Tableau dashboard navigation without the double click


Dec 2020 update: This article about navigating between Tableau dashboards was first written back in 2017. Since then, Tableau introduced a navigation button, hugely simplifying using buttons to navigate between Tableau dashboards.

In the past dashboard navigation was only possible via Tableau Actions; now Navigation buttons provide additional options.

This post explains how to use dashboard actions to drill down between Tableau dashboards. Later in the article, when explaining how to navigate back – drill up -, I’ll explain 2 ways:

  1. Using a navigation button, which is the simplest option
  2. Using an action, for those using an older version of Tableau

Use Tableau Actions to drill down and drill back up

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, with dashboard actions, can be more complicated.

In this example there are two worksheets using Tableau’s sample superstore file:

  1. a very simple bar chart of sales by Country
  2. a table containing sales by State and Year

We will drill down from the Summary bar chart [1] to the Detail table [2] and back up again.

To keep things simple each worksheet has its own dashboard. The Summary dashboard contains only the bar chart worksheet, the Detail dashboard is only the table.

Build a Tableau action to drill down

Drilling down from the Summary dashboard is simple using Actions.

Click Dashboard – Actions; 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.

Tableau action set up to drill from summary to detail
Drill from summary to detail

This sets up the drill down. Click a Country name and it’ll take you to the Detail dashboard, filtered for that Country.

The next step is to return to the Summary dashboard with a click.

Navigating Tableau dashboards with buttons

There are two ways to do this:

  1. Navigation button
  2. Dashboard action

Using a Navigation button to navigate between Tableau dashboards

A navigation button is the easiest way to return to the Summary dashboard.

In the last few releases, Tableau have expanded their button options, including a new Show Hide container button, very useful for sheet swapping.

Here, we use a Navigation button, which is a Dashboard Object.

On the Detail dashboard, drag in a new Navigation object.

tableau dashboard objects in Tableau 2020.4
These are the dashboard objects available in Tableau 2020.4

Setting up the navigation button is straightforward.

Tableau navigation button options
The options available with a Tableau navigation button
  • Navigate to: choose the sheet to navigate to; in this case to the Summary dashboard
  • Button Style: decide if you want text in the button or an image; in this case I used text
  • Title: enter the button text; in this case my button says “Back to Summary”
  • The other options are formatting the button text, border and background colour. Plus add some hover text in the Tooltip area.

And that’s it, Back button created!

See this in action here:

Build a button using a Tableau action to navigate

Before the Tableau navigation button existed, navigation was by worksheets and action filters disguised as buttons. This is more complicated than using the built-in navigation button.

To build a Back “button”, create a new calculated field with the formula ‘Back’.

Then drag that field to the Text shelf of a new worksheet and 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.

create a Tableau worksheet using a shape and text to create a blue back arrow
the Back button worksheet

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 and only select the Back worksheet. The Target is the Summary dashboard, All Fields as the Target Filters. Make sure it’s set to run 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 selected – i.e. the first time clicked – to drill down again it needs to be deselected.

Effectively this means the user needs to double click to go back, one click to reset then click again to go back.

Clearly this double click isn’t a good user experience. However the good news is there is a way to make it single click.

How to set up the actions and navigate without the double click

Create two calculated fields, the first called ‘one’ with the value 1, the second called ‘two’ with the value 2.

Set both fields as 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.

To reset the Back button use a new Filter action; the Source Sheet is the Back worksheet on the Detail dashboard.

The Target Sheet is also the Back worksheet – it is self-referencing.

The Target filters are Selected Fields, and the Source Field is ‘one’ with ‘two’ the Target Field.

‘One’ has to be on the Detail shelf of the Back worksheet otherwise it causes an error.

Tableau action filter settings to reset the back button
Reset the Back button

The order of the 2 actions on the Detail dashboard is very important

If you get the order of the Actions wrong, clicking Back won’t take you back to the Summary, it only resets the button.

The name of the action drives the order of the Actions.

Firstly the Back button reset has to happen 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.

2 actions set up in the Tableau actions menu to reset the button and go back to Summary
Set up the actions on the Back button

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

  1. ‘Show sheets as tabs’ when publishing – if not the Detail opens 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.

Click here to see the Tableau dashboard actions navigation in action.

14 thoughts on “Tableau dashboard navigation without the double click”

  1. This is exactly what I was looking for. However, I have the link to my details page within the Tool Tip, and when I publish to the server, that Tool Tip doesn’t populate. Do you know how I can fix that?

  2. Hello, great solution. Any way to deselect as well country on Summary dashboard? so single click can be when selecting same Country?

    • It should be possible. Where the post talks about resetting the Back action what you want to do is reset the Country action. I haven’t tested it but using the same actions technique as used on Detail should also work on Summary to reset Country. Best to watch the action settings to not clear the filter – i.e. in the action settings Clearing the Selection Will: Leave the filter.

  3. When I click on a Country in Dashboard1 it selects that country. When I come back using the back button and Select the same country I still have to do a double click. Is there any way to avoid that?

    • In that case it’s not really a double click as you’re removing an action then re-applying. This is standard action behaviour.

  4. First off, thank you for posting this. This will certainly make life easier on some of my simpler dashboards! It is a nice and simple technique! However, if you can guess by my “simpler” verbiage, I have a couple of layers deeper I’d like to go, and I can’t seem to make it work…

    I have a three-dashboard set, each one (by Department, by Sponsor, by Responsible Party) containing a button to jump to a detail page, and a button on their detail pages to take them back. I can get this method to work on just one of the summary-to-detail-to-summary clicks, but the multiple dashboards do not seem to work. I tried to make additional “Three and Four” and “Five and Six” combinations similar to the “One and Two” filtering you described in the actions for these pages’ buttons, but inevitably, something goes wrong with the filtering after a few clicks around. I unchecked the boxes for the target sheets so no additional actions could muddy their waters, but this did not help. Any suggestions?

    Then, if these can be fixed, I’d like to have another layer where I can jump from summary to summary through more buttons (I make them look like folder tabs across the top of my page)…how would this sort of filtering need to be applied in this subsequent case, if it can be applied at all?

    Thanks again for the post…I am always looking for ways to make things look good while doing some slick processing. 🙂

  5. Has anyone had any luck with multiple subsets of action filters? I have a navigation button guiding the user to another page that has a sheet display toggle. This secondary action works as follows: when they select a button, one sheet is hidden and one is shown. When they deselect the button, the inverse occurs.

    When I navigate back up to this page with a navigation button however, the toggle is reset, and both sheets show until the user clicks the toggle again.

    Any help is appreciated.

  6. I tried implementing this with multiple layers similar to Keith C comments. It works locally however when I publish to Tableau 10.4 server. The worksheets are not auto updating on the dashboard. After publishing, the Tableau Desktop version is doing the same thing. All I do is manually update the dashboard and it re-appears. Have you run into this issue?

  7. When using your solution for filter actions we are unable to create a custom view. Not sure why this is causing a problem but we tracked it down to this action filter. Curious if you’ve seen this?


Leave a Comment