Tableau's Newer Features

2019 was a big year for Tableau, and not just because they were acquired by Salesforce. 2019 saw huge leaps in terms of different capabilities in Tableau that were added to make our lives as Tableau developers easier. Here is a run down of my top 5 favorite new(er) features in Tableau.

Set Actions

Now I know Set Actions were released in Version 2018.3 in December of 2018, but throughout 2019 many people in the community dove into the value and use cases of Set Actions. Because of the huge amount of use cases out there, and the usefulness that I’ve found with this new feature, I am including it in my Top 5.

Although this blog is not sorted most to least favorite, this new(er) feature is probably the one I use most both for work and fun projects. Before set actions, sets were a feature in Tableau that, though we knew about them, many users couldn’t find a great application for them. Because the values of the Set were fixed, it was hard to find a practical use case that wasn’t able to be done with a filter, unless the values you wanted to include never changed.

Back in April we published a blog post on using Set Actions to drill into different levels of geographic data. You can find that post here. This is just one of many applications of this new amazing feature.

Parameter Actions

While I love Set Actions, of the new releases, Parameter Actions are definitely the most practical. While building business dashboards, it is common to run calculations, filters, and even formatting through parameters. With Parameter Actions you are able to change the value of those parameters by interacting with the values on your dashboard instead of using a drop down. 

Luke Stanke and I collaborated on a viz that ended up being Tableau Public’s Viz of the Day that used Parameter Actions. Back in November of 2019 we released a blog post that showed how we compared time periods with this new feature. You can find the blog post here

Makeline, Makepoint

In addition to all of the great action features released in 2019, there were a whole host of spatial features that were released as well. Two of the biggest features were the Makeline and Makepoint calculations that are now standard in Desktop. The old way of making two points connect to one another involved making two lines of data for each line and then connecting the two via a field that you could drop on the the Path box in the Marks card. No more!

Now you are able to have those lat/long points in the same row of data and using the Makeline() formula you are able to connect the two. For more details about this process, you can check out Tessellation’s blog post by Shaun Davis here.

Distance Calculations

In addition to the Makeline and Makepoint calculations, you can now use the DISTANCE() calculation to find out how far it is from one point to another. In the example below I have made my two points from data that is located in the same row and then designated “miles” as my unit. You are also able to choose meters, kilometers, and feet.

This new feature allows for better spatial analysis of anything from supply chain analytics to a crime or housing analysis.

Dynamic Parameters

Although this feature has not been released in production yet, this is by far my favorite new Tableau feature. I love to run all of my calculations that include dates off of parameters not only for performance purposes, but for simplicity of developing.

The only issue with this is that when you are faced with a situation where you are needing to be able to filter as [Date Parameter] = [Date] THEN [VALUE] END. The Data Parameter field would not normally be updated with the most recent dates, but with dynamic parameters you’ll be able to have these field values available to you dynamically. I can’t wait!!

Bonus: Tableau Prep Conductor

Tableau Prep has been a great addition to the Tableau suite of products, but Prep Conductor has really enabled uses to maximize its practical applications. Being able to schedule and run workflows from Prep to your Tableau Server or Tableau Online really enables us to make Tableau Prep a part of our long term solutions. 

Thanks so much for reading! If you have any comments, suggestions, or feedback make sure to email me at spencer.baucke@tessellationconsulting.com.

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