Tableau Tuesday: Understanding Bold Text Clues in the UI

By: Tiffany Spaulding | August 18, 2015

Have you ever gone car shopping to test drive a model you assumed was not popular, only to spot that same model nearly everywhere you venture after the test drive is over? That very idea of what has been seen cannot be unseen is what spurred my closer look into Tableau's UI design. About a year and a half ago I was teaching a custom course on Tableau Desktop and one of my students stumped me with their question. It wasn't because it was beyond my technical skill level or outside my realm of expertise, it was because he asked why Tableau Desktop used encoding in its user interface. I had never registered that it did. From that moment forward, I see it, and I now understand those subtleties.

What was my epiphany? Bold text. That's it. Tableau utilizes bold text to draw our attention to features of the UI. Let's take a look at three examples and see if you have registered their meanings.

Bold Text in Right Click Menu = Result of a Double Click 

Everyone knows a major rule of success in Tableau is to Keep Calm and Right Click. In many right click menus however, Tableau encodes one option in bold text. Why? The bold option informs the user that a double click of the same element would result in the bold menu option. Becoming familiar with a few key elements to double click will save you time in the long run, increasing your efficiency every time you utilize the double click. The bold text takes much of the guessing game away from predicting Tableau’s behavior.





For example, right clicking a field in the data window reveals "Add to Sheet" as the bold option. If instead you double-clicked the field in the data window, the same action would result. Predicting where each field will land takes time as the order in which elements are loaded into your visualization, their data type, whether dimension or measure, and whether discrete or continuous all determine the landing spot in view. Once you learn the bold options, you too can become a double click junkie. Fair warning, others may become envious of your understanding of Tableau's dark magic. Here is a quick starting point of some common ones I use daily:

Object (RC or Double Click)

Bold Text in RC menu / Result of Double Click

Dimension in data window

Add to Sheet

Geocoded Dimension in data widow

Add to Sheet (builds a map)

Measure in data window

Add to Sheet

Geocoded Measure in data window

Add to Sheet (Longitude to Columns or Latitude to Rows)

Data Source

Edit Data Source…

Active field in view

Edit in Shelf (v 9.0)


Edit Axis

Format Menu

Bold text in the format menu acts as a breadcrumb to notify you anytime the settings have been moved away from Tableau’s default. Determining what a fellow analyst did to apply custom formatting to a different viz or workbook is much easier knowing you can scan down the format menus and quickly identify the differences with no guessing required. Rebuilding interesting vizzes from Tableau Public is much faster if you know to look for this as you deconstruct their worksheets. 


Multiple Marks Cards

In views with more than one marks card (multiple measures landed to same structural shelf), Tableau gives us a marks card for each measure plus the All marks card (which is the one we receive on any visualization). The bold text allows us to quickly ensure we are tweaking features on the correct marks cards. 

Tableau4 Tableau5

Pro-Tip: To navigate marks cards on more complicated dual axis views including dual axis maps and donut charts, I find it easier to select a mark in the view I want to modify than flip through a series of marks cards potentially with the same title. By selecting a mark in view, Tableau brings its marks card to the foreground. 

Again, I encourage you to explore the tool. You’ll notice the interface is designed to guide your eye to common choices as well as inform you of custom settings. The more you understand these cues, the faster you’ll be building visualizations. Remember to practice speed and efficiency if you want to win awesome prizes at our Viz Contest in Boston in three weeks.

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

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Categories:Tableau, Data Visualization