Can you build a Fancy Text Table?

Ann Jackson provided this week’s challenge, to deliver a text table using only Measure Names & Measure Values. I thought with Ann’s introduction that “This challenge should be straightforward for users of all levels” that this would be relatively straightforward, but I have to confess there were moments that I struggled with this. I knew the fundamentals that I’d need to complete this; that all the columns except the first were going to need to be numbers (ie measures), that I’d have to use custom formatting to display the number in the required format (a shape, a date, a word), and that I’d need to use the ‘legends per measure’ functionality to colour each column independently of each other. But determining the best/worst date to display proved to be a bit tricksy! I got there in the end, but there was a fair bit of trial and error.

Custom Formatting

I’m going to step through the build of this, as I think that’s probably the easiest way to describe this challenge. But before I do, one of the core fundamentals to this is knowing about how numbers can be custom formatted. By that I mean when you right-click on a measure -> default properties -> number format -> custom

This box allows you to type in, but you need to know what format/syntax to use. If you set the formatting via one of the other options, then look at the Custom option, it’ll have an entry that will give you a starting point. The above is the format for a number set to 1 decimal place, and shows that negative numbers will be prefixed by a minus sign (-). If we wanted to always show a plus sign in front of a positive number, we can edit this custom formatting to +#,##0.0;-#,##0.0.

The first entry to the left of the semi colon (;) indicates what’s applied to positive numbers. The next entry, to the right of the semi colon, indicates what’s applied to a negative number.

With this knowledge, you can apply more ‘creative’ custom formatting to any numeric measure that contains positive and negative numbers. For example if you want to show a ☑ or a ☒ depending on a ‘yes/no’ or ‘true/false’ concept, then we can create a version of the field as a number along the lines of

Field as Number

If [Field] = ‘XXXX’ THEN 1 ELSE -1 END.

We can than custom format this field by entering ☑;☒ into the text box

The field can still be treated as a measure, since the underlying value is still a number (in this case +/- 1), it’s just displayed differently.

Building the measures

So now we’ve covered how this ‘sneaky formatting’ is working, we’ll get on with the overall build.

The data just needs data from 2019 & 2020, so I chose to set a data source filter to restrict to just these two years.

But, I wanted the rest of the challenge to derive the current year instead of hardcoding, so I created fields

Current Year

YEAR({MAX([Order Date])})

Last Year

[Current Year] – 1

From these, I could then use LoDs to create


IF YEAR([Order Date]) = [Current Year] THEN [Sales] END

This is formatted to $ with 0 dp

and then


IF YEAR([Order Date]) = [Last Year] THEN [Sales] END

again formatted to $ with 0 dp.

We then need an indicator which is ‘true’ if CY SALES is greater than LY SALES, but as discussed above, we need this to be a ‘measure’, which we can custom format.

CY vs LY


Custom format this as ✅;❌ (just copy these symbols from this page… they’ll look black and white in the dialog) – check out this page, to lift the images/other symbols from.

The actual difference identified by △ (again just copy and paste this symbol into the field name) is simply


formatted to $ with 0 dp. Once you’ve done this using the Currency(Custom) option, then go to the Custom option and add + to the front of the string :


Next up is the percentage difference


again format this first to a Percentage at 1 dp, then edit the Custom format to +0.0%;-0.0%

Now we’re getting to the slightly more complex part of the challenge – to identify the best and worst day in the month. We’ll start with the best day. We’re using FIXED LoDs throughout this, and while it’s probably possible to do in a single calculation, we’ll use multiple calcs to build up the components.

Order Month

DATENAME(‘month’,[Order Date])

This is the one dimension that’s going to be used in the final output, and simply outputs the month name (January, February etc).

In the data set, there can be multiple sales (ie orders) in a single day. We want to identify the total sales in 2020 (ie the current year) for each order date.

Sales Per Day

{FIXED [Order Date] : SUM([CY SALES])}

Now we’ve got the total sales per day, we want to identify the value of the maximum daily sales in each month

Max CY Sales Per Month

{FIXED [Order Month]: MAX([Sales Per Day])}

Now we need to identify the date in the month that the max daily sales ocurred


INT({FIXED [Order Month]: MAX(IF [Sales Per Day] = [Max CY Sales Per Month] THEN ([Order Date]) END)}) + 2

WOAH! WHAT??? Let’s try to break this down…

IF [Sales Per Day] = [Max CY Sales Per Month] THEN ([Order Date]) END

If the daily sales value is the maximum daily sales in the month, then return the associated Order Date. But we need to get a date per month, so we’ve wrapped this in a FIXED LoD, for each Order Month. LoDs require the value to be aggregated, so the IF statement gets wrapped in a MAX statement (note MIN would work just as well).

{FIXED [Order Month]: MAX(IF [Sales Per Day] = [Max CY Sales Per Month] THEN ([Order Date]) END)}

Finally, due to the nature of this challenge, that requires we only work with Measure Names & Measure Values, we will convert this date field to a number using the INT function.

The intention here, is that we can then use the Custom formatting option once again, to set the number as a date format – I chose dd mmm yyyy (ie 01 Jan 2020 format, as I feel its less confusing that working out whether the date is in UK or US format).

However, by a very weird circumstance, converting a date to an INT then formatting as a date, will give you a date 2 days out from the one you converted. I don’t understand why, and it left me scratching my head for some time. I had to sense check with a fellow #WOWer who had the same, and checking Ann’s solution, she also was handling the oddity, which is the reason for the +2 on the calculation.

We just create similar fields for identifying the worst day

Min CY Sales Per Month

{FIXED [Order Month]: MIN([Sales Per Day])}


INT({FIXED [Order Month]: MAX(IF [Sales Per Day] = [Min CY Sales Per Month] THEN ([Order Date]) END)}) + 2

format this to dd mmm yyyy

The final measure we need is based on determining the rank of the CY SALES per month. Ie if we ordered the months based on CY SALES descending, the top 6 would be marked as ‘Top’ and the rest as ‘Bottom’.



We can then custom format this to “Top”;”Bottom”

Formatting the Table

Create a text table by

  • Order Month on Rows
  • Measure Names on Columns
  • Measure Values on Text
  • Measure Names on Filter, filtered to just the relevant measures

Add Measure Values to the Colour shelf, and select the Use Separate Legends option to display multiple diverging colour legend controls.

It’s now a case of going through each measure and editing the colour palette, and other settings. Some of this was again a bit of trial and error for me – I chose options that worked.

For the black text fields (CY SALES, LY SALES, %DIFF), choose a diverging colour palette, then click on the coloured squares at each end and select black from the colour picker. Select Stepped Colour and reduce the steps to 2.

Apply the same concept to the BEST DAY and WORST DAY legends, but select the appropriate green or red colour instead.

For the remaining fields, select a diverging colour palette, select the appropriate red at one end, and green at the other, reduce the steps to 2

And subject to some other formatting tweaks (increase font sizes, centre text), this is enough to complete the challenge. My final published viz is here. Note, the published viz does have slight differences to what I’ve blogged… as with many things, you sometimes realise things can be simpler when you try again.

Happy vizzin’! Stay Safe!


2 thoughts on “Can you build a Fancy Text Table?

  1. Nice explanation as always Donna. I had a mental blind spot clearly around the “legends per measure” option on measure values so I concocted a way to do it differently in the end – but I’ll now know for next time! That best/worst day also had me stumped for a while until I stepped back and thought about it logically and calmly 🙂

    I’ve been using boolean calcs a lot recently for CY / PY – so I create a field for CY (Is Max Year) using YEAR([Order Date])= {MAX(YEAR([Order Date]))} and then to get the sales figure I use INT([Is Max Year])*[Sales]. I read it on a blog somewhere and I’m finding it really handy in getting certain calculations done quickly and efficiently. I’ve also got it to work for comparative calculations such as CY vs LY but then I stick a -1 on the end so that instead of returning a 1 and a 0 (both positive) I get a 0 and a -1 which allows for custom number formatting of positive vs negative.

    Usual story with Tableau – many ways to skin a cat! Thanks for sharing your solution again – really does help seeing how others tackle a problem.


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