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September 8, 2014

Use Axis Rulers for cleaner charts in Tableau

Last week I was talking with Paul Mathewson of Interworks about a bug that he was seeing with axis borders in Tableau. I thought I was seeing the same bug, but it turns out that mine was different. On my bug, there were some charts on which the axis border would not appear. I hadn’t changed any settings and some other charts that had the same exact design worked just fine. So I turned to a feature that I’ve never used in Tableau…Axis Rulers, which is a feature I cannot find documented anywhere on Tableau's website.

While Paul and I were chatting, he showed me a neat trick he uses to make cleaner charts. He learned this trick from Gabriel Gejman, who learned it from John Abdo. This is how things work in the Tableau community; one person finds something and others spread the word. I’m writing this blog post to share as well.

By default, Tableau includes the gridlines when your date dimension is continuous. You also get that border around the whole chart. Now consider this cleaned up version.

To get this view, all you have to do is make some simple formatting changes. First, format the borders by setting the Pane to None for both the Row Divider and the Column Divider.

Next, go to the Format Lines options and set the Grid Lines to None.

Your chart should now look like this:

The last step is to go back to the Format Lines options and set the Axis Rulers to a line and make them a light gray.

That’s all there is to it! You now have a super clean line chart.

Put several of these together on a dashboard and you really see a big difference.

Download the sample workbook here.


  1. This is how I publish almost all my line charts. Best way, IMO. Now if only I could write a macro to automate the steps each time!

  2. Here's a video showing how to do this using the Workbook SDK for Tableau: