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(Last Updated On: March 14, 2014)

Tableau is simple, yet powerful, data visualization software that you can use to create static or interactive visualizations. Tableau comes in two flavors, Tableau Desktop (paid with free student licenses available) or Tableau Public (free).

Before you get your feet wet, it might be helpful to watch this ‘Getting Started’ video, which explains some of the basic functions of the software.

Still interested? Here is more info and some links that will help you on your way.

Formatting tables in Excel:


Importing files:

  • On the Tableau homepage, select “Connect to Data”

  • Under the “In a file” header on the righthand column, choose “Microsoft Excel”

  • Navigate to your Excel document, open it, and select the table you wish to import

  • Choose “Connect live” to keep data updated in real time, or “Import all data” should you have a static data source

  • Further Reading: Connecting to an Excel Workbook


Data Fields

  • Once you have imported your data into Tableau, Tableau will classify each field (column) by data type and data role.

  • Data type refers to the kind of information stored in the field (text, date, numerical value, etc).

  • Data role refers to other characteristics of the data field, such as whether it is a dimension (independent, categorical) or measure (dependent, frequently numerical) or whether it is discrete or continuous.

  • In some cases you may be able to convert a field to a different data type or role.


Creating a visualization automatically:

  • You can select “Show me” in the upper right hand corner to navigate options for data visualization

  • Choose from over 20 visualization types: bar graphs, pie charts, scatter plots, tree maps, geospatial maps, etc.


Creating a visualization manually:

  • Tableau allows you to drag and drop fields onto the view in order to create your visualization.

  • In general, dimensions will add row and column headers to the view while measures add continuous axes.

  • More info: Dragging fields


Adding a filter

  • You can narrow the data shown in a view by adding a filter. To define a filter, you select one or more categories in a dimension or a range of values for a measure.

  • Quick filters allow you to adjust the filter on the fly and can be used to make your visualization interactive.

  • More info: Filters


Best practices for creating visualizations:


Sharing/exporting data + visualizations

  • There are a number of ways of exporting your data, from exporting your visualizations as an image to crosstabbing to Excel