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Data Interpretation in Tableau

In Tableau, as we all know the datas can either be in Dimension or Measures. By default the dimensions are discrete and measures are continuous. To change the default properties of these fields and to play with the data, we need to understand what is their definition and what makes them different

Dimension : Qualitative values like names;

Usually string data's(including dates or geographical data);

Increase the level of detail;

Describes a measure;

Measures : Quantitative values like sales;

Usually numeric data;

Quantitative value that can be aggregated(sum,Avg, min, max...) by default;

Something that can be measured;

In tableau, by default all the dimension pills are in blue color and the measure pills are in green color. Even in the “Show Me” button on the top right corner, the dimensions were in blue and measures were in green.

That doesn’t mean that all the blue pills are dimensions and all the green pills are measures. So what decides the color of the pills. For that, we need to understand about the definition of the mathematical terms "Discrete and Continuous".

Discrete: Categorical data;

Individually separate or distinct;

Header / categorical color pallets in the view;

Continuous : Continuous unbroken data;

Without interruption;

Axis / Continuous color ranges;

Date and numeric dimensions can be discrete or continuous, and all measures can be discrete or continuous.

These 2 terms(discrete and continuous) decides the color of the pills...

Note: Dimension with data type of string, Boolean can’t be continuous!

Let us see that with an example,

I used the AmbulatoryVisits dataset from Kaggle from the link,

The "visit status" data from the dataset has 3 distinct string values( which creates header), by default and it acts as a Discrete Dimension data. So the pill color is "Blue"

As mentioned in the above note, this is a dimension with string data type. So, it can't be converted to continuous. Hence, it is not listing down in the options.

Whereas, the data type of the dimension "Visit ID" is numeric. So the "Continuous" option is listing down.

The default properties of the data can be changed based on our requirements. This can be done permanently by selecting the -> Convert to Continuous/ -> Convert to Discrete option listed under a specific data in the data pane as below

If you notice the pill colors, both blue and green are present in both dimensions and measures. This happened because, I manually converted their default properties. So, it is again confirming us that the color of the pill depends upon the discrete or continuous properties but not because of the dimension or measures property.

The datas in Tableau can be represented in 4 ways

Discrete Dimension

Continuous Dimension

Discrete Measure

Continuous Measure

To check the complete property of a data, just right click the data and then select the -> Describe option

The complete description of the data is displayed as below.


The color of the pill depends upon the discrete or continuous properties but not because of the dimension or measures property. The color palette under marks and filters options are also based on the discrete(categorical) or continuous property. So understanding the concept between Dimensions/Measures and Discrete/Continuous plays a major role before stepping into any kind of visualization.


Udemy : Tableau Data Analyst/Specialist Desktop Certification - Phillip Burton, I Do Data Limited

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May 13
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Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Great explanation on measures, dimensions and discrete, continuous.


Apr 18
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