By Elissa Fink 23 Set, 2008

Great news for those of you who are into analytical mapping. Today, Tableau Software released version 4.1 which offers many new enhancements including the ability to use WMS (Web Map Service) map images as background maps for your data visualizations in Tableau Desktop. I personally like some of the satellite maps we've found. 4.1 also offers other enhancements, including Server performance improvements and Active Directory improvements.

WMS Support
Tableau 4.1 adds WMS support so you can retrieve custom maps from your own WMS servers. While the Tableau online and offline maps were carefully designed to display data effectively and beautifully for all kinds of data, the WMS support allows you to use Tableau with specialized maps that are custom to your organization.

As an example, here's a visualization using publicly available data about donations to the major presidential campaigns. You can see a pattern where Obama has much deeper financial support on the West Coast while McCain has more deeply penetrated areas throughout the central parts of the country. I put this ZIP level "dot density" map on top of a satellite image from the WMS Server at the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC). The WMS address that you would use in Tableau Desktop is "".
map presidential donations by ZIP code using satellite image as backdrop

Created by the Open Geospatial Consortium, WMS is an international standard for how maps can be dynamically retrieved from servers. Tableau supports servers that have implemented the WMS 1.1.1 specification. There are some public WMS servers available as well as a number of WMS-enabled server products your organization may already have such as software from ESRI, MapInfo, or others.

You can download a quick start guide with step-by-step instructions for using a WMS server in Tableau 4.1. Also, check out the Wikipedia entry on WMS; you'll find more information and links there.

Server Performance Improvements
Many customers using Tableau Server will see performance improvements with the Tableau 4.1 upgrade. Specifically pages may load faster when requesting a view. In addition, the server has improved data caching, which increases responsiveness during interactive sessions. Refresh the data cache at any time to reload from the underlying data source.

Single Logon for Multiple Sheets
Tableau Desktop now only asks you to logon to each database one time per workbook. The username and password provided are reused for each sheet that connects to the same server and database. For example, a workbook with three sheets, each connecting to different tables in the same database, will now only prompt you to login once instead of three times.

Active Directory Improvements
If you use Active Directory authentication with Tableau Server, the 4.1 release adds several new capabilities to help you configure domain information. You can now specify the domain nickname during installation and modify both full domain names and nicknames after the server is up and running.


What I'd offer is more about the actual outcomes of the tool usage -- while the power of the engineering delivery is extraordinary, it's the visualization outcomes that are the most captivating. Being a designer -- and a storyteller -- that point is about resonance in audience. Seeing information in new ways -- especially in the layering of informative interpretation is empowering.

And, examining Fink's modeling, there's all the more reason to be considering how the tools of grasping, comprehending informational content -- even manipulating it, in the context of authentic study and revelation -- makes the tool power all the more captivating.

The audience gets it because it can see it.

Story told, framing of content illuminated -- and the connections -- these important relationships, are vitalized.

Sweet suite!

Tim Girvin | | | |