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Sorting Data in a Tableau Visualization

Updated: Sep 4, 2020


Sort data in a tableau visualization

Sorting data is the process of arranging data into meaningful form for proper data interpretation. This could be as simple as sorting products in descending order by profit (case of a retail sector) to help users easily spot the top performing products from the others.

Sorting data helps developers guide users in interpretation of insights- if well implemented can improve user engagement with your dashboards. In Tableau, you can sort data from;

  • The toolbar

  • The axis

  • The header

  • The field label

  • The color legend (drag & drop)

Sorting from the toolbar

Sorting data from the toolbar is performed by selecting the dimension you would wish to sort (if nothing is selected, sorting takes place on the innermost dimension).

And then selecting the appropriate sort button from the toolbar (descending or ascending).

Sort data from the toolbar

In the above gif, if no dimension is specified before sorting, then sorting will take place on the innermost dimension – ‘Sub-Category’.

Note: When more than one measure fields are available on the shelf, toolbar sorting will take place on the leftmost measure – in this case ‘Quantity’. Therefore, it’s important to have the measure field you need to use when performing toolbar sorting on the far left side always.

Sort data from the toolbar for more than one measure field

Sort from the axis

Sorting data from the axis will always trigger the nested sort. Nested sort considers each pane independently and sorts the rows per pane.

To perform sort from the axis;

  • Hover a numerical axis to see the sort button.

  • Click the icon to sort.

Sort data from the axis

Note: For hierarchical dimensions like in case above, sorting from the axis is applied on the innermost dimension.

Sort from the header

Sorting data from the header can be effected by simply hovering on the header to bring up the sort icon and selecting it to sort.

Sort data from the header

Sort by drag and drop (for legends & headers)

By simply dragging your field headers or legends to the right position, you can easily sort your view to convey your dashboard metrics well.

Sort data through drag and drop

Sorting from a field label

To sort from a field label, hover on the field you would like to sort to bring up the sort icon, then, select the appropriate sort criteria.

Sort data from a specific field

This element can also be executed by right clicking on the field you need to sort >> Sort >> choose the appropriate sort criteria.

Sort data from field labels

The above are ways of sorting data in Tableau. And the last one will give you more control in your dashboards.

Thank you for reading.

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