Chapter 6. Discrete Versus Continuous

The second major way Tableau classifies every field being used on a view is called discrete versus continuous. This classification is what the blue and green color-coding throughout Tableau Desktop’s interfaces represent. Anytime you see blue, the field being used is discrete. Anytime you see green, the field being used is continuous.

Each classification has unique characteristics that will help you create every visualization in Tableau. Most notably, discrete fields draw headers that can be sorted, and continuous fields draw axes that cannot be sorted.

Visualizing Discrete and Continuous Options

Consider the bar chart in Figure 6-1, which shows the same example from Chapter 5, but here I have zoomed out to show you the y-axis, Columns shelf, and Rows shelf.

Note that the Category dimension is on the Columns shelf and colored blue. This means that Tableau is drawing a column for each category, and, because the field is discrete, Tableau is drawing discrete headers on those columns. If we wanted to, we could sort these discrete columns into ascending or descending order by their profit values.

Figure 6-1. Bar chart in Tableau with discrete Category dimension on the Columns shelf and continuous Profit measure on the Rows shelf

The Profit measure, on the other hand, is on the Rows shelf and is colored green. This means that Tableau is drawing ...

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