Tableau Public/Desktop: Getting Started Guide

by Louise Le

We are currently well into our second week of the Data School; with the focus of this week being Tableau (i.e. the reason we all applied to this job). For all of you who are interested in learning to use Tableau and/or are thinking of applying to the Data School but don’t know where to begin, this blog post will take you through everything you need to know to get you started. See my previous post on getting started with Alteryx (link).

First of all, check out Tableau’s Starter Kit (link here). It’s a great resource for getting started. Remember, the more you read, the more you learn!

Now, if you haven’t already downloaded Tableau Public for free, here’s a link to where you can sign up. If you have access and would prefer to use Tableau Desktop’s free trial, then go ahead and start it up!

*Warning* I will be dropping a lot of terminology, so get ready. However, don’t worry about memorising the terms as much as understanding the purpose/function.


Start Screen

The first thing you’ll see when you open up (in my case) Tableau Desktop, is something like Figure 1.

Figure 1. Tableau Desktop’s start screen

Figure 1 – No. 1

Think of this icon (Tableau’s logo) as your home button. Click it to go to your visualisation (or viz) and click it to return to this screen.


Figure 1 – No. 2

To start making a viz, you’ll need a data set to connect to. There are three main ways of connecting to a data source in Tableau:

“To a File” – This means connect to a file that is static. This can be an Excel, text file, etc…

“To a Server” – Data sources taken from a server will change automatically in your workbook if a change is made to the original data. Click “More” to see lots of servers that you can access.

“Saved Data Sources” – These are saved metadata (essentially shortcuts to your data).


Figure 1 – No. 3

Here you will see the workbooks you have opened in the past. Since this is your first time (or one of) using Tableau, you may not see anything here.


Figure 1 – No. 4

The “Discover” panel is what Andy calls “propaganda”. You will find loads of links to great training material and information about upcoming conferences and the like.


Connecting to data

Now that we are familiar with the start screen, we have to connect to data. If you don’t have a data source to begin analysing at the moment, connect to one of Tableau’s built-in data sources. To do so, navigate to “My Tableau Repository” in your Documents, then click the “Datasources” folder and choose any you like the sound of.

You should now be taken to the “Data Source” screen as in Figure 2. Here, you will see a preview of your data in Box 1. If you’re using one of Tableau’s data sources, it will be prepped and ready to go. Hopefully those of you that are using your own data sources have clean data. Proceeding to the fun stuff, click “Sheet 1” at the bottom left of the screen to start visualising.

Figure 2. Data Source screen with data preview shown in Box 1.


Start Visualising!

So you’ve got your data and you’ve arrived to a screen that looks similar to Figure 3 (except box 4 will be empty for you).

Figure 3. Layout of the Sheet interface.


Figure 3 – No. 1

Here, in the “Data Pane”, you will find all your data information (the columns). They are categorised into “Dimensions” and “Measures”. Don’t worry too much about what these mean for now.


Figure 3 – No. 2

The blue boxes are shelves. Shelves are things you can drag your dimensions and measures onto. For example, on the “Columns” and “Rows” shelves, I have put the dimensions “Category” & “Ship Mode” and the measure “SUM(Sales)”.


Figure 3 – No. 3

This box is the “Marks Card”. The marks card holds a number of shelves, like “Size” and “Label”. Like previously, dimensions and measures can be dragged and dropped onto these shelves.


Figure 3 – No. 4

This box, otherwise known as your “View”, is where your charts will appear.


Figure 3 – No. 5

This is your “Menu”. This bar should look a bit familiar as it is similar to many Windows applications. There are lots of great functions crammed up here.


Figure 3 – No. 6

This “Status Bar” is where you can see a quick snapshot of the data you have in your view.



And there we go! You’re ready to start playing around with your data. Drag and drop dimensions and measures onto your view or shelves and see what happens. Hint: Ctrl+Click on dimensions and/or measures you’re interested in and click the “Show Me” button on the top right corner of the screen to see a few of the many chart types you can create.

Again, the Tableau Starter Kit (link) is a great resource! Finally, don’t forget to share what you’ve made on Tableau Public.


Happy vizzing!




Check out my blog feedmedata and follow me on Twitter @FeedMeData_

4 mins read

Thu 31 Jan 2019

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