Creating "Beautiful Minimalistic Maps" in Tableau without Mapbox

Bridget Cogley recently wrote about creating "Beautiful Minimalistic Maps" in Tableau here. She outlines a really great technique for creating a simple map with custom colors using Mapbox styled maps and then removing the map layers to leave the map color and design. I love Mapbox and the integration with Tableau makes it even easier to bring custom map designs into Tableau. However, when I saw Bridget's post, my first thought was, why use Mapbox for that. Why not do this right in Tableau? So here's some quick instructions for creating a very similar result in Tableau without using Mapbox.

Simple Method in Tableau to Create a Minimalistic Map

   1. Create a viz with a map
   2. Select Map in the toolbar
   3. Select "Map Layers" in Tableau 9.2 or "Map Options" in previous versions
   4. Set the Map Style to Light (or whatever Map style you wish to use)
   5. Uncheck Base (this is what forces the water color)


   6. Right click on the map and select Format
   7. Under Format Shading options, change the Default Pane shading to the desired color. With the base map off, the background map color, i.e. the water, will change to the selected color.

The final result will look something like this:

Alternative Method - Changing from the TMS file

This method is more advanced and requires changing your TMS file in Tableau (or adding another one). If you find yourself constantly changing the map style defaults or you simply want your own custom map style in the drop down box then you can change this in the TMS file. This is the technique I used in the Cincinnati War of TUGs visualization located here where we show the Ohio map on a number of visualizations with a chalkboard color background to match the chalkboard design in the viz.

   1. locate your TMS file. This will be in your installation directory, for example, C:\Program Files\Tableau\Tableau9.2\Mapsources. The file that you are looking for is Tableau.tms
   NOTE - Copy this file as a backup so that if something goes wrong you can simply copy it back as Tableau.wms

   2. Open Tableau.wms in a text editor (I use Notepad++, but any text editor will work).

   3. Create a new <mapstyle> section with your new map. Each Map Style has it's own tag in the file. Look for <map-style display-name= and you will find a Map Style for "Light", "Dark" and "Normal". You can copy and paste one of the existing Map Styles to create another Map Style, simply change the name of anything you add into the TMS file so that it shows up in your Map Styles list with a new name.

   4. Change the background color of your new <mapstyle>. You will notice there is a line on the "Dark" map style which changes the background color of the map. To do this, add a line for background_color (or change the line if using the "Dark" layer).
   <map-layer-style name='background_color' request-string='#ede0b0' />

   5. IMPORTANT: Change the inline="true" in the opening lines of your TMS file if you want your new custom map style to save in your Tableau file or on Tableau Public.
   <mapsource inline="true" version="9.2">

Below is a sample Map Style for you to try based on the color Bridget used in her example. Simply copy and paste this code into your TMS file. Then open Tableau, create a map and this "New Map Style" should appear in your list. Uncheck Base and set the other map layers options as desired.

I hope you find this information useful. If you have any questions feel free to email me at Jeff@DataPlusScience.com

Jeffrey A. Shaffer

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