Exploring Calculated Fields in Tableau – An Overview

Tableau, a top data visualization tool, has revolutionized the way data specialists use data, and among its many features, is its ability to allow authors to create new data from existing data through calculated fields.

With calculated fields, you create new measures and dimensions in Tableau and can be used with any data type, functions and aggregations, and logical operators, making the results of their calculations virtually limitless.

In this article, we delve into the world of calculated fields in Tableau, exploring their significance, applications, and benefits.

Let’s get started!

Understanding Calculated Fields in Tableau – Why Use It?

A calculated field in Tableau is a user-defined field that derives its values through a formula or expression applied to existing data columns. Through this, you can tailor your analysis to explore unique data patterns.

This enables analysts to perform complex calculations, transformations, aggregations, and comparisons not directly available in the original dataset.

While starting with well-structured data is important, the calculated fields feature provides a layer of flexibility to aid your analysis. Let’s explore some reasons why we use calculated fields in Tableau:

  • Calculated fields allow instant data segmentation based on unique criteria, unveiling new insights on the fly.
  • With calculated fields, you can test new dimensions or measures before permanently integrating them into underlying data.
  • Calculated fields can help to filter out unwanted or irrelevant results, hence, enhancing the quality and precision of your insights.
  • Combine parameters and calculated fields to grant users the ability to tailor visuals to their preferences.
  • Calculated fields let you quickly calculate ratios without affecting your database. This optimizes storage and processing power, improving system efficiency.

Creating Calculated Fields in Tableau – A Guide

Tableau offers three primary calculation types: Standard, Table Calculation, and Quick Table Calculation, and depending on your requirements, you can choose the suitable calculation type.

Standard calculations are good for creating basic formulas, while Table Calculations are for analyzing values within a visualization. Quick Table Calculations, however, give instant insights, which makes them perfect for quick analyses.

Now, let’s explore these calculation types, how to create them, and how they can be used for different calculations in Tableau.

Standard Calculations

Standard calculations in Tableau involve creating custom fields by applying formulas to the existing dimensions or measures in your dataset. They are best suited for creating new dimensions, and measures, and generating calculated values.

These calculations are executed at the data source level and are fundamental for performing various mathematical operations, aggregations, and logical evaluations.

For example: If you have a dataset that contains sales data with the “Revenue” and “Cost” columns. To calculate the “Profit”, you can create a standard calculation. e.g.,

Profit = [Revenue] - [Cost]

The calculated field “Profit” will provide insights into each sale’s profit.

How to Create Standard Calculations in Tableau

To create standard calculations in Tableau, follow the below steps:

  • Open your Tableau and navigate the “Analysis” menu.
  • Click on “Create Calculated Field…” and a calculation editor will appear where you can write formulas.
  • You can then enter a formula in the calculation editor. e.g.,
SUM([Revenue]) / COUNTD([Customer ID])
  • Finally, click “OK” to create the calculated field.

Pros:

  1. Flexibility: With standard calculations, it is flexible enough to create custom fields using formulas which makes it possible to perform several aggregations and mathematical operations.
  2. Reusability: You always reuse standard calculations across multiple visualizations and dashboards, ensuring consistency and accuracy.
  3. Advanced Analytics: Standard calculations are well-suited for performing advanced analytics, such as statistical calculations, trend analysis, basic forecasting, etc.
  4. Easy Data Source Integration: Finally, standard calculations can be integrated into the data source itself, and can be applied across various analysis tools.

Cons:

  1. Complex standard calculations that involve large datasets can affect performance.
  2. Standard calculations are static and do not automatically changes the charts or visuals.

Quick Table Calculations

Quick Table Calculations are pre-built calculations that provide a streamlined way to perform common calculations quickly. They are designed to simplify the process of generating calculations like percent differences, running totals, moving averages, and more.

With Quick Table calculations, you can easily generate running totals, percentages, moving averages, and other advanced analytics for more meaningful insights.

For example: If you have a bar chart showing monthly sales, you can calculate a running total of sales and profit over time.

How to Create Quick Table Calculations in Tableau

To create Quick Table Calculations in Tableau, you can follow these steps:

  • Right-click the measure you want to perform the table calculation on (e.g., SUMSales) then select “Quick Table Calculation”
  • Select your choice of calculation (e.g., Percent of Total, Running Total, Difference, etc)
  • You can also configure additional options, such as addressing, partitioning, etc
  • Finally, this will automatically be applied to your chart or visualization.

Pros:

  1. Simple and Easy to Use: Quick Table Calculations allows you to perform simple calculations without writing complex formulas. They are easy to use and provide quick insights.
  2. Interactive Visualization: Quick table calculations respond dynamically to changes in the visualization context, thus, providing interactive insights.
  3. Reduced Complexity: With Quick Table Calculations, even users without advanced mathematical or analytical skills can easily perform calculations and streamline the process.

Cons:

  1. Quick Table Calculations offer in-built calculation types, hence, limiting customization options compared to standard calculations.
  2. In some cases, these in-built options in quick table calculations might not provide the level of granularity required for specific analyses.

FAQs

Can calculated fields be reused across multiple visuals?

Yes, you can always reuse standard calculations across multiple visuals.

Are there performance considerations with calculated fields?

Yes, sometimes, certain complex calculations can impact performance, especially when working with large datasets.

Are there limitations to quick table calculations?

While Quick table calculations are simple to use, they have limited customization compared to standard calculations.

Is it possible to combine different calculation types in a single visualization?

Yes, you can combine standard and quick table calculations within a single chart or visual for comprehensive insights.

Which calculation type is best for advanced analytics?

For advanced analytics involving complex mathematical operations and logical evaluations, standard calculations are suitable.

Conclusion

Calculated Fields in Tableau are great tools to help turn raw data into actionable insights, and by leveraging the types, functions, and operators, you can perform calculations, aggregate data, and drive meaningful data insights.

In this guide, I have walked you through the basics of calculated fields, the types, and how to create simple and advanced calculations.

Now you can explore your data, experiment with different calculation types and unlock the full potential of your data analysis skills to create engaging, interactive and dynamic visualizations.

Happy analyzing!