One of the major challenges with dashboard design is presenting all the information required in a compact form, allowing for easy understanding within a glance.

Tableau provides several options to aid this compact understanding, including buttons, hidden containers, and parameter case equations, but one which can often get overlooked or forgotten about is Tooltips. The Data School challenges students to think outside the box, and during my application process I too was unsure of the potential of the tooltip, but this has since completely changed.

In today’s blog, I will present the process of inserting graphs into a tableau tooltip, while sharing some insights to help you create effective tooltips, elevating the story of your visualization.


Step 1: Picture what value your tooltip could offer your visualization.

At the core of a dashboard, every decision you make needs to communicate a purpose. As alluded to, the tooltip is a great counter to having limited space requirements, providing extra information without cluttering the face of the dashboard. This working memory concept is extremely important to gather meaningful insights from a dashboard. A word of caution exists, just because you can add sheets within a tooltip does not mean it will always be appropriate. For instance, tooltips are not suitable for mobile design.


Step 2 (Optional): Create Calculated Fields

Calculated fields are used to present a different perspective of the dataset, to alter the value to emphasize an idea, or to alter the information you see based on a certain event. For example, a bar chart could consist of the dollar values of gross profit for the past three years, but in the tooltip, you could include a gross profit margin bar chart. This would provide detail on the scale of the business. You could further to improving the client’s understanding by providing the percentage difference on the gross profit margin (through another calculation) to very quickly see the financial performance of a company over a time period. Even better yet, you could dual-axis the gross profit and the profit margin, and add this to a map, what I presented in image 1.

In this step, you could also consider using other Tableau tricks, including creating groups or parameters.


Step 3: Create a Sheet with the Visual you want to be displayed in the Tooltip

In this sheet, you can create all the various types of chart types Tableau has to offer, but it is important to be mindful of the size. For example, you do not want a text table with 40 rows because it will only show about 25% of the data. Generally, I prefer tooltips that do not show detailed values but are intended to show a visual comparison, a way to see if there is needing further investigation into an issue. Referring to the featured image, you can see very quickly that Minnesota had a drastically better year in 2019, recovering from the declining financial performance.

Charts that I have found useful in tooltips include; Bar, Line, Sparklines, Text (including Crosstab Report and highlight table), Heat Map and Bullet. I have purposefully excluded Pie Charts as it is very difficult to distinguish angles, with further labeling limitations on the tooltip size.


Step 4: Insert Your Sheet Tooltip

Return to your original sheet and click on tooltip on the marks card. On the top right there is the insert button, and the first option sheets give you the option to select a select to put into your Tooltip.

(Process: Tooltip – Insert – Sheets – Click Relevant Sheet)

Inserting a Sheet into Tooltips


Step 5: Format Your Tooltip

Hovering over your tooltip, it is highly likely that your chart is too big to fit in the tooltip window, while potentially needing general formattings such as removing the headers (if you only require the visual relationship) and coloring.

To fit the size, you will need to return to the tooltip sheet and drag the length and width into a smaller size, and to decrease the font to help fit. Keep going back and forth between the tooltip and dashboard until you are happy with the tooltip format.


Step 6: Admire Your Tooltip

There you have it, you are now able to insert sheets into your tooltips.