Tips for Printing and Print to PDF

Product(s): Tableau Public, Tableau Desktop
Version(s): All
Last Modified Date: 24 Mar 2016

Article Note: This article is no longer actively maintained by Tableau. We continue to make it available because the information is still valuable, but some steps may vary due to product changes.

When publishing or printing views from Tableau Desktop, you have several ways you can control the output. Specifically, you can control the paper size, how the view is distributed across multiple pages, and you can even use the Pages shelf to break up a view based on one or more dimensions. This article discusses some things you should know when publishing and printing from Tableau Desktop.

  • To print a sheet or workbook, select File > Print.
  • To print to PDF, select File > Print to PDF.

Page breaks and scaling

When you publish a view to a PDF, by default, the view is published across as many PDF pages as necessary based on the paper size you select in the Print to PDF dialog box and the size of the view. Row and column headers, as well as legends, are repeated on each page, and Tableau tries to avoid adding a page break in the middle of a pane. For example, below is a large report showing total expenses over time by product and market. There are 42 rows across 12 columns. When published to PDF using the letter sized paper, the report becomes a 6-page PDF.

When you select Unspecified as the paper size in the Print to PDF dialog box, the paper size of the PDF enlarges to fit the entire report. For example, the same report as above becomes a single page PDF, as shown below.

In addition to paper size and page orientation, you can control page breaks and scaling using the Page Setup options. Select File > Page Setup to open the Page Setup dialog box. On the Print Scaling tab, you can select from the following options:

  • Automatic - Scales the view automatically based on the paper size.
  • Scale to - Scales the view to the specified percentage of its normal size.
  • Fit to - Scales the view to fit within the specified area. Select the number of printed/PDF pages across and down. For example, if you have a really wide view that is not very tall, you can specify to fit it to three pages across by one page down. Leave either text box blank to allow the view to expand across as many pages as necessary in the given direction.

Finally, you can use the Pages shelf to break up a view based on one or more dimensions. The Pages shelf creates a set of pages, with a different view on each page. All axes and labels will remain constant among each page. However, the data on each page will be divided based on the dimension placed on the Pages shelf. When you print, each page from the Pages shelf will print separately based on the dimension. For example, below the Total Expenses report is modified to have the Market field on the Pages shelf. When published to PDF, it becomes a 4-page PDF.

Notes: The Pages shelf itself does not create page breaks for pagination. When printing a dashboard, only the visible sheet of the Pages view will show.

To ensure that all the pages are included in the PDF instead of just the first one, make sure to select the Show all pages option in the Page Setup dialog box.

Important: If any page from the Pages shelf is really large, it may be distributed across multiple printed or PDF pages. When the Print Scaling options in the Page Setup dialog box are set to Automatic, each page in Tableau Desktop is scaled to fit on its own printed or PDF page. If you instead set the scale to 100%, the pages in Tableau Desktop are distributed across as many printed or PDF pages as necessary. For example, below is a different report that shows Product Sales over Time, with Year on the Pages shelf. Each page has 1263 rows by 1 Column. When the print scaling option is set to Automatic, this report becomes a 4-page PDF, one for each year. All 1,263 rows are scaled down to fit on a single PDF page. When the print scaling option is set to 100%, this report becomes a 248-page PDF.

Page numbering and headers

When adding titles, captions, annotations, and tooltips to a view, you can include variables that insert data values from fields, as well as workbook information. You can use these variables to include information on each PDF or printed page. For example, you may have a title that includes the "Workbook Name - Sheet Name" so that when you export all the sheets in the workbook, each view has a title that makes sense.

A common misconception is that the "Page Number" variable available in titles and captions refers to the number of printed or PDF pages. This variable actually refers to the page number from the Pages shelf, which, as you've just learned, does not always match the printed or PDF output.

File size

For views with a high number of marks, such as scatter plots, the file size of a published PDF may be considerably larger than an exported image file. This is due to the difference in file encoding: the image file encodes information by pixel, while the PDF encodes information by object. In PDF, each mark is considered an object, and hundreds of marks on a view can affect the PDF size.



Print to PDF exports blank PDF page

When working with certain sheets in Tableau Desktop, using the Print to PDF option may export a blank PDF. This issue occurs when you print very large sheets using the Unspecified paper size option. A sheet that is larger than 32,668 pixels in width or height, and whose paper size has been set to Unspecified will export a blank PDF.

To resolve this issue, you must specify a different paper size before using the Print to PDF option. Alternatively, consider decreasing the pixel width or height of the sheet by possibly reducing the information displayed in the view.


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