Tableau Tips - Volume 2

It's Tableau Tip month and based on the interest and traffic on my blog post from January for my Tableau Tips here, I decided to create a second installment. So here's another group of 10 quick Tableau Tips.
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#10 - Drag files to the Tableau desktop icon for quick import.

This simple and quick way to get data into Tableau. Just drag a data file onto the Tableau icon and Tableau will open the file. Drop a Microsoft Excel file or text file on the icon and Tableau will bring up the standard data import window.

#9 - Copy and Paste data into Tableau.

Copy data into your clipboard and paste it in Tableau. This will work from the opening screen or when you are already in an existing Tableau workbook. Control-C to copy and Control-V to paste is a super fast way to get data into Tableau. You can also click "Data" and then "Paste Data" if you prefer.

#8 - Move X-Axis to the top of chart.

There is an option under the "Analysis" tab, click "Table Layout" and then "Advanced" and check the box "Show innermost level at bottom of view when there is a vertical axis". This will move the most detailed dimension level on the y-axis to the top.

#7 - Move X-Axis to the top of chart - alternative method.

Maybe you don't want to change every chart to have the X-axis at the top of the chart, but you want to move it for specific charts. Copy your dimension from the X-axis and place it next to the dimension on Columns. Now you can unselect "Show Header" for one dimension without affecting the view of the other.

#6 - Move Y-Axis to the right side of chart.

Maybe you want to create an Economist-style line chart in Tableau where the Y-axis is on the right side of the chart. To do this, create a duplicate field of your measure. Then place that field next to your current measure. Make it a dual axis and synchronize the axis. Double click on the primary Y-axis, delete the text from the Title box. Then click on the "Tick Marks" tab and change both options to "None". The axis on the left side will be blank. The only issue is the extra whitespace that is created on the right side of the chart. You can not resize this without resizing both sides of the chart's axis. Still, this might be handy for a different design look.

#5 - Creating single letter month with dates using blue pills.

I really try to avoid rotating and truncating text, especially on the x-axis labels. Don't be afraid to shorten the months to a single letter. If it's a blue pill then just right click on the axis and select "format". You will see an option under "Dates" for "First Letter". This is a great space saver and offers a clean design.

#4 - Creating single letter month and two letter year with dates using green pills.

This is the same tip as #5, but if you are using your dates as a green pill then you will see that the options for date formatting are very different and you don't have an option for the first letter for month. Not to worry. Click on "Custom" for your date options and enter MMMMM. This is the custom format notation for the first letter of month. You can use other similar formatting to shorten dates as well. For example, you can use 'yy with the single quote in front of the two letter year and the labels will appear as '15 for 2015. You can also use M for a single number month (January = 1) and MM for two-digit month (January = 01).

#3 - Creating a custom legend with shapes.

The default color legend in Tableau uses small squares. This can be limiting in your design and even confusing if you are using other shapes in your chart. For example, if you are using a dot plot. The color legend will show squares, but every other shape in the visualization is a dot. In cases like this, create a new worksheet with the dimension you want in the legend and use custom shapes to create your own legend. Then drop that sheet into your dashboard in place of the normal color legend. Added benefit, under Font, click "Match Mark Color" and you can also change the colors of the text to match the shapes!

#2 - Add a thin line to your dashboard using a floating text box.

Creating a simple line on the dashboard canvas can be frustrating. Bringing in images is one option, but here's a quick tip using a floating tile text box. In this dashboard, I created some white space using a vertical container. Create a floating text box and hit the space bar to put in a single empty space. Right click on the text box and select "Format". Select the desired shading color; this will be your line color. Then resize the box as needed to give the desired line width. You can click on the Dashboard sizing to bring height of the box all the way to 1 for the thinnest line possible as well as position the X/Y coordinates to get it exactly where you need it. It's always best to use floating tiles last in your design, otherwise if you make changes to the dashboard you will constantly be moving your floating objects around.

#1 - Open new versions of Tableau workbooks in older versions of Tableau.

This isn't foolproof, but it's been super handy, so I decided this would be the #1 tip of the second volume of quick tips. Consider this, someone created a Tableau workbook using the latest version of Tableau, let's say Tableau 9.2, and then they sent it to you. However, your company is on a previous version of Tableau, let's say 9.0, maybe because your company hasn't upgraded the Tableau Server just yet. What do you do? Unfortunately, the person saving the workbook can't go back in and simply "down save" to a previous version of Tableau and when you open it you get an error message that looks like this.

Here's a quick tip that might save you a ton of time and hassle. Open the workbook file, specifically the uncompressed TWB file, in a text editor. Change the "Ver=" in the XML code to whatever version you need. For example, change Ver=9.2 to be Ver=9.0. Be aware that this won't work in every case because the structure of the XML has changed from older versions to newer versions. However, this has worked for me in many cases with clients as well as my students at the University of Cincinnati .

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

Jeffrey A. Shaffer
Follow on Twitter @HighVizAbility