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Using PowerPoint for Tableau Graphics


In most of my Tableau visualizations, I like to use different fonts for my titles. Unfortunately, Tableau Public and Tableau Server do not support many different fonts. If you’d like to know which fonts are supported, then I’d recommend that you take a look at the Web Safe Fonts visualization by Jeffrey Shaffer; it’s a great resource for making sure you’re using a font that everyone will be able to read. Note: If you want to see Tableau add the ability to embed fonts in visualizations and/or support web fonts, please go out to the Community Forum and upvote the following idea: Embed Fonts in Tableau

Unfortunately, the list of supported fonts is pretty short and it can often be very limiting for a design. Of course, you can use any font you like, but people will only be able to see those special fonts if they have them installed on their computers. So, instead of using a text object, I build my custom titles in PowerPoint.

I first learned about using PowerPoint for image manipulation when I read Josh Tapley’s blog post, Quick Image Manipulation in PowerPoint. The post explains how you can use PowerPoint to edit images, including setting the transparent color, removing backgrounds, sampling colors, and most importantly, saving your results as a png file—a common image file type that supports transparency unlike some other common formats such as jpeg. Since reading the post, PowerPoint has become an essential tool in my toolbox. I use it for almost every visualization I create. Thanks Josh!! If you haven’t read this post, then please do yourself a favor and go read it right now. Don’t worry, I’ll be waiting here for you when you get back…

…Pretty brilliant, huh? Who would have ever thought that PowerPoint could do that. But, in addition to basic image editing, I’ve found that PowerPoint is also great for creating images from scratch, which brings us back to custom titles. To create my custom titles, I simply type some text into PowerPoint, change it to a font that I think will suit my visualization, save it as a png using the method Josh described, then use that image in my viz. Check out the following video which demonstrates the process.


In addition to titles, I’ve found that PowerPoint is very good for creating custom shapes. For example, I created the following custom shape for the stars in my 3D Star Map visualization.
The following video demonstrates how to do this in PowerPoint.


Finally, I also use PowerPoint for more complex images or custom shapes—ones that are made up of multiple components. My last video shows how to use PowerPoint to create these images.


So there you have it. You don’t have to be a graphic artist to create some nice custom images for your visualization. With some simple steps, you can quickly and easily create everything you need using a tool that most of us already have on our computers.

Ken Flerlage, March 11, 2018

3 comments:

  1. Great work Ken, and thanks for the mention!

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  2. I always thought that all those amazing graphics are coming straight out of Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. Thank you Ken & Josh for the insight. Truly worth! :)

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