Inside the Mind of Tableau's Maps Service Team

By Sasha Pasulka 10 Oct, 2014

Are you obsessed with mapping? So is Tableau's Maps Service team. Our customers care about maps ... a lot. So when our Maps Service team shared with the rest of the dev team some insight into what's new in our most recent releases--and the team's philosophy about maps overall--we thought our customers would want to hear it, too. The following is pulled from a message written by our devs for our devs--an inside look at how Tableau thinks about maps.

There are a few things that the Maps Service team regards as universal truths:

  1. The world is an ever-changing place!
  2. The map you know and love, may NOT be the map your neighbor loves and knows.
  3. No matter how beautiful the map is, the true measure of its value lies within the data.

The enormity (in both scope and mission) of the tasks that this Maps Service crew is facing is never lost on us. Our job: to provide ALL our customers with ALL the map options they need and desire. Such a task requires nothing less than constant and frequent map updates from the Maps Service team. Therefore, without further ado, the team is happy to announce a few of our most recent additions, and explain what type of value they add to our product.

  • Updated Egypt Admin1’s: Egypt’s accelerated urban growth, particularly in Cairo, has generated many border changes in the recent years. Having up-to-date and accurate borders (for the entire world) in both our Service and Geocoding products is something of immense importance. Your map may be beautiful (and trust me, we definitely think it is), but it needs to be accurate too.
  • Added FIPS codes as County Synonyms: The 5-digit Federal Information Processing Standards FIPS code uniquely identifies counties and county equivalents in the USA. In short: it is the language du jour of almost anyone who is trying to create a county-based map in the USA. As a GIS/mapping professional, I am more apt to know the FIPS code of where I was born and raised than my brother’s phone number (06065 if you are wondering). Adding FIPS codes as a valid way to geocode in Tableau opens a wide realm of opportunities for our users. In particular, a user can now use the FIPS code to directly geocode census data. The ability to use a 5-digit number instead of a county name (which can be very long, and possibly full of misspellings, for example: Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Alaska) removes the potential for name mismatches.
  • Added Australia LGAs: As Tableau expands into its global market, it is also expanding the range of data that users expect and desire from our product. For example, Australian local government areas are the USA “County” equivalents in Australia. With the addition of these LGAs, Australian users can now geocode “County” level data as easily as our USA users can.

Here's Tableau Public workbook showing the most recent improvements.

There you go! These are a few of the features that our most recent updates deliver to our customer base. One small step in a marathon we will never stop running...


Submitted by Joan (no verificado) on

Thanks for the info on the FIPS Codes. Beautiful maps :). I work in Oil & Gas industry. Is there a map with the Gulf of Mexico Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) boundaries?

Submitted by James (no verificado) on

Hi Joan, I do not believe there is mapping for OCS boundaries, however, using InterWorks' Power Tool for Tableau - you can create this boundary yourself.
Please let me know how you get on.
Best regards

Submitted by Marcel (no verificado) on

Nice to read about the dedicated tableau maps team. I noticed today a problem with the fillled maps for the netherlands. The part: "wadden eilanden" is not filled when i choose the provincie (in english: province) is choosen. Can this be fixed ?

Submitted by Dan C. on

Marcel - Thanks so much for the feedback. We will add a bug to include the islands with the rest of the province in a future release. Dan

Submitted by John G. on

FIPS for cities would be great too!

Submitted by Dan C. on

John G - Thanks for the feedback! I don't know if/when we'll add FIPS codes for cities, but we'll keep your request in mind. Dan

Submitted by Enrique (no verificado) on

When is the Brazilian zip code system (CEP) coming out?
How is tableau including Emerging Markets?

Pros:It is smaller than India and China, it will help you Tap 200 million inhabitants in a evolving market that offers more value (not mature yet as other developed markets), the government is adopting data-driven analytics, many multinational companies trying to understand and make the market grow through analytics
Cons: Conflicting priorities (other countries in the line)


Submitted by Dan C. on

Enrique- Thanks for the feedback! I don't know when we'll add Brazilian postcodes. We are putting more effort into new administrative units than postal units at this time, but we definitely want to add more postal units in the future. Dan

Submitted by Rutger de Koning (no verificado) on

Hi, any particular news on the European (or Dutch) front?
And: as I understand it, in the current setup, Tableau facilitates maximum of 2 layers over each other. What is the outlook on multiple layers, and layer calculations (spatial queries)?

Submitted by Kathleen (no verificado) on

County FIPS is a great addition. I keep hoping for the next level, census tracts. In banking, analysis of lending performance must be to the tract level.

Submitted by Joan H. on

Could you advise how to obtain the lat/longs for creating polygons for Louisiana Parishes (counties)? The polygon data points should be in columnar order by: 1) parish name, 2) plotting sequence, 3) point order and 4) lat and 5) long for importing into Tableau.

Submitted by Dan C. on

Joan - Louisiana Parishes are already included in Tableau as counties. No need to get them some other way.


Submitted by Dan C. on

Rutger - We are adding new geographies in Europe pretty much every maintenance release these days. I can't tell you for sure when any particular geographic unit will ship. It helps us if you are specific - which units in the Netherlands are you looking for?
Thanks for the feedback on layers and spatial queries!

Kathleen – Thanks for the suggestion of census tracts!

Submitted by Joan H. on

I understand that the Louisiana Parishes are already in Tableau but I trying to display both oil and gas (O&G) production in Louisiana and O&G gas production in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). OCS mapping is not included in Tableau; therefore, I created the OCS map boundaries myself using approx. 8900 datapoints. Can I combine user-defined boundaries with Tableau-defined boundaries on the same map? My map is currently a fillable map with the polygons showing darker for the higher producing areas.

Submitted by Marcel W. on

hard to tell without the shape file. is it possible you make a posting on the forum and attach the map ? perhaps we can solve your issue there

Submitted by Marcel W. on

rutger, you could use a wms server instead. for example geoserver. there you can add as much layers as you want. but keep in mind, tableau is not a GIS tool.

Submitted by Rutger (no verificado) on

Hi Marcel, thanks for the tip, I will follow up on it. I understand that Tableau is not a GIS tool, it is just my conviction that THE method of bringing together data from different sources is by putting the different data objects on the map, and show these as different layers in overlays. WMS servers will definitely help, but I also envisage that many companies will have multiple proprietary data layers that they want to show & interpret, in combination with external data layers. At least visually, and ideally also with spatial queries.

Submitted by Rutger (no verificado) on

Hi Dan,

Thanks for the feedback. For the Netherlands, I guess the usual suspects are post code areas, municipalities, other local government areas, ... Land ownership (Cadastral parcels) is high on my wish list, but that is probably a bridge too far...


Submitted by Annie G. on

Is there a way to get shape files done with government censes data as a layer? I second the recommendation that there should be a way to put layers of data on a map even though Tableau is not a GIS tool. Data is increasingly represented on maps and it will be good to have more functionality in Tableau

Submitted by Kent M. on

Thanks for the feedback Annie. We understand the increasing need for improving the mapping and spatial analysis capabilities of Tableau. We are hopeful to make significant strides in this direction this year. Stay tuned.

Submitted by Marcel W. on

any news on the bug related to the dutch 'wadden eianden' not being included in the filled maps ? i filled a bug for this and was hoping this would be fixed. perhaps in the upcoming 9.0 release ?

Submitted by Kent M. on

Hi Marcel,

Unfortunately we did not address this in the 9.0 release. However, it has been flagged as an issue we would like to address in an upcoming maintenance release. I will let you know when it has been addressed. We appreciate the your feedback.

Thanks, Kent

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