Formatting Geekery – Special Values in a Text Table

When faced with a stubborn Tableau problem, I’ll get a little OCD thing going and won’t quit until I’ve opened up a couple dozen browser tabs from searches and exhausted every avenue I can think of. This leads to success often enough that like a Pavlovian animal I keep up the behavior, even when I’d probably be better off taking a break to do something like exercise, connect with another human being, eat, look out the window at nature, drink, see my family, sleep, that sort of thing. The following is the result of one of those efforts:

In a text table using Measure Names/Values, I was trying to get some of the empty cells to show “NA” instead. Ordinarily, in a text table I’d click on the pill, choose the Format… context menu, click on the Pane tab, and then in the Special Values section enter “NA” into the Text box:

That works great. However, here’s what happens (or doesn’t happen) when you try this with Measure Values:

Tableau lets you enter text into the field, but does nothing with it. If you try click on one of the measures on the Measure Values Card and format it, Tableau doesn’t even show the Special Values->Text field:

If you’re me, when something like this happens frustration ensues, there’s lots of typing, clicking, and dragging for awhile, and after some time emerges a technique for how to get a custom per-measure special value that I’m sharing with you as a (very small) gift to humanity.

If you have only two measures in Measure Values, this could get messy fast, so drag another measure onto the Measure Values card for these steps and drag it off when you’re done.
  1. Drag a measure’s pill from the Measure Values shelf to the Level of Detail Shelf.
  2. Click on the measure’s pill on the Level of Detail Shelf and choose Format… from the context menu to bring up the Format [Measure] window.
  3. Click on the Pane tab, and you’ll see the Special Values section again:
  4. Enter your desired text in the Special Values->Text box.
  5. To finish, drag the measure’s pill from the Level of Detail Shelf back to the Measure Values Card:
  6. Repeat steps 1-5 for each additional measure you want to set a special value for.

And that’s how you get special values in a text table. Here’s a link to the Formatting Special Values workbook on Tableau Public.


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