For A Beginner, By A Beginner - Time Savers and Life Changers

by Alex Harrison-Wood

Today’s blog post points out a couple of time savers you may appreciate, and something that will revolutionise your world (if you didn’t know it already).


Have you ever created a chart, and then had to manually format the axis to represent your value, such as sticking a “£” sign or making the scale a percentage etc.? Of course you have, however it gets rather tiresome when you need to do the same formatting on the same measurement graph after graph, after graph, after graph….

Well there is good news! If you right click on the measurement in the data pane (far left), then “Default Properties” and finally “Number Format”, you will be able to set the desired formats as a default from now on! No more wasting time and fiddling around.


The second time saver for today is the use of “Relative Dates”. Say you have a list of historical sales figures and their order dates for the past 10 years, you can throw them into a graph and you will probably get a line or bar graph spanning that 10 year period, with the option to drill-down to quarter/month/week/day and so forth (if you don’t know how to do this, on the date pill in the shelf, there should be a “+” if you press this is gives you greater granularity – i.e. month and so forth. You can then customise your view accordingly, for instance by “Month” and “Day” etc.).

But what if you are only interested in displaying the last 3 quarters? Or a 6 month period between 2001-2002? Well one way would be to set a whole load of filters to try and single out the period you want, and if you wanted to change it a few moments later, you would have to go back into those filters and manually tick or untick the appropriate fields. An easier way, would be to drag that date value onto the filters card, and press “Relative Date”. You are then given a range of choices to decide what you want to display. Want the last 2 years only? Simple, press “Years” then “Last” and type in “2” in the box. Want June 2007 to January 2008? Simple, click “Range of Dates” and drag the sliders across accordingly. This save so much time and fuss!


Ok, time for the big reveal, the game changer, the feature I cannot believe I have only just been told about (if you already know it then this is going to be a major let down)!

How many times have you decided to view two measures (correctly called continuous fields) and decided to make a dual axis, only to decide that, you could actually do with one more measure? But of course Tableau is only on a screen and can only produce 2D charts. How frustrating… But did you know that you can use shared axes? If you pick up your third measure, and drag it across the left hand axis (only works on the left hand axis, dropping it on the right replaces what is already there), and just hover over it for a moment, you should see two green rulers appear. If you then release your mouse, the new measure will share the first’s axis!!! This can be done as many times as you like, although I would imagine it would get rather confusing the more you pile on…..


Imagine the possibilities, you could have Taxes, Spending, and GDP; or Cost, Sales, and Profits; or Miles, Fuel Consumption, and Time (as a continuous) all on one graph! The mind boggles….


Alex Harrison-Wood

Mon 20 Aug 2018

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Tue 14 Aug 2018