Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What I like about Tableau 9.0 ...

Tableau is about to get a major overhaul and it looks very good. I was invited to the Beta and the final product pleasantly surprised me by its quality. It looks neat and sleek. But, what's new in the box? I will go through the improvements I liked.

1- The improved Look and Feel:

Right from the start, you can feel that the UX team has done some good work on the User Experience. At soon as you open it, you have that warm feeling. As a bonus, you can now save your datasource (which saves a good deal of time when starting a new project) and it would appear at the bottom left of the Welcome screen.


A major drawback of previous releases was the clutter that wide dataset would generate with 200+ data fields, in addition to the calculated fields. As of 9.0, Tableau introduces folders, a neat way to organize your data:

Very useful! 

Improved Calculated fields:
Now integrating auto-suggest (finally!), calculated fields are much easier to create and manage.

More responsive Tooltip:

The time you had to wait 3 seconds to have the tooltip pop-up is gone. Now, it is displayed shifty and provide a better interaction and rivals with D3.js in terms of interactivity.

2- Data Wrangling made easier:

We all had this moment when we forgot to split a field and ended up creating 2 calculated fields as we did not want to regenerate the table. Tableau now integrates this simple yet useful functionality in the data source view. Under the hood, the instructions are passed through the driver and translated into SQL which means that the loss in performance is minimal.

3- Analytics Pane - A quick access to simple Analytics:

Nothing really new here per say but I found that the Analytics were quite hard to reach in previous releases. Now, they are centralized in 1 pane and can be dragged and dropped. 

4- Other improvements:

  • Extended Support for statistical files: You can now read R files (.RData) and SPSS files (.sav)
  • Connector to SparkSQL: It was released in the 8.3 (although not visible to everyone) and is now accessible but everyone. It makes sense as DataBricks just released its Spark 1.3.0 with major upgrades on SparkSQL.
  • Map: Geography Lookup:You can now lookup cities, states or countries on a map and Tableau will zoom-in for you.
  • Parallel SQL Queries: I think this feature has some good and bad. For MPP/Hadoop databases, all requests are processed in parallel so it will not be helpful. For mature SQL databases (e.g. Oracle R11, SQL Server or PostgreSQL), it makes sense when most of the time spent is on the database side (which is rarely the case in my experience)
  • Performance enhancement: Although I have tested it, it seems that the team spent time doing CPU-level optimization (Data Engine Vectorization) and Parallel Aggregation

5-What is still missing:

  • Dynamic Parameters: I was honestly expecting it to be part of this release. Parameters are static lists by constructions and you can't use them as action filters. The Tableau Community has been pushing for it but it seems it was delayed. Let's hope it will be part of the next shipment! 
  • Easier Excel-like Conditional Formatting: Another popular community request. There are work-arounds but it would enhance the tables greatly and enable score-cards, a popular reporting tool. 


Tableau has put some good work in this release, especially on making the front-end easier to use and more intuitive. I think it's part of Tableau strategy to go after more business users, where the market
is. This has proven to be the right move so far for them.

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