8 Random Tableau Tips: Alias a Dimension, Simple Table Sorting, Scaling Problems, and More!


If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that Kevin regularly shares fantastic tips. I have only ever written one tips blog myself so I figured I’d try my hand at another. So, in this blog, I’m going to share 8 random Tableau tips that I love.


1) Alias a Dimension

Let’s say you have a table like this.



If you want to change the header on one of the measures, that’s can be easily done by right-clicking it and choosing “Edit Alias”.



You can then change the alias which will update the display name of that measure. Here, I’ve changed Profit to Total Profit. The name of the field remains simply Profit, but the display name changes whenever it’s shown on a view.


But what if you want to do the same thing with one of the dimensions? Let’s say we wish to rename Segment to Customer Segment. You right-click but there are no similar options—dimensions simply show the name of the field. To show a different name, you have several options. First, you can rename the field. I don’t love this because it makes it somewhat difficult to trace back to your data—it’s nice for the field to match what’s in the database. You can also duplicate the field, give that duplicate the name you want to display, then use that field on your view. I don’t love this option either because it just creates all these additional, seemingly unnecessary, calculated fields.


Fortunately, there is another way to alias a field if you just want a quick and easy solution. I learned this recently from Juan Sepulveda, who works for a client of mine. Simply double-click the blue pill. This allows you to edit it as an inline calculation.


Then type // as you would for a comment. After the //, type the display name you wish to use.



Next, hold Shift (or whatever the alternative is on Mac), and click Enter. This will add a carriage return to the calculation, bringing the field name to the second line. If you were to copy it to a text editor, it would look like this:


//Customer Segment



Click enter one more time to save the changes and voila, the display name changes to “Customer Segment”



Note that the blue pill itself will also show the name “Customer Segment” as well. This, of course, creates some traceability concern as it appears that that there is another field in your database with this name. But, when you need a quick and easy way to show a different name without duplicating your pills, this does the trick nicely.


2) Create a New Sheet/Dashboard Where You Want

Let’s say you have a workbook with lots of sheets and dashboards, but you need to add another. At the right of your list of sheets and dashboards are buttons for creating new sheets, dashboards, and stories. But, if you click them, those sheets get pushed all the way to the right. You then need to drag those over to the left to put them exactly where you want them. But, you can save your time by simply right-clicking any tab and choosing “New Worksheet”, “New Dashboard”, or “New Story” at the top.



When you do this, that new sheet, dashboard, or story will be created directly to the right of the tab on which you clicked, preventing you from having to drag it all the way over to where you want it.


3) Simple Table Sorting

Let’s return to the table we used in the first tip. We have Customer Name, Customer ID, and Segment on the rows shelf and we’re displaying three measures. Tableau has a handy option that allows you to click the header of one of these measures to sort it. So, you or your user clicks on Profit to sort it…


And it does nothing…What is going on here? Well, if we scroll down the table a bit more, we’ll come to Harry Olson who, strangely, has five different customer ID’s. Watch what happens when we sort on Profit with Harry Olson visible…



As you can see, it’s sorting the values for Harry Olson. What’s happening is a nested sort. Essentially, it detects that the Customer Name is not unique, but Customer ID is, so it’s sorting within each Customer Name. Because most Customer Names only have one Customer ID, it doesn’t seem to be doing anything.


Ultimately, you probably want your users to be able to sort the entire table with each row acting independently. To do that, we need to ensure that the first pill on the rows shelf always represents a unique value across all the dimensions on the table (e.g. everything on the rows shelf). To do this, we can create a calculated field to act as a unique ID:


Unique ID

// Unique ID for each row of the table.

[Customer Name] + "|" + [Customer ID] + "|" + [Segment]


We then add this as the first pill on the rows shelf.



Then we right-click the pill and deselect “Show Header” so it is not visible to our users.


Because that first pill is unique, it will sort each row individually.



Note: When clicking the sort option on measures, it acts as a sort of toggle, switching between sorting ascending by the measure, descending by the measure, and alphabetically on the first pill.


4) Get a Person’s Age

I’ve seen several posts on the forums asking how to calculate someone’s age based on their birthdate and today’s date. Some of the solutions I’ve seen are options such as YEAR(TODAY()) - YEAR([Birthday]) or DATEDIFF('year', [Birthday], TODAY()).


But neither of these yield an accurate age based on how we measure it. For example, if someone was born June 1, 2000 and today is March 1, 2024, these calcs would say that the person is 24 years old. But that’s not how we measure age—typically, we wouldn’t say that this person is 24 years old until June 1, 2024. To address this problem, I’ve seen the following solution offered:


INT(DATEDIFF('day', [Birthday], TODAY())/365.25)


Instead of finding the difference in years, this finds the difference in days, then divides by 365.25, the approximate number of days in a year accounting for leap years. While this produces a correct age more often than the earlier solutions, it’s still inaccurate fairly regularly. This is because there are not actually 365.25 days in a year—extra days are only added once every four years. It’s also because the number of days in a year is closer to 365.242375. To adjust for this being slightly less than ¼ day per year, leap years have additional rules—they occur every four years except years that are divisible by 100. And that 100-year rule has an exception when the year is divisible by 400.


So, if we want a 100% accurate calculation, we need another solution. My suggestion is to look at the actual month and day of the birthdate:


// Age accounting for actual month and day.

IF DATEADD('year', DATEDIFF('year', [Birthday], TODAY()), [Birthday])> TODAY() THEN

    // The day is later than today

    DATEDIFF('year', [Birthday], TODAY())-1


    // The day is today or earlier in the year.

    DATEDIFF('year', [Birthday], TODAY())



5) Create a Stepped Area Chart

When I’m only showing a single line on a line chart, I often prefer to change it to an area chart to make it a little easier to read.


But sometimes these pointy edges are bit difficult to follow—this is particularly the case when you’re dealing with data that will be static for a period of time before eventually increasing or decreasing. In those cases, a stepped line chart might make more sense. Tableau allows us to change a line chart to a stepped line chart using the Path card.


But, when we switch to an area chart, we no longer have the stepped option. However, we can create a stepped area chart by changing the mark type to a bar then turning off the mark border. We then add a dual axis that uses a stepped line chart.


6) Windows Scaling Issues

Here’s a dashboard Kevin created that we’ve uploaded to Tableau Cloud.


Looks great on Cloud, but then I open it in Desktop and I see this:


Everything is squished, the text is larger, leading to it getting cut off, etc. It looks very different than what I saw on Cloud. I’ve seen this problem more times than I can count and the solution is a simple one. The issue is that Tableau Desktop does not support scaling settings that are not 100%. On Windows (I’ve only ever seen this issue on Windows), go to your “Display Settings” then check the “Scale and Layout” settings.


If this value is anything other than 100%, change it to 100%. If you have multiple monitors, be sure to change the setting on each of them. After you’ve made the change, close Tableau then open it back up. What you see on Desktop should now match what you see on Cloud/Server/Public.


7) Vertical & Horizontal Containers are the Same…at Least at First

Yes, that’s right—there is no difference between a horizontal and vertical container when you first drop them onto a container. To prove it, drop a horizontal container onto a dashboard.



We can clearly see, in the Item Hierarchy, that this is a horizontal container. But now let’s drag a blank onto the view then change its background color.



It’s still a horizontal container. But if we drag over another blank, we can tile it vertically within this container.



How is this possible with a horizontal container? Let’s inspect the Item Hierarchy to see what happened.



That horizontal container is now a vertical container. Whoa!!


Horizontal and vertical containers are essentially the same thing when you drag them onto a dashboard. They don’t officially become horizontal or vertical until you add a second object. Once that second object is tiled in the container, the container’s type is set in stone and any additional objects must be tiled in that manner. So, the next time you drag on a container, just grab one—you don’t need to pick the right type as that will not be established until later.


8) Mapbox Labeling Problem

If you’ve tried to use a Mapbox map in Tableau lately, it’s likely you’ve run into a problem where the labels do not show. For example, the following Mapbox map clearly has labels.


Note: This map was based on the “Monochrome” template in Mapbox.


When I use it in Tableau, I get this.


The country labels are all missing. I can zoom in and out and they never appear. The problem is that Mapbox recently changed the format of the style json file related to “pitch” and Tableau is not yet able to handle those changes. To resolve this problem, you must manually download and edit the json file. I’ve provided detailed instructions on how to do this on the forums, so check out the solution there. If you do it right, you should be able to see the labels in Tableau.



That was fun! Thanks for reading!! If you have any questions or comments, please share them in the comments section below.


Header image Photo by Ann H: https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-shot-of-scrabble-tiles-on-a-blue-surface-2789779/


Ken Flerlage, March 10, 2024

Twitter | LinkedIn | GitHub | Tableau Public

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.