Using a “Hidden” Sheet for Advanced Action Filtering

Learning to design so that you limit loading unnecessary rows of granular data is the most important technique you can learn to make Tableau perform well. It reduces the strain on the database in finding and returning data, and it limits the amount that Tableau needs to return. Ask yourself: “Am I getting tired of scrolling through this list trying to find what I need?” If the answer is yes, consider what other views of the data might help you filter down just to the rows you need to see.

Setting Actions to Exclude when nothing is selected

The ideal workflow in Tableau, both from a performance and a visual analysis perspective, is useful visualizations that filter via Dashboard Actions that act on click / select. You can limit what is shown by setting your Actions to Exclude when nothing is selected. After the first time you do a selection and clear it, the affected sheets won’t show anything until something has been selected.

“Hidden” Sheets in a Dashboard

What if you have actions that you want to affect a sheet on a dashboard that is on a different dashboard? Perhaps there are multiple sheets you would like the user to select to trigger actions, before the user goes over to the second dashboard to see that filtered views. By default, an Action that happens on Select that goes to a different Dashboard will jump to that second Dashboard immediately after the click.

The same sheet on multiple dashboards is still a single sheet, and will have any filters applied by Dashboard 1’s actions when viewed on Dashboard 2 (this can cause issues sometimes, but also allows this technique). You can bring in the sheet you want to show in full on Dashboard 2 to Dashboard 1 (where you have actions), but as floating:


Then shrink the floating sheet down as small as possible — it’s that tiny square in the bottom left here:

minimized sheet

Finally, bring in a text box as floating (leave it blank), shrink it down and put it on top of your “hidden” sheet. Now it can’t be selected because the text box is covering it up. You may need to work on your formatting so that it all blends in naturally in the page. If done properly, the area will be completely invisible to the end user in Server or in Presentation Mode.

text box covering sheet

Specific Blank “Filter” Sheets

Rather than place the sheet you want as a “hidden” sheet in the dashboard, you could alternatively create a sheet with almost nothing on it (to minimize any rendering) then set its filters to Apply to  “All Using this Data Source” or “Selected Sheets”. This intermediary sheet would thus become a master control for filtering multiple sheets while including the absolute minimum extra on Dashboard 1. You can set Action based filters to “All Using this Data Source” or “Selected Sheets” just like regular filters; it is not always obvious because Action filters only appear after the first time they have been used.

action filters with apply to all.png

I’ve built an example TWBX showing this in an advanced configuration where the action filters are applying to a separate data source from the initial sheets on Dashboard 1. This is a common pattern where you have a fast performing Aggregated Data Source 1 and a Granular Data Source 2 that can perform well when showing correctly filtered subsets.


One comment

  1. Sorry to necro this thread, but it seems like something that can help me however I can’t seem to get it to work. Does this no longer work on later versions of Tableau?


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