What's New in Tableau Desktop and Web Authoring

Browse summaries of new features for the current release.

Tableau Desktop Release Notes(Link opens in a new window) | Known Issues(Link opens in a new window)

New in version 2021.2

Connect to and Prepare Data

Connect to Datorama and Dremio data with new partner-built connectors

Tableau Desktop now includes two new partner-built connectors:

  • Datorama by Salesforce lets you connect Tableau to your Datorama data.
  • Dremio by Dremio lets you connect to your Dremio data.

Scan entire file to build schema for large JSON files

If you have a very large JSON file (more than 10,000 rows), you can now use the new “Scan Entire Document” option to pre-scan all data and build your schema. The speedier option of selecting schema levels without pre-scanning is also available.

Multiple analytics extensions in a site

Beginning with version 2021.2, you can now have multiple analytics extensions connections for each site. This means that organizations with different language or connection requirements can use analytics extensions on the same Tableau Server site, with different workbooks using different connections. For details on using analytics extensions, see Pass Expressions with Analytics Extensions. For more information on configuring analytics extensions for a site, see Configure Connection with Analytics Extensions(Link opens in a new window) (Tableau Online Help) or Configure Connection with Analytics Extensions(Link opens in a new window) (Tableau Server Help).

Note: As of 2021.2, Einstein Discovery analytics extensions are still limited to one per site.

Design Views and Analyze Data

Ask Data now available to Viewers

Users with the Viewer license make up the largest number of people analyzing data with Tableau, and now they can ask questions of data in an intuitive, search-based style just like Creators and Explorers. For more information, see Automatically Build Views with Ask Data.

Guided search in Ask Data

A revamped Ask Data search experience shows relevant fields, values, and synonyms as users type entries. The process quickly guides users who have little understanding of the data structure, helping them to easily create effective visualizations.

Use lenses that customize Ask Data for specific audiences

Most people don’t need information from an entire data source but instead want data visualizations relevant to their job function, like sales, marketing, or support. To optimize Ask Data for different audiences like these, Tableau Creators and Explorers now author separate Ask Data lenses, which query a selected subset of fields. (Previously, only data source owners were able to curate data for Ask Data.)

For the selected fields, authors can specify synonyms for field names and values, reflecting terms the lens audience uses in common language (for example, "SF" for "San Francisco"). Lens authors then customize the recommended visualizations that appear below the Ask Data query box, which provide answers to users with a single click.

Lenses can be accessed from multiple places: the All Lenses page at the top level of a Tableau site, individual data source pages, and Ask Data objects on dashboards (shown below).

For more information, see Create Lenses that Focus Ask Data for Specific Audiences.

Incorporate Ask Data into dashboards

To quickly get up and running with lenses, Tableau dashboard authors can add the new Ask Data object. Anyone with access to the workbook and connected data sources will then be able to interact with data and create visualizations in an easy, search-based style.

Share explanations from Explain Data in published dashboards

Explain Data has a reimagined user interface optimized for a broader audience of business users. Authors (Creators or Explorers with editing permissions) can now enable Explain Data for viewers of dashboards and sheets in published workbooks. Viewers can select a mark of interest in the view and run Explain Data to explore their data more deeply than before.

Access to Explain Data in viewing mode is not enabled by default, so authors will need to enable this option. For information on how to enable Explain Data in viewing mode, see Enable Explain Data in viewing mode in published workbooks and dashboards.

For more information, see Discover Insights Faster with Explain Data, Get Started with Explain Data, and Requirements and Considerations for Using Explain Data.

Display web-based images in dashboards

Image objects can now link to web-based images, as an alternative to images inserted in a workbook. This is particularly advantageous for large images, which load much more quickly when hosted on the web. (By contrast, inserted images must be downloaded every time a sheet is opened, slowing performance.) Linked web images also allow you to use animated GIFs, which Tableau doesn't natively support.

For more information, see Detailed options for Image objects.

Create Show/Hide buttons for any dashboard object

Previously, Show/Hide buttons were limited to floating layout containers, but now you can create them for any dashboard object, floating or tiled. For more information, see Show and hide objects by clicking a button.

New protocols supported for URL actions

You can now target a wider variety of web content that uses these URL prefixes: news, gopher, tsc, tsl, sms, tel, and file. For more information, see URL Actions.

Use animations by default

In 2020.1, we introduced viz animations to help you see changes and recognize patterns in your data. When you create workbooks after 2021.2, Tableau enables animations for your vizzes by default. If you prefer, you can disable animations for a sheet or workbook. For more information about animations, see Format Animations.

New spatial area calculation function

In 2020.2, we're introducing the Spatial Area function. Use the Spatial Area function to find the area of any polygon in a geographic role. For more information, see Spatial Functions.

Layer control panel

Give users more control of geographic data with the Layer control panel. New to 2021.2, Layer Control is a panel that expands in the view when selected, displaying all the geographic data layers, and giving you quick access to each marks layer. For more information, see Create Geographic Layers for Maps.

Tableau Desktop Features Now in Tableau Online and Tableau

Create parameter actions on the web

You can now create parameter actions in both Tableau Online and Tableau Server. When you create a parameter action, you customize how data is displayed in your viz. And users can change a parameter value by interacting directly with your viz. For more information, see Parameter Actions.

Create set actions on the web

You can now create set actions in both Tableau Online and Tableau Server. Use sets to define a subset of data, and then use set actions to control how members in a set compare to other data in the view. For more information, see Set Actions.

Create any action in Tableau Online and Tableau Server, including URL actions

Web-authoring now supports URL actions, with a revised, more intuitive layout of URL Target and Data Value options. For more information, see URL Actions.

With this change, you can now author all of the same actions in Tableau Online, Tableau Server, and Tableau Desktop!

Condition and Top/Bottom filters now available on the web

Until now, when authoring in Tableau Online or Tableau Server, you could only filter categorical data by selecting a discrete value or by using a custom value list. But now, as of 21.2, you have more advanced filtering options: Condition and Top/Bottom. The Condition option allows you to define filtering rules with cutoffs, ranges, and more. The Top/Bottom option allows you to see only the top (or bottom) N results of a dimension, for instance, the top 100 products sold by a company.

For more information, see Filter Data from Your Views.

Unique Features in Tableau Online and Tableau Server

Organize items in a collection

Collections are like playlists that let you organize your Tableau content in a way that is meaningful for you or the people you share the collection with. Create a private collection for easy access to the workbooks, views, and metrics you need for a particular project. Or create a collection with onboarding resources and share it with new members of your team. For more information, see Organize Items in a Collection.

A collection page

Open and edit workbooks in Tableau Desktop from the web

Use the new Edit in Tableau Desktop action to open a Tableau Server or Tableau Online workbook in Tableau Desktop, then publish changes when you’re finished. This button lets you use whichever product works best for your task, and eliminates the need to download a workbook to open and edit in Tableau Desktop. You can publish your workbook back to Tableau Server or Tableau Online like usual. For more information, see Edit Tableau Views on the Web.

Include a target value for your metric

Now, when you create a metric, you can specify a target value to compare your metric against. You might include a target that represents a threshold to stay above or a goal you’re working toward. This target value will be used as the basis for the comparison shown below the metric value, both on the metric card and on the metric details. For more information, see Create and Troubleshoot Metrics.

Metric timeline with a target value


Tableau Catalog - part of the Data Management Add-on

Add Field Descriptions - You can add descriptions for fields in a published data source that then display in the Description column on the data source page Lineage tab. You can also see the description on the Data tab when you build a visualization. For more information, see Manage Web Content.

Data Quality Warning Updates

  • Formatted text support for warning messages - When you create or edit a data quality warning message, you can format the text with bold, underline, and italics, and include a link or an image. For more information, see "How to set a quality warning" in the Tableau Server or Tableau Online Help.
  • Message required for warnings - When you create a data quality warning, you're now required to enter a message to display to users. (This doesn't apply to warnings generated when you set Tableau to monitor for extract refresh or flow failures.) For more information, see "How to set a quality warning" in the Tableau Server or Tableau Online Help.

Inherited descriptions appear in Tableau Desktop - When a description for a field exists upstream from the field, it now appears in Tableau Desktop with information about where the description is inherited from. For more information, see Manage Web Content.

Full table name appears - The table's full name has been added to the table page.

Filter by tags - You can now filter databases, files, and tables by tags in the Connect To dialog box.

Filter by embedded or non-embedded - On the External Assets page, you can filter databases, files, and tables by asset category: embedded or non-embedded.

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