Using Tableau Actions to Create Interactive Dashboards

Tableau Actions provide interactivity that takes your dashboard to the next level.  These Tableau actions are a great way to conserve space, reduce the number of quick filters, increase workbook speed, and most of all, allow your users to get on-demand details. 

What are Action Filters in Tableau

There are 3 types of Tableau Actions: Filter Actions, Highlight Actions, and URL Actions. 

  • Tableau Filter Actions – allow you to click an item in one chart and filter other charts (providing drill-down detail in one view) 
  • Tableau Highlight Actions – allow you to select a value and see that value’s position in other charts (allowing you to focus on what matters and avoid noise) 
  • Tableau URL Actions – allow you to insert a url link that takes you to another destination (could be a webpage or could be another dashboard on Tableau Server) 

How to Use Actions in Tableau

Let’s look at examples of all 3. 

Tableau Filter Action

  1. First, let’s build a very simple dashboard.  Open a new dashboard tab by clicking the tab at the bottom or right clicking. 
  1. Drag the heatmap we created on Day 2 that has Customer Segment and Regions out onto the dashboard canvas. 
  1. Drag table with subtotals that we created out underneath it.  Eliminate the legends and filters that appear on the right hand side. 
  1. Ensure the heatmap is set to Entire View and the text table is set to Fit Width (from the drop down menu at the top underneath the Help menu). 
Tableau Action

Double click the title for the top chart and rename it to “Sales by Customer Segment per Region.”  Double click the title for the bottom chart and rename that to “Sales and Profit Detail.” 

  1. Click the Dashboard file menu and then click Actions. 
Tableau Action Filter
  1. Click Add Action in the bottom left corner.  Choose “Filter.” 
  1. A new box will appear. Rename this to something descriptive. 
  1. Uncheck the Totals & Subtotals tab box in the top pane, and uncheck the Heatmap tab box in the bottom pane. 
  • This top pane enables you to say which charts will filter other charts.  Leaving them both checked will mean that clicking in either chart will filter the other.  We want to only filter from the top chart down to the bottom one, in this case.  
Action Filter Tableau
  1. Set the “Run Action On” option to Select. 
    • This tells Tableau when to make your Tableau action work.
    • “Hover” filters the other charts simply by mousing over a portion of the chart. 
    • “Select” filters it upon a click. 
    • “Menu” will pop up with a blue hyperlink in a tooltip when you mouse over prompting you to click it if you want to see more information.  The text of the hyperlink is determined by what you title the Tableau filter action. 
  1. Change the “Clearing the Selection Will” to Show All Values. 
    • “Leave the Filter” will leave the charts filtered to whatever your last selection was and will remain so until you click to filter on something else. 
    • “Show all Values” will revert back to showing everything as soon as you deselect your selection by clicking again. 
    • “Exclude all Values” will blank your chart out until something else is clicked.  This is an extremely useful feature for data on demand and will be discussed in an example later. 
  1. Click ok. 
  1. Now click different squares in the heatmap and notice how it filters the table down below. 

Tableau Highlight Action

Follow the same procedure for Tableau Highlight Actions, except choose Highlight instead of Filter.  Note that you can use multiple Tableau actions on the same charts.  So you can use both a Tableau filter action and a Tableau highlight action on the same charts. 

Tableau URL Action

To demonstrate a Tableau URL action, let’s build the following dashboard: 

  1. Create a new dashboard. 
  1. Bring out the Totals & Subtotals text table that we named Sales and Profit Detail. 
  1. Add a Tableau action, but this time set it to URL when you click Tableau’s Add Action button. 
  1. Name it “See More Marketing Channels.” 
  1. Check the box for Totals & Subtotals. 
  1. Set “Run Action On” to Menu. 
  1. Paste the following link into the URL box:  http://www.digitalinformationworld.com/2015/09/infographic-the-19-paths-to-extraordinary-growth.html  
  1. Click ok, and then click on a bar in the top chart. 
  1. Click the link. 
Tableau URL Action Filter

Since pretty much anything and everything is on the web or can be put on the web, this is a very flexible and powerful option.  While we won’t cover this here, you can also include Tableau parameters in these links to pass filters (i.e. to filter one dashboard to another that’s not in the same workbook) or to see certain values on a webpage. 

Practicing How to Add Action in Tableau

The Logistics group would like to be able to drill down to more details from your initial analysis.  And the Marketing group would like to be able to compare our results vs. industry best practices.  We’ll add this insight with Tableau actions. 

  1. Go to the Time to Ship chart we’ve been working on.  Add Ship Mode to the Row shelf in front of Avg([Time to Ship]). 
    • If you don’t have it, put Order Date on Columns, followed by Avg(Time to Ship]). 
    •  Place Product Category and Product Sub-Category on Rows. 
    • Place Avg(Time to Ship]) on Color. 
    •  Set Stepped Color to 3 steps. 
    •  Rename the tab “Shipping Time Analysis.” 
  1. Create a new dashboard entitled Shipping Times. 
  1. Bring out just the Time to Ship chart. 
  1. Move the legend to the bottom by dragging it underneath the chart.  Resize to make it fit nicely.   
  1. Click on the chart, then click on the Analysis menu, and add a Quick Filter for year. 
    • It might get placed below your legend at the very bottom.  Click and make it a floating element and move it up to the top. 
    • Set it to be a Multi Value Dropdown type. 
  1. Now, go to the Shipping Analysis Dashboard. We’re going to add a few Tableau actions.  
  1. Go to the Dashboard menu.  Click Actions > Add Action > Filter. 
  1. Check only the first box in the top pane.  Uncheck the first box in the bottom pane. 
  1. Set “Run Action On” to Select.  And set “Clearing the Selection Will” to “Show all values.”  Click ok. 
  1. Now Add Action (again) > Filter.  Title this one “Drill down to Shipping Time Analysis.” 
  1. Leave the first two boxes in the top pane checked. 
  1. Set Target Sheets in the bottom pane to Shipping Times (the dashboard we just created above). 
  1. Set Select on the “Run Action On” to Menu.  And set “Clearing the Selection Will” to “Show all values.”  Click ok. 
  1. Now click the bubble chart and see how the values change.  Then click the blue link in the tooltip.  Notice how it filters that chart. 

We hope you found what you want to learn about Tableau action. We will be writing more about the ways you can utilize Tableau Action for better creative dashboards. However, if you want to get first dibs on our exclusive Tableau Training courses for individual professionals and for large corporate workforces, be sure to learn more here.