Tableau Maps: From Glum To Glam With 2019.2

GPS assisted maps. We’d be lost without them! Imagine getting around these days without Google and Apple to help us with navigation, travel, real estate…you name it. These maps depict landmarks, streets, highways and buildings in glorious detail. Naturally, we have come to expect these same features from all maps. And when they don’t provide that level of crispness and detail, the map feels inadequate, lackluster and so…. old technology.

Tableau mapping goes from glum to glam

Such was the state of maps in Tableau’s previous release 2019.1. The default maps lacked detail and looked fuzzy when you zoomed in. And there wasn’t much to choose from in terms of options.

But Tableau’s recent 2019.2 release changes all that. Mapping capabilities made a huge leap forward, going from basic to wow and providing the detail we have come to expect. Even default maps are up to snuff.

Below is a snapshot comparison of the exact same location mapped with 2019.1(left) and 2019.2 (right). What a difference a point release makes!

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Getting the most out of Tableau mapping 2019.2

Many of the Tableau 2019.2 new mapping features are not visible until you zoom in to the street/address level and some options are hidden behind drop downs. Hiding all this details can be a problem – because you can’t take advantage of the new features if you don’t know they exist.

This blog looks at key differences in mapping between Tableau 2019.2 and prior releases (2019.1 and below). We will also go over new mapping options: satellite imagery, neighborhoods, house numbers, train stations and points of interest. Using these options can bring your maps to the next level.

Mapping differences in Tableau 2019.2

Difference #1: Better resolution when zooming in
Prior to 2019.2, the default maps in Tableau would turn fuzzy when you zoomed in (especially to the street level). To illustrate this, we have created three worksheets showing the same location in Denver, Colorado using 2019.1, 2019.1 with Mapbox, and 2019.2.

Workbook using Tableau 2019.1, default street level map. When zooming in the map becomes fuzzy and lacks detail.

If users wanted to add more detail to the default Tableau background map, they had to manually add in a third-party tool called Mapbox. However, the Mapbox solution was not ideal, as it added complexity and had the potential for additional licensing costs.

Workbook using Tableau 2019.1, default street level map with Mapbox plug-in.

Workbook using Tableau 2019.2
Below is the same location mapped using the new release. Notice it looks very similar to the above Mapbox version. If you look closely at the bottom left corner, you’ll see a copyright for both 2019 Mapbox and OpenStreetMap. What is the significance? As of release 2019.2, many of the Mapbox features have been built into Tableau’s default background maps!

Difference #2 — So many choices now!

The new 2019.2 release also provides numerous map display styles. Previously, the only available map styles were Light, Normal and Dark. Now Tableau gives you Outdoors, Streets and Satellite! Depending on the style you choose, you now have the option to display restaurants, building shapes, neighborhoods and park. All of these options provide much needed detail and context to locations displayed on Tableau maps.

New Mapping options 2019.2

Get mapping!

People love seeing data displayed in a map. Maps give us visual context, allowing for analysis that is just not possible using a crosstab or bar chart. So now that Tableau maps are up to snuff, make sure to use these great new features to really liven up your visualizations.

There is so much more you can do with mapping using Tableau. This blog covers just the tip of the iceberg. For a more thorough discussion of mapping in Tableau 2019.2, along with demos, watch our on-demand webinar: Get on the Map with Tableau Release 2019.2.

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