2. The Five Formatting Options


All Tableau charts have 5 formatting options on the Marks card which are used to edit visualizations. In this lesson, we'll examine all of these in detail, to understand how they are used when creating visualizations.

To explore more Kubicle data literacy subjects, please refer to our full library.


The five options

- Every chart in Tableau can be enhanced with the following 5 controls:
--- Color
--- Size
--- Label
--- Detail
--- Tooltip


- Can be used to change the color of the data points in your visualization
- More importantly, can be used to color-code your data points with another field
- For example, you can color-code revenue per client by fee earner


- Adjusts the size of your data points in your visualization
- Particularly useful for maps where you want to apply a size measure to each data point
- Less useful for more straightforward visualizations such as lines or bar-charts


- Appears next to your data point and can be formatted easily to your liking
- Works very well with bar charts but can clutter charts with many data points
- Not all data points need to show labels, you may just want to include labels on selected data points


- Adds additional columns to the underlying data table behind your visualization
- Works particularly well with box plots and other charts that require two measures


- Appear when your mouse hovers over a data point
- Can show valuable information about a data point without cluttering the chart
- Descriptions within a tooltip will often need to be manually edited


In the previous lesson, we looked at the first option in the marks card that allowed us to change the formatting of each point in our visualization, switching between a line, a bar and area.

Let's split this back to bar, which is automatic and move on to the other formatting options in the marks card, starting with color. By clicking on the color button, you can change the default color in the visualization, say from blue to green.

You can also adjust colors in more granular detail by hitting the more colors option and creating an RGB color that corresponds to your company's logo if you desire. Alternatively, you can enter a hex code for HTML here or select some basic colors from these options. However, the main reason that we use the color button in the marks card is to actually drill down into the detail on a particular chart.

Let's say for example, that I remove fee earner from the rows, and instead, I'll add client.

And for each client, once I've sorted by size, I'd like to split by fee earner. So I'll take fee earner and drag onto the color button.

I'll add our members.

And as you can see, the fees generated by Initech are now split by fee earner. And this gives me more granular detail on my chart. To remove this color filtering, simply select underneath the marks and drag outside.

And this returns me to the original chart.

This color button becomes especially useful for public charts, as you'll see in later lessons.

The next option we have is size. When I click on size, it can increase or decrease the size of each point on my visualization. Increasing the size in this example, enlarges the width of each bar.

And of course, in retaliation, I can reduce the size to make the bars much narrower.

This size seems okay for now.

What we can also do is drag and measure onto size. And this will adjust the size of the point based on the value of that measure. This works particularly well with maps that contain individual points in which we'd like to size. However, for bar charts, doesn't really work very well. Let's say for example, that I drag minutes onto size.

All this will do is narrow the bars for the clients with a smaller number of minutes. It doesn't really add much to my bar chart. So again, to remove, I'll simply click and drag outside of the marks card.

Label, thankfully, is pretty straightforward.

Whatever value we drag into label shows on the visualization.

For example, if I want to take value, I can simply drag onto label. The value is now included on my chart.

By default, it will include the sum of value as the label. This doesn't necessarily need to be the case. If I hit the drop down, and go to quick table calculation, I can select percent of total.

This gives me a different value as my label. However sometimes, users can get a little confused when viewing a label that's different to the value shown on the x or y axis. So I would always recommend making sure that the label corresponds to the axis in question. And to do this here, I can simply flip my columns to also be percent of total. And that now, makes much more sense. To format my label, I simply hit the dropdown and click format. And in here, I'll format the default as a percentage and only have one decimal place.

And this is now much more readable.

Sometimes, you will only want labels in certain scenarios. For example, if you select some bars that are of interest. By default, a label will be added to every single point in your visualization. But let's say, we only want the label to show for selected bars. So I'll hit the selected option here.

And now when I return to my visualization and select, you'll see that these bars are the only ones showing a label. This works really well. It also ensures that the chart doesn't get too cluttered.

Now let's move on to the next option, which is detail.

In my current visualization, Tableau has created a table of data to create this view.

And if I right click and view data, I can see that each line is a client in this table, and the next column shows the percentage of total value when I add an additional dimension to detail.

When I now go to view data by right clicking and selecting this option, I can see that each row now has much more information with fee earner included on every client.

And so the detail option allows you to have much more granular insights in your view by extending the size of the table that Tableau creates in that view. To be honest, I tend to use this detail option rarely outside of the box plot which I'm going to show you in the next lesson. However, for the box plot alone, it's worth understanding how this detail option works. Unlike detail, tool tips are probably used in every single visualization. If I remove the fee earner detail, and go back to my original chart, the tool tip created can be seen when I hover over any point.

And the tool tip will always include the two values in my shelves. In this case, it's client and the percentage of total value.

To add additional information to the tool tip, I can simply drag measures and dimensions onto the tool tip box.

So for example, if I'd like to include the sum of value, I simply drag onto the tool tip.

And now when I hover, I can see that this entry has been included. If I'd like to change the text that appears on the tool tip, I'll double click on the option and edit my text in here. And this is normally needed when you're creating a visualization. Percentage of total value is probably okay as a label, so I can remove a long table down which may confuse another user. So when I delete and press okay, and then I return to my visualization, I can see that the tool tip has been updated. Tool tips are a very useful technique for including additional information on a view that would otherwise be cluttered. And I tend to make extensive use of tool tips when I'm creating visualizations.

However, it's always important to double check what's included in a tool tip after creating a visualization to make sure that when a user hovers over a point, you understand what the description and the value included on that tool tip. With the various options in the marks card now covered, let's move on to creating some advanced visualizations in the next lesson, starting with the box plot.

Tableau Essentials
Creating Visualizations in Tableau


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