There are use cases where using buttons can aid Tableau dashboard navigation. For example in your Tableau report you may have a summary dashboard and a detailed drill down. Perhaps you want the user to drill down from the summary to the detail dashboard on a click.

Tableau Actions make this drill down very simple. It’s the drilling back up that is more complicated. In this example I have created a very simple bar chart of sales by Country using Tableau’s sample superstore file. I have also created a a table containing sales by State and Year. This table is the drill down for this example.

To keep things simple the two worksheets were used in two dashboards. The Summary dashboard contains only the bar chart worksheet, the Detail dashboard is only the table.

To drill down from the Summary dashboard is simple using Actions. Click Dashboard – Actions and set a new filter action using Summary as the Source Sheet, run action on Select and the Target Sheet is the Detail. Target Filters are All Fields.

Filter Action Summary

That is the drill down new set up. Click a Country name and it’ll take you to the Detail dashboard, filtered for that Country. Returning to the Summary from the Detail dashboard is the challenge.

To return we can create a Back button. This is actually just another worksheet styled to appear like a button. Create a new calculated field with the formula ‘Back’. Drag that field to the Text shelf of a new worksheet, set it to be a chart type of Shape. Select an appropriate shape, such as a filled back arrow and size to fit the worksheet.

Tableau Back Button

Put this ‘button’ on to the Detail dashboard. On the Detail dashboard click Dashboard – Actions and set up a new Filter action. This time the Source Sheet is Detail, only the Back worksheet should be selected. The Target is the Summary dashboard, All Fields as the Target Filters. Make sure it’s set up to run action on Select.

The user will now be able to drill from the Summary to Detail and return to the Summary. The downside is with the Back button. Once it is selected – i.e. the first time clicked – it needs to be deselected to be able to be drill down again. Effectively this means the user needs to double click to go back, one click to reset then click again to go back. This double click isn’t good user experience. The good news is there is a way to make it single click.

Create two calculated fields, the first called ‘one’ with the value 1, the second called ‘two’ with the value 2. Set both fields to be dimensions (drag them up to Dimensions from Measures). Put ‘one’ to the Detail shelf of the Back worksheet.

On the Detail dashboard create a new action; Dashboard – Actions. A new Filter action is used to reset the Back button, the Source Sheet being the Back worksheet on the Detail dashboard. The Target Sheet is the Back worksheet – it is referencing itself. The Target filters are Selected Fields, Add Filter and the Source Field is ‘one’ and the Target Field ‘two’. ‘One’ has to be on the Detail shelf of the Back worksheet otherwise it causes an error.

Filter Action Back Button

The order of the 2 actions on the Detail dashboard is very important. Get the order wrong and the click on Back won’t take you back to the Summary, it only resets the button.

The order of the Actions is driven by the name of the action. Resetting the Back button needs to happen first followed by returning to the Summary sheet. Therefore prefix the name of the action to rest then back button with ‘a’ and the action back to summary with a ‘b’. The appropriate naming of the actions means the drilling down and back up again should work seamlessly.

Back Button Actions

When publishing to a Tableau server there are a couple of other points (frustrations) to keep in mind:

  1. ‘Show sheets as tabs’ has to be selected when publishing – if not it open the Detail in a new browser tab
  2. The browser tabs can be hidden by URL once published, as I have done above, add a URL parameter to the report URL, &:tabs=no.

The URL used to publish above, using the above technique to publish with sheet tabs then subsequently hiding the tabs, is