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Pavneet Singh

Tableau Essentials: Build a Highlight Dashboard Action

Pavneet Singh

  • Sep 8, 2020
  • 8 Min read
  • Sep 8, 2020
  • 8 Min read
Data Analytics
Business Intelligence


Leveraging various attributes like color, shape, orientation etc. is a crucial part in designing dashboards. It reduces the cognitive load and brings important trends and data points to the attention of the viewer. Tableau has a remarkable feature known as highlight dashboard actions that focuses on making data exploration more efficient and bringing data points of interest into the spotlight of the viewer. The data labels and reference lines can also be configured to work in coordination with highlight actions as they are triggered. Being familiar with this feature will definitely help you improve the level of interactivity and data exploration in your dashboards. In this guide, you will learn how to configure highlight actions in your dashboards.

Configuring a Highlight Action

To configure a highlight action on your dashboard:

  • Click on the Dashboard in the top menu and click on Actions…. On the other hand, if you want to configure the highlight action on your worksheet then you may click on Worksheet in the top menu.

Configuring Dashboard Actions in Tableau 1

  • In the Action window that pops up, click on Add action and then on the Highlight… option.

Configuring Dashboard Actions in Tableau 2

There are various options available in the Add Highlight Action window that pops up for configuring the highlight action as per your requirements: Configuring Dashboard Actions in Tableau 3

1. Name: You can use a descriptive name for your highlight action, for example, "Highlight the State Name." This name is displayed in the on-click menu if Menu is selected as the Run action on option.

2. Source Sheets: In the Source Sheets section you can choose whether the highlight action should be initiated from specific worksheets or all of them. The list of worksheets belonging to a particular dashboard or data source can be viewed by selecting the data source or dashboard from the drop-down menu.

3. Target Sheets: In the same way, you can choose which worksheets should get affected by the highlight action.

Keep in mind that highlight actions only work on the fields that are present in both target and source sheets.

4. Target Highlighting: This section is meant for selecting whether all common fields, only date/time-based fields, or specific selected fields are to be highlighted in the target sheets.

5. Run action on: There are three ways to do this, any of which can be chosen to trigger the highlight action:

  • Hover over the data point or column/row title – This option can be considered if there is no requirement to select multiple points for highlighting.

  • Select one or more data points or column/row titles – This option can be considered if there is a requirement to select multiple points in the source sheet to see corresponding highlights in the target sheets.

  • Click the highlight action in a menu – This option can be considered if there are multiple actions configured that can all be shown in a drop-down menu on click.

Demo - Sales Analysis Dashboard

Demo - Highlight Actions

Click here to access and download the dashboard shown above, which demonstrates the use of highlight action.

This section will go through each chart to understand what insights are being reflected through the dashboard above, and how the addition of a highlight action on the dashboard can further help bring the user’s focus to the data points of interest.

In this dashboard, the Run action on option has been set as hover and the All Fields option is selected for Target Highlighting. However, as mentioned earlier, highlight actions only work on fields common between the source and target sheets, so only the state gets highlighted.

Profit Ratio by State

This filled map reflects the overall profit ratio of the state by using a diverging color scheme, which is reflected by the color legend.

Sales versus Profit

This is a scatter plot chart with the states represented as data points based on their total sales and profit. The same diverging color scheme has been used as in the previous chart to reflect the overall profit ratio.

Sales by Product Category

This is a ranking table of all states wherein the horizontal bars represent the sales amount in each category and the color represents the overall profit ratio. Note that each of the three charts have a common dimension i.e. state name which can be used in the highlight action.

Use Case for Adding a Highlight Action

Large Number of Data Points

Since there are a lot of data points in the related visualizations of the demo dashboard, having a highlight action configured will help decrease the cognitive load by bringing points of interest into focus for the user across all the charts.

Display Labels on Highlight

In the Sales by Product Category chart, the text labels were set to appear only for the highlighted points, so it will work in coordination with the highlight action. This is also a way to keep your visualizations clutter free and show the labels only for the highlighted data points.

text label highlight

Display Recalculated Reference Lines on Highlight

Similarly, reference lines can also be configured to be recalculated based on highlighted data points. Click on the analytics tab, drag and drop the reference lines form the custom section onto the chart, and tick the checkbox to make them work in coordination with the highlight action.

reference lines

Now, once the user hovers over a state in the map (or other charts), the highlight action gets triggered. This results in the data points for that particular state getting highlighted all over the dashboard, and all other data points get faded.

Highlight action demo

Notice the sales value text labels that appear for the product category in the bar chart. This helps the user to focus on the data points for the particular state, making their work easier by leveraging the preemptive attributes through highlighting data points in all visuals.


Adding highlight actions enables user interactivity in the dashboards by bringing data points of interest into the spotlight of the viewer, and aids in data exploration. In this guide, you learned about configuring the highlight actions for your dashboards and use cases for choosing the right configuration options. Highlight actions are quite useful if there are a lot of data points in your visualization. The text labels and reference lines can also be configured to be displayed based on the data points highlighted by a highlight action to keep the visuals clutter free.

To learn more about other dashboard and worksheet actions available in Tableau and how they can be used simultaneously, feel free to check out this amazing course.