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Basic Maps in Tableau

December 23rd, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

I’ve been meaning to write about the maps in Tableau for some time now as I’m really impressed with how they look, how easy they are to use and how powerful they are as a visual geographic reporting tool.

If you have geographic data, preferably with a longitude and latitude, you can display mapped data in a matter of minutes. Tableau maps allows zooming in and out – although this isn’t the most user friendly when compared to the likes of Google maps.

Depending on the Geographic Breakdown Structure (GBS) used it’s also possible to select the different levels of geography (i.e. country, state, city, etc) to display the data using the average of the longitudes and latitudes in each geography.

The example I’m using here is showing properties available for rent and/or sale on a well known US website with subsidiaries in Australia and Brazil. Their GBS structure allows me to use parameters for the user to view the data at different levels of the GBS structure. For the example I’m displaying the following GBS levels:

  • Country/State – the US is state level, the rest of the world at country level
  • Region/State – depending on the country this can differ
  • Region – this is the very bottom of the GBS, it’s the deepest level we have as to where the property is located

A map report like this can be created in a small number of steps. The data behind the report is very simple, it contains the Latitude and Longitude of each region (the most granular location for each property) with the regions’ country/state and the count of listings in each location.

This is a small sample of the data:


CountryName StateName Region Lat Long Listings
Alabama Alabama Gulf Coast Mobile 30.4543 -88.1314 9
Alabama Alabama Mountains Fort Payne 34.32809 -85.7176 9
Alabama Alabama Mountains Wilson Lake 34.76984 -87.4165 9
Alabama Metropolitan Alabama Lay Lake 33.18677 -86.5141 9
Alabama Metropolitan Alabama Logan Martin Lake 33.49711 -86.2244 9
Alabama River Heritage Alabama Lake Jordan 32.64119 -86.2646 9
Alabama River Heritage Alabama Montgomery 32.34241 -86.0305 9
Alabama Alabama Gulf Coast Josephine 30.3224 -87.5175 10
Alabama Alabama Mountains Florence 34.82954 -87.5736 10
Alabama Alabama Mountains Mentone 34.58446 -85.5897 10
Alabama Alabama Mountains Muscle Shoals 34.79944 -87.5701 15
Alabama Alabama Gulf Coast Foley 30.34198 -87.6621 19
Alabama Metropolitan Alabama Wedowee 33.32353 -85.5982 27
Alabama Alabama Mountains Weiss Lake 34.13304 -85.6695 28
Alabama Alabama Mountains Lewis Smith Lake 34.05801 -87.1064 46
Alabama Metropolitan Alabama Tuscaloosa 33.31168 -87.5601 46
Alabama River Heritage Alabama Lake Martin 32.7671 -85.8594 55
Alabama Alabama Gulf Coast Fairhope 30.50429 -87.9104 63
Alabama Alabama Gulf Coast Ono Island Orange Beach 30.57985 -87.42 63
Alabama Alabama Mountains Guntersville Lake 34.43801 -86.2435 99
Alabama Alabama Gulf Coast Dauphin Island 30.25082 -88.1252 191
Alabama Alabama Gulf Coast Fort Morgan 30.23378 -87.9155 769
Alabama Alabama Gulf Coast Orange Beach 30.27351 -87.5849 1,483
Alabama Alabama Gulf Coast Gulf Shores 30.24537 -87.7534 3,110
Alaska Big Lake Big Lake 61.52685 -149.869 9
Alaska Denali Denali 63.22011 -147.691 9

Once this data is loaded into Tableau the Lat, Long and Listings fields will be in the Measures section. To create the map holding down the ctrl key click on the 3 fields so they are all highlighted  then click Show Me! in the toolbar. The Map chart type should be automatically selected.

Clicking OK should display one large blue blob in the middle of the screen. This is because all of the longitudes and latitudes are being averaged, and aren’t being displayed individually.

To break them out one of the GBS levels needs to be in the Level Of Detail (LOD) shelf.

This will now make the map look more like a map – now a blue blob will appear in each country.

In the example I have allowed the user to choose which level of the GBS they want to see. This is done by using a parameter from which the user selects and a calculated field which uses the result of the parameter selection to return to desired GBS level. In a previous post about how a user can display what they select in a report I have given a description of how to do this.

Once the parameter and calculated field are created the next step is to put the calculated field into the LOD shelf in place of CountryName and the bones of the report are now complete, all that remains to do is to tidy up the titles, tooltips, etc.



  1. sf
    July 7th, 2012 at 12:26 | #1

    How do you grab and move the map so that it is centered, or whatever, on the screen? I’m not talking about zooming in on a particular area. I mean grabbing the map and moving it around like the way you can grab a pdf and move it with the hand. Holding down the left or right (or both!) key does not do it.

  2. sf
    July 7th, 2012 at 12:30 | #2

    Never mind. I found the answer here – http://community.tableausoftware.com/thread/112925. So frustrating!

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