displayed here. A workbook can have three different types of sheets: worksheets, dashboards, and stories.

  • A worksheet is where you build views of your data by dragging and dropping fields onto shelves. 
  • A dashboard is a combination of several views that you can arrange for presentation or to monitor.
  • A story is a sequence of visualizations that coherently conveys a set of related information much like a story. Stories can be created to tell a data narrative, provide context to make a compelling case. 

Besides rows and columns, a view itself is compromised of several basic (such as Headers, Axes, Cells, Panes and Marks) and optional (Titles, Captions, Field Labels and Legends) components.

6. Sheet tabs

Tabs indicate all sheets (worksheets, dashboards or stories) in your workbook. It also allows the user to create new sheets and access the data sources page.

Learning Objectives

  • Learn how to connect, import and prepare data before using the visualization tools in Tableau.

One must first connect to data source and import data before attempting to build views and data analysis.

1. Launch Tableau Desktop

Tableau presents you the following Connect pane when you open the program. It allows you to connect to a variety of data types such as Excel, Pdf or Access files stored locally on your computer, or to a big data or cube database on a server, or to cloud database source such as Google Analytics.

2. Click Excel on this Connect pane. Navigate to the Sample - Superstore excel file on your computer (/My Documents/My Tableau Repository/Datasources/10.0/[language]/).Select and Open this file.

Photo showing how to connect to Excel.

3. Once Tableau is connected to the Excel data, the data source page shows the sheets ("Orders, People, Returns" in this example) in your data. Double click on "Orders" sheet or drag it to the canvas to add it to Tableau data grid.

Photo of the Tableau data in Excel sheets.


One can perform several operations on the loaded data grid:

4. To Sort a data column, hover the pointer over the column header.  will appear. Click on it once to sort data in ascending order, and twice for sorting in descending order. Sorting of the data grid according to 'Order Date' is illustrated here.

Photo of how to sort data.

5. Splitting of a column data is done very easily in Tableau. Right click on the desired column header, and select the 'Split' or 'Custom Split' options. Custom Split allows users to specify the separators for a customized splitting of data. Splitting of 'Customor Name' is shown here.

Photo on how to split a column of data.

6. Users are encouraged to try out other operations (e.g. renaming or hiding a data entry) on their own.

Photo of try out other Tableau operations. 

6. Data Joins 

7. Click the sheet tab to go to the new worksheet and start building your views with the connected data.


Learning Objectives

  • Build basic views in Tableau.
  • Adding fields to the views.
  • Managing several fields using multiple headers and/or axes.

1. Connect and import "Sample-Superstore.xlsx" -> "Orders" data to Tableau as we did in the 'Connecting to Data' tutorial.

2. Click on the Sheet tab to go to the new worksheet. Data pane on the left of the worksheet lists down the currently active source database and its constituent fields. As mentioned in the 'Tableau Work Environment' tutorial, category data and numerical data are respectively grouped as Dimensions (colored blue) and Measures (colored green) in Tableau. Go ahead, right click on the sheet tab and rename it as 'My First Sheet' or whatever.

3. Next, we need to add fields from the Data pane to the view.  Various ways in which you can do this are listed here (in the increasing order of our personal preference):

3a. Drag and drop the fields of interest on the main 'Drop field here' to create a view from a tabular perspective. OR,

3b. Double-click on the fields of interest. Using its intelligence, Tableau picks and builds up a chart on its own. OR,

3c. Select fields and then identify the chart type that appeals the most to you from the Show Me card. Show Me highlights the chart types that can be used with the selected set of fields. OR,

3d. Drag and drop fields onto the Rows or Columns shelves. Note that:

  • Dropping a field onto Rows will arrange its entries vertically in the view. Similarly, Columns refers to the entries placed horizontally in the view.
  • Dimensions are typically transformed to the row or column headers in a view, where as measures values are shown on continuous axes.
  • Rows and Columns in the view can be rearranged by moving the field tabs (in view or in rows/columns shelves).
  • You can remove a field by clicking on it and selecting Remove in the drop down menu.

4. Multiple fields: You can add a field to the existing view by dragging it to the either side of a header or an axis. The final appearance of the view can vary depending on which side of the view (or the rows/columns shelves tabs) you drop the new field. For example:

a. Dropping 'Region' to the left side of 'Segment' will slice the data such that you will see the sales for each market segment within each region, whereas dropping it on the right side will show you the sales for each region within each segment. Dropping it on the existing header will replace the 'Segment' header with 'Region'.

b. Dropping 'Profit' on  (activated near the top left portion of the 'Sales' axis when you drag a field) will replace the sales axis with profit axis.

c. Dropping 'Profit' onto the top of the existing 'Sales' axis elsewhere will add the two measures to the same chart using a common axis. Note that dropping it above or below the axis will create two different panels for sales and profits.

d. Dropping' Profit' to the right side of the view will add second axis to the same chart. 

5. Note that when a measure field is added to the worksheet, by default its sum is reflected in the view. If desired, you can instead change it to (say) average of the measure by clicking on the field tab in shelves and choosing the appropriate option from the drop down menu. This drop down menu offers several other options. We will use only some of them in this guide. You are encouraged to explore the remaining on your own.


Learning Objectives

  • Utilize the features in Marks cards (Type, Color and Size of Marks, in particular) for an impactful visualization of complex information.
  • Data filtering.
  • Drilling down and up in a data hierarchy.

We will pick up from where we left in previous tutorial, and execute following steps:

1. Go to Marks shelf and access its drop down menu (highlighted in red in following picture) which is typically set at Automatic by default. Choose the mark type that you find most relevant for your data.Photo showing the Marks shelf.

2. Next, we will use the Color feature in the mark card to display the regional sales data. Drag the 'Region' field from Dimensions and drop it on the Color button. This will break down the total sales chart into regional sales chart as shown.

Photo showing how to use the color feature.


3. Execute the above steps to display the time series progression of regional profit figures. Lets say we want to simultaneously look at corresponding sales volumes. One way to visualize this information is by varying the size of marks (in the case, thickness of the profit line charts) in proportion to their corresponding sales volume. Drop the 'Sales' field onto the Size button to achieve this.Photo showing how to drop the sales field into the sales function.


4. We are now interested in exploring the 'Corporate' segment figures using the Filter shelf. Drag and drop the 'Segment' field in the Filter shelf. Select the segment of your interest, i.e. Corporate, in the prompt window for the desired filtering.

A photo of the corporate segment.


5. Tableau allows you to drill up or down to navigate hierarchies by clicking on fields placed on any shelf. This step illustrates the drilling down in time hierarchy. Click on the '+' sign (highlighted red in the following figure) next to the Order field in the Column shelf. It will drown the data view from Year to Quarter (the next level), allowing you to view profit trend over the four quarters.

A photo of how to navigate the hierarchies.

Learning Objectives

  • Working with geographical data/maps.
  • Using tooltip and annotation.
  • Keeping or excluding specific data points in the view.
  • Data grouping.

1. The dataset that we have been using in our tutorials has certain fields which contain geographical information about the data entries. The geographical nature of these fields is identified by the  icon marked in front of them. Double click on one of the fields, e.g. 'State', to activate the map view in the worksheet window.

Photo of the data sets of geographical information.

2. To display the sum of profits for each state, double click on the 'Profit' field.

Photo of how to display sums for each state.

3. Choropleth maps are often very effective of showing geographical distribution of a measure. Drop 'Profit' field on the color tab to generate one such map for our data.

Photo of Choropleth maps.

4. If you hover the pointer (called tooltip in Tableau) over a state in the view, it will display certain information related to that state. User can control the information displayed via this tooltip by dragging and dropping the desired field(s) over the Tooltip button in the Marks shelf.

Photo of state information.

5. If you further click on a state using the tooltip, it will highlight the selected state and display options such as Keep Only, Exclude, Group and Create Set. As shown in the following figure, Keep Only option is executed to keep only the Indiana results. Further, right-click and select the Annotate->Mark from the menu to display the state information.

Photo of selected state features.

6. You may also select multiple states and group them together. Lasso selection tool is used to select the states bordering the Gulf of Mexico here. Once the states are selected, select the Group option to group them together. If desired, this group can be assigned an appropriate alias as shown.

Photo of the lasso selection tool.

Coming soon!