Five favourite features in Tableau 2019.2

26 maj 2019

We at Sparks are very excited about the Tableau 2019.2 release. The new version is packed with fun features, big and small. Here are my favourites:

  • Powerful analysis with parameter actions
  • Easier mapping with spatial calculations and new map styles
  • Better user experience with show/hide dashboard containers and custom reference line tooltips.

Read on to learn more!


1.Parameter actions

Parameter actions add a whole new dimension of analytical capabilities that were not possible before. What parameter actions essentially do is that they change the value of your parameters directly from the viz – no need for long drop-downs anymore.

One feature our clients often ask about is being able to compare sales during a custom time period to sales during the same period last year. Parameter actions make is so easy!  In the example below you can select one or several data points on the line chart, and get an instant comparison across several years. This visualization took only 2 minutes to build. Pretty impressive for a solution that people have been asking about for years! Stay tuned for upcoming blog posts to see how to create something similar.

Set actions that came in 2018.3 caused an unprecedented creativity wave in Tableau community. Parameter actions are even easier to work with, so I think we will soon be blown away by all the use cases people come up with. Look at this fully playable minesweeper built entirely in Tableau. Not so practical maybe, but it definitely illustrates the endless possibilities parameter actions open up in front of us.


Every Tableau version comes with more exciting mapping features. 2019.2 is not an exception. We at Sparks are mostly excited about the new spatial calculations and map styles.

2.Spatial calculations – makepoint() and makeline()

If you go to the calculation menu in the “Create Calculated Field” window, you will notice a new section called ‘Spatial’. That’s where the new makeline() and makepoint() functions live. “What are they good for?”, you might ask. It is all in the name. Makepoint() creates a spatial object from latitude and longitude columns. Makeline() constructs a line object between two points. Classic spatial files can have point geometries, line geometries or polygons. Now you create those point and line objects directly in Tableau and do more advanced spatial joins and analysis.

In the example below a map shows outgoing flights from Reykjavik Airport to other airports in Iceland (they do have a lot of them for such a small country!). To create this before 2019.2, we would have had to create two rows for every line – one with origin coordinates  and one with destination coordinates. In the new Tableau Desktop version we can achieve the same result with only one row of data for each line, and a very simple calculation.

Note how Tableau keeps the curvature of the Earth for longer destinations, instead of drawing straight lines between two data points – that’s because the calculation is truly spatial.

2.Vector maps and new layers

Vector maps give a whole new experience. Zooming and panning got much smother and faster. On higher zoom levels details appear naturally – you barely notice the transitions.

Moreover, Tableau have added three additional map styles – Satellite, Streets and Outdoor – that are available out of the box, without having to connect to external services like Mapbox.

I love the Streets style which comes with the public transport layer. Though, it might need some improvements – in Stockholm Slussen got categorised as a train station, while Södra Station turned into a T-bana.


We all know that layouting in Tableau can be a bit tedious, but it’s slowly getting better. 2019.2 comes with functions that solve two of my biggest headaches.

4. Customize reference line tooltips

You can now customize reference line tooltips – a small thing, but very sought-after. Previously, when adding a reference line to your chart you were stuck with an auto-generated tooltip that you had no control over. It was especially tricky if you, like me, use hidden reference lines – with no line and no label – to create more room for data labels or synchronize date axis between charts from different data source. Because of the tooltips hidden reference lines were never fully invisible and could confuse users. Until today😊

5. Show/hide dashboard containers

Sometimes you need every centimeter of your dashboard for meaningful content, and filters are always in the way. In 2019.2 you can move all the supporting elements like filters, legends, notes and even graphs into a container that can be hidden or expanded with one click. This opens up a floor for many interesting solutions. For example, dashboards can start looking more web-page-like with additional links and drill-downs in a collapsible menu.




We have just scratched the surface. There is so much more to discover in 2019.2 – a quick “replace worksheet” button, new “Ask Data” functionality, improvements to Tableau Prep, Server and Online. Explore all the news here, and download the new Desktop version today to start exploring these features for yourself.