Clutter is a necessary evil, one that anyone working with a data visualization is going to have to deal with at some point. Many customers want to be able to take a visualization and adjust as many settings as possible. Being able to provide so many degrees of freedom is a valuable advantage to the end user. But parameters, legends and the like are space-greedy, and using them carelessly can often leave them devouring up your visualization space. If they are part of the tiled background, a small number of parameters can squish a visualization, or get flattened out near the top. They might be able to work as a floating container, but those too can be messy, and there might not be a place to put them permanently that won’t obstruct a vis.

But now, there’s a solution.

Tableau’s 2019.2, released just last week, brings a new feature that can solve this problem – Show/Hide Buttons. Show/Hide buttons do exactly what it says on the tin – they hide floating containers on a dashboard, allowing you to toggle their appearance. This makes them incredibly handy for keeping the data nice and organised.

I wanted to take some time to show how to make these buttons, some of the ways you can customize them, and what they can do. Maybe some will see this as much ado about nothing – but between the power of this new utility, and a couple of unclear details that may confuse people surrounding them, I feel this explanation will save a lot of people a lot of headaches.

The visualization I’m taking the screenshots from can be seen here.

How to Make a Show/Hide Button

If you are aiming to create a show/hide button for part of your dashboard, look to the bottom left of the screen. You’ll see a number of Object options – two buttons that toggle between Tiled and Floating, and a number of different options above them. You may think to grab the Button Object in this list, and while that is an entirely reasonable choice… it’s also the wrong one, as the Show/Hide Button isn’t accessible that way. Instead, you should grab either the Vertical or Horizontal Object, while Floating is selected, and drag it onto the screen. This will create an empty container.

Of the two, the Vertical option is probably better. Most Parameters tend to be wide and short, so having them stack vertically works well.

From there, shift-click and drag any parameters, sheets, images, or anything else you want to hide into this container.
(Small Tip: If you’ve started with a tiled dashboard, then all the parameters and legends get automatically added to a Vertical container. You can right-click it and toggle Floating to just pull it out.)

Once you’re ready, select the container, then select the triangle in the top right to open it’s Options Menu. You should get a menu like this:

If you don’t see a similar set of options, you may have accidentally selected something IN the container, rather than the container itself. An easy way to tell is the border – selected containers have blue ones, while other items have grey.

From here, click “Add Show/Hide Button” to add one to your vis. By default, it will be a small X, but if you just click it, nothing happens. That’s actually by design – while you’re working on building the visualisation, you can only toggle the button by alt-clicking. Don’t worry, though – even at this point, it’ll work in presentation mode, and when published.

Ta-daaaah! The button is a separate floating object to the container.

But we can do better.

Button Customization

If you click on the button’s More Options menu, then click Edit Button, you will get this screen, showing seven different ways to customize the button:

The options are:

  1. Dashboard Item to Show/Hide – mostly self-explanatory. By default it will be whatever container you made the button with, but you can switch it to any other container.
  2. Button Style – This allows you to choose if the button will be an Image Button or a Text button. This only really changes option 4.
  3. The Button Appearance toggle. This swaps between the active settings for when the dashboard item is being shown or hidden. None of the options below transfer between the two button states – all settings are independent for both Shown and Hidden.
  4. The Image section, with the filename of the image replacing the Choose an Image text when chosen. When the Button style is Text, this area is instead replaced with a text field for what’s on the button, and an option to change the settings for the font.
  5. The border field. Selects the style, colour, and thickness of the border.
  6. The background field. Allows you to select the colour and opacity of the button.
  7. The tooltip text. Allows you to enter in custom mouse over text to the button.

With those seven options, you can completely customize these buttons to your liking. My vis, for example, uses a cloud vector on a gray background for when the container is hidden. When you click on it, it changes to a sun vector on an orange background.

I can already tell that people will have a lot of fun with this. Just being able to pack away stuff unnecessary to the core visualization… well, it gives you a lot of free real estate on your vis. Whether you use it to spread out the data on the vis, or to pack even more things into one page. being able to hide anything you don’t need is a game-changer that you will seriously enjoy.

David Ruhnau
Author: David Ruhnau