You'll either need to use either separate worksheets on a dashboard, or Custom SQL. I did a series of how-tos on this, the first is at http://drawingwithnumbers.artisart.org/customizing-grand-totals-part-1/.
I pretty much agree with everything being said (Yes, I'm pulling the Switzerland card here).
But, personally, I think it all depends on what data you're showing and what the audience is. I tend to use tables a bit, but usually when combined with charts of relevant information (not the same info, generally). Disclaimer: I HAVE created entire vizzes of tables and just used Actions and Tooltips to "tell the story" - but its usually an epic compromise between what I wanted to give them - and what they wanted to get.
I was looking for an example... Here is one - it's a somewhat simple project management dashboard (focusing on a single project) that combines data from several systems and shows them in (what I think is) a cohesive manner - using some tables and relevant detail elements (in this case, invoice deets and high-level totals) in addition to some trending as part of the "current project story".
There are lots of useful Tooltips in this example too - they get lost in the screenshot however. : )
Sorry for all the blurring - you know that whole pesky "confidential" thing. Heh.
Spotted Shawn's latest barrage from my phone earlier and decided to wait till I could type with both hands to reply - and Ryan has jumped in in the meantime and said pretty much what I was going to.
I think the key message for me is that I view it that there are two completely different modes in which I use Tableau - 1) exploring and analysing data to draw conclusions for myself and 2) communicating the results to others.
I use tables quite a bit in mode 1), rarely if at all in mode 2).
So Shawn, how about I take you through one of my workbooks via a Google hangout at the weekend - let's see if we can help you down of that high horse of yours before we all have to chip in and hire a crane.
How about that - I looked away and things got really interesting.
Here's the thing about tables of numbers: they're the most concise, densest display of quantities we have available to us.
Ian Devonald touched on this, but I think it's worth some extra attention: numbers are themselves graphical presentations of quantity. The digit 5 represents the number/quantity "five". 1,207 is a completely unambiguous representation of the value "one thousand two hundred seven"
Putting numbers in proximity to one another is an incredibly powerful technique for communicating the quantities they represent - they're precise, take up very little space, and to anyone familiar with them do a fair job of representing their relative magnitudes (because we use a decimal system, anticipating the inevitable "but their sizes aren't proportional to their quantities" argument of the innumerate)
From my horse, which is almost a giraffe, the important question isn't whether or not number tables are useful - they are, but why Tableau hasn't given them the attention they deserve.
Echoing Jonathan, since real human people like them, want them, and demand them, there are compelling reasons for making them as useful, functional, and cognitively effective as possible, with as little friction in their creation as can be achieved.
So Shawn, now that we can embed Google content in Tableau there's no need for the Tableau development people to spend any more time, energy, effort, or resources on things we can source from Google (or other sources).
In fact, since Google provides the full suite of abilities, I'm looking forward to your examples showing Google Charts, Google Maps, Google Docs (for real typeset-quality documentation), and all the other Google goodies in Tableau Web Pages.
But I'm really hoping that Tableau continues to improve its quality in the simple things that you seem to be unworthy of attention.
There's a fly in the "tables aren't good/are bad" ointment: the assumption that tables are only (at best) useful for conveying the precision of the values that they present. One corollary of this is that the presentation of quantities in decimal digit form conveys no quantitative comparison in the manner of other visualizations, e.g. quantity-proportionate bars.
This is untrue - the decimal digit presentations of value in fact directly represent relative quantity. For example, consider these quantities:
Clearly, to numerate people, including the majority of business people accustomed to tables and those of us who had to learn manual addition as young children, the quantities are (top-down) increasing, and it's also clear that the middle value is roughly 10x the top value, and the bottom value is roughly 100x the middle value.
The discussions centering on the limited value of tables of numbers fail to recognize these visual properties of decimal-based numbers, and in so doing do a disservice to the discourse.
Anticipating the inevitable argument: no, the decimal representations do not have the same granularity of discrimination between values as do precisely-proportioned and aligned bars (or other presentations). So what? We choose one visual representation of quantity over another because of their differences, and none is absolutely better, or worse, than all the others.
In many circumstances tables' rough quantitative comparison is good enough for the purposes at hand, particularly when coupled with the decimal numbers' precision advantage. Opining otherwise misses this critical point.
Although I appreciate the shout-out, I'm perturbed by the mischaracterization of this discussion in Shawn's
Here's the Digest section concerning this discussion, with the problematic bits identified (my comments thus):
James Wright posted a link to his DIY Google Drive Connectivity for Tableau blog over at Interworks. This includes a proof-of-concept showing how to ‘connect’ Google Spreadsheets to Tableau, and use it as both a data source and a user-entry form.
These functions aren't at all what this discussion has been about.
Using them as framing for the discussion is not good form.
I know it won’t quell the text table argument (which Chris Gerrard re-ignited), but I hope this sort of thing, gives some people pause.
"re-ignited"? Really? Isn't this a bit inflammatory?
Can Tableau really be the do-all-end-all for, well everything?
Or can some thing’s be ‘farmed out’ to other vendors/sources.
While the Tableau-Urban Mapping partnership isn’t a perfect marriage (no scale) it is a good one.
What does this have to do with this discussion, other than to set up a straw man for Shawn's next bit?
And I’m certain this frees up Tableau to focus on improving their core product/functionality.
Shawn's presupposing that presenting tables is NOT part of Tableau's core functionality,
which -is- the gist of this discussion. So he's assuming his position is the "right" one,
and he's adopting an "it's work Tableau shouldn't be doing" position, with it's appeal
to resource conservation for more noble and useful ends.
Why can’t something similar be worked out to handle Tableau user’s spreadsheet needs?
James’s work seems to be a good first step.
I wonder if hooking into the Google Drive API, like he mentioned, might not give text-table fans just the sort of functionality they are looking for.
And here we have the wrap-up complete mis-statement of what the fundamental point here is,
at least mine, one that advances Shawn's position by recasting the real point as something:
"Tableau user's spreadsheet needs," it isn't and that clearly lies outside Tableau's realm.
In case it hasn't been clear, the real point here is that since Tableau does provide the ability to show data in tables, which are a legitimate visual form, it should be as easy and straightforward to configure the table's salient visual characteristics as it is those of Tableau's other visual forms.