Topics: Data Analytics |

The Autofilter: Self-Addressing Action Filters for Revealing New Tableau Views

By: CoEnterprise | July 12, 2017

Action filters make interacting with data more tangible and fun, but they can also aid in dashboard layout efficiency. My illustrious colleague Lisa Li posted a tutorial recently about ways to reveal hidden views with clever actions, but what if you’re running low on real-estate and find these new planes cluttering your space?

Normally, Tableau doesn’t allow a worksheet to filter itself when it is already filtering another worksheet. However, the following trick circumvents this limitation, allowing one of multiple sheets to filter itself and any others sharing the same dashboard, saving space and providing ample opportunity for interesting use cases. For example, you can use it to:

  • See different views at greater or lesser levels of detail, using a sheet selector


  • Create a detail view for items in a long list that pops up into the same space using a layout container


  •  Give ample room for a state map, used as a selector, that contracts to create room for a more detailed city map and other views


These examples use some additional formatting and more complex view construction, but they all follow the same basic structure for revealing new worksheets while simultaneously filtering the dashboard action source worksheet. Here’s how you can do it too:

1. Bring in a dimension that serves as your highest tier, and some measure, for analysis. For this example we use [Region] and [Sales]. Name this worksheet “Tier 1.”

Worksheet 1: Tier 1


2. On a new worksheet, named “Tier 2,” bring in a new dimension that offers a finer grain of detail than your initial dimension. We will be using [State] for this purpose and [Sales] as a measure. Label this sheet “Tier 2.”

 Worksheet 1: Tier 2


3. Now here’s the trick: create a third worksheet called “Tier 1 Pass-Back.” Put into it the same dimension used in “Tier 1” (again, we’re using [Region]), and that’s it! We’ll get back to this.

Worksheet: Tier 1 Pass-back


4. Let’s use that clever view hiding technique. Make a dashboard, and drag in a vertical container. Then, drag the “Tier 1” and “Tier 2” views into it.

5. Drag “Tier 1 Pass-Back” into your dashboard, but as a floating object. Leave it visible for the time being, so we can see what’s happening as action filters are applied.

Worksheet and container layout in dashboard


6. Click Dashboard -> Actions -> Filter. This will bring up the action filter creation pane. For this first action filter required for trick, use “Tier 1” as the source sheet, and set it to Run On Select. Have this action target “Tier 2”, set to Exclude All Data when clearing the selection. Click OK.

Settings for Action Filter 1


7. Now, create a second action, again using “Tier 1” as the source sheet running on select. But this time, address “Tier 1 Pass-Back”. On de-select, just show all values. Click OK.

Settings for Action Filter 2


8. Click on any member of [Region] in “Tier 1” to run these actions once. “Tier 2” should now only show the sales figures for [State] in your selected [Region]. “Tier 1 Pass-back” should only show that [Region] as well. Click the same [Region] in “Tier 1” again to remove this filter. You should now see that the “Tier 2” view is hidden, “Tier 1” is the only view populated with data in the vertical container, and “Tier 1 Pass-Back” shows all regions again.

Initializing the required action filters

Note: Clicking on a member of [Region] in “Tier 1” only highlights that region for that view.

New Action Filter

9. Now for the magic: go to the “Tier 1 Pass-Back” worksheet. Right click on the newly created action filter in the Filters pane, and then Apply to Worksheets -> “Tier 1”.

Applying an action filter to multiple worksheets


10. Return to the main dashboard and start clicking!

Et voilà!

Note: Clicking on a member of [Region] in “Tier 1” now also filters out the other values in that same view.


When using the action filter, you will now see that the “Tier 1” view is also filtered to only show your current selection. Clicking that [Region] again returns all views to normal. After you have proven to yourself that this technique works, you can hide the floating “Tier 1 Pass-Back” dashboard however you choose (e.g. behind another floating view (if you have one) or by changing the size to 1×1 and the position to 0x0 (my preferred method). After that, the dashboard is yours to customize.

You can view the samples shown in the introduction and this simplified version in this workbook published to Tableau Public, available for download and dissection.

May your dashboards remain communicative and uncluttered, and tune in next time for more Tableau wizardry! Want to take your Tableau projects to the next level? Learn more about how our data analytics experts can help grow your skills today.

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