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August 2, 2011

Tableau Tip: Local vs. Global Filters on a Dashboard


A few weeks ago I chimed in on a discussion on Tableau’s forum regarding a concern/problem/feature request that a user wanted to see in Tableau.  Here’s a synopsis of the discussion:

Having to create duplicate data sources & bookmarks is burdensome, inefficient, and painful. 

Global Filters needs this functionality soon:

  1. Moveable Quick Filters – moving on any worksheets moves the global quick filter on all worksheets
  2. Ability to select or unselect multiple global quick filters at the same time
  3. Ability to turn On or Off across all worksheets with one button toggle
  4. Ability to make local to only specific worksheet(s), while leaving the filter for all the other worksheets
  5. Dashboard filters, filters that only effect sheets on the local/current dashboard

I’ve run into this myself several times and developed a bit of a workaround that I now use quite often.  In essence, instead of using a global filter (which impacts all sheets including and beyond the current dashboard), I create additional worksheets, but make them look like a quick filter.  Here’s an example:

Notice the three tables on the right.  These are actually worksheets.  I’ve created actions based on what you click in these three tables.  This method works for creating a filter that’s local to the dashboard.  It doesn’t completely address the issue raised, but it comes pretty close.


  1. Andy,

    I have used this technique and my problem is that despite prompts on the screen this approach doesn't always pass usability tests (especially if you want to make multi-select easy).

    Don't get me wrong, the functionality you've added is totally kick-ass, but without some hand-holding, a user (at least my users) won't know how to use the filters properly.

    I do a lot of casual usability tests these days to see if people "get" it and seeing where folks struggle is really helpful and often only requires minor changes.

    So, having dashboard-specific filters (the middle ground between local and global) is still my #1 feature request.

    NOTE: The first version of Tableau server did not in fact have global filters; a global filter only applied to the current dashboard.


  2. Thank you for this example. I too would love to see a dashboard local filter option.

    Some of my questions carry over from the discussion thread:
    1. How do you deselect?
    2. I would still be interested in seeing an example where a quick filter is slower than an Action.

    To Steve's point, as long as you don't use Tableau's tabs, you can still get a dashboard local filter effect with separate embedded views. Each will have it's own session, and filters set in one session do not effect another. So the above example apply to workbooks viewed in Reader/Desktop or with tabs enabled.

    Here are some really minor details: for the category filters with the colored squares, they currently show the hierarchy plus button. One option is to duplicate the field, so you can retain the hierarchy for use elsewhere. The three level hierarchy drill down on Profit by Region also may only be useful to two levels.

  3. I've used the "worksheet as filter" option often, but the biggest issue for me is that they can quickly take up a lot of space. If you only have a couple filters, and the # of values is small (e.g. 2-4), then this works. Otherwise, you find yourself with too much of your dashboard real estate consumed by filters.

    An alternative approach is to use parameters as faux global filters. I explain my approach here:


  4. Thanks for all of the great commentary guys!

    There are so many ways to skin a cat with Tableau, but like you guys, sometimes the workarounds we come up with do not always translate easily to the consumers of our work.

    It's sure a lot of fun playing with Tableau to try to figure it out though.