Thursday, 13 June 2013

Create a default Tableau Template - now with added 8.1 goodness

One of the things missing from Tableau are workbook themes or stylesheets. Although themes are listed there are only two and you cannot customise and save them to you liking. At #tcceu13 i asked Jock Mackinlay about this and he said he has a team of people looking into it.

Do you spend a long time getting a dashboard looking just right, maybe you have a company colour scheme that you have to adhere to.

Each time you have to create a new colour palate.

Tired of having to format your dashboard again and again each time?

Well good news, heres a way that you can create your template that you can create once and then re-use when ever you need to.
  1. Create a new workbook with one sheet and one dashboard. Name them sheet Default Sheet and Default Dashboard.
  2. If you always use the same datasource then connect to it, but if not just leave that blank.
  3. Change the formatting of your sheet and dashboard to your liking. 
  4. Set the default size of the dashboard , the background colours, the font sizing and colour any default titles you like, background images. Everything that you normally have to do again and again. 
  5. If you want to set up some custom palettes for the colour shelf then follow the instructions here
  6. Now save your workbook to something like Tableau_template. If you are going to make several different ones then name them something sensible. 
  7. Here's the really important crucial bit. Find the workbook you have created and right click, select properties and set it to read only. This is the magic bit. 

Next time you have to make a dashboard, simply load up the Template dashboard, connect to your data. Make sure that you make a copy of the sheet and dashboard, don't use the create new button or you will not have the formatting set. By copying the defaults it means you can have multiple sheets and dashboards. Then create the viz and as you build it all of the formatting that you just set-up will be in place. By making the workbook read only you are prompted to save it with a different name, which means you can use the same template again and again. 

Hopefully in the near future this will be part of Tableau, but in the meantime this works really nicely.

Need more info? then tweet me @Matt_Francis

Post Tableau 8.1 Update

One of the things that Tableau lacks, even with shiny new 8.1 is Templates. I wrote a previous post about a method for creating a template sheet and dashboard, saving the workbook as a read only file and then using that as a starting point for all your work.

However this relies on you remembering to open that template workbook in the first place. Now with 8.1 you can copy and past both sheets, but now dashboards between open workbooks.

So now we can use this with out templates in the following way. 

1. Create a workbook with loads of sheets and dashboards, all formated in ways that you like to use eg, light pallete, dark pallete etc,2x2 layout 2x3 layout etc

2. Save this and set it read-only just in case.

3. Now next time you create a viz and when you am ready to create a dashboard from it, you load up the template workbook, select the dashboard layout you want to use, and copy and paste it into the new workbook. The carries all the formatting over so all you have to do it add in the sheets and publish! No mess, no fuss.

Matt Francis

Author & Editor

Tableau Zen Master, Social Ambassador, Wrangler of Data, Vizzer of Data


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  2. Hello Matt, Thanks for sharing your ideas about Tableau 8.1 with us.Trhis version brings capabilities that helps access and analyze data with more power and sophistication than ever before. This release contains a critical security fix to Tableau Desktop, Tableau Server, and Tableau Reader that reduces exposure to man-in-the-middle and denial of service vulnerabilities. To address these vulnerabilities, the OpenSSL library used by the affected Tableau products has been upgraded. For the newbies who are seeking more info they can visit this link-

  3. Hi Matt,
    Thanks for this post! I was wondering if you have any advice about setting up formatting on worksheets and dashboards if your workbook is not connected to a data connection (as I don't usually use the same data connection across workbooks). So far I've been able to set up my tooltip, set the size of my dashboard, and format my worksheet title. I'd like to be able to do other things, like setting the color palette, formatting numbers, changing the dashboard default to add things as floating rather than tiled, and make all worksheets show-up on the dashboard as "entire view." Do you happen to know if it is possible to do any of these things without being connected to a datasource?


    1. Hi Natalie.
      You should be able to do this yes. I have the same situation where I rarely use the same dataset. What I have done is set up my template dashboard with all the formatting, font size, colours, backgrounds, dashboard sizes etc and saved that as my template file. Then when i do some work i use copy and paste to add the template dashboard to my current workbook. Then when i add the work sheets to the dashboard all my formatting is already there. You can set up this without being connected to a data source, or, connect to a datasource, create the layout you like, then remove the datasource and it should still remembe the formatting. The only thing is that it will not remember formatting for certain data types, like changing default aggregations as those are tied to the datasource not the workbook itself.

      Hope that helps.

    2. How do you set up fonts without a datasource? As Natalie mentions, tooltip is the only one that I can find a way to set the font. I'm a newbie to Tableau so maybe I'm missing something obvious...

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  6. When we create a template and set features as read only, and others use it for their dashboards.... everything is fine so far. But when the admin makes a change to the template, how does that information flows to other dashboards users have created? Is this possible?

  7. Matt, This is great info. Now that version 10 is out, is there any better way to create a dashboard template? I've been working on multiple dashboard projects the last few months and really want to standardize a team template with a standard header and multiple empty containers that will allow my team to present a consistent appearance. We have just added a couple new team resources and want to make their lives easier by providing several dashboard templates. Thanks!

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