Having the chance to upgrade to Tableau 9 a few months back was not just a gift, but an experience. Like winning a Golden Ticket to Willy Wonka's Tableau Factory, I wanted to sing to the world. Wonka's world of data visualization boasted so many new features, many of us got lost along the way in the land of LOD calculations, never realizing some of the smaller features could greatly impact our speed and efficiency in the tool. 

Here's a flashback to Tableau Desktop 8.3 to jog your memory in terms of how different the experience of 9.0 is. To build formulas, we either typed the code manually or scrolled through lists and double clicked the items we wanted to use. 

Double click

Tableau 9: A Whole New World

The biggest feature in 9.0 that affects my design speed is the drag and drop enhancements in the new calculations window. Simple mouse clicks now minimize manually entered syntax. Instead of having to double-click specific fields from scrolling lists or meticulously type every character from memory, Tableau 9.0 converts your drag & drop actions into code.

Feature #1: Pills become code when pulled IN to the calc editor from the view or data window.

Drag drop

 Feature #2: Code becomes pills when pulled OUT of calc editor into the view or data window.

Drag drop

Feature #3 is the element that I failed to realize (pure oversight) until about a month ago. Pieces of code can be highlighted in the calc window then pulled into view to test. I don't know why I assumed you had to take either a small piece of the formula or the whole shebang, but my efficiency is better now that I know. These new design features reflect Tableau's iterative approach to visualizing data, allowing you to compare outcomes as you think with the tool.


  • Operators still need to be hard coded from the keyboard () [] {} + - / * < <= > >= <>.
  • Functions still need to be double clicked from the list at the right-hand side of the calc editor (or may be typed in from the keyboard).
  • If pulling an instance of a field from a shelf into the formula box, you do not need a CTRL + drag like some may think. Tableau leaves the original instance on the shelf and copies the code of the field into the calculation syntax. 

In my research to the limits of the drag and drop capabilities of the 9.0 calc editor, I discovered two limitations. First, the formula box will not receive an RC drag (to select Avg Sales instead of Sum Sales) and second, the functions listed at the right of the formula box cannot be added via drag and drop. If you would find such features beneficial, please up-vote the idea in the Community.

Remember, little tricks like building faster calculations by drag & drop can greatly assist with your day to day analyses. Checkout some of the data fun going on near you to keep your skills sharp. Get involved in your local TUG, deconstruct the Viz of the Day, begin planning your perfect schedule of sessions to hit at TC15 in Vegas, or come show off your viz skills at our COE Viz Contest in Boston.

Want to take your Tableau projects to the next level? Learn more about how our experts can help grow your skills today.

Helping you viz smarter, one Tuesday at a time. Have a great day!

Categories:Tableau, Data Visualization