Tableau Tips and Tricks

by Harry Osborne

Since starting with the Data School, I have had revealed to me a veritable goldmine of Tableau shortcuts, little workarounds and shortcuts that have made my work 100 times easier. To me, the next logical step on this journey was to share some of my favourite timesaving tools...

#1 - Switching sheets into and out of a pre-built dashboard

This is a shortcut to replacing sheets in a dashboard with new ones you have already built, without destroying the layout. Simply click on the sheet you want to substitute out of the dashboard, and then hover over the sheet name on the left you want to substitute in. On the right-hand side of the sheet you are hovering over, a curved line with arrows at both ends will appear - simply click this, and your sheets will magically swap.

#2 - Copying formatting across multiple sheets

This is a serious time saver. Instead of switching between every sheet and trying to remember your meticulous formatting choices (grid lines, axes fonts etc.), you can right-click on the sheet you have already formatted along the bottom of Tableau and select “copy formatting”. Then it’s as easy as right-clicking the sheets you want to copy this formatting to and selecting “paste formatting”. Sorted!

Right clicking on a Sheet will give the option to "copy formatting" (4th from bottom); "paste formatting" is greyed out as no formatting has been copied yet

#3 - Moving labels

This is something that made me feel stupid the first time I accidentally did this. You can drag and drop automatically generated labels around your viz, so if they’re overlapping/cramped you can just shift them about.

#4 - Blocking highlight actions

Typically, if you click on a bar/point/line on Tableau, it highlights the selected item by greying out the rest of the viz; this feature is useful, but sometimes you want the original viz to be displayed without any change, regardless of what you’ve selected. To do this, create a Calculated Field with anything in quote marks within (I usually just call it DUMMY and write ‘Dummy’ within the calculation). Add this to the detail on whichever sheet you want the highlight to be prevented on, right-click the field and uncheck “include in tooltip”.

An example of a DUMMY field - you can out anything inside the quote marks

Then, go to the ‘Worksheet’ dropdown at the top of Tableau (or, if you’re programming this function for a dashboard, go to ‘Dashboard’ instead) and click on ‘Actions’. Here, select ‘Add Action’ and choose ‘Highlight…’. Here, select your target and source sheet/dashboard, but in the ‘Target Highlighting’ section, choose ‘Selected Fields’ and uncheck everything apart from your DUMMY field. Now, your highlight will avoid the element you’re preserving, and instead highlight the DUMMY field (which is absent from the viz, so has no effect). A bit more convoluted, but a useful tip nonetheless!

How to set up the DUMMY highlight action

#5 - Show/Hide Cards button

At some point, everybody has hidden a title, filter or shelf without meaning to, and finding out where it’s gone often feels a bigger task than it should. Have no fear - the solution is right in front of you. Simply click the third button from the right in the toolbar at the top of Tableau (three boxes next to a bar graph), and check/uncheck the element you want to show/hide. This also includes the option for captions, parameters, and even to reset the view to the default presentation of elements.

Show/Hide Cards is situated between the size dropdown menu (currently at "Standard") and the "Presentation Mode" button

#6 - Copy and Paste in your own test data

This is a tip I only just had revealed to me, and it makes a lot of sense if you want to quickly trail a technique without pulling in a full dataset. You can copy and paste a data exerpt into your Tableau worksheets by doing the usual CTRL+C, CTRL+V, and it will appear as a datasource under the name 'Clipboard', followed by an alphanumeric string. From there, you can put the data through its paces, and get an early idea of what its limitations and flexibility allows.

An example of Clipboard-pasted data above a regular data connection