Tableau Tip: Give your bars a solid foundation.

by Jonathan Allenby

In the afternoon of my first day of DS13 Carl Allchin dropped a handy little tip for improving the way your bar charts look – a tip he in turn picked up from Ryan Sleeper’s Practical Tableau book. This tip specifically targets the way you format the zero line that your bars sit on.

By default, the zero line is a weedy little dotted line. It barely grounds the bars at all. It short it’s rubbish. Below you can see how this originally looked for my week 6 2019 Makeover Monday.

A weedy zero line.

The immediate solution that pops up to resolve this is to just format the chart and thicken the zero line! However, this comes with it’s own issue: the bars now sit on top of the zero line. The base for the bar charts has now gone from weedy to meek, hiding behind the bars. This is also rubbish.

A scared zero line.

The tip to help improve this situation and give us the strong foundation we desire is to forgo the zero line and instead use a constant line!

  1. Go to the worksheet for the chart and change to the Analytics tab.

2. Double click on Constant Line and enter in a value of 0.

3. Right-click on the new reference line. It’ll be layered over your zero axis. Select Edit.

4. Set the Label to “None”.

5. Format the line to your hearts content. A thick, dark line can offer a good foundation for your bars to sit on.

And that’s it! You can see the result below.

No toppling these bars.

Now that’s a strong foundation. Powerful one might say. The bars sit cleanly on the constant line and make it absolutely clear that these bars start at the same point.

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