How to make a “VIZIBLE” difference in Tableau

Nicole Delaurenti, Marina Matovic, Amanda Hoey, Raphael Ravula

Too Much Clutter? Need More Space?

The common mantra of “More = Better” often over-crowds and increases complexity resulting in inefficient dashboarding. The way we can get around this is to get creative and utilize the functionality the tools have to offer. Below you’ll find three Tableau tricks to elevate your dashboard and save space:

1. Custom Buttons

2. Tooltip Selection

3. Viz in the Tooltip

We love our pets here at slalom, so we chose a dataset that features the animal adoption industry. In this report, you’ll see that we developed a marketing strategy to highlight high probability animal adoption and seasonality trends to bring awareness to where animal shelters should focus their efforts.

Custom Buttons

Images can be easily added to the dashboard by using an image object from the dashboard pane, however their static nature leads limits flexibility. Custom buttons are a great way to add extra flare to your dashboards. They can also be used as filters, or to navigate to different worksheets or dashboards. In this example, we’ll demonstrate how to create a navigation button.

The first step is to find a shape that suits your dashboard needs. We like to use shapes from Metro Studio, which is a free app that you can download here. Here we formatted the arrow icon to be gray in color and transparent.

Save this shape into your Tableau Repository. This is usually found in your Documents folder on your local machine. Within your tableau repository, locate a file called shapes. In this folder, you’ll see several shape type folders where default Tableau shapes are stored. To isolate our custom objects, create a folder called “Custom Shapes”, and save your shapes to this folder. The next time you open Tableau this folder (and the shapes within) will be available as options to include in the dashboard.

Go into your Tableau Desktop workbook. Select Shapes in the Marks card and go to More Shapes. From here, click the “Reload Shapes” to refresh the shapes folder. Then click the dropdown menu under Select Shape Palette and select your Custom Shapes folder. You’ll see all your newly added shapes and can select one to use in your worksheet!

You may have noticed that clicking on a shape in a Tableau dashboard causes the shape to constantly appear to be highlighted. To avoid this, we like to implement Joshua Milligan’s never ending navigation technique: We pull in Increment ID to details and select Shape, and then apply the custom shape to our button. From here, you can continue out your navigation set up and have a custom new button to display in your Tableau dashboard.

This navigation allows the seamless movement to open the “pop out” window of more detailed charts. The “pop out” is simply a navigation to a new dashboard that has a greyed-out background image of the original dashboard. Further, we floated a layout container that shows the full scrolling worksheet of bars, and an “X” to escape the pop out and go back to the initial dashboard. The “X” is just another navigation bottom that navigates a user back to the original dashboard. It just looks like it’s popping out from the dashboard, and “X-ing” back into the dashboard.

Dashboard 1

Dashboard 2

Tooltip Selection

This feature enables you to select similar marks in a view from the tooltip by category. You can discover stories in your data by clicking on categories in your tooltip (as in the example below). Any discrete dimension or measure that is added in the tooltip becomes an active link that you can click to highlight other marks in the view.

To add the tooltip selection feature to your worksheet you need to drop the category pill onto the tooltip mark to appear when a user hovers over a data point in the view. Below we’ve added the ‘Species’ dimension so users can view the distribution of ranking of breeds for cats and dogs.

Once the dimension is in the tooltip, toggle the “Allow selection by category” option in the tooltip editor to enable the selection.

To see this feature in action, select a point in the view and then the enabled category from the tooltip to analyze the distribution of similar data points.

Tooltip selection is enabled for all new worksheets. If you would prefer to remove this feature, toggle the “Allow selection by category” option in the tooltip editor.

Viz in a Tooltip

This feature, introduced in Tableau 10.5, is a great way to showcase different granularities of data, illustrate trends, or provide additional context within a dashboard. In our example below, we show top breeds for Dogs and Cats on a time series chart, so users can analyze breed adoption trends over time.

Here’s how to add the Viz into the tooltip:

In the tooltip editor select: Insert -> Sheets -> (Choose the sheet with the viz you want to display in the tooltip). In this case, we selected Top 5 Dog breeds to show the Top 5 breeds in a bar chart.

There are many options of how you can customize your tooltip. A couple tips learned from Data + Science include the following:

1. Controlling the Size of the Viz in Tooltips

If the worksheet is set to Standard view, the tooltip size will fit up to the maximum width and height based on the size set in the worksheet. If the worksheet is set to Entire view, the tooltip will use the entire dimensions set in the maximum width and height.

To change the height or width of the chart in the tooltip you will need to change the maxheight or maxwidth, which are both automatically set to “300.”

2. Add a Divider Line Between Tooltips

You can either add a line as text in the tooltip


Add a blank sheet as a divider, which I have done in this example as a top line and bottom line.

<Sheet name=”Top Line — TP” maxwidth=”300" maxheight=”9" filter=”<All Fields>”>

Note: Any value less than maxheight=”9" will create a message on the bottom of the tooltip “View is too large to show”.


Many dashboards can use small tweaks to make them much more intuitive and user friendly. These are just three simple ways to make your dashboard experience much easier and more efficient. If you have any questions or comments please reach out to us directly at or or