Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Line Charts (Continuous & Discrete)

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Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Line Charts (Continuous & Discrete)

Not everyone is a Tableau guru, at least not yet. To help Tableau rookies, we’re starting from square one with the Tableau Essentials blog series. The series is intended to be an easy-to-read reference on the basics of using Tableau Software, particularly Tableau Desktop. Since there are so many cool features to cover in Tableau, the series will include several different posts.

The line chart is ideal for when you want to illustrate trends over time. To use the line chart, you must have a date field. In the below example (Figure 1), we are comparing the quarterly profit by SubRegion over the course of several years. Each colored line represents a different sales region.

 Line chart (continuous)

Figure 1: Line chart (continuous).

You can immediately see that there is a sharp uptick in profit during each Q4 season across regions. That shows that our fictional company is extremely seasonal. That’s the main “story” that is being illustrated with this view.

If I were to add trend lines to this visualization, it would tell a different story. To add a trend line, right-click in the view and select Trend Lines > Show Trend Line.

Adding trend lines

Figure 2: Adding trend lines.

You can now see that rather than emphasizing a quarterly spike, we’re showing that our business is steadily growing despite seasonal fluctuations in regional sales.

Continuous vs. Discrete

Tableau presents two options for line charts in the Show Me menu – Lines (continuous) and Lines (discrete). Continuous fields can have an infinite number of values, such as temperature on a thermometer. 

Discrete fields, on the other hand, contain a finite amount of values, such as the number of students in each classroom for a school. Tableau gives you a hint on which fields are discrete or continuous. Discrete fields are colored blue when dragged to the Column shelf or Row shelf, and continuous fields are colored green. You can learn more about continuous vs. discrete in this post by Michael Treadwell.  

Let’s look back at our example from Figure 2. What if we wanted to illustrate the seasonal uptick in Q4 for each business region with a trend line? We would use the Lines (discrete) chart type.

line chart (discrete)

Figure 3: Line chart (discrete).

You can see that regional sales volume is now broken into discrete values by year. The trend lines for each year clearly illustrate the increase for seasonality.

Whether it’s looking at the whole picture or honing in on specific trends, the simple examples above show us that each type of line chart in Tableau has a defined purpose. Use them accordingly!

Other Chart Types

Here is the complete list of chart types from the Show Me menu. Be sure to check back often as we continue to release new articles in each chart type in this sub-series.

Introduction

  1. Text Table (Crosstab)
  2. Heat Map
  3. Highlight Table
  4. Symbol Map
  5. Filled Map
  6. Pie Chart
  7. Horizontal Bar Chart
  8. Stacked Bar Chart
  9. Side-by-Side Bar Chart
  10. Treemap
  11. Circle View
  12. Side-by-Side Circle View
  13. Line Charts (Continuous & Discrete)
  14. Dual-Line Chart (Non-Synchronized)
  15. Area Charts (Continuous & Discrete)
  16. Scatter Plot
  17. Histogram
  18. Box-and-Whisker Plot
  19. Gantt Chart
  20. Bullet Graph
  21. Packed Bubbles

More Tableau Essentials

Want to learn more about Tableau? We have several posts outlining all of Tableau’s fantastic features. Check out the full list on our Tableau Essentials blog channel.

As always, let us know if you have any questions or comments about this post or Tableau in general. If you’re looking for personalized training or help with something bigger, contact us directly!

Contact Us

Want More Tableau Essentials

  1. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Introduction
  2. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – The Text Table
  3. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Heat Map
  4. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Highlight Table
  5. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Symbol Map
  6. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Filled Map
  7. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Pie Chart
  8. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Horizontal Bar Chart
  9. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Stacked Bar Chart
  10. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Side-by-Side Bar Chart
  11. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Treemap
  12. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Circle View
  13. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Side-by-Side Circle View
  14. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Line Charts (Continuous & Discrete)
  15. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Dual-Line Chart (Non-Synchronized)
  16. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Area Charts (Continuous & Discrete)
  17. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Scatter Plot
  18. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Histogram
  19. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Box-and-Whisker Plot
  20. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Gantt Chart
  21. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Bullet Graph
  22. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Packed Bubbles
  23. Tableau Essentials: Formatting Tips – Introduction
  24. Tableau Essentials: Formatting Tips – Custom Shapes
  25. Tableau Essentials: Formatting Tips – Labels
  26. Tableau Essentials: Formatting Tips – Color
  27. Tableau Essentials: Formatting Tips – Tooltips
  28. Tableau Essentials: Formatting Tips – Maps
  29. Tableau Essentials: Calculated Fields – Introduction
  30. Tableau Essentials: Calculated Fields – Logical Functions
  31. Tableau Essentials: Calculated Fields – Number Functions
  32. Tableau Essentials: Calculated Fields – Date Functions
  33. Tableau Essentials: Calculated Fields – String Functions
  34. Tableau Essentials: Calculated Fields – Type Conversion
  35. Tableau Essentials: Calculated Fields – Aggregate Functions
  36. Tableau Essentials: Calculated Fields – User Functions

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