Quick Fixes: Bringing Text Tables To Life

Tim Lafferty

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Tableau Chart

Best Practices for Text Tables in Tableau

A few tips for making text tables a little less boring

I’m probably one of the few people that actually like text tables in Tableau. If done correctly, they provide a straight-to-point objective summary of the data. Additionally, I find text tables provide a level a familiarity to new users who are used to spreadsheets. Text tables in Tableau are the gateway drug to full-on chart development.

In this Quick Fix article, we’re going to talk about ways to make your existing text tables stand out. I will be using the Superstore Sample data from Tableau’s built-in data sources.

For a step-by-step instruction on building the initial text table, check out this article.

1. Get rid of the alternative row banding

This default behavior drives me crazy. I’m sure there’s an underlying reason for it (probably something simple like differentiation), but I can’t stand it. Right click anywhere in the text table and select ‘Format’. From there, click on the paint can (middle icon as of version 10.xx). About 80% of the way down, you will find the ‘Row Banding’ options. You’ll need to remove the color (select ‘None’) for both the Pane and Header.

2. Center the text

This one is obviously optional, but the text distribution of your chart always looks more proportionate when the text is centered. From the ‘Format’ tab, select the alignment icon (2nd from left as of version 10.xx). With the ‘Sheet’ option selected and under the ‘Default’ section, set the Pane (and Header if desired) to be both vertically and horizontally centered.

3. Accentuate the totals

Much like we got rid of the row banding, we need to go back to the ‘Shading’ option (paint can icon) of the Format tab. Here, you’ll notice both a ‘Total’ and ‘Grand Total’ section. For the ‘Total’ Pane and Header, choose a color that’s 1 shade darker than the current text background. We want the colors to be subtle enough not to distract, but different enough to capture the user’s attention. I’m going to use light blue for ‘Totals’ and light orange for ‘Grand Totals’.

Similarly, I’m going to change the font color for match the shading (but a few degrees darker for readability). Possibly even add the bold option if needed.

4. Rotate parent labels (if using hierarchy)

This is definitely optional, but if a horizontal parent category label is creating a lot of whitespace, rotate the label! If space permits, try using a slightly larger font as well. This establishes the hierarchy.

“I right-clicked the header and selected the ‘Rotate Label’ option, but now my Grand Total label is vertical!” 

Make sure to address both the ‘Default’ and ‘Grand Totals’ options – you will have to explicitly set these to work the way you intend.

End Result

The final product should be a text table that allows the user to find line-level numbers easily while also being able to quickly summarize respective fields.

Questions, corrections or suggestions? Leave a note!

Tim