Creating a Visualization or Table

Visualizations, such as text tables, pie charts, and scatter plots, are created in worksheets. Each individual visualization will be in its own worksheet tab in the workbook.

Here is an example of a visualization:

Z-scores by state in bar chart

Visualizations can have filters, interactions, tool tips, and more – if you can dream it, then in Tableau there’s a way to build it. Tableau also has walkthroughs for all common chart types here.

If you'd like to change your visualization type - for example, if you've created a bar chart but would prefer a pie chart - you can use the "Show Me" option in the type right of Tableau

Tip: Once you have several visualizations, you can combine them into a dashboard, displaying all visualizations on one interactive page.

The accordions below walk step-by-step through several common workflows in Tableau. If you have a Tableau workbook open and connected to the Sample – Superstore data source, you can follow along.


When you first create a Tableau workbook by connecting to a data source, you're started on an empty worksheet, which you can always switch to by clicking the Sheet 1 tab in the bottom.
Sheet 1 is the first tab after Data Source

After you create a visualization or if you've closed the initial worksheet tab, you'll create new worksheets in new tabs.

To create a new worksheet tab:

  1. In the bottom left of Tableau, click the icon that looks like a bar graph with a +. This is the “New Worksheet” button.
    The worksheet table is the first button in the tab menu
  2. The first thing you should do is rename your tab by double-clicking it, or right-clicking the tab “Sheet X” and choosing “Rename”
    This will be a text table, so I'll name it Text Table

Let’s look at the Worksheet UI. In general, the left side is your data, the right side is building your visualization, and the middle is customizing your visualization.
Worksheet tab has three columns

  1. In the left sidebar, under Data, Tableau lists all the columns from your spreadsheet – this will mirror the spreadsheet in the Data Source tab. To build your visualization, you’ll drag columns from this left sidebar to either the columns, rows, pages, filters, or marks shelves on the right.
    • Tableau splits these columns into two sections: Dimensions and Measures.  Tableau will identify the dimension and measure fields for you. If it does so incorrectly, you can simply drag the fields to the correct section.
      • Dimensions are categorical columns, such as Customer Name.
      • Measures are usually columns with numbers, such as Profit or Discount.
      • Looking at the sentence, “We sold George a couch for $10”. Here, George is a dimension and $10 is a measure.
  2. The large section, under the Sheet Name (by default, this will be the name of the tab), is where your actual visualization will appear as you create it.
  3. In the top of the sheet, there’s a Columns shelf and a Rows shelf. You’ll drag columns from the Data pane here; this is the main section to create your visualization.
    • For example, to make a table with Customer Name as a column, you’ll drag Customer Name from the left sidebar to the Columns shelf here.
  4. In the middle of the sheet is a column with Pages, Filters, and Marks. Dragging a column from the left data sidebar to one of these sections will customize your visualization.
    • For example, if you have a text table looking at Customer Name by Sales, to change the table to only show orders from 2019, you can drag Order Date to the Filters shelf.

When working on a worksheet in Tableau Desktop, Tableau offers a functionality called Show Me, where you can quickly switch between types of visualizations. Show Me creates a view based on the fields already used in the view and any fields you’ve selected in the Data pane.

  1. Navigate to a worksheet tab where you currently have a visualization.
  2. In the top right corner of the workbook, click Show Me.
    Show me is a button
  3. The Show Me panel will open with thumbnails of every type of visualization. Click a thumbnail to automatically change your visualization to that type.
    Show Me has tables, graphs, and other charts

    Note: Thumbnails that are dimmed are view types your current data setup doesn't meet. As you hover over each view type, the description at the bottom of the Show Me panel shows the minimum requirements. In the above screenshot, the Lines (Discrete) visualization requires 1 date field, any number of Dimension fields,  and at least 1 Measure field to be actively in your visualization.

Text tables are a great way to view data. While the basic text table is usually sufficient, text tables can be quite complex in Tableau Desktop. For an example, see OIR's Enrollment Calendar, which is built from a text table and filters (covered in the next accordion).

Here, we’ll build a text table showing sales by order year for each category using the Sample – Superstore data source.

Simple text table with one set of columns and one set of rows


  1. Right-click the tab and select Rename to rename the tab to “Text Table” – you’ll see your sheet name also update.
    Double click or right click on tab to rename
  2. Drag the Category pill from the left Data sidebar to the Rows Shelf at the top of Tableau. Tableau automatically begins building your table.
    • Tip: Fields in Tableau are called ‘pills’ because they’re shaped like pills.
    Drag and drop column names
  3. Drag the Order Date pill from the left column to the Columns shelf at the top of Tableau. Tableau continues building out the table.
    Drag from columns on left
  4. We want to see the Sales as the text in the text table, so drag the Sales pill from the left column to the Text mark in the center of the worksheet. It will autofill the table!
    Sales is a column on the left
  5. Lastly, let’s rename the visualization itself. Right-click the title and select Edit Title.
    You can also double click the title
  6. I’ll name mine “Sales by Year and Category”, then click OK in the corner of the pop-up.
    Edit title popup has regular text options like bold
  7. Now we have a table!

Perhaps we have a text the table shows Sales by Year and Category, as built in the above section.
Text table of sales by column year and row category
Currently, it sums up all states. What if instead, we’d like to be able to dynamically select which states to show? Selectively showing data is called a filter.

filters are to the right of the visualization as checkboxes by default


  1. Drag the State pill from the left column to the Filter section in the middle column.
    Drag and drop pills to destinations
  2. A panel appears with a list of all states. Because we want to be able to dynamically select from all states, we’re going to select All, then click Okay.
    Tip: If we wanted to filter the worksheet to only ever show certain states, we’d select those here.
    States have checkboxes, but All is option under table

  3. Now, State appears in the Filters shelf, but nothing has changed in the visualization.
    Filters has simple state pill
  4. On the right side of the state pill, click the drop-down arrow, then select Show Filter.
    • Tip: In Tableau, there’s almost always a drop down menu in the right of any pill or panel.
      Dropdown is found on right of pill
  5. The filter will show up on the right side – you’re done! You can check and uncheck states to dynamically update your table.

When you have data based on geography, the best way to display it might be a map.

Tableau Desktop makes creating maps quite straightforward - if you start with the location fields in the worksheet, Tableau Desktop will create the map for you. If your location fields are in the worksheet and you have a visualization other than a map, you can use the Show Me button to switch to a map (see "Quickly Changing Your Visualization" above).

Here, we'll create a map using the Sample Superstore data source, where we display states colored by the amount of profit they've earned:

A map of the US where states are colored in shades of orange and blue.


  1. Drag the State pill from the left Dimensions pane on the left to the center of the worksheet.
    Tableau will generate longitude and latitude for you.
  2. Tableau automatically creates a map! A dot appears in the center of each state - currently, all we've asked Tableau Desktop to do to display is each state, so it points them out for us.
    A map appears with a dot in each state.
  3. Now, let's add profit by dragging the Profit pill from the Measures pane on the left to the Color mark.
    The color mark is the first option under Mark
  4. The map autofills with color. We're done!
    Map of the US with states colored in shades of orange and blue