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Technical Features


An Introduction to Tableau’s Show Me Feature



Ryan Sleeper

Automatically lay the foundation for 24 popular chart types

See two ways to use Show Me to efficiently start your views. You’ll also learn how Tableau determines if you’ve met the technical criteria to draw each chart type and how you can determine which chart Show Me is recommending.

Hi, this is Ryan with Playfair Data TV, and in this tutorial, I’m going to be providing an introduction to the technical feature in Tableau called Show Me. Show Me is a way to lay the foundation for several popular chart types without you having the need to know exactly where to put the dimensions and the measures on the view.

I do always like to train, from the beginning, by building all the charts manually because I still feel like it helps to know kind of the inner workings of how Tableau thinks and how it’s going to display your information. But once you get used to that, and you kind of understand it, Show Me is very helpful for very efficiently laying the foundation of up to 24 different chart types. That’s what I’m going to show you here.

For this example, over here in Tableau Desktop from the Sample – Superstore data set, what we’re going to do is recreate this chart that looks at the Sales measure by continuous Month and Region. So let’s say we built this manually. We know how to build a line graph. But maybe down the road, we have to recreate this, so we want to rely or lean on Show Me to at least lay the foundation for us.

I’m going to start a new worksheet. And to use Show Me, I’m going to begin by preselecting the fields that I need to draw that line graph. So the fields were Order Date. I’m going to hold the Control key to allow me to do a multi-select, and click Region. I’m going to hold the Control key again and click Sales.

So I’ve got three different fields selected, and I’m going to open Show Me by clicking this button in the top right corner of the Authoring interface. So as I mentioned, you’ll see 24 different chart types. If the thumbnail of that chart type is in color, that means that you’ve met the technical criteria, or you’ve got the proper combination of dimensions and measures, to draw that particular chart.

If it’s a grayed out, that means that you don’t have the right combination of fields to draw it. Let me give you an example. On the second row here, our symbol map is grayed out. If you hover over a grayed out thumbnail, it’ll explain what fields are needed to draw that particular chart type. It says for symbol maps, try one geographic dimension.

Well, we already, right off the bat, we don’t have a geographic dimension selected. You might think Region is, but it doesn’t have a globe icon next to it. It’s actually a data type of String, doesn’t have a geographic role. That’s why we weren’t able to draw a map.

Let me give you a maybe slightly better example. So this dual combination is also grayed out. It says try one date. We’ve got that– Order Date. It says zero or more dimensions. We’ve got that because we’ve got Region, and Order Date is technically a dimension. Plus, we didn’t even need a dimension, so we’re good there.

And then the third one is two measures. Well, we’ve only got one measure. That’s where we struck out on drawing a dual combination chart. We’ve got one measure. You need two, so it’s grayed out.

You’ll also see Tableau draw an orange border around its best guess or its recommendation for what it thinks you want to create. I want to point out that this is not always the best chart type for what you’re trying to do. Tableau is a software. At some point, humans came along and they coded rules that said, when this combination of things is being used, we’re going to recommend this chart type. I don’t always agree with its recommendation.

And, in fact, this one is very close, so it’s recommending a discrete line graph. But on the sheet that we built, we actually have a continuous line graph. I know that because my Order Date pill is green instead of blue. So it was close, but I actually want to choose the one right next to it for continuous lines.

So I’m going to click on that. You will see a chart type appear. It’s got all the fields from the chart type that I intend to create, but there’s a couple things that are off about it. So first of all, the date part. On the chart I’m trying to create, I’m breaking these lines down by continuous Month.

But if I look at the one created with Show Me, it’s breaking the lines down by continuous Year. That’s because Year is the default date part of a date field in your data set. To change that, I can click into the pill and choose the Month date part instead of continuous [sic]. When I click that, we’re a little bit closer.

But we just created this spaghetti graph where all the lines are thrown on top of each other, and that’s because there is one more change I need. Notice on the Rows Shelf, I’ve got the Region dimension. But on the version that Show Me created, it used that Region dimension on the Color Marks Card instead of but not in addition to the Rows Shelf.

So I need to put the Region dimension onto the Rows Shelf, and now it’s very close to what I created in the first version. I also threw an effect on here for Markers. Those are the little tiny circles on each data point. You can do that by clicking on the Color Marks Card, going under Effects, and choosing the option in the middle for Markers. That’ll put a little circle on every data point.

So point being, Show Me is very effective for helping you lay the foundation, but you still need to know kind of how Tableau ticks. It’s still very helpful to know how to build chart types manually because that’ll allow you to make these small tweaks that you need in order to get the exact result that you’re looking for.

One last thing on Show Me before I close the video. You can also use Show Me to modify existing charts. In my example, I preselected the three fields, but you can also change a chart once it’s already on the view. So if instead of a line graph you decided you wanted to change that to a text table, I can go to Show Me.

These fields are already on the view. It immediately transferred those continuous line graphs to a text table. I might encourage you to at least go to a highlight table, but you get the idea.

You can use Show Me to lay the foundation for these 24 different chart types either by preselecting data and then going to Show Me or by using Show Me on a chart that’s already been created.

This has been Ryan with Playfair Data TV – thanks for watching!