Tableau Tip: Hide the Subtotals

Today’s Tableau Tip comes via WorkoutWednesday – my go-to resource for keeping my Tableau skills topnotch. Without fail, each WOW challenge uncovers a tip or trick, and often there is a practical use-case for those tricks in my daily work.   WOW 2023 Week 39 is the perfect example.  Read on to find out more!

Tables are requested frequently on business dashboards, so I’m always looking for fresh design & format ideas to present the rows of data in a clutter-free way.   In the WOW challenge from Week 39, the requirements called for a column showing $ of sales per subcategory & region with subtotals, and the % of sales by subcategory & region without sub-totals.  Brilliant!  The % subtotal will always be 100%,  so no need to show it every time.  With a little investigating, I found the option to “hide” the subtotals for a single measure in the drop-down menu on the green pill. This allows the subtotal to show for the first measure, and a blank cell to be shown for the second measure.  Here’s a screenshot to illustrate:

The end result is a clean, clutter-free table, with plenty of whitespace to help direct the eye to the numbers of significance.

The tip I’ve outlined in this post is just one of many gems in Week 39’s Challenge. To check out the full solution, see my Tableau Public viz. Shoutout to the WOW Team for continuing to deliver relevant challenges – the #datafam appreciates you!

Happy Vizzing, folks!

Tableau Tip: Add Comments to your Calculations

Recently I inherited a workbook that was a joy to work with – why, you ask? The developer added comments to each calculation, thereby providing explanations to the nuances for each metric.  What a gift!  For today’s Tableau Tip, I will show you three different ways to leverage this technique.

Option 1

In the calculation editor dialog box, add comments by starting the line with two forward slashes, as depicted in this screenshot:

Option 2

The second method is a slight modification of Option 1 and works beautifully when the comment is long & detailed.  Simply begin the comment with one forward slash and an asterisk and complete the comment with an asterisk and a forward slash.

Option 3

The third option involves one more step but allows you to view the comments without opening the calculation editor dialog box. To follow this method, click on the calculation in the data pane and utilizing the drop-down menu, select Default Properties, Comment. This opens a dialog box where you can add your comments. Best to keep it brief, as these comments will appear when you hover over the calculated field in the data pane.

Voilà! Three easy ways to add notes to help yourself and others when revisions to a workbook are needed (as they often-times are!)

Happy Vizzing, folks!

The Value of White Space

I love adding white space or “empty space” to a dashboard. It’s like having a desk that is clean & uncluttered instead of covered in stacks of papers and knick-knacks – it’s peaceful and makes a dashboard feel more “approachable”. It is an under-rated technique that deserves the spotlight.

The September #EduVizzers Challenge on Book Bans was the perfect opportunity to play with this technique, AND the fact that Iron Quest’s White Space Challenge was happening concurrently made the timing ideal. During my development process, I identified 5 distinct metrics that deserved equal attention.  Rather than combining all 5 bar charts in one view, I utilized parameter actions and dynamic zone visibility to allow the end-user to view each chart one at-a-time.  This gave each visual a dedicated space and breathing room to let each metric make a statement.  I know what you’re thinking — in the real world we don’t always have the luxury of showing one chart at a time. Often the visuals need to be side-by-side to assess the metrics in tandem.  In those instances, you can increase the padding around each object.  This is a more subtle way to add white space and one of my default formatting techniques. Outer Padding adds space between two dashboard objects while Inner Padding adds space inside the object’s wireframe. Here’s a screenshot with exaggerated padding to illustrate the difference:

And if you’re curious about school book bans in the US, here’s a viz for you:

Happy Vizzing, and happy white-spacing!

Tableau Tip: Documentation using “Show Caption”

I’m a note-taker — it’s my go-to method for learning and organizing my thoughts. I write to do lists too, but that’s another post. : ) This skill has come in handy recently when I needed to reference a complex Tableau dashboard build from a few months ago. Relying on my memory is sketchy (age, related perhaps?)  – but relying on my notetaking never fails me.  So where does one put notes in a Tableau workbook, so as not to clutter the sheets or dashboards?

If the notes are somewhat lengthy, I recommend utilizing the little-known feature “Show Caption”.  By selecting this from the Worksheet drop-down menu, a box appears at the bottom of your sheet. Tableau automatically populates it with a description of the fields brought into the view.  You can keep this description, or you can Edit the caption to modify it or add your own notes. 

For the workbook I mentioned earlier, I wanted to document the steps I followed to build a drilldown using set actions, so I decided to edit the caption, clear the default description, and add my own. To edit, simply right-click (Control-click on a Mac) in the Caption area and select “Edit Caption”.

This opens an editor dialog box. In this space you can add/remove text and set formatting.

Select Ok once you’ve completed your edits, and the revised caption will appear at the bottom of your sheet.

Viola! Detailed notes at the bottom of your sheet for your future reference, or a delightful surprise when a colleague opens a workbook previously built by you. 

One final note — Captions do not appear by default when sheets are added to dashboards, making them a perfect “behind-the-scenes” spot for notes. Of course, if you wish to display them on a dashboard, it’s a simple as accessing the drop-down menu on the wireframe and checking “Show Caption”.

Happy note-taking! Your future self will thank you.

Tip: Tableau’s “hide data” feature

In this post I’d like to shine a spotlight on Tableau’s “hide data” feature. It’s a hidden gem 🙂 and deserves a shout-out. This feature works beautifully when using Quick Table Calculations such as Percent Difference. Let’s take a closer look.

In this example, the goal is to show monthly sales for the last three months and the % change month-over-month.  To do this, bring the Sales and Date fields into the view and use a continuous date filter to show only the three months desired.

Next, bring a duplicate of Sales into the view and add the Quick Table Calculation for Percent Difference…but notice it is only showing the % change for the last two months, and not the first month in our view. Why? The view doesn’t have any data in the month prior to reference in the table calculation.   Here’s where the fun begins.

Instead of using a continuous date filter, write a calculation that shows only the last three months, and place it on the rows shelf. This returns False for all months prior to the last three months, and True for the last three months.

Next, we need to Hide the False rows. To do this, right-click (control-click on Mac) on the word False in any row and use the menu to select Hide. This tells Tableau to keep the data in the view but hide it from the visual.

Once we’ve completed this step, our view now shows the Percent Difference for ALL three months.  

Finally, we don’t need to show the date filter calculation on rows, so we can uncheck Show Header by accessing the dropdown menu on the blue pill.

Presto! We’ve accomplished our goal to show only the last three months of sales, and the % change month-over-month for all three months.

If you’d like to download the workbook, click on this link to access it on my Tableau Public profile page. Happy Vizzing!

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