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10 new features in Tableau v9 you may not know about

With Tableau version 9 now in beta and due for release in the not-too-distant future, there’s a lot of buzz in the Tableau community about all the new headline feature enhancements, and there are quite a few to shout about! New features like parallel processing are set to deliver massive performance improvements, while the new level of detail calculations will make once complicated table calculations child’s play.

But there are also dozens of little enhancements that haven’t necessarily made the headlines, and that’s what I want to talk about in this post. Here at The Information Lab HQ we’ve been testing (and playing) with the beta versions of Tableau Desktop v9 for a few weeks now, and I’ve put together a list of 10 little-known improvements in v9 Desktop that we think are pretty cool, and will almost certainly bring joy to the Tableau enthusiast and save them lots of time and effort. So now, in no particular order….

1. Direct connector for stats package files – SAS, SPSS, R

Got stats files that need visualising in Tableau? This new connector brings native support for a number of statistical package files including:

.sas7bdat – the file format used by SAS

.sav – the binary file format used by SPSS

 .rdata.rda – the file formats employed by the R statistical analysis package

tableau version 9 stats connectors


2. Updated colour window with hex values and colour picker

The new and improved colour palette dialogue box now allows you to specify and see hex values for all the colours you’re using – very handy for putting together those custom colour palettes, and what’s more you can now also pick a colour from anywhere on your desktop and drop it into the palette. Very cool!


tableau version 9 colour selector

3. The little arrow to the right of the new calculation window

We were a little worried at first at the minimalism of the new calculation window. I mean, where did all our drop-down menus go allowing us to choose what function to use? Well, now that the new calculation window auto-completes your typing with suggested dimensions, measures and formulas, you could argue that these aren’t really necessary any longer. But wait, what’s that little arrow off to the right of the window? Click it, and voila, you get your formula drop-down, complete with explanations and a usage example. It’s a nice way to keep the interface clean while still giving you the option to search the formula list. While we’re on the subject, don’t forget to check out some of the new calculations introduced in v9, like the RANDOM(), HEXBIN, and REGEXP functions. One thing I would say is missed in this new version is the hyperlink out from that calculation window to the formulas help page on the Tableau site. If there are any Tableau devs listening, maybe you could reintroduce that before the release?



4. The new “Split” function

Why, hello, text to columns for Tableau. What typically used to be a job for Excel, SQL, or a calculated field of LEFTs and RIGHTs has now been made a one-click operation in Tableau. Just right-click on the dimension you want to split, navigate to the new ‘Transform’ menu and click Split. Tableau will automatically try to figure out the delimiter and split the data accordingly, but you can also choose Custom Split and specify the delimiter yourself if you like. So, who can tell me the most popular first name in Superstore Sales? Answers in the comments section below please, or you can tweet me.



5. Hovering over sheet names when creating a dashboard or story reveals a thumbnail of the sheet

How many times have I sat there trying to remember what I named each sheet so I can navigate or add it to a dashboard quickly? This small, simple but incredibly useful feature shows a thumbnail of the sheet itself when you hover your mouse over the sheet names. This works both in the sheet list when creating a dashboard, and also when hovering over the sheet and dashboard names along the bottom of the Tableau Desktop window. That’s a huge time saver, thanks Tableau!

tableau version 9 sheet thumbnail preview


6. The new “Tableau Discover” side menu on the start page

When you open Tableau v9 for the first time you’ll now notice a new menu on the right that alerts you to a bunch of handy Tableau resources, including links to training for beginners, a highlight section on the Tableau Viz of the Week. Hang on, Week? What happend to Viz of the Day? Will Tableau choose one of the VotD’s as their VotW’s to appear on everyone’s Tableau Desktop? Is there some other Viz competition I don’t know about? Guess we’ll have to wait and find out about that one. Further down towards the bottom of the Discover pane, you’ll find links to other resources like the forums, recent Tableau blog posts and Tableau Conferences. What would be really cool here is to allow customers to customize this pane with their own links to internal resources, like corporate templates or colour palettes, internal user groups etc. One for the Ideas page? I think so!


7. The new “Press to Tableau” button in the top left

Tableau now includes a handy (what I like to call) “Press to Tableau” button in the top left of the menu bar, which allows you to quickly flip between your viz and the Tableau Desktop start page. Previously this button was hidden away in the top right corner along with some other tabbed buttons, and I always found it really hard to position my mouse over it because they were so small (keyboard shortcut, anyone?) This will be another handy little time saver for sure.


8. The “Add New Data Source” button drop-down menu

Really loving this one. Clicking on the add new data source button in the menu bar now reveals a drop-down menu, which allows you to really quickly connect to a new data source, without having to navigate to another page. I think that’s about 3 mouse clicks saved, which is huge when you’re ‘in the flow’ of building your visualisation.


9. Tooltips stay shown until you move your mouse, rather than dropping off after a few seconds

In current versions of Tableau, a tooltip only stays alive for 8 seconds and then it disappears. Don’t believe me? Don’t take my word for it! Now in Tableau v9, tooltips stick around for as long as you leave your mouse in place. Furthermore, tooltips are now super responsive, populating with new data for whichever mark you’re hovering over in real-time. And if you don’t like this, there’s even an option to disable it in the tooltips window (see the picture in no. 10)


10. The tooltip window now has a “Show tooltips” tick box

Staying on the same theme, tooltips now have an on/off switch, yay! I can think of many times when I didn’t want to show a tooltip on a particular sheet in a viz, and I ended up having to manually delete all the text in the tooltip box, but even then this doesn’t get rid of the Ubertip, so I then had to look at overlaying the sheet with a blank, or text box. This will save absoutely tons of time during the build process, well done Tableau!

Edit: Thanks to Matthew Lutton for pointing out that deselecting the Show Tooltips tickbox doesn’t actually get rid of the Ubertip. As a workaround, you could look at following the above trick of overlaying a blank floating box on top of your viz.

show tooltips v9

So that’s the list! I hope you enjoyed it. For those of you who are also testing the v9 beta, I’d love to hear what other neat little enhancements you’ve found, aside from the big headline innovations. Do feel free to share in the comments section, I bet we could come up with another list of 10 or more!


Jonathan MacDonald

London, UK

18 thoughts on “10 new features in Tableau v9 you may not know about

  1. Hey Jonathan: There is still no way to remove the Ubertips, correct? De-selecting “Show Tooltips” does not remove them as far as I can tell, but in reading #10, it seemed that you had found a new way to remove these. Am I misinterpreting?


  2. Hey Matt, look at tip #9, no uber tip is now the default.
    The way you see an uber tip in version 9 is to actually click/select an item.
    They no longer appear on hover.
    Much cleaner now!

  3. Hi – do you know where I can download v9 from? I’m unable to find the lin, please share. Im using 8.3 and eager to get my hands on 9 to preview. Thanks

  4. Hi,

    All new features are gr8, but still if possible then add functionality to add image or format the tooltip.

  5. Johnathon: Does version nine get away from the very very very annoying color by cells for color coding with calculated fileds for dashboards that color code per cells in column with break points of scores. The annoying part is the colors will apply accross the row versus the column needed when four seperate varaible measures are utilized. Currently I have to create alerts for two break points of 95% and 93% dependent upon which report is choosen to display by the user to identify with color those with a passing score and those with a failing score. My other reports that only use on variable will work…. but ironicly is the formula results showing what color to move to shows inside the details and when one hoovers over the column cell on the row I see the correct color but in tableau only looking by row versus column takes the whole row and chooses its color. So if i have column 1 100 column2 100 and column 3 100 and column four 50…. you guessed it I get the color orange for all cells in the row… but again when one hoovers over the three one hunreds and the details says yep blue…. Makes me want to say great job Tableau as I spend hours trying to build a work around where I kjnow its different but Excel would handle in ssecond…. or SAS would handle in a couple lines of coding….. Signed annoyed of the what seems would be simple does not appply when using tableau…

    1. Johnathon: Does version 9 repairs the annoying color alerts used on cells using calculated fields for dashboards showing scores that are good and bad for example utilizing a Blue / Orange score highlight. I am not just using one score to apply across the report like some of my reports utilize and this yes will work with the Report. The report to help visualize has two reports with different break combinations of 95 or 93% cutoffs dependent on which report is chosen with a drop down. This takes away the simplistic approach of choosing the color break points as one drags to the color and types their breakpoint. The irony or annoying part is the formulas (separate for each column) were put in the details area where if one hoovers over the wrong colorized field it shows the correct color that should be displayed, but for some reason tableau is driven by row versus column when four unique scores are displayed. (Column 1=100 column2=100 and column 3=100 and column four=50(should be orange only here)
      I would only hope that in the future that one developer would allow one to choose in the analysis drop down a choice to state apply column only versus by the whole row….. Alternatively, allow one to add a windows calculation that would allow one to highlight the row and apply downward and not across…. This one very annoyed Tableau user will have to spend hours trying to get a work around for a simplistic in other products approach to create a resolution to my problem. 

      1. Hi Jeff – I’m afraid Tableau v9 doesn’t provide any new solutions to the problems you are experiencing building your report.

      2. Add the [Measure Names] field to Color and then add the other field that flags your measure Also to the color detail. Then you will get a complex color legend and you can pick and choose what combination of values get what color. I do this all the time for text tables. There is also the multiple marks card trick to make ot look like a text table.

    2. Agree, this is so way annoying!! There’s a trick though that Tableau Rep walked me through. If I recall (been awhile since I’ve used Tableau), need to create a blank header that is hidden at bottom of column, and add your colored range. This field is then referenced in the field to be displayed. Best to call the help desk, Tier 2, to explain. Essentially,though the report will need to be rebuilt.

  6. As long as I’ve been using v9, I haven’t seen the dialogue box in #2. I can’t tell from the GIF how one goes from the select palette box to the one where HEX values can be entered. Please share the steps – Thanks!

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