The Making Data Work Blog

Tableau Prep - Our First Impressions

[fa icon="calendar"] 27-Apr-2018 11:59:00 / by Oli Skinner

Oli Skinner

Tuesday saw Tableau finally release their long anticipated data preparation tool, alongside their Tableau 2018.1 update for desktop.

We have been exploring Tableau Prep since it was released to the public on the 24th April. Our first interaction with Prep was finding out that it's included in the Tableau Desktop licence! This means for the cost of one licence you are able to take raw data, cleanse it, create calculated fields and visualise it with ease.

First impressions:

Tableau Prep is very visually appealing compared to many of the other data preparation tools out there. Using icons to denote each step it allows you to follow the path of the data and see the effects of each manipulation, making data preparation more accessible than ever.

In Tableau Prep there are three distinct panes to display your data in a number of helpful ways:

  • At the top of the page you have the 'flow' pane, which shows the architecture your data travels  through, where icons represent the joins, filters and calculated fields used to prep your data.
  • In the middle you have the 'profile' pane, which shows you the measures that your data can be grouped by. For example,  region, order date or segment.
  • At the bottom you have the 'row level' pane, which shows you your data in its most granular form.

The combination of these views allows you to gain a comprehensive knowledge of your data and allows even the more inexperienced user to understand by which measures the data can be filtered.

panes screenshot


Further Thoughts:

The ability to create calculated fields in the data preparation stage rather than within the Tableau Desktop application presents the opportunity for serious performance gains. As the calculations are only performed once and then stored within the database, thereby avoiding being recalculated in-memory each time the view changes. Anyone who has worked with a slow server connection or large datasets will understand the pains of this one!

One feature we particularly liked about Tableau's Prep program is the visual representation of the number of rows of data in each group, this helps you spot errors and ensure that none of your data is lost throughout the preparation process. This is particularly helpful when joining data as seen below:

Joins pic-387433-edited



We love how Tableau has retained its familiar format, with the data connections pane on the left and the 'drag-and-dropability' of data tables, anyone with experience using Tableau Desktop/Server will feel instantly at home using Tableau Prep.

 Here's a quick demo of how easy it is to group and aggregate using drag and drop:


Tableau Prep naturally integrates seamlessly with Desktop allowing you to import your prepared dataset directly into Tableau with one click. Simply right click on an icon and select 'Preview in Tableau Desktop', however this does not work on the output icon. This streamlines the usually tedious task of importing prepped data, and more critically allows you to make changes to the workflow and import that directly into Tableau without having to save your new dataset to file and replace the data source within Desktop.

preview in desktop-670234-edited

 If you're interested in help working with Tableau Prep, or any other aspect of Tableau why not check out our FLEXpertise service, a flexible way of engaging with our certified consultants from just one hour at a time.


View our FLEXpertise Service


Topics: Company Update, Making Data Work, Tableau, Tableau Prep