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Applied Zen in Tableau (Conditional Formatting)


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Presented the Boston Tableau Users Group Meeting on May 17, 2012. The workbook that goes along with this presentation is on Tableau Public at If you have other ideas, questions, corrections, or issues, I’m glad to respond, email me at qm.jtd (at) or on the Tableau forums at

Applied Zen in Tableau (Conditional Formatting)

  1. 1. Applied Zen in Tableau
  2. 2. This No wayway no other optiondoesn’t really dowhat I want
  3. 3. This No wayway Another way Whack your brain, your data, and/or your viz with a stick
  4. 4. Excel starts with presentation“Paint” formatting onto the screen
  5. 5. Excel starts with presentation “Paint” formatting onto the screen Tableau starts with dataVisual elements (and their meaning) derived from attributes of data
  6. 6. Thinking Orthogonally• Going beyond the “usual” ways of displaying your data – Mark labels to show numbers and text – Dual axes to show calculated trend lines and reference lines – Custom SQL to pad and reshape on the fly – Table calculations for fun and amazement• There’s always Excel / OpenOffice
  7. 7. Southern Maine Medical Center150 bed hospital and 18 medical Quality Management - tracking >1500offices located south of Portland metricsBig bang implementation of new Using legacy systems, paper, SaaS,medical record, patient care and HR Excel, Access, and Tableausystems in 2013
  8. 8. ProviderRankings(sample data)
  9. 9. InfectionPrevention(sample data)
  10. 10. ReadmissionsAnalysis(sample data)
  11. 11. Conditional Formatting via the Multiple Axis Crosstab See the viz at gv4/Introduction
  12. 12. Multiple Axis Crosstab• Instead of using the Text mark with no axes on the Columns shelf and Measure Names as the way to get multiple columns, we have a “fake” axis for each column and use Text, Shape/Circle/Square and/or Gantt Bar/Bar marks and mark labels to show the values.• Advantages over Measure Names/Measure Values: – Can mix text and numbers, left and right alignment – Each column/row can be formatted differently using Text, Shape, or Bar marks – Can even use Bold, Italics, and Underline for calling out text• Disadvantages – Extra work to set up – Extra white space in the view – Harder to see whats going on in the view, since Measures are on the Label shelves and not on Rows/Columns or visible on the Measure Values Card – Sensitive to display size (particularly for Shape/Circle/Square marks) – Slower performance due to making Tableau do more work to display data
  13. 13. Mastering Tableau• Pick an area – formatting, mapping, table calculations, survey analysis, data reshaping, dashboards, Tableau Server, big data, etc.• Use Tableau training resources – Training videos, do the online training, read the knowledge base articles – RTM, Rapid Graphs in Tableau book• Practice, practice, practice – Tableau forums are a great place
  14. 14. Links• Online Training -• Tableau Forums -• Rapid Graphs in Tableau -• Tableau Blogs – – – – – – – – – – – – –• Data visualization: Edward Tufte, Stephen Few, Naomi Robbins, Nathan Yau, etc.
  15. 15. The Other Kind of Visualization
  16. 16. Comments, Questions? Jonathan Drummey @jonathandrummey