Setting default number formatting

Find out how to set your default number formats for each of your measures in Tableau

How to set default number formatting in Tableau

Whenever you load data into Tableau it will determine the number format to use for each field based on the data type, often you'll find you need to change these to match what you want or how you want your data to be displayed in your reports and charts.

Changing this manually each time you use a measure can be a pain and makes it difficult to keep track of what you've changed so we're going to show you how you can set the default number formatting for each of your measures in Tableau. Setting your default number formatting means you can also come back and change how your measures are displayed everywhere they are used without having to go through each sheet, chart and dashboard to update them.

There are a few ready made number formats for you to choose from, the ones we tend to use the most are:

Each of these has a standard format you can use or a custom format where you can set some of the options you want to use. There's also a completely custom option where you can define a string to set the number format as whatever you want.

Setting a default number format

Here's how to set the default number format for a field:

  1. On the left pane in Tableau Desktop ensure the Data pane is showing.
  2. Locate the field you want to set the default formatting for.
  3. Right click on the field and scroll to Default Properties and then click Number Format...
  4. Select the number format you want to use for the field (see below for info on each) and press OK.
  5. Drag your field into the view and you should see that it's now showing in the format you selected

Default number formats

Here we describe the different number formats available and the customisation options.

Automatic

Tableau will automatically determine the number format based on the data field type, this is the default option and if you're happy with this you don't need to set a default number format.

Number (Standard)

This will show the field as a number with the formatting based on your geographical/locale settings. For example in the UK it will show with commas separating thousands and with all decimal places shown.

Number (Custom)

This is the same as above but allows you to specify options for how you want the following to display:

Currency (Standard)

This allows you to select the locale you want to use and will display the default currency formatting for your selected locale. For example selecting English (United Kingdom) would display as £1,200,000.00.

Currency (Custom)

This is actually the same as Number (Custom) and allows you to modify how you want your currency field to be displayed. If you select an option under Currency (Standard) and then choose Currency (Custom) you should notice that some of the fields are already filled in based on what you selected already.

Scientific

This can be used when you're dealing with really large or small numbers with a lot of decimal places, it will show the numbers in scientific notation rather than decimal format but be mindful of your audience when using this and we recommend only using it if your audience are used to working with numbers in scientific notation.

Percentage

This will multiply your value by 100 and display it with a % sign and the specified number of decimal places. The number is only multiplied for display purposes and the underlying number doesn't change so it's worth keeping that in mind for calculations.

If the numbers in your data are already in percentages it's better to use a custom format to add a % at the end, we'd only really use the Percentage format where the percentages in our data are in decimal format (e.g. 0.2 for 20%, 0.5 for 50% etc.) or we're calculating the percentage with a calculated field.

Custom

Custom can be used to enter a string that defines your number in pretty much anyway you want. Only use this if you want to use a specific format not covered above and you'll need to be aware of how custom number formats are defined.

If you select one of the pre-set number formats above and then go to Custom you'll be able to see the string used to define that number format.

Video demo

The video below runs through how to do this: