Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Bullet Graph

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Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Bullet Graph

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.

A bullet graph is a very powerful way to compare data against historical performance or pre-assigned thresholds. As you’ll see, we can include a lot of information in a small space with this type of chart that is also Tableau’s answer to those looking for a gauge or meter visualization. A bullet graph is similar to a standard bar graph except that there is a distribution showing progress towards a goal behind the bar. Like a standard bar graph, a bullet graph can be presented either horizontally or vertically. 

Here are the different components of a mark within a bullet graph:

Components of a mark within a bullet graph

In the image above, the dark gray bar represents actual performance while the red reference line is a goal. The underlying distribution range has been set to identify 60% and 80% goal completion. The example above shows that the current revenue is well above the reference line goal, indicating that this year’s performance was stronger than the previous one. Wondering if you can edit the look of a reference line or edit the distribution you want to display? When in doubt, right-click! Right-click on the axis to add (and if needed, edit) reference lines and distributions!

Here’s a more detailed view of how we can use a bullet graph to display a lot of information in a compact space using the Sample Coffee Chain data source that comes with your installation of Tableau Desktop:

Bullet Graph 

Here, we can see actual sales values (the bars) for various product types in each market and the corresponding sales goal (the line) for each. I added a distribution for each bar to show 25%, 50% and 75% of the Budget Sales. Looking to further enhance your use of a bullet graph? Color the bars based on whether or not the actual values meet their respective goals (create a simple calculated field to determine whether the goal is met or not, and drop that field on the Color shelf). Note the use of the space in the worksheet title to include a bit of context — bars in orange have not met the Budget Sales goal.

The bullet graph adds a new level to the standard bar graph with the ability to compare against a goal. When you’ve got the appropriate fields selected in the Data window (hold down CTRL and click on multiple fields to select several at once), the Show Me button will do most of the work setting up your bullet graph. You can also do it manually by clicking on the measure axis and selecting Add Reference Line and Add Reference Distribution.

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!

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

More About the Author

Carly Capitula

Principal / Enablement Practice Lead
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