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The Text in a Table Problem

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

By Dawn Harrington

Recently I had a user approach me with an interesting issue. How do you call out if a metric is improving in a text table view? I want to call out Iain Murphy for this blog suggestion!

If you are using the Min(0) method as described in a previous blog So a Client wants a table in your dashboard > here, it doesn't download well if your user wants a copy of the data in a CSV or Excel format.

If you click on the dashboard associated with the blog article here and download it as a crosstab, it appears as below;

Or what about using fancy Map layers? What does that look like in a download? Very similar unfortunately. These views aren't optimal for downloading data.

Tableau wasn't meant to be used as a file repository or a method of emailing your reports to users. Ask your users what they do with the Excel download. How much time do they spend filtering and pivoting? Did you account for those views in your existing dashboard? Clearly the time savings can help.

Here is an example of time savings;


What insights can you draw quickly from looking at the table? Is there a State that is improving? Is there one that is declining?

Line Graph

Looking at the line graph above, you can see Delaware significantly improved in October and November. Pennsylvania declined in December.

But what if your client wants a table to download after explaining the benefits of visualizations? You use a Text table for download in a detail view right?

Solution 1 - You can email them a copy of the data using an ETL tool like Alteryx.

Solution 2 - You can build a crosstab report but you are limited with the number of columns.

Tableau's performance on the server may dip depending on how many columns you have. Tableau performs better with tall data (many rows) rather than with wide data (many columns).

Part of your job as a developer is to help teach users be smart with their data. Sure, you can build a view with 50 columns but how slow will it be? Additionally if you have a lot of filters, it will be slow on the server. You can't just develop it and forget it. Your users will return if it is not performing up to their standards.

If they want to download a small aggregated cut of your data, then I would suggest a text table or crosstab. The following are some methods that you can add to a text table.

Steve Adams has an example of how you can format each column by using separate legends here.

 You can make your columns with a stepped color and use white for both colors on the columns you don't want your users to focus on.

You can then add a three step color to the column you want to call out. You can color the negative values and the positive values if you click on the Advanced button.

You can even create your own color palette for this purpose by just having three colors. You can do this by editing your preferences.tps file > Blog Link  If you do create your own palette, ensure it is ordered-sequential as the type. That way it will show up for this purpose. The reason you may want white as the middle color, is so the 0s don't get highlighted. Only the positives and negatives will.

But wait, did you know you can add arrows too? You can format the way the number in a column appears and use arrows for the positive/negative values. The arrows can be found in Window's character map application > Blog link

What does it look like when you download it with the arrows? See the example below;

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