Why Vizioneer?

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Atlanta, Georgia, United States
The "Vizioneer" comes from mashing two words that have shaped my world for most of my adult life - Engineer and [data] Visualizations (or Vizes to those who know what's up). Graduating from first from Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, followed by Georgia Tech with my Bachelors and Masters in Civil Engineering, all of which taught me to think through anything and everything - problem solving, "engineering" solutions, teaching to the "ah ha" moments - is what I love to do. In 2010 that investigative, engineering mindset intersected a job change and a plunge into the world of Data Analysis. In the search for the next great thing I stumbled on to a data visualization and dashboarding product called Tableau software and things just took off. So now I guess you could call me that engineer with the sweet data visualizations - or just "The Vizioneer" :)

In 2013, I joined the incredible team at Slalom, focusing on Tableau and it's been an amazing experience. Recently in 2014, I was honored and humbled to receive Tableau's highest recognition of being named a Tableau Zen Master. Follow along to see what happens next :)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Using Tableau for your next PowerPoint Deck

Let’s start off by stating the obvious – Tableau v8.1 is awesome.  There’s a number of things we should all be thanking the Tableau Development team for – 64-bit, awesome presentation mode, transparency, to name just a few.  So what do you say we take some of these new things and make your life easier?

If I’ve heard the following once, I’ve heard it a dozen times, always coming from someone who’s starting to take Tableau to the next level at their organization – it goes like this: “My boss is coming to me and saying that they really like the work I’m doing in Tableau.  Problem is now I’m having to spend a few hours every week making screenshots of my vizes and send them to my boss so they can be included in the weekly PowerPoint for upper management.  I wish they’d just use the dashboards I make in Tableau so I didn’t have to waste my time with these screenshots!  There has to be a better way!”

Boy, do I have some good news for you!  What if I told you it was possible to create something that exactly matches your company’s PowerPoint template in Tableau?  Management could have a fresh deck whenever the data’s updated, and you can spend your time doing something more meaningful than screenshots.  Everybody wins. 

Who’s ready?

So we have to start with a PowerPoint template.  You’ll use your company’s.  I’ll use the one I found here.  (Disclaimer: I have nothing to do with the NBA and have no idea if this is an official PowerPoint.  All I know is that it was free.)

So let’s open it up in PowerPoint and do a couple things to get it ready for Tableau.  Take each type of slide you’d like to use as a template in Tableau, duplicate it, and clear out the standard text in the duplicated slide.  So now my deck goes from this to that:


 …and so on.

Now we need to save it so that each slide is a .png (image file - .jpeg would work too).  To do that, go up to ‘File’ and hit ‘Save as’.  Find the file type that says ‘PNG’:

And now… Congratulations!  You’re done with PowerPoint (maybe for forever – sike!)

Now, take the bubble wrap off of your brand new Tableau v8.1 (v8.0 works too - but you should really upgrade :)) and open it up.  Start a new workbook called “XCompanyTemplate” or something to that effect.  Don’t worry about connecting to data at the moment, but rather start by creating a blank dashboard.

Take that blank dashboard and start to customize it.  If you’re using 4:3 aspect ratio for your slides (which is both the PowerPoint default and the world’s standard) then change the size of your dashboard to be exactly 960(W)x720(H) – this is the standard size of a PowerPoint slide.

Now click ‘Floating’….

Next, double click on Image and select the .png file of the blank title slide you just created.

Once the image appears on your dashboard, select it and change the size and position of the image to 0, 0, 960, 720 here:

…And your dashboard should go from this to this:

Now we’ll add some default text (just like in PowerPoint).  Hop back over to PowerPoint and check out the default font, size and location of the title text – mine is Microsoft New Tai Lue, size 44, right in the middle of the red bar.  Here’s what it looks like in PPT:

Hop back to Tableau and add text (floating) using the same font, size and position (using the new transparent background if need be).  This is what my Tableau dashboard now looks like:

Not too shabby, eh?  Rename the dashboard as “TitleTemp”, and then right-click the tab and duplicate it – we’re not done yet :).

On the newly duplicated dashboard, click on the background image, right click and select ‘Pick Image’ – Select the next type of blank slide you’re going to create the template for.  Once you’ve done that you’ll have something that looks like this:

Hop back over to PPT and check out where the slide title, subtitle, and page numbers should be, along with their correct fonts and sizes (again, just select the text itself and note the details one by one).  Then head back to Tableau and make the proper changes.  Again, here’s the slide template in PPT….

…and here’s my recreation in Tableau:

To add page numbers to slides in Tableau, add one more text object (with matching font, size and location of the PPT version) to your dashboard.  Rather than writing any text, instead select ‘Insert’ and chose ‘Sheet Name’.  Now, once you start to create your visualizations and create new dashboards/sheets in this deck, just name each sheet by the page number it will be in the deck and that number will automatically be added in the same location on each slide:

Rename this dashboard “DTempText” for “Dashboard Template with only Text”.  Now right click and duplicate.  We’re almost there :).

Delete the text box with the bullets, and replace it with one large floating layout container (I prefer vertical ones, but the option is yours).  Have it cover most of the useable area of the slide.  (This part is personal preference) Right click it and select ‘Format Container’. Click border and select the third weight on the second shade of gray up from white. 

Again, once you start doing your visualizations, just drop them into a duplicate of this template dashboard and you’ll have consistent looking slides with layout containers.
Rename this dashboard ‘DTemp1’ for ‘Dashboard Template with one viz’.  Want two side by side layout containers?  Duplicate this dashboard, cut the current layout container by just over half and add an additional one that’s the same size. 

You get the idea.  Feel free to do as you see fit.

All of a sudden you’ll be able to start doing awesome, beautiful vizes that can then be presented in Tableau’s awesome new Presenter View.  There will be no more screenshots each week – when the data updates, your slides update automatically with a click of a button.  Save to PDF and send them off to you decision makers, or publish to Tableau Server so the deck can always show the most current data.  You save time and they get better insights into current data that will allow for better decision making.  Everybody wins!

Below are a few screenshots of what you’re future work could look like, and I’ve attached the workbook for you to download and take a better look.

And the workbook:

I hope you enjoyed this.  I look forward to your comments below.  Many thanks!



  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Replies
    1. Jan - You're very welcome. Glad it was helpful!

  3. Any thoughts on doing dynamic page numbers? The client wants to be able to select which slides to print to PDF and keep the numbers in sync.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Thank for such beatiful modern template! Hope to see more of you! Also I really want you website to be as good as http://www.poweredtemplate.com/ ! And, I think, that it's really possible for you to do!

  6. I am so glad to have found your site with these tutorials in a language I can understand. Yours is truly the right place to view and download all types of PowerPoint tutorials, thanks for sharing; I'm waiting for your next post...