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Simple Mapping Tools

About Tableau Public

Tableau Public is a great tool for creating maps and other types of charts. It is free, but requires a download and is limited to Windows computers only. Also, any maps you make will be public.      

      Pro: Tied to very rich data visualization features, connections to time are fairly easy.

      Con: Requires software download, takes some time to get used to, free version means everything is public. PC only.

Getting Started

Reminder: Tableau Public is available for Windows only. If you have a Mac, CartoDB or Google Fusion Tables are good alternatives to Tableau Public. Also, since Tableau Public requires an install, you may not be able to use it on computers in labs or libraries.

Go to the Tableau Public home page and click DOWNLOAD in the upper-right. Follow the steps to download and install Tableau Public.

We also need to create an account. While installing, go back to the Tableau Public home page and click Login, which is the upper right corner of the screen. Follow the instructions to create a new account. 

Once installed, open Tableau Public. You're now ready to begin the tutorials below.


For this tutorial, we're going to make a map of divorce rates by state. 

1. Download the data set here. This data set is from, found through Google Tables search function.

2. Open Tableau Public  (if you haven't installed it yet, follow the instructions in the "Getting Started" box). In the upper left hand corner of the screen, click Open Data, and then Text File (again in the top left). Navigate to the .csv file that you downloaded and select it. Look over the options (they should be correct by default), and then click OK

3. You should be looking at a screen like this:

4. On the left side of the screen, various Dimensions and Measures  are listed. Drag the State dimension to the Columns area on the top of the screen, and then drag one of the year measures to the Rows area. Finally, in the top right under the Show Me drop down menu, select Filled Map. The map should now look something like this:


Feel free to play around with the settings some, or move on to the more advanced tutorials which are linked below!

Moving Forward

The Tableau Public website has many tutorial videos here. Start with "Introduction to Tableau Public", which will introduce you to the basics. From there, you can either work your way down the page or pick the tutorials that are relevant to the type of visualization you want to create (e.g. "Maps - Dimensions and Measures" if you're making a map).

If you'd like a data set to experiment with, try using Google Fusion Tables search function.


Here's a visualization that was made using Tableau Public. It shows where Haverford students from the past 50 years have come from and where they ended up. Try playing around with it some!

What is .csv?

.csv stands for Comma Separated Values. It is a common file type for many types of data. It is an easy way of a saving a table or spreadsheet. Each value is separated by a symbol, most often a comma or semi-colon. Here is an example of a few lines of csv data:

State, Year, Number

WA, 1999, 50

PA, 1999, 73

NY, 2000, 96

Check out sample data for these tutorials

Map Types

There are many different types of maps. It is important to choose a map type before starting. All have advantages and disadvantages compared to the others. Think carefully about what information you want your map to convey before choosing.

The most common types are:

Chloropleths: regions are colored based on their value. For example, divorce rate by state. 

Pinpoint: simply show the locations of various data points.

Proportional Symbol: a combination of the first two types. Symbols represent locations and the size and/or color of the symbol is based on that locations value. 

For more information, see these links:

How to Use Maps in Data Visualization

Visualization Types