New user interface enhancements in Tableau Desktop 9


New user interface enhancements in Tableau Desktop 9

Here at InterWorks, we’re all very excited about the latest release of Tableau Beta 9.0. A lot of us are playing around with the new features and are already benefitting from the advancements they bring. Today, I’m kicking off this blog series with a look at the user interface changes and improvements.


Click the image to view bigger.

This is one of my longer blogs so I’ve added this contents so that you can jump to what you are interested in, otherwise please keep reading.

Home Screen Connect To Data Screen
General Navigation Changes
In-line Editing
Calculated Field Editor
Analytics Panel
Story Points
And One More Thing…

If you’ve had the opportunity to download Tableau v9 Beta 2, you’ll no doubt have realised that it’s pretty great. For all those who haven’t, get involved and start downloading!

In Tableau Desktop 9, there are some fantastic UI improvements that Tableau have made. The majority of it is increasing the usage of drag-and-drop and buttons rather than menus. This is a testament to the way Tableau listens to their customer base and makes the best decisions in each release. So, keep reading to find out some of the look and feel of Tableau v9 (Note: It’s a beta, and things may change before release).

New Home Screen

It’s got a lovely, blue, fresh design, incorporating the Home screen from previous versions with the Connect to Data screen.


You will also notice the “Sheet, Thumbs, Data, Home” buttons  have been removed and a new “Tableau Logo” button added to the top-left.


Click this and it flicks between the new Home screen and your last-used worksheet. On this new Home screen, you can Connect to Data, View Server Workbooks, Discover community workbooks and view the “Viz of the Day” from Tableau’s website. It’s a great change as, in my opinion, it simplifies the workflow.

The thumbnail view button now has a new home in the bottom-right of the Tableau app. Its size and position, I guess, denotes it importance. However, it’s still useful.

New connectors that I’ve spotted are SPSS .sav, SAS .sas7bdat, R .rda and R .rdata, MonetDB and SparkSQL. I’ll be blogging about the R connectors very soon, as it’ll be great to have an R script pulling data from Twitter, analysing it and then visualising in Tableau!

Connect to Data Screen

The “Go To Worksheet” button has disappeared!


But, you can relax. Tableau decided it was redundant, and you now use the sheet navigator at the bottom of the screen to go to a sheet. I personally prefer its simplification of the interface, as previous versions had too many ways to do something.


A new “Manage metadata” button has also been added. This opens a view of the fields/columns in your data, allowing you to rename, describe and change aliases in the data and split the data in a column. This feature is a great new addition for shaping your data in Tableau rather than an external app.


Split function: This gives you the ability to split a field/column into separate fields/columns based on a separator. For example, I have an ID field in a database that is stored “#01-16845”. The key of the row is really the 16845. So, let’s say I want to split the field on “-”. I can do this now with the Split function, giving me a new column containing “16845”. We’ll be talking more about these new data shaping tools (Split and Pivot) in a following blog, so keep an eye on the blog for updates.

Show Aliases button: If you’ve set any aliases against your data, you can switch them on and off in the data to check the underlying data – useful.

General Navigation

I’ve already mentioned the new position for the Thumbnails view button in the bottom-right and the removal of the navigation buttons in the top right, and you’ll see by doing that the workspace is that little bit bigger. In the end, the data is the star, and the user interface should blend into the background. I feel it does.

I’m loving the new “Tableau Logo” Home button, so I’ve just mentioned it again ;).

Data Source button: This is a shortcut for the old “right-click on the data source and then click Edit Data Source”, it’s another improvement to the workflow that potentially reduces the number of clicks to do things.

“Hide all sheets”. Yay!!! This one is in the right-click menu of a dashboard tab, and it does what it says on the tin – hides all the sheets used in that dashboard. There’s an Unhide all sheets too.


Sheet preview when building dashboards, hover over the sheet in the left navigator and Tableau now displays a thumbnail of the sheet. Great for finding those cryptically named sheets. (Sheet 1, Sheet 2 etc. all you non-namers.)

What’s that new icon on the right of the sheet tabs I hear you ask?!.

v9-Story-Button It’s the new “New Story” button. Again, one less click and less use of menus. This lower dependence on menus is great in OSX as the menu bar is always at the top of the screen rather than attached to the window as in Windows.


A few new features here; and the “Tableau Classic” map has been removed from the Map Options.
Out with the old altogether.

Hover over the map and the map toolbar is shown, the first button is a search tool allowing you to search for geographic locations around the globe.

Lasso tools have been improved in maps, there is now a circular and freeform polygon tool to select marks on a map.


Responsive tooltips: They appear as you move the mouse around marks. It looks and feels much quicker as there’s no need to hover over a mark, then wait and then read the tooltip. You can still choose the hover tooltips, though. The command buttons are hidden when using responsive and only appear when clicking on the mark – makes the interface cleaner.


“Show Tooltips” button: This removes the need to delete the contents of a tooltip just to switch it off. A far more explicit and understandable method.


In-line Editing

We’ll be telling you more about this in a further blog; however, this is a lovely method for creating calculations on the sheet. You can even create a calculation on a sheet and not have it appear in the dimensions and measures, keeping your metadata tidy. Then, when you’ve tested it, you can easily create a dimension or measure from it by dragging it to the Metadata window.


The in-line editing works on columns, rows and marks at present. Let’s hope Tableau add it to the Filters and Pages shelf soon.

Calculated Field Editor

This one looks completely new with a flat, clean design, and the best bit is that it takes up far less space making the viz visible below. Hey, Tableau, how about a semi-transparent window ….


You’ll notice the help windows for functions, etc. have gone. Well, they’re now available by clicking the arrow button on the right of the window.


Code completion: This is great for those of you who code in IDEs (well, great for everyone really). Start typing into the window and Tableau suggests items you can add. So, start with “[S”, and a list of dimensions and measures is shown, named with the first letter S from all data sources. Arrow key down to the one you want and hit Tab. Voila! Code completed!

Cancel button is now an X in the top right.

Analytics Panel

Next to the “Data Window” button is a new “Analytics” button. Click this, and you get a new view with various analytic functions available for drag and drop. Click the one you want, and drag it to the view. When you drag it over, a new Scope window appears. Drag it to “Table, Pane or Cell” to set the scope. Far, far better than digging around in Windows and Menus.


Story Points

The interface works as before; however, you can now resize the grey navigation boxes at the top. It makes the interface cleaner. I quite like just having 1, 2, 3 for each of the points and a description to go with each one. Tableau, can we justify the navigation buttons left, center and right rather than them being stuck in the middle?



And One More Thing …(this one’s a bit geeky)

The grey used in various places is lighter. It was RGB 231,231,231 but is now 242,242,242. Makes everything feel like a lighter and happier place to be :). So, there we have it. Tableau v9 is a great improvement from a user interface point of view. There is lots more to learn under the hood, but that’s for another blog post. Keep an eye out for the rest of our blog series for more info on Tableau Desktop and Tableau Server v9.

More About the Author

Kevin Pemberton

Regional Director, EMEA
New user interface enhancements in Tableau Desktop 9 Here at InterWorks, we’re all very excited about the latest release of Tableau Beta 9.0. A lot of us are playing around with the new ...
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