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An Introduction to the Tableau Pages Shelf

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Instructor

Ryan Sleeper

Learn How to Create Animated Visualizations in Tableau

By placing dimensions on the Pages Shelf, Tableau creates an animation that flips through one dimension member at a time. In this example, you will see how to follow the progress of a dimension member on an animated scatter plot.

Hi, this is Ryan with Playfair Data TV. And in this video, I’m going to show you how to animate a Tableau visualization using a technical feature called the Pages shelf. First, let’s make a quick visualization that’s worthy of animating. I’m going to make my third favorite chart which is a scatter plot. I will look at the Sales measure on the y-axis by the Profit measure on the x-axis.

I’m also going to change the mark type from Shape to Circle, make that circle a little bit bigger so that we can see it, and maybe change the level of detail on this view to look at sales and profit by the Region dimension. And so that we have a mark to follow, I’m also going to use one of my favorite techniques which is to create a highlight effect using parameters. Let’s say I wanted to color one of these Region dimension members. So in this case, one of the regions.

And we’ll color it red just so that we have a mark to follow around while this is being animated. This involves just two steps to create, technically three. But the first thing we need to do is create a parameter from the Region dimension. There is a shortcut. If we want to create a parameter from the allowable values in a dimension, we can right-click directly on that dimension, hover over Create, and choose Parameter.

This looks at the data type of that dimension and automatically populates it. It also automatically populates a list of allowable values. I’m going to call that good. The second step is to create a calculated field. I’ll call this my Highlighter. And the entire formula is just the original name of the dimension equals Region Parameter. I’ll click OK and just to confirm what is being selected currently, I will show the parameter control and you can see that Central is the current value.

So if I drag this Highlighter to color, we should see the Central region colored one thing. All the other three dimension members colored something else. To make that stand out a little bit more, I will edit the colors and map red for “true”, gray for “false”. Alright. Now to the purpose of this video, showing you the Pages shelf. Let’s say that we wanted to animate this scatter plot to try to identify trends or to see how this dimension member was changing over time.

Well, if that’s the case and I want to look at something over time, I will go find my Order Date dimension from the Sample – Superstore dataset. And I’m going to right-click on that Order Date field and drag it to what’s called the Pages shelf. This is how you can animate views in Tableau, it’s currently the only way to do this. Because I right-clicked on my element of time, I get to choose whether it will be used as discrete or continuous as well as the date part.

But here’s something interesting about the Pages shelf. Let’s say I choose “month continuous”. I know this field is continuous because it has a little green icon next to it. I will choose that also because I know that there are 48 months in the Sample – Superstore dataset. So when we start to animate this view, I expect to see 48 different versions of this scatter plot. I’ll click OK.

But take a look at the Pages shelf. It flipped our Month of Order Date dimension. Even though I chose something that was green or continuous, it flipped it back to blue or discrete. If you’re not clear on that classification, definitely check out the video “Tableau Classification: Discrete Versus Continuous.” But the Pages shelf is a little bit different. It converts everything to discrete because we’re technically looking at discrete pages.

Think of the old animation books where you had a bunch of different pages and you had to flip through with your thumb, that’s kind of what this is doing. And each of those pages is considered discrete because they are discrete views, we’re only going to be looking at one month at a time. Also notice that when I added a field to the Pages shelf, this little player dialog box automatically appeared and you can see that it defaulted to the first month of Order Date in the Sample – Superstore dataset.

But now if I click on the play button, so I click play, hands are off the mouse, you can see that this is flipping through those pages kind of like I described, you can think of this as an old animation book. It’s flipping through one month at a time. Theoretically, I don’t honestly know if there’s any good examples in this exact animation. But maybe we can see some type of trend on how the Central dimension member is moving around in context, how it’s performing from month to month compared to those three other dimension members.

There are a few options in this player. These three icons will speed up or slow down the animation. So if I choose the slower one, hands are off the keyboard, you can see that has slowed down significantly. If I choose the fast icon, you can see it goes very fast, too fast in my opinion. In fact, let me show you that entire animation. So I’m just going to grab that circle and drag it all the way to the left and if I click play, you can see that’s a little bit too fast.

I actually kind of wish there was an option between the default medium speed and the fast speed because I think that would be about the right level. But those are the options for now. I’ll flip this back to the medium speed and show you a few other options on the Pages shelf. If you click Show History, there’s lots of options in here. If I ever use this, I like to choose All.

So I’ll click All and we’ll start the animation over again. What this does, by default, is it flips through page by page but those older historical marks get grayed out, or faded out. And in fact, you can even change how much of an effect that fade has. And not only can you change the intensity of that fade, but you can choose the format of those faded out marks.

I’m not a huge fan of this. I actually can’t think of a great use case because you’ll see what I mean in a moment. But you can choose a different color for the faded marks, but it’s all or nothing. So if I chose black, those are, in my opinion, a little too black and we’ve kind of lost really the highlight effect that we were looking for. It’s a little bit distracting. I suppose you could change the opaqueness or make those marks a little bit more transparent so that that highlight effect stayed intact.

But that’s been the Pages shelf in Tableau. Tableau is working on some new ways to animate different views. But this is currently the only way to animate a visualization in Tableau.

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