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Tableau Prep Builder: Streamline Your Data Preparation Process

Published on Jul 06,2024 19 Views

Experienced writer specializing in DevOps and Data Analysis. With a background in... Experienced writer specializing in DevOps and Data Analysis. With a background in technology and a passion for clear communication, I craft insightful content that...

Proper data pre-processing and data cleaning in data analysis constitute the starting point and foundation for effective decision-making, though it can be the most tiresome phase. Apart from the Tableau Desktop and Tableau Server, another tool in the Tableau solution family called Tableau Prep focuses on a critical step in preparing the data that goes into analysis in databases/spreadsheets or Tableau itself.

 

Tableau Prep is an excellent tool that combines a clean and direct way to process and convert multiple data sets through an easy-to-use graphical and visual interface. In this article, we will take you through how Tableau Prep helps free analysts from such operations and allows them to focus on analytical work and data analysis.

What is Tableau Prep?

Tableau Prep is a fast and efficient data preparation and integration solution (Extract, Transform, Load process) for preparing data for analysis in other Tableau applications, such as Tableau Desktop. Tableau Prep has brought in a new perspective where novice IT users and power users who are not backward faithfully can use drag and drop interfaces, visual data preparation workflows, etc., simultaneously making raw data efficient to form insights. This is the main reason that Tableau Prep focuses more on the effectiveness and efficiency of the data preparation.

 

Being an ETL tool, Tableau Prep helps collect data from different sources, cleans them up, and then blends and loads the required data into other places for further analysis. It effectively works with Tableau Desktop and Tableau Server to allow users to publish bookmarked, cleaned-up data sources that can be accessed by other personnel within the same organization. This capability underpins sustainable, chattel data cleansing practices requisite to data governance.

Tableau Prep Key Features

Tableau Prep offers a robust set of features designed to streamline and enhance the data preparation process:

  • Visual data preparation: Provides a visual interface for real-time data flow and transformations. Users can interactively remove columns, correct data entry errors, and standardize formats, enabling quick issue identification and impact assessment.
  • Data combining and reshaping: Supports operations like join, union, pivot, and split to integrate and structure data sources optimally for analysis in tools like Tableau Desktop.
  • Drag-and-drop interface: The intuitive interface allows complex data preparation tasks without needing to write SQL code, simplifying the workflow significantly.
  • Smart recommendations: Utilizes machine learning algorithms to suggest and automate data cleaning and transformation tasks, saving time and improving efficiency.
  • Data profiling: Built-in tools for data profiling identify anomalies, inconsistencies, and missing values, offering visual insights into data distributions and cohorts for exploratory data analysis (EDA).
  • Data connectors: Wide support for various data sources, including databases, spreadsheets, and cloud applications, facilitating seamless data connection and blending.
  • Integration with Tableau platform: Prepared data can be seamlessly exported to Tableau Desktop, Tableau Server, or Tableau Online for further analysis and visualization, ensuring continuity within the Tableau ecosystem.

Tableau Prep Builder Download and Installation

To download and install Tableau Prep Online, you’ll need a Creator product key and the installer. Access the most recent version on the Customer Portal and follow the instructions to download and install the Tableau Prep Builder.

Downloading the Installer:

  • Visit the Product Downloads section according to your operating system.
  • Find the installer on the Product Downloads and Release Notes page. A free trial version is also available.

Installation Considerations:

  • Tableau Prep Builder is meant to be installed on the same system as Tableau Desktop, not on one running Tableau Server.
  • Note: Tableau Server Resource Manager (SRM) may terminate Tableau Data Prep Builder’s server process if system resources are low, without recovery.

Changing Repository Location:

  • Tableau Prep Builder automatically creates a folder structure named ‘My Tableau <application> Repository’ in the documents folder.
  • To relocate this repository, specify a new location during installation. Existing files won’t be moved.

Navigating the Tableau Prep Builder Interface

Tableau Prep Builder is designed with intuitive navigation in mind, although a few key points can help you get started efficiently.

Initial Screen

Upon entering Tableau Prep Builder online, you’ll encounter the following screen:

  • Connections tab: Choose your data connection, whether it’s from a file (e.g., Excel), a cloud server (e.g., BigQuery), or another data storage solution.
  • Recent Flows: Access your previous work. You can open existing flows for editing or connect to new data to create a fresh flow.
  • Sample Flows: Explore predefined data flows like Superstore and WorldIndicators to understand setup and functionality.
  • Discover tab: Access helpful content and resources within Tableau Prep Builder.

Connecting to Data

Begin by selecting your dataset. For example, here we have chosen the “Data Science Job Posting on Glassdoor” dataset from Kaggle. 

  • Click the + icon next to Connections > To a File > Text File (your connection type may vary). Alternatively, select “Connect to Data” at the top of the screen.
  • Choose your dataset and click Open.

Updating File Parameters

After importing your dataset:

  • Adjust file parameters such as headers, field separators, and text qualifiers to ensure Tableau interprets your data correctly.
  • Tableau Prep Builder automatically detects data types (e.g., dates, numeric values, strings) and establishes relationships between fields for streamlined data blending, including unions and joins.

Getting Started with Data Manipulation

With your dataset ready:

  • Navigate the left pane, select your table, and configure file parameters as needed.
  • Begin manipulating your data to create your first data flow.

Cleaning, Shaping, and Combining Your Data

Let’s explore how Tableau Prep Builder simplifies the process of preparing your data for analysis and visualization.

Clean

Cleaning your data is the first step. Here, you can adjust data types, group similar values, and split column values. For example, remove negative values from the “Founded” column using a calculated field.

Aggregate

Next, aggregate your data to adjust its granularity. This step helps summarize data, such as calculating averages or totals based on fields like “Job Title” and “Rating.”

Pivot

Pivot transforms your data table’s structure, making it suitable for various visualizations. You can reshape data from wide to long or vice versa and adjust aggregation methods accordingly.

Join

Combine multiple tables by joining them together. This process allows you to merge related data based on common fields, creating a unified dataset for analysis.

Union

Union data tables vertically to combine datasets with similar structures. This is useful for appending rows from one dataset to another, maintaining consistency across data sources.

Best Practices of Using Tableau Prep Builder

Tableau Prep is essential for efficiently cleaning, shaping, and preparing data for Tableau analysis. Consider enrolling in a Tableau Course or a Data Analyst Course to dive deeper into data analytics and visualization. Follow these best practices to maximize its effectiveness:

  • Plan Your Flow: Before starting, analyze your data to understand its structure and identify cleaning and transformation needs. Plan your flow logically, starting with filtering steps and progressing to more complex transformations.
  • Simplify Your Workflow: Use clear step names to describe each transformation. Minimize unnecessary steps and consolidate similar operations to maintain clarity and efficiency.
  • Optimize for Performance: Improve performance by filtering data early in your flow. Limit initial data rows and use sampling to work with manageable subsets during development. Keep your workflow streamlined by focusing on essential columns.
  • Ensure Data Quality: Address data quality issues such as duplicates and null values using Tableau Prep’s Clean step. Validate data integrity at key stages to maintain accuracy throughout your flow.
  • Use Calculated Fields Wisely: Leverage calculated fields for data transformation, but avoid overly complex calculations that could impact performance and readability.

Tableau Prep Limitations

While Tableau Prep is known for its user-friendly and visual approach to data preparation, it also comes with several limitations to consider:

  • Scalability: It is primarily designed for small to medium-sized data preparation tasks and may not be the best choice for large-scale data integration projects.
  • Limited output options: Tableau Prep does not natively support exporting data directly to all data sources. Although this list is expanding with updates, typical destinations include CSVs and Tableau-specific file types like TDE and Hyper.
  • Cost: Tableau Prep requires a Tableau Creator license, which can be more expensive than some alternative data preparation tools or open-source solutions.
  • Flow scheduling costs extra: Access to Tableau Prep Conductor for scheduling data prep flows on Tableau Cloud requires additional investment through Tableau’s Data Management add-on. Without Conductor, each prep flow needs to be manually started.
  • Ecosystem dependency: Tableau Prep is closely integrated with the Tableau platform. This dependency may limit its appeal for users who do not use Tableau for data analysis and visualization tasks.

Tableau Prep vs. Tableau Desktop

 

AspectTableau PrepTableau Desktop
Primary PurposeData preparation and ETL tasks.Data visualization, creating interactive dashboards and reports.
Key FeaturesCombines data from multiple sources.

Cleans and transforms data.

Creates calculated fields.

Visualizes data with Tableau charts, graphs, and dashboards. Allows interactive exploration of data.

Supports complex data analytics and visualizations. 

IntegrationPrepares data for analysis and visualization in Tableau Desktop and Tableau Prep Builder or other analytical tools.Directly visualizes and analyzes prepared data.
WorkflowSequential data preparation steps: combining, cleaning, transforming.Interactive data exploration and visualization.
Usage ContextIdeal for data engineers and analysts focusing on data cleaning and preparation.Suited for business analysts, data scientists, and decision-makers who need insights from visual data presentations.
Data OutputPrepared data ready for analysis in Tableau Desktop or other tools.Visual data presentations, interactive Tableau dashboards, and reports.
Example Use CaseCleaning and transforming sales data from various sources before visualization.Creating a dashboard to analyze sales trends over time.
Tool InteractionComplements Tableau Desktop like a preparatory step before visualization.Receives prepared data directly from Tableau Prep for visualization and analysis.

Tableau Prep Licensing and Pricing

Tableau Prep is bundled with the Tableau Creator license, which also includes access to Tableau Desktop and Tableau Cloud or Server. Tableau Prep Conductor license equips developers with essential tools for data cleaning, analysis, and sharing. Here’s everything you need to know about it:

Tableau Prep Conductor:

  • Availability: Included in the Data Management add-on.
  • Functionality: Enables setting refresh schedules for Tableau Prep.
  • Without Tableau Prep Conductor: Tableau Creator licenses can use full Tableau Prep functionality but must manually run data prep flows.
  • Individual Pricing: As of May 2023, Tableau Creator pricing starts at $70 per user per month (billed annually).

Tableau Prep Alternatives

Tableau Prep is highly regarded for data preparation and ETL tasks, particularly for non-technical users preparing data for visualization in Tableau Desktop. However, several alternatives cater to diverse needs within the analytics industry. The following are some alternatives:

Microsoft Power Query

  • Strengths: Seamless integration with Excel and Power BI, familiar interface for Excel users, robust data transformation capabilities, and native Power BI integration.
  • Considerations: Ideal for organizations already utilizing Microsoft products.

Matillion

  • Strengths: Cloud-native ETL platform (Data Productivity Cloud), scalable, easy to use, and supports major cloud data warehouses like Amazon Redshift, Google BigQuery, and Snowflake.
  • Considerations: Powerful transformation capabilities suited for complex data workflows, with pricing based on environment runtimes.

Alteryx

  • Strengths: Comprehensive data preparation and analytics platform, visual workflow designer, advanced analytics capabilities, and support for various data sources.
  • Considerations: Well-suited for users needing both data prep and advanced analytics, though it carries a higher developer license cost.

 

KNIME

  • Strengths: Open-source analytics platform, extensive library of pre-built nodes, community-driven development, compatibility with diverse data sources.
  • Considerations: Flexible, extensible, and cost-effective solution for customizing data workflows.

Specialized Tools

  • Examples: Fivetran (focus on EL components) and dbt (focus on T components).
  • Considerations: These tools offer specialized functionalities within the ELT stack, suitable for building robust data pipelines.

Conclusion

Tableau Prep Builder streamlines data preparation, making it accessible both locally and online, enhancing the functionality of Tableau Desktop. By utilizing Tableau Prep, users can efficiently clean and manipulate data, integrating seamlessly with Tableau for detailed visual analytics.

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • Is Tableau Prep an ETL tool?

Yes, Tableau Prep is an ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) tool designed to clean, reshape, and prepare data for analysis in Tableau and other visualization tools.

  • How long does it take to learn Tableau Prep?

Learning Tableau Prep depends on your familiarity with data tools. With its intuitive interface, users can grasp basic functionalities quickly, while mastering advanced features may require more time and practice.

  • Is Tableau Prep like Power Query?

Tableau Prep and Power Query both offer data preparation capabilities, but they differ in integration and feature sets. Power Query is part of Microsoft’s Excel and Power BI suite, focusing on data transformation within those environments, while Tableau Prep is tailored for Tableau’s analytics platform.

  • Is Tableau Prep a good tool?

Yes, Tableau Prep is highly regarded for its user-friendly interface, visual data preparation capabilities, and seamless integration with Tableau Desktop and Tableau Server. It’s favored for simplifying complex data tasks and enhancing data quality for analysis.

 

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Tableau Prep Builder: Streamline Your Data Preparation Process

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