The first step when you start using Tableau is to access the data source connection view from where you can choose your data sources, create relationships between the sources as needed, add data source filters and apply simple data transformations like renaming columns and altering data types. This view will look slightly different depending on the data source type you have connected to.
Figure 1: The data source connection view in Tableau
There are three visualisation creator views in Tableau: Worksheet, Dashboard and Story. Tableau Worksheets are the core currency of the software; they are also referred to as vizzes or views. Tableau Dashboards (also a viz) are combinations of Worksheets and interactive elements that are used so as to engage the end user with the data and share insight. Stories (presentations) can combine images, dashboards and worksheets and can be saved with filters and selections to guide the audience through each data story.
Figure 2: Tableau Worksheets, Dashboards and Stories
In Tableau Worksheet, you will familiarise yourself with six elements which all can play their part in the way a viz is structured and formatted. These are outlined below:
Figure 3: Tableau Worksheet view: Data tables, Marks Card, Shelves
1. Data tables / data pane
Your data tables, or data pane, on the left side of your view, contain 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 at a later stage. These 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 and changing the role of a field.
2. Marks Card
3. Shelves: Filters, Pages, Columns and Rows
The Marks Card, Pages shelf, Filters shelf, Rows and Columns shelves determine the structure and the appearance of the viz, as well as how an end user interacts with it. The mark type on the marks card is very useful; changing this option will change the plot type.
Figure 4: Tableau Worksheet view: Toolbar, Canvas, Show Me
The toolbar is located at the upper part of the worksheet, with icons of the various functions. If you are unsure what any of these icons 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 best practice is sticking 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 the entire view.
The Canvas is the play area where you create the viz. As you can see, you can drag fields into the middle, onto the rows or columns.
6. Show Me
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; revealing some of the most popular chart types, types of fields required 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 and Select Windows or Command and Select Mac) to see which of these common charts is possible to use 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.
Along the bottom of the workbook, you can see the icons for additional Worksheet, new Dashboard and new Story. You will find specific features, menus and configuration options when you are in Dashboard or Story views; most of these options are available from the left-hand side pane, others are in the drop-down menus.
If you want to learn more about what any of these features do in Tableau you can go to the Help page, accessible from the drop-down menu inside the software, and type in some key words for the feature you are looking at. Searching the terms “Dashboard and Padding“ will take you to help articles for all padding related queries with examples, images of the tool in use and guided exercises to follow.
Next, let’s look at various data sources that can connect to Tableau.
Welcome to an overview of Tableau. Here, you'll learn about the different Tableau products, the types of data sources it can be connected to and how visualisations in Tableau function.
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