Step and jump lines are now available in Beta and will officially become available in Tableau 2018.1!
Have you ever wondered if your line graphs aren't telling the whole story? Straight lines portray a constant rate of change between two data points, but it’s not immediately obvious how long the value at a specific point lasts or how big the change is between the points. To get the real story from your data, it may be necessary to highlight significant changes between data points and how long it's been since the last change.
For data that doesn't change at a continuous pace, step and jump lines are a great way to showcase durations of values and magnitudes of change. In the example below, both vizzes show the cumulative sales of a product category. Around 2016 Q1, there's a big jump in sales from about $2,000 to more than $10,000. At first glance, the change looks straightforward; the first viz shows how sales spiked from one month to the next. However, when the line type changes to step lines in the second viz, it’s immediately evident that the sales spike occurred over two separate points in time, and possibly even with different transactions and customers.
How do I use this new feature?
To use step and jump lines, first create a regular line as you normally would, then click on the path bubble in the marks card and change the line type to either step or jump. To switch between the different line types, simply toggle the selections.
What else can I do with step and jump lines? How are they different?
Step and jump lines work well when numeric data isn't continuous in nature—in other words, when your data changes discretely or at irregular points in time. For example, account balances, inventory levels, and stamp prices often produce data that behaves like this.
Step and jump lines can also be used with other mark types, of course.
So whether you are a stamp collector, a viz hobbyist, or a data analyst, there’s something in step and jump lines for everyone!