The Best Visualization for You

There are a lot of ways to visualize your data in Tableau. Depending on what you're analyzing, some chart types work better than others. Often, a simple bar chart is all you need to communicate your findings.

A bar chart will answer most of your questions

You usually won't need a complex viz to answer all your questions. Bar charts—the most popular chart type in Tableau—make it easy to compare information at a glance. It's best to use a bar chart when comparing data across categories like sales per country. Below are a few examples of when a bar chart works better than other chart types.

Map vs. Bar

Which country has the second most sales? Rather than trying to compare colors across dissimilar areas on a map, the bar chart makes comparison easy. The location of each country is not important to this analysis. The question is solely about comparing sales results. Maps are more useful when geographic features are relevant.

Line vs. Bar

How many months had lower profit than April? Although timelines are wonderful for looking at trends, it can be difficult to compare discrete points in time. A bar chart allows for faster comparison across the months themselves instead of showing profit changing over time.

Text Table vs. Bar

Which sub-category has the highest cost for First Class orders? Text tables are great for exposing the actual numbers, but it’s harder to compare values (a mathematical operation) than it is to compare the length of bars (a preattentive attribute). For comparative questions like this, text isn’t as effective as a bar chart.

Filters = Interactivity

See exactly what you’re looking for with filters. Adding a filter to your viz is simple. Just right-click on a pill and select "show filter." Filters are also the easiest way to add interactivity to your viz for your audience.

Filter your data

Give it a try! Dig in with these data sets

Use your own data or these popular public datasets to practice what you've learned.

Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums

Explore when albums hit the top 500.

Las Vegas Yelp Reviews

Discover what restaurants in Las Vegas have the highest (and lowest) Yelp reviews.

Summer Olympic Medalists

What fun facts will you find about the 2012 summer Olympic medalists? Criteria such as home country, event, medal, and gender are included in the data. Courtesy of The Guardian.

What chart or graph is right for you?

The chart or graph type you choose will depend on the information you’re trying to show. In our Whitepaper, Which Chart or Graph is Right For You? we dig into 13 chart types and when to use them. Here are a couple of the most popular chart types.

Line Chart

Line charts connect individual numeric data points to form a (yep, you got it) line. They are best used for looking at trends over time and forecasting. Quick tip: How to build a line chart

  1. Drag a Date Dimension to Columns.
  2. Drag a Measure to Rows
  3. Change date to a different period by using the drop-down arrow or clicking the "+" next to Year on the pill

Scatter Plot

Scatter plots are great for seeing the relationship between two measures and spotting trends and outliers. Quick tip: How to build a scatter plot

  1. Drag a Measure to Rows
  2. Drag a Measure to Columns


Use a map when you're looking at location data like country, postal codes, or your own custom geocoding. Quick tip: How to build a map

  1. Drag any Dimension that is categorized as a geographic field (globe icon) onto the view.


These charts use a series of rectangles, nested within other rectangles, to show hierarchical data as a proportion to the whole. As the name of the chart suggests, think of your data as related like a tree: each branch is given a rectangle which represents how much data it comprises. Quick tip: How to build a tree map Within the Marks Card:

  1. Change mark type to square
  2. Drag a Dimension to color
  3. Drag a Measure to size
  4. Drag a Dimension to label or detail

Chart types taught by the experts

Let our expert instructors teach you how to build advanced chart types in our Desktop II: Intermediate course.

Formatting to make your viz pop


Color is one of the most powerful aspects of a viz. The data should drive the use of color to make a point, not personal favorites or brand colors. Too many colors can create visual overload and impede analysis, so add color when meaningful.

Text Labels

Packing text into a viz is a sure way to overwhelm the analysis. However, a strategic use of text can draw attention to key information. When used carefully, labels, annotations, and titles help indicate what’s going on and where to focus.


Tooltips are powerful and can convey a lot of information compactly. They automatically appear when a mouse hovers over a mark, and can reinforce the story you're telling. Always consider what is in your tooltip when building a viz.

What are pills?

A pill is a field or column of data you want to analyze that you drag-and-drop in Tableau to build your viz. Learn about different pill types.

Dimensions vs. Measures

Dimensions contain qualitative values (such as names, dates, or geographical data). You can use dimensions to categorize, segment, and reveal the details in your data. Dimensions affect the level of detail in the view.

Measures contain numeric, quantitative values that you can measure. You can apply calculations to them and aggregate them. When you drag a measure into the view, Tableau applies an aggregation to that measure (by default).

Continuous vs. Discrete

Tableau represents data differently in the view depending on whether the field is discrete (blue), or continuous (green). Continuous and discrete are mathematical terms. Continuous means "forming an unbroken whole, without interruption;" discrete means "individually separate and distinct."

Changing default pill types

Most of the time, dimensions are discrete and measures are continuous. However, this isn’t always true. It’s possible to have a numerical dimension be continuous, or to convert a measure to be discrete. For example, right-clicking on a continuous measure brings up the options “Convert to discrete” and “Convert to dimension.” Note that those two operations—converting to discrete and converting to a dimension—are not synonymous.