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Data Visualization - Tableau

How do I use this guide?

This guide covers the basics of Tableau and helps you get started with developing eye-catching visualizations. 

Use the navigation to the left of the screen to proceed through the guide.

What is Tableau?

Tableau is a software tool used for creating data visualizations, dashboarding, and data discovery. Here is a summary of the available Tableau products.

  • Tableau Desktop

    • There is a cost to use this software. All the visualizations are developed in the Tableau Desktop interface.

  • Tableau Server

    • The dashboards you create are shared with others using Tableau Server.

    • When a dashboard is uploaded to the Tableau Server from Tableau Desktop, other users can access those Dashboards by logging on Tableau Servers. The software is installed on company hardware.

  • Tableau Online

    • Functions similar to Tableau Server, but hardware and server is maintained by Tableau outside the company firewall. 

  • Tableau Public

    • A free version of Tableau Desktop.

    • It allows anyone to publish interactive data visualization to the web. Tableau Public is not secure and anyone can access the data and download it. If your data has access restrictions you will need to use Tableau Desktop, Tableau Server or Tableau Online.  

  • Tableau Reader

    • A free desktop application that you can use to open and interact with data visualizations built in Tableau Desktop. You cannot create visualization in Tableau Reader. 

Why should I visualize my data?

Data visualization allows the human brain to process a large amounts of complex data through the use of charts or graphs rather than having to decipher large numeric tables.

How can I get a copy of Tableau?

Access to Tableau Desktop depends on your status at the university. 


  • If you are a full-time student attending an accredited school you can fill out an online form to submit a request for a one year license.


  • If you would like to use Tableau as part of your teaching you can fill out the online form to get access to to the software.

What are the tasks I need to do to visualize my data in Tableau?

These tasks can vary greatly from project to project, but they all start with...

1. Clean & prepare your data

This is an essential step to perform before creating a visualization. Clean, consistent data will be much easier to use in Tableau.

2. Loading data

Learn how to import your data into Tableau.

3. Select and create a chart   

Choose the best way to represent your data and communicate your message. 

4. Build a dashboard

A dashboard is a collection of several visualizations and supporting information shown in a single place.

5. Publish your visualization

Share your visualization with others by making it available online.

More help

Resources to help with data research

Guide: Find data and StatisticsVideo: Thinking Critically About Data

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