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Introduction To Tableau

Is Tableau the right solution for your data visualization reports and business intelligence needs?

This article will attempt to answer the question of how Tableau fits into the realm of data visualization and business intelligence (BI) tools by enumerating some of its characteristics.

In the latter part of this article, we will compare Power BI with Tableau in terms of functionality, cost, speed and ease of use.

What is Tableau?

Tableau is a powerful and fastest-growing data visualization tool used in the Business Intelligence Industry. It helps in simplifying raw data into a very easily understandable format. Tableau was founded in January 2003 by Christian Chabot, Pat Hanrahan, and Chris Stolte, in Mountain View, California.

Why choose Tableau?

As the market-leading choice for modern business intelligence, the Tableau platform is known for taking any kind of data from almost any system and turning it into actionable insights with speed and ease. It’s as simple as dragging and dropping.

Power BI, Tableau

According to Gartner, a global research and advisory firm, Tableau has consistently been one of the top analytics and business intelligence platforms demonstrating enviable ability to execute with a strong focus on helping anyone see and understand their data.

The Tableau Product Suite

The Tableau product suite consists of the following;

  • Tableau Desktop
  • Tableau Public
  • Tableau Online
  • Tableau Server
  • Tableau Reader

Tableau Public

Tableau Public is the free version and it does not connect to as many data sources as the Tableau Desktop, but it’s more than capable for most work. It can read data from text (CSV) files and Excel files. However, you can’t save the workbooks on your computer, you can only save to the online server.

The Tableau Public is a great tool for anyone interested in building great visualizations for public consumption but is not recommended for anyone working with confidential data.


Tableau Desktop

Tableau Desktop has a rich feature set and allows you to code and customize reports. Right from creating the charts, reports, to blending them all together to form a dashboard, all the necessary work is created in Tableau Desktop.

For live data analysis, Tableau Desktop provides connectivity to Data Warehouse, as well as other various types of files. The workbooks and the dashboards created here can be either shared locally or publicly.

Tableau Server

Tableau Server is a web and mobile-based platform used to publish dashboards created in Tableau Desktop and share them across your organization. It allows you to share, make edits, and publish dashboards within your organization and you can still maintain access rights by making your visualizations accessible securely over the Web.

Tableau Online

As the name suggests, it is an online sharing tool for Tableau. Its functionalities are similar to Tableau Server, but the data is stored on servers hosted in the cloud which are maintained by the Tableau group.

Tableau Reader

Tableau Reader is a free desktop application that can be used to open, view, filter, drill-down, and interact in any way with dashboards and visualizations built in Tableau Desktop.

In this tutorial, we will be working with the free version of Tableau which is the Tableau Public

How to Install Tableau Public

To successfully install the Tableau public application on your computer, please follow these steps;

Step 1: Use Official Tableau website

  1. Go to the official website of Tableau public
  2. Enter your email address to be able to access your saved workbooks online
  3. Click the download the app option
Download Tableau

Step 2: Download Tableau Public

After clicking on the download option, the download should begin automatically. If it does not begin immediately, you can try again or check to be sure you have internet access for your download.

Download Tableau Public

Step 3: Install Tableau Public

Part 1: Open the Downloaded exe File for Installation

After downloading the application, you should have something similar to the image below on your browser. Click on the arrow and open the set up for installation.

Installing Tableau Public

Part 2: Set up Tableau Public

After opening the setup, there will be an open dialog to select the necessary options before the installation. Make sure you tick the box for the terms as shown below. If you do not want to get the product usage data, then check the box to opt-out

Tableau Installation
Tableau Desktop Public Edition

Part 3: Customize Tableau Public

To customize your tableau public, click on the customize button. Here, you can change the location to save the application and uncheck the boxes that you don’t need access to. Select “Install” to install the Tableau public application. 

Tableau Public Customisation
Customization

After the installation, you will see a notification showing the successful installation of the application. 

Congratulations, your Tableau public application is now ready for use.

Now, let’s get set up.

Getting set up

We will be using the Superstore dataset for this article to showcase examples of how to use basic Tableau visuals.

Accessing the Tableau public

Run Tableau public

  1. On your Desktop screen, place your cursor in the search bar and type Tableau public.
  2. Click open or double-click on the Tableau public to run the program.
Tableau Public
Search Bar

Once the program has finished loading, your screen will display the Tableau public application as seen in the image below:

Tableau Public

As mentioned earlier, there is no access to connect to many servers in Tableau Public, unlike the Tableau Desktop. The limited servers the Tableau public can be connected to is seen in the image below:

Tableau Public
Tableau Public Edition

Data Types in Tableau

All fields in a data source have a data type. The data type reflects the kind of information stored in that field. For example, integers represent whole numbers (410), dates (1/23/2015), and strings (“Wisconsin”). The data type of a field is identified in the Data pane by one of the icons shown below:

Tableau Data Types
  • Boolean – This is represented with a T|F which means True/False 
  • Date values – This is represented with the calendar icon e.g September 31, 2019
  • Date & Time values – This is also represented with the calendar icon, but with a clock e.g September 31, 2019, 01:00:00 AM
  • Numerical values – This represented with the # symbol 
  • Text (string) values – This is represented with the Abc alphabet e.g Welcome to Tableau
  • Geographical values – They are represented with a globe with latitudes and longitudes e.g Nigeria, New York, Beijing

Tableau Public User Interface

When you connect to a data source, Tableau assigns each field in the data source automatically as a dimension or a measure. These can be found in the data pane which is split into two sections. 

The image below depicts the various features of the Tableau Public:

Tableau Public Interface

Tableau displays data source connections and data fields for the workbook in the Data pane on the left side of the workspace.

Features of the Data pane

The Data pane includes:

  • Dimension fields – Examples of dimensions include dates, customer names, and customer segments. You can use dimensions to categorize, segment, and reveal the details in your data. Dimensions are displayed above the gray line, and measures below the gray line for each table or folder.
  • Measure fields – Fields that contain numeric, quantitative values can be measured. You can apply calculations to them and aggregate them. When you drag a measure into the view, Tableau applies an aggregation to that measure (by default). Examples of measures: sales, profit, number of employees, temperature, frequency.
  • Calculated fields – If your underlying data doesn’t include all of the fields you need to answer your questions, you can create new fields in Tableau using calculations and then save them as part of your data source. These fields are called calculated fields.
  • Sets – Subsets of data that you define. Sets are custom fields based on existing dimensions and criteria that you specify.
  • Parameters – Values that can be used as placeholders in formulas, or replace constant values in calculated fields and filters.

Data Visualization in Tableau

What is Data Visualization?

Data visualization is the graphic representation of data. It involves producing images that communicate relationships among the represented data to viewers of the images.

Click Here to view more concise information on the various types of charts used for data visualization.

Charts In Tableau

A chart is a graphical representation of data, in which “the data is represented by symbols, such as bars in a bar chart, lines in a line chart, or slices in a pie chart“. A chart can represent tabular numeric data, functions, or some kinds of quality structure and provides different info.

Types of Charts

We will make use of the Bar chart in this tutorial but we will delve deeper into other chart types in subsequent articles.

Bar Charts

The default chart in Tableau Public is the Bar Chart. To use apply this feature, you drag and drop your data on the column and row shelves and your chart will be automatically displayed on the Canvas. You can display your bar charts horizontally or vertically

For example, if we want to know how many sales were made in various regions, we will represent the “Region” (Dimension) and the “Sales” (Measures) column on a bar chart by dragging Region into the Columns shelf and Sales into the Rows shelf.

A pictorial representation of the output:

Bar Chart

Note: Tableau suggests various types of charts to represent your data by auto-highlighting charts for you to choose from.

Horizontal Bar Chat

You can also represent your data on bar charts horizontally by either swapping the columns in the shelves manually by dragging or use the shortcut “Ctrl + W” to swap the columns in the shelves

Power BI vs Tableau

In this webinar, our special guest, Victor Odutokun, compares Power BI with Tableau citing various aspects of functionality, speed, cost and ease of use.

By using a Customer Financial Dashboard as a case study, you will learn about the nuances between the best business intelligence tools available in the market.

In this interactive webinar, we also cover how to switch between both tools depending on which one you have started with.

YouTube video

Download the Tableau dashboard file

Download the Power BI dashboard file

This is the crescendo on the Introduction to Tableau. In our next article, we will conduct an in-depth data analysis in order to unearth the endless possibilities of insights and visuals achievable with Tableau.

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