One-click Distribution for items in Layout Containers

Here at Acumen Analytics we are regular participants in the Tableau Beta Program, which means that we often get a sneak peek at some of the new features being implemented by Tableau’s development teams prior to the release of new versions. These Beta releases are most often rolled out prior to major version upgrades like the recent 10.0 release, but Tableau has also recently begun previewing some Beta features in more incremental upgrades as well. Tableau’s vibrant user community is one of the platform’s strongest assets, and getting some of these developing tools into the hands of beta testers goes a long way toward ensuring that any bugs or quirky behaviors get identified and hopefully resolved before the release gets distributed out to the wider customer base. It also means that as Beta testers we get to play with the cool stuff first, so let’s take a look at one of the features expected to be included in the upcoming 10.1 release – One-click Distribution.
As many long-time Tableau users can attest, aside from data cleansing one of the more time-consuming aspects of the dashboard development process is getting the formatting and layout exactly the way that we want it. Beyond the aesthetic aspects of a beautiful dashboard, a well-constructed and properly organized view is enormously valuable in terms of making the information on a dashboard intuitively clear and functionally appealing to the end users. Getting a dashboard to meet this standard very often means focusing on many small details that ultimately add up to a view that can quickly and seamlessly deliver the insights from the data without demanding that the users do all the leg work in order to make sense of what they are seeing. A proper layout goes a long way to making this possible, which is why as developers we spend so much time sweating the details. This is also why we occasionally curse so loudly when the software complicates this challenge by making the process needlessly tedious or confounding, and why we cheer every new feature that makes this process easier, quicker, clearer and more predictable. The One-click item distribution feature coming in the 10.1 release promises to bring a much-needed tool into the fold. The idea of this feature is relatively simple: take the items that one has placed into a particular layout container, and distribute them evenly within that container. In the past, when items were placed into a layout container, Tableau would sort of ‘auto-size’ things based on the contents of each item. Sometimes this worked well, and other times it seemed like Tableau would battle you tooth and nail if you wanted to size things differently or simply make things even or proportional. One-click distribution now gives us a simple option to quickly size the items in a container evenly across the available space. Let’s look at an example:

The default sizing and distribution that Tableau has selected when three worksheets are placed into a horizontal layout container.

The default sizing and distribution that Tableau has selected when three worksheets are placed into a horizontal layout container.

As you can see, the crosstab table is given a larger proportion of the space, and the bar and line charts are slightly compressed. To locate the One-click Distribution tool, select the layout container that these worksheets reside in, click on the triangular dropdown and select ‘Distribute Evenly’.

'Distribute Evenly' option in the top-right dropdown menu.

‘Distribute Evenly’ option in the top-right dropdown menu.

Voilà! Each of the sheets is now identically sized, the bar and line graphs are less compressed, and now each of the year values are visible in the bar chart:

Horizontal container after 'distribute evenly' effect has been applied.

Horizontal container after ‘distribute evenly’ effect has been applied.

I have a feeling this is one of those tools that will get a lot of mileage, and in a few months we’ll all be thinking with great relief each time we use it: “Remember when you had to do this manually? Ugh.”
OK – so that’s a quick peek at One-click Distribution. We’ll play around with some of the other new features in the 10.1 cue over the next few weeks. Stay tuned here each week and we’ll give our insights and analysis, and hopefully you’ll be seeing these in the full 10.1 release very soon.

Thanks for reading!