Dashboards Tableau

Where Did PPP Loans Go? Taking a Deeper Dive.

Recently, I published a dashboard that took a broad look at PPP loan data. Over the past few weeks, I looked deeper into that data set in order to pull more interesting findings from it.

Before you take a look, here are the most significant highlights in my opinion:

  • Spelling mistakes were prominent. Out of some of the 9 largest cities in the USA, there were more than 100 spelling variations.
  • About 4000 investment-related firms took out loans totaling between 1 and 3 billion dollars. This is interesting because investment fees and activities were at record highs during lockdowns.
  • The top 10 industries by loan count were heavily in-person industries, indicating that loans were distributed largely to businesses who needed them most.

While the dashboard has been developed for mobile as well, the viewing experience will probably be better on desktop.

Like this post? Enter your email below to subscribe for more visualizations and Tableau related posts.

Meta Tableau

Top 5 Most Impactful Tableau Server 2020.3 Features

Recently I made a post on the 5 most impactful Tableau Desktop features released in 2020.3. Now it’s time for Tableau Server! Tableau released 20 new features for Tableau Server. Most of these features are also applicable to Tableau Online as well (if you were wondering). This post will go over the 5 features that will have the most impact on both developers and users interacting with Tableau Server. I’ve ranked them in the order of the biggest impact for users or developers based on the size of the problem the feature solves.

Keep in mind, Tableau categorizes some of its new features in multiple categories (like Tableau Desktop and Tableau Server for the IN operator). I’ve not included features I covered already in my Tableau Desktop 2020.3 post, so go take a look if you’re curious what those are. This makes sense because features aren’t made in a bubble usually, and will have an impact on other parts of the Tableau stack. It just might be a little confusing at first if you aren’t aware of the interactions between the different Tableau pieces.

1. “Shared with me” tab

Navigation on Tableau Server and Tableau Online can be frustrating at times. The UX has significantly improved over the years and this new feature is another giant leap forward. Now there is a dedicated tab on the left navigation bar that lets you see all materials shared with you on the site (including views). This is kind of like Google Drive and streamlines navigation to critical content.

Why it’s important: Better navigation for both experienced and novice Tableau Server users.

Screenshot from

2. Grant license on sign-on

If you haven’t been a Server admin, it’ll be difficult to appreciate this one. If you have been one (especially of a large organization), get the champagne ready. Now you can set up your Server to have specific users, teams or departments to automatically be assigned a license on first login.

Why it’s important: Thousands of users? A revolving door of users? No problem, automatic license assignment for first sign-ons. Thousands of man hours saved.

3. Web authoring improvements

The new features include relative date filters, and creating/editing/removing data source and viz filters in the browser.

Tableau continues its alignment with modern tools by beefing up its web authoring capabilities. It’s still a far cry from Tableau Desktop, but the gap is shrinking (slowly). More and more customers are looking towards web authoring rather than full Desktop licenses, and this will make those customers happy.

Why it’s important: For anyone trying to do more than the very basic visualization, web authoring is a no-go with its limited feature set. These new capabilities raise the limitation ceiling ever so slightly.

4. Subscription timing with extracts

The subscriptions feature has been one of the most popular features I’ve introduced to clients utilizing Tableau Server and Tableau Online. People are used to seeing things in their inbox on a regular basis, and they always want the same capabilities with their dashboards. A constant challenge is making sure that data refreshes and subscription emails sync up correctly. Subscriptions that trigger too early means stale data for end users.

This new feature from Tableau enables subscriptions to only trigger once data is done refreshing. No more worrying whether timing is right.

Why it’s important: The more extracts and users you have, the more performance will vary for when extracts actually finish. By making subscriptions have a type of sequential firing option that only happens after extracts complete, the guesswork is removed.

5. New connectors in the extension gallery

While this might not be applicable to too many people at the moment, it’s an important feature trend. Tableau is expanding its extension gallery to include connectors made by third parties. This will slowly minimize the effort of connecting to data for analysis.

Like Zapier or similiar tools, opening the platform to support third party extensions will only grow adoption and options for developers.

Why it’s important: If you’ve ever run into a data source that doesn’t have an out of the box connector in Tableau, it can be a decent amount of extra work to get everything working right.

What are your thoughts on the new releases in Tableau 2020.3 Server and Online? Do you think Tableau is on the right path in their development efforts? The company continues to actively seek user feedback and has been implementing the most requested features. What would you like to see improved next?

Meta Tableau

Top 5 Most Impactful Tableau Desktop 2020.3 Features

Tableau released 2020.3 on August 12th, 2020 with 12 new features for Tableau Desktop. All are useful, but these are the 5 that will have the most impact on developers’ workflow and capabilities in my opinion when creating dashboards. I’ve ranked them in the order of the biggest impact for developers and the challenges or questions they face frequently.

1. The IN operator for calculations

Ever do giant IF or CASE statements with nested CONTAINS? Well your life just got a little easier. You can now use the IN operator to compare a field to a list of values.

Why it’s important: Easier readability, shorter and more efficient calculations.

2. Search improvements in the data pane

With the new Relationships features and data modeling capabilities, the data pane had to be redesigned to allow for multiple tables. This removed the separation in the pane between dimensions and measures. That was quite a shock to many Tableau users as it was an efficient way to separate those field types. In 2020.3, there is now the ability to filter your fields in the data pane by field name, type, or comments. It still feels like a compromise but after a few weeks of use, it probably won’t even be a noticeable difference from the original data pane.

Why it’s important: The new data pane to handle Relationships felt like a step back. This is a step forward in making the data pane easy to use again.

3. Relationship improvements

If you’ve jumped into the new Relationships feature earlier in 2020, you’ll quickly realize its powers, and quickly realize its (few) shortcomings. One of these shortcoming has been fixed in 2020.3. You’ll now be able to relate tables using calculated fields and/or using inequality operators (like <>).

Why it’s important: Running into the serious limitations of operators or calculated fields in earlier versions minimized the usefulness of Relationships. These improvements significantly expanded Relationships use cases again.

4. Predictive modeling functions

I really wanted to put this one higher, but ultimately most developers still won’t get into predictive modeling. I’d highly recommend adding general predictive modeling skills to your toolbox with something like Python, but ultimately predictive modeling inside Tableau will be great as well.

Why it’s important: Making the leap from descriptive to predictive and prescriptive analytics provides huge value to your users and customers. This new feature makes the gap between descriptive and predictive much smaller to bridge.

5. Additional viz export capabilities

Users are always requesting various ways to export dashboards and their underlying data. Back in the day, strange hacks and/or extensions would have to be used to provide the desired output. With 2020.3, you’ll be able to export crosstabs from dashboards into Excel formats to preserve formatting, provide easy export buttons for this feature, and customize PDF subscription layouts for your dashboards.

Why it’s important: This new feature expands the export capabilities, showing that Tableau is still focused on improving some of the most frequent end user requests.

What are your thoughts on the new releases in Tableau 2020.3? Do you think Tableau is on the right path in their development efforts? The company continues to actively seek user feedback and has been implementing the most requested features. What would you like to see improved next?

Dashboards Tableau

Looking at PPP Loan Data – A Visualization

$667 billion dollars were set aside in 2020 for businesses across the US. This program was called the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP for short). It was meant to be a stimulus package to hold over businesses who were impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns. Without revenue streams, many businesses had to lay-off workers en masse, providing a potentially catastrophic destabilization of American society. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were close to 18 million unemployed people in June of 2018. The PPP data indicates that over 31 million jobs were retained due to the program.

Without getting into the inaccuracies of the standard unemployment numbers provided by the Bureau, we can still see that laying off potentially 10% of a country’s population wouldn’t be healthy for society. In the past, the US government has provided stimulus and bailouts primarily via public spending increases and buying toxic assets from big corporations. But this stimulus was meant to directly support businesses of all sizes who were directly impacted by the lockdown. Did it server its purpose? You can be the judge of that! I’ve created a data visualization meant to help show where the money went across the nation. This visualization includes the ability to search and filter on columns of the data. In the near future, I’ll be releasing a dashboard that digs into the… more suspicious loans taken out.

Here’s the dashboard, it’s interactive and has some additional info when you hover over data. It is configured for desktop and phones, but is better to view on desktop.:

This data was recently released regarding PPP loans. It was split into different data sets. For loans greater than $150k, data for the whole nation is provided in one data set. For loans less than $150k, data is split by state or territory into its own data set. I’ll be providing a combined data set of all loans here in a little bit, but for now this visualization is for loans greater than $150k.

Some interesting takeaways from this visualization:

  • Allegedly nearly 10% of the US population’s jobs were retained due to the program
  • There were TONS of misspellings and bad data entry
  • The majority of loans were in the $150k-$300k range

P.S. Check out the next visualization here, where I take a deeper look at the PPP data.

Like this post? Subscribe to be notified of future dashboards and Tableau tips.

Meta Tableau

How Are Your (Tableau) Relationships?

Not your personal relationships! Although I do hope those are going well for you. I’m talking about Tableau Desktop’s new feature in 2020.2. This is an important one. For both experienced data analysts/scientists and new beginners. The implications of this new feature will impact the fate of the world (ok maybe not that extreme). But it will absolutely impact beginner’s needs to learn overall data concepts and also the explicit control that expert users are used to holding.

If you’re on version 2020.2 or above (for my future readers), you’ll notice the data pane has changed slightly. This is actually to accommodate the new relationships feature. If you’re not using the relationships feature, this will be an annoying change. But if you are using relationships, joins, or custom SQL, it’s the most sensible way Tableau could’ve organized the data pane now that there are multiple tables in a data source.

What Are Relationships?

According to the Tableau website:

Relationships are an easy, flexible way to combine data from multiple tables for analysis.

Let’s unpack this a bit. Tableau says flexible, and it absolutely, positively means flexible. You can add multiple fields to a relationship, multiple relationships between tables, select cardinality and referential integrity of each table, and more. This is all to give the developer an easy path towards correct levels of details in your dashboards and easily designed data models.

P.s. I’ll need to make multiple posts about this topic as Relationships turn out to be a pretty deep feature in terms of configuration and the downstream impacts.

The Big Benefits

  • Tableau now can handle multiple levels of detail in one data source.
  • No accidental data loss (although you could have accidental data hiding).
  • Relations between multiple fact tables is now possible.
  • Contextual and dynamic (!!!!) joins.
  • Aggregations are correctly generated by Tableau based on the relationship.
  • Better performance since queries will only get data that is relevant to the current view.

The Big Drawbacks

  • No circular relationships in your data model.
  • No inequality relationships.
  • Calculated fields can’t be used for relationships.
  • Published data sources are (still) not able to be used for any data modeling.
  • Data types are taken from the underlying database, and relationships won’t work with mismatched types. Changing the data type in Tableau has no impact on whether a relationship can be made.
  • There are 8 rules or semantics that developers need to know about now when developing.

Things to Watch Out For

In my opinion, some concerning problems with data sources surface with this new feature. Things that would normally be discovered without the relationships feature are pushed further under the rug. Here are some of them.

  • Bad data models (or no data models at all) with dirty data can make relationships not perform as expected.
  • Data source filters negatively impact performance in some cases. This is due to how Tableau removes unnecessary joins usually in queries.
  • Poor choices for relationship fields won’t return quality data. If the fields chosen don’t have a lot of matching values, your dashboard probably won’t be too useful.
  • The additional semantics involved with relationships are something that need to be internalized by developers. Otherwise inaccurate visualizations might be presented.

Wrapping It Up

Tableau has knocked it out of the park with this one. But with great power comes great responsibility. The relationships feature vastly expands the possibilities and ease of analyses that use multiple tables. Relationships take care of some common areas in which beginner developers tend to make mistakes. Which can be a good thing and a bad thing.

If you understand relationships, they can be a great tool. If you think you understand relationships (but really don’t) or you just use them without researching their behavior, you might be in for a world of hurt. I’d say, improve your relationship with relationships and your Tableau life will blossom.

How-To Tableau

The Most Important Tableau Concept Of All

I don’t care what anyone else says when it comes to the most important Tableau concept. Ok, maybe that’s a little harsh… but for me, there is one that trumps all. This concept drives every single calculation and visualization on a dashboard. If a developer doesn’t understand it, it will cause wildly inaccurate analyses to be published. It’s the most frequent cause with newer developers as to why Tableau is “doing this weird thing”.

It’s the number one issue I come across when troubleshooting other peoples’ dashboards. It’s also the number one thing that beginners struggle with. As soon as a beginner masters this concept, it immediately catapults them into intermediate or expert territory. This is because of the creative options and intentions it opens up. So what is it?

Level of Detail

That’s right, you’ve heard it before. If you haven’t been around Tableau long, you’ll probably think it’s just those fancy expressions you’ve heard about but try to avoid using. Unfortunately or fortunately, it’s actually much bigger than just level of detail expressions. It’s the entire conceptual framework that impacts how and where data is aggregated and rendered in Tableau.

In case you skimmed over it, let me repeat. Level of detail is the entire conceptual framework that impacts how data is aggregated and rendered in Tableau.

The terminology here might be a little different than what is expressed officially by Tableau. Tableau talks more about aggregation, granularity, etc. For me, the level of detail concept encompasses these other concepts. At the finest level of detail, you’ll have no aggregation and the highest possible granularity. At the broadest level of detail you’ll have the maximum possible aggregation (like table calculations) and the lowest granularity. Ironically enough, granularity actually has the words “level of detail” in its second dictionary definition.

So ultimately, level of detail is the result of the combination of aggregation and granularity settings on your dashboard. You can have a row level of detail, an aggregate level of detail, or a table level of detail. Depending on your calculated field, you can force aggregation at a certain level of detail.

Why It’s So Important

There are many subtle and not-so-subtle ways Tableau allows a developer to control the level of detail in which data is aggregated and rendered. Through calculated fields, a developer can make:

  • relatively static calculations using Level of Detail expressions
    • this is explicit control of the Level of Detail displayed by Tableau
  • dynamic calculations that take place at different levels in the data
    • row level
    • aggregate level
    • table level
      • this includes selecting the level in which table calculations compute and are relative to
  • through the “Aggregate Measures” option in the Analysis menu

Knowing exactly how Tableau will handle aggregations and granularity will tell you exactly what level of detail your analysis is taking place. Is your measure being aggregated? Is it aggregated by a specific dimension? Is your dashboard visual being rendered for the entire data set or just the current year? There are tons of situations where you have to know what level of detail will be calculated and displayed on your dashboard. That way you can know that it is time for a fixed level of detail or not.

A common error I see with beginners is a claim that “Tableau is calculating things wrong”. They’ll run a calculation in Excel to check an average or sum after filtering on a column. This won’t match what Tableau is displaying. 99% of the time it’s because Tableau is aggregating at a different level of detail than expected because of the dimensions on the dashboard.

So How Do I Get Better

  1. Look at advanced dashboards on Tableau Public
  2. Practice recreating those dashboards
  3. Check out blogs that have tutorials about Aggregation and Level of Detail expressions
  4. Read the Tableau documentation on Aggregation and Level of Detail expressions

Meta Tableau

My Top Upcoming Tableau Features in 2020

Have you ever seen the Tableau Coming Soon page? If not, you should check it out. It gives you a good idea of where Tableau is focusing their efforts and the direction of the platform. As someone who works with many products within Tableau’s platform, here are my top upcoming features. These are the features that I think will have the most impact on what a developer can do in Tableau!

1. IN operator for calculations

Tableau seems to be closing the gap that exists between its existing functions and what is available in Excel and a few programming languages. It’s still missing a few things (check out number 2 and 3 on this post I made earlier), but it’s getting better.

2. Search improvements in the Data pane

With the new relationships feature in Tableau Desktop, the data pane has changed slightly to accommodate how those relationships interact with the dashboard . There is no longer separate windows for Dimensions and Measures, which can be quite the shock for those who have used Tableau for several years or more. It looks like Tableau will be reaching a middle ground though. They’ll be keeping the changes to the data pane, but adding filters to search.

3. Web authoring improvements

For those who do their authoring on the web, you might have run into some limitations compared to Tableau Desktop. There are some big game changers coming though. Say hello to data source and viz filters, a big improvement for those looking to build more functional dashboards without leaving the web.

4. Stale content management

Do you have a large deployment? A bunch of sites and data sources? Data management is one of the top pain points for organizations. Entropy is always increasing and this stale content feature will help fight wasted space and mess on your server.

5. JavaScript API updates

As Tableau usage has grown, different users have appeared and increased their voice. As business usage grows with Tableau and organizations look to sell dashboards externally, software developers become more and more involved. Look for some big changes with many of the APIs, allowing for greater customization in look and behavior.

6. Tableau Bridge improvements

This really depends on your deployment and use cases. Tableau Bridge is getting a boost to access VPC (Virtual Private Cloud) data. Think AWS, Redshift, Snowflake, etc. that can only be accessed within a private network.

7. Data Quality Warnings

If you’ve ever developed a dashboard with an old data source, the pain of finding out that it’s no longer relevant makes this upcoming feature your dream-come-true. Users will be able to see data quality warning in Tableau Desktop with a little warning symbol.

8. External Assets list

Ever wonder what was being uploaded in packaged workbooks? If your user checks the “Include External Files” option when publishing to server, those files will now be visible in one list.

Tableau is still implementing ideas from the community at a steady pace. As long as they keep building the most asked-for features alongside the new products that grow their company, they’ll be in good shape. As soon as all of the new features are clearly driven around increasing the bottom line rather than considering the biggest user headaches, that’ll mark the peak of Tableau. For now though, it’s smooth sailing!

How-To Tableau

Making a Direct CSV Download Button For Tableau Server

Note: As of June 2020, URLs in Tableau Public dashboard no longer function properly.

Note 2: Updated again on Aug 13th, 2020. URLs work again in Tableau Public but this CSV export method does not work in Tableau Public. It still works in Tableau Server and Tableau Online.

Tableau has a standard out-of-the-box way to download data from workbooks (if permissions permit for the user). But for new users who are just clicking on a URL to view a dashboard, they don’t want to learn new menus to figure out a simple export. So if you want to give an easy, 1-click option, you can add a button with a link. This can be configured to download specific worksheet data or the full data set. For this demo we’re just going show how to download the whole data set from the first sheet displayed on the dashboard.

Unfortunately, URLs aren’t working in Tableau Public as of this publishing, so you’ll have to try it out on your own server.

Other Ways

There is a Tableau JavaScript API that will allow you to add this functionality as well. The best use case for this is if you are embedding dashboards in a portal or other web page where you can control the code. I won’t go into the details here, Tableau has a nice example that you can check out:

Meta Tableau

Why Tableau Metrics Is a Game Changer

With the release of Tableau 2020.2, the Metrics feature was released. And it’s one of the biggest impact changes implemented this year. This feature ushers in a significant reduction in dashboard building time for many designs and fundamentally changes Tableau’s position versus competition.

Why This Is Big

Big, bolded KPIs are one of the most common things I implement on dashboards. While these KPIs cover the most important highlights for the dashboard and target audience, users always want one more data point or highlight. This either leads to scope creep or a handful of unhappy users.

Metrics takes care of this. Similar to the Ask Data feature, which allows your most “independent” users to interact with the data directly to create their own ad-hoc analyses, Metrics gives users a quick way to get the exact info they want. Now, instead of developers making additional views for each and every KPI people want to see, users can be taught how to create their own using this out-of-the-box functionality. Just like your dashboards, they can be refreshed regularly. Unlike your dashboards, users can see a quick snapshot of their metrics in one place on Server compared to going into each and every dashboard. These Metrics can be seen either in a project or in the user’s favorites.

This means less hours spent tweaking dashboards and adding additional KPIs up-top and more time providing deeper insights from the data.

Did I Mention They’re Mobile First?

If you’ve used Tableau on your phone, you know how painful it can be. Most of the time developers aren’t focused on their dashboards’ mobile layout and interactivity. Target users usually are accessing dashboards through their computer. But the BI community is catching up to consumer trends, and mobile is becoming more dominant every day. Executives might only carry their phone and a tablet on trips, and don’t want to go through clunky dashboards designed for laptop screens.

Tableau realized this and Metrics handles this shift. It’s meant for mobile devices, so it just works. That’s a huge step and a big hint as to where the Tableau platform is heading.

Repositioning Against Competition

PowerBI dashboards have a very specific boxed look. This lends well to the familiarity business users have with products like Excel. Usually you’ll see a few top KPI boxes with some bar charts and/or a map. Tableau dashboards seem to vary further in their design and doesn’t necessarily encourage this type of layout with its dashboard layout builder.

Tableau Metrics moves further into this look and feel that is familiar to business users. A big KPI with a small bar chart or line chart. It shows Tableau (at least on mobile) is repositioning its product slightly to encourage a more business-user centric design. Once again, they’re pushing the big important number with small trend look that many executives like to see.

Summing It Up

Tableau is heading towards mobile-first functionality, eliminated the low-hanging developer fruit of KPIs on dashboards, and further integrated Ask Data type functionality with a few clicks on a dashboard. While I would’ve considered Tableau more of a general purpose data visualization tool, I believe they’re focusing their product roadmap towards the standard business use cases.

It is important to note that there are some specific considerations developers need to have in mind while developing their dashboards to maximize Metrics. Check them out here.

Meta Tableau

My Biggest Tableau Desktop Headaches (and Probably Yours Too)

I love Tableau. It’s my hammer that makes everything look like a nail. No it’s not right for everything, but it can do a lot of things really well once you know how to use it. And because of this loving relationship, I also know exactly what I hate about it. Like an intimate relationship with a lover, the overall experience with Tableau is something you want to shout to the world. But also like an intimate relationship, Tableau has those small things about it that really grinds your gears. Kind of like when someone you love makes a little annoying noise after they drink a beverage. Technically it’s not wrong in any way, but you just want to take away every single beverage from them for all eternity so they can never make that noise again. Ok… maybe that was a little far. Anyways…

Tableau Desktop has been the data visualization tool of choice for me for the last 7 years. It has grown from a pretty good tool into an excellent platform. Tableau Desktop in 2020 takes care of so many of the gripes that existed a few years ago in previous versions. Things that were once nearly impossible are just a click of the button. Things like Set Controls and Relationships. Tableau has provided more tools for every step of the process, from simple data blending to completely managed server environments. That’s without even getting into extensions, APIs, etc.

I love Tableau and believe they will continue their track record of implementing user-desired features. Tableau has been one of the best companies I’ve interacted with, who truly takes user feedback to heart and continues to make their product more enjoyable to use. So while these are my current 7 biggest headaches, I can’t wait to see what the future holds for their platform.

My 7 Biggest Headaches

1. Being unable to modify the layout hierarchy from the dashboard layout tab

Tableau has a beautiful layout pane to select objects in the dashboard. You can adjust padding, margin, background color, etc. from here. But you cannot rearrange the objects using the hierarchy displayed in the layout pane.

It feels natural to be able to click and drag an object in the hierarchy and put it somewhere else. This is not the case though, you can only do it on the dashboard itself. If and when this feature comes out, it’ll cut down on dashboard building and reorganizing times and headaches significantly.

2. Not having a PROPER() function

We’ve got UPPER()… We’ve got LOWER()… We do not have PROPER() or TITLE(). Sometimes you can’t control your data source because you don’t have the right permissions. But you need to change a field that’s in all uppercase or all lowercase to something that has the first letter of each word capitalized.

This doesn’t exist in Tableau. It exists in some form in Excel, C#, Python, Java, and more languages. This fact paired with headache #3 makes title/proper cases in each workbook painful.

3. Related to number 2; not being able to define our own functions

Ever use the same calculated fields and functions over and over. Each and every workbook. You open it up and you create another calculated field that does the exact same thing in each workbook.Long calculated fields, like your own custom version of making the proper case from point number 2.

If custom user functions were possible, users wouldn’t have to ask for specific functions to be added. The flow for a user could be much more efficient too.

As a counterpoint from Tableau’s standpoint, allowing users to manage and implement their own customizations like this can do a few negative things. Things like new support requests claiming a bug because a user can’t figure out why their function doesn’t work as expected. Or that this type of functionality would drift the product from user configuration and light development to something more of a user development tool. This could potentially shift the target user for Tableau Desktop, and I doubt Tableau would want to drift from their current pinpointed target user. One last point is that allowing user defined functions could potentially open up security issues. It’s just a whole new bag of worms.

Still, the pros for usability outweigh the cons for me.

4. The limitations of organizing worksheet tabs in workbooks

Simply, we need a way to group and organize tabs differently. The colors are nice, the toggle to change the tab layout is nice, but scrolling left to right constantly for large workbooks is not nice. If you could group tabs into folders or hierarchies just like calculated fields, that’d be great.

5. Restrictions on bulk editing dashboard objects

As of 2020.2, users are able to only format the standard configurations of categories of objects in bulk. For example, you can format all parameters in the workbook by changing its font, color, borders, etc. What you can’t do is select 3 dashboard objects (like 3 worksheets) and adjust all of their padding or margins. Instead, you have to select each worksheet on the dashboard and edit its settings one-by-one.

My back of the napkin calculations estimate that bulk editing of dashboard objects would save me about 15 minutes for each dashboard I have ever created.

6. Lack of hierarchical filters

Hierarchies are a feature for building dashboards already. When you establish these hierarchies in the data pane, it allows users to expand axes to drill up and down hierarchies. A common request and question I get from end users is, “why can’t I drill down in filters?” Or something similar to that.

You can place all of the separate levels of hierarchies as their own individual filters, but cannot have a singular filter where you can select parents and children, or expand the hierarchy to drill down to other levels. From a user’s standpoint it makes sense. You would expect a relationship like a hierarchy to function as a hierarchy on the graph portion, and in the filters. Something like the below, taken from the Tibco Spotfire documentation:

7. Formatting in tooltips

There’s a workaround for this one, but it’s not incredibly customizable and has it’s own limitations. That workaround is creating embedded sheets in the tooltip so that you can do things like control the background color. But to create a custom sheet for every tooltip you wan’t to customize is exhausting and adds baggage to the workbook.

Being able to do some basic things like change tooltip background color and transparency would go a long way. Making the tooltip almost like a page builder or able to accept HTML would be spectacular. I won’t get my hopes up for that last one though, as it would be a huge undertaking for Tableau to develop and support.

Wrapping It Up

Tableau Desktop is a spectacular tool. Whipping up interactive and insightful visualizations for users is 1000x easier than what was around before Tableau, and it’s truly led to a democratization of data visualization and analysis. With that comes growing pains and millions of change/feature requests. These are 7 of mine and maybe some of yours. Selfishly I hope these are the next 7 features on Tableau’s product map.

I’ll soon be posting my favorite features of Tableau since version 2019, as well as my headaches/favorites of Tableau Server and Tableau Prep. So keep a look out for those.

P.S. I had to update the title to reflect that this is specifically about Tableau Desktop. Since Tableau has been expanding its platform which includes more advanced Tableau Server capabilities and an online visualization builder. These offer separate functionalities compared to what I’m talking about in this post with Tableau Desktop.