5 Tips to Go Beyond the ‘Show Me’ Button in Tableau

by Jeremy Kneebone

Ok, so you’ve used Tableau for a while. The first time you created a workbook, you found the ‘Show Me’ button in the top right-hand corner, which instantly brought up the chart you wanted. It was brilliant.


Maybe you don’t think it’s so brilliant any more. Because you’ve used ‘Show Me’ as your primary dashboard-building method, you might not know exactly how to build particular dashboards in Tableau, or how your favourite dashboards work. If you want anything that differs from those standard chart types, you might take ages to build a relatively simple view, or end up using trial-by-error to find the configuration you want.


Yeah, I’ve been there too: joining the Data School has helped me move beyond the ‘Show Me’ function, allowing me to build dashboards much more quickly and effectively. The range of charts I can make has increased substantially, and standard charts now take less time to build.


How, then, do you move beyond the Show Me button? Here are my five top tips for really getting to know how Tableau works, in chronological order.


  1. Learn the difference between the green pills and the blue pills.

You might have heard this before, but blue pills are discrete fields, dividing the view up into sections; whereas green pills are continuous fields, which don’t divide the view. If you want a long sequence such as a line chart, you’ll need your date as a green pill. If you need to look at bar charts at each year separately, you’ll need your date as a blue pill. Practice this one a lot, particularly if it’s a date field.

  1. Use the Marks card more.

It’s really simple to change the kind of chart you’re drawing: in the marks card on the left-hand side you can change the kind of mark from Automatic to whatever you’re trying to draw, e.g. a bar or a line. If you put the right fields into the columns and rows, then change the option on the Marks card, you generally get the kind of chart you’re looking for.

  1. Learn how to build your standard charts with a few clicks.

For example, if you want a line graph of Sales by Year, drag your date field to the Columns, select the continuous year field (in the second half of the list); then drag Sales to the rows. You have your line graph. For a bar graph, use a blue pill for the Columns (e.g. Category) and a green pill for the Rows (e.g. Sales). Work out how a few more of your favourite charts are built, using a combination of dragging pills to the Column and Filter Shelves and changing options on the Marks card.

  1. Learn the Ctrl, click and drag tip

If a pill is on the Column or Row shelves, Ctrl, click, drag and drop to the same shelf. It creates a second axis. You can create a different chart and set up a dual axis: this is a great way of building many new charts.

  1. Learn a few table calculations.

Table calculations are incredibly useful and really easy. Add a table calculation from the drop-down menu of a green pill you’ve already placed in your view. If you can easily do running sums and moving averages, there’s a whole new universe of charts you can build.

© 2022 The Information Lab Ltd. All rights reserved.