Localisation in Tableau
A couple of the team have been doing training in Europe over the last couple of months, which has led us to look more closely at internationalisation in Tableau. It’s not immediately obvious how Tableau works, but it can deal with internationalisation of both the interface and data.
Firstly, let us look at Tableau’s Language options, from the Help menu (above). Below is the English and the German version. This option changes the language you see when using the software, but not the visualisation. The menu options, the labels on cards and shelves, on the status bar, and on automatic fields, all change language. That’s it. Just a simple language change (below).
Now, it might be reasonable to assume that if Tableau knows you want your software in a certain language, you’ll want the system to report numbers, dates, labels on maps, in the same language or regional defaults. The problem is, that’s a pretty serious assumption to make, and it doesn’t always work. What if you’re sat in a regional office in Brazil, where not only is your Portuguese different from Portugal’s, but your company is American and your reports are all for the US, where days/months are the other way round, commas and dots in numbers are the other way round, and the currency symbol is different.
Well, for this, we need to understand what is actually a system feature – a locale. A locale defines the local preferences, such as date and number formats, and it also contains a reference to the language. This means that Tableau can change the contents of your visualisation depending on the system locale, where it knows how to deal with it. In the next screengrab, you can see the date format, day of the week (but, this doesn’t feel right to me, not the weekday header), the axis title of Running Sum of Sales, and all of the number formats have changed.
I should point out, that for sales I have used the format Currency (Custom) and used the “£” symbol. Currency needs its own locale, because it can differ again from the system locale: imagine processing all of your transactions in US Dollars anywhere other than the US, you do not want your currency symbol changing every time someone in a different country opens your visualisation. However, even setting the pound sign has caused the thousand separator and decimal point to change to the German locale.
When users are viewing locales through Tableau Server, they need to set their locale through their user preferences.
Then the output uses their own personal locale. If the user selects “unspecified” for either or both of Language and Locale, then Tableau will try to determine them from the Browser and Operating System. If it is unable to do this, then it will use Tableau Server’s settings, as specified on the Admin page.
Now everything above uses the user’s specified system locale, but it is possible to define this at a workbook level, so that the user can’t change what they see. You can go into the File menu and to Workbook Locale and change so that the workbook always uses a specific locale, regardless of the user preferences.
In a later post, we will look at how to internationalise your data, which is a little more complex.
There is a lot of good of good advice in Tableau’s Localization White Paper, should you wish to read into this further.