How to do Proportional Highlighting with Set Actions using Tableau 2018.3 (Makeover Monday, July 30 2018)

It’s nice to get back involved in Makeover Monday. This week Andy and Eva teamed up with The Economist’s data team to tackle the recently relaunched Big Mac Index.  I’m a big fan of the interactive version; the original version appeared in my book, The Big Book of Dashboards.

This week also coincides with the release of Tableau 2018.3 beta with many great new features (go download it!). The two I am very excited about are Set Actions and Transparent Images. The former allows us to quickly and easily implement Proportional Highlighting, and the latter opens up a new world of design options.

First of all, what is proportional highlighting? It is a method of interacting with data. When you select some marks in one view, instead of filtering other views, the other views show the proportion of the selected items in relation to all items. For a highly detailed look, check out Stephen Few’s article from 2010. Check out the video below of how proportional highlighting can work in Tableau:

Looks good, right? How do we do it. In my example, I want to use a chart showing Big Mac prices in all Countries, and then highlight selected ones in the chart showing total cost of Big Macs over time. [Yes, it’s quite an artificial premise, but I was building this to experiment with the new features!]

First, create a Set using the [Country] Dimension. You can hard-code some conditions, or just “Use All”. Note: the Dashboard Action will update the Set contents, but when the Action clears, it will reset to the defaults you set here.

Next, add the Set to each view you want to connect. Drop it as an “IN/OUT” pill, rather than showing all members.

Now build your dashboard with the views you want to connect. And then add a new Dashboard Action, choosing “Change Set Values

The Edit Set Action dialog gives you options to choose a dataset and which set to update. The Target Set section (highlighted below) has two drop downs. The top on is the list of datasets. The lower is the list of Sets. At time of writing (July) these drop downs are not labelled. I found this a little bit confusing. But, once I worked it out. Those were the only things I needed to edit in order to create the proportional brushing.

That’s all it takes to do proportional brushing!

I suspect there are a vast amount of other interesting things people will do with Set Actions in Tableau, and I can’t wait to see what everyone does. At Tableau, we love to get your feedback on new features, and I especially like seeing what ideas people blog about.

Further resources

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