In the Tableau worksheet you will see 6 key elements – which can all play their part in the way a viz is structured and formatted.
Your data tables, or data pane, on the left side of your view, contains all the data, attributes, and values from your data source, arranged into collapsible tables if you have used multiple sources. Note that there are some system-created fields (in italics), while there may also be some user created fields (denoted by the = symbol in front of the field name).
Also note that there are two different colours being used to denote the behaviour of fields, which we will spend more time examining later. Tables support drag and drop as well as right click actions. You can make some configuration changes in here, such as changing the name of the fields, creating hierarchies, setting default behaviour or changing the role of a field.
The Marks Card, Pages shelf, Filters shelf, and Rows and Columns shelf determine the structure and the appearance of the viz, plus how an end user will interact with it.
The Mark Type on the Marks Card is very useful – changing this will change a bar chart to a line chart, for example.
The toolbar – if you are unsure what any icon does, just hover over it with your mouse and an explanation will pop up. For more features and functionality, there are drop down menus above the toolbar. All features appear in more than one place which can be overwhelming at first, so you can stick to the toolbar.
One of the most useful tools in Tableau is on this toolbar: the fit drop-down menu determines how much screen real estate you give to your viz. You can choose to fit width, height or entire view.
Along the bottom of the sheet for navigation you can see the icons for sheets, dashboards, and stories
Although not necessarily used for all vizzes, the Show Me menu is a great optional tool to help you get started with and build confidence in using Tableau. The Show Me menu reveals some of the most popular chart types, what types of fields they require to populate, and any optional configurations. If your Show Me menu is greyed out, select a few fields in the data pane on the left (Ctrl+ select in Windows, Command + select Mac) to see which of these common charts are possible based on your selections.
It is important to be aware that the Show Me menu and Mark Type on the Marks Card do not form an exhaustive list of the possible visualisation types you can build in Tableau. If you look at Tableau Public you will see many more variations of visual designs, including complex chart types, which can all be built in Tableau once you have gained some familiarity with the core functionality of the software. To get an idea of what’s possible beyond Show Me, you can search Tableau Public for the Tableau viz cookbook.
You can bring the Show Me menu up for inspiration at any time using the shortcut Ctrl+1 (Windows) or Command+1 (Mac).
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