Columns and Rows: Any Difference?

This is the 2nd post in a series on how to format your data for Tableau Public. You can read the first post on general cleaning here

One tricky concept when working with data, specifically with Excel or Text Files, is why certain fields should be multiple columns and others should be in a single column. For example, sometimes you get data in a format that looks like this:

This format is called a crosstab, and we generally don't want our data to look like this. In this video, we try to demystify the concept and explain why.

As the video goes over, items that can be grouped as part of a larger relationship should probably be in one column. For example, the following would almost always be in one column:

  • Years (1999, 2000)
  • States (CA, WA)
  • Company (Apple, Google)

Whereas fields that are completely unrelated (e.g. School Subject, School Location) probably will get their own column.

In the video, we used a data reshaping tool to change the column fields into rows. You can learn more about the tool at the bottom of this knowledge base article.

Stay tuned for one more video in this series. As always, if you have any questions or suggestions for improvement, e-mail us at