Tableau Request Live – The 2nd Episode: Data Densification


For this week’s Tableau Request Live episode (a Saturday exploration of Tableau with Joe Mako and yours truly, recorded live), we dig deeper into the complexities of Data Densification in Tableau.  The 1st Episode of TRL focused on a specific Tableau problem of solving a User Retention Rate with a Single Date and ID field, and we briefly touched on some of the concepts that are explored in more depth in the 2nd Episode.

No, “Densification” is not a term you’ll find in the available Tableau KB articles or other official documentation available from Tableau Software.  Data Densification is an umbrella term power users have used to describe scenarios when marks (data) are added to your view.  There are two main types: Domain Completion and Domain Padding.  Both types of Densification behaviors are explored in the video, and yes, there are cases when both occur at the same time.

In brief, Domain Completion occurs when marks (data) are added for potential Dimension value combinations in a view/worksheet.  Domain Padding is what happens when marks (data) are added for potential values in the range of a Range Aware pill, which includes both Date Dimensions and Bins in Tableau.  This is typically “turned on” by using the “Show Missing Values” option on a Range Aware pill, which makes it a bit easier to define and understand, from my perspective.

I could try to write my own synopsis of the video itself, but the recording and the resources linked within the video description are meant to serve as an ongoing reference point — what is shown in the video and written in the description and links is based on the in-depth study and current working knowledge of many Tableau users, including (but not limited to) Joe Mako, Jonathan Drummey, Richard Leeke, and Jim Wahl (there are many others who have contributed to this ongoing understanding, including Tableau employees, developers, and many other Tableau users in the Community).

Again, the documentation and content of the video itself are simply based on the current working knowledge of Tableau users in the larger online community, and the current version of Tableau software (8.2 as of the day the video was recorded and this blog post was written).  We hope the video becomes obsolete very quickly, and that we will have more direct control over Data Densification in future versions of Tableau.

With that being said, let this video serve as one reference point for Data Densification behaviors in Tableau. In the live recording, Joe and I walk through the two main types of Data Densification (Domain Completion and Domain Padding), conditions to turn it on, how to turn it off, and exceptions. Some of the scenarios shown in the video are edge cases, but if you have ever wondered why Tableau is making more marks then there are records, Data Densification is the reason.

The awareness that Densification may or may not be occurring is what we hope users will gain from resources like this.

Joe and I hope you can gain an awareness of what is happening when your number of marks suddenly changes on your Tableau canvas!  Sometimes Data Densification behaviors are helpful and they may allow us to build views that we otherwise could not — we would simply like to have more direct control over whether it is ON or OFF in a given view.

I, personally, hope other users see the videos we are making, and start making their own!  I’ll say this, as well: Joe Mako spends hours, every day, helping Tableau users (and I consider him to be the “Teacher” in our relationship) — reach out to Joe, or someone else, and teach/learn collaboratively!  These videos are recorded using a free online application, and it is VERY easy to record a video like this one.

Below are some further resources on the topics explored and discussed in the video:

Document used in video:
‘Tableau Data Densification’


Jonathan Drummey’s post mentioned in the Video:
‘At the Level – Unlocking the Mystery Part 1: Ordinal Calcs’


Two related threads from the Tableau Community Forum:
‘Can I add rows to underlying data from Tableau?’:
‘Historical Chart on WINDOW_AVG data not working’:


Keith Helfrich‘s “Master Tableau Concepts”:


Tableau Software’s Customer-Generated “Think Data Thursday” Video Library:
(videos on Domain Padding, Data Scaffolding, and Table Calc videos are all related to Densification in one way or another)


Another plug for Jonathan Drummey’s Blog, which has several posts that discuss related concepts:

Until next time.


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