Getting Started with Tableau

Tableau, which according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary means “a graphic description or representation,” is a powerful infographic tool with over 50,000 users. Although the user-base is nowhere near that of Excel (with 30,000,000 users), this tool has some perks depending on what you’re looking for in terms of dataviz. So maybe you’ve heard of Tableau or, if you haven’t, you have now.

My plan is to give you some background on the versions available, how to download it, and resources for getting started!

Deven Wisner Tableau Homepage

Which Version is Right for Me?

Options are great, but what’s the right choice?!?! Here is a simplified comparison.

Tableau Public

  • Basic version of Tableau.
  • Your visualizations must be stored in a global repository (the “catch”).
  • You can still do awesome things like Viz of the Day or #MakeoverMonday.

This is the perfect option for those who want to become familiar with Tableau.

Cost: FREE

Tableau Desktop Licenses

If you don’t want to share your client’s data with others, I’d suggest forking out the dough for this one. However, make sure you’ll use it before you buy it. A year goes by quick, and you’ll be sorry you spent the money if it sits on your desktop unused.

You can choose a personal or professional license. Both include a full license. All your workbooks (i.e., all your stuff) is stored locally). The personal license has limited data sources (e.g., Excel and Google Sheets). The professional license allows you to access data directly from its source (e.g., Microsoft SQL Server). You can also share data via Tableau Online/Server.

Cost: $420 (personal) or $840 (professional)

Tableau Student

Enrolled in classes at least part-time? Score a year’s license to Tableau Professional for FREE. No gimmicks besides a sales call or two from Tableau. You can do this for as long as you are in school.

Cost: FREE

All that said, if you aren’t in school, try Tableau Public. Why? Trying it takes no commitment. Play for a while, determine if it is right for your project, and make a decision.

Download Tableau!

Even if you plan on committing to a full-license, get a free 14-day trial first. That’s 14 days to get your act together and start using it.

You might also check the system requirements. Making your computer sound like a rocket ship = not good.

I Downloaded Tableau, Now What?

Okay, now that you have Tableau, it’s time to do things! Don’t let this giant program just sit on your computer unused. Open that bad boy and start playing with data. My advice: Stay away from the sample datasets. They’re “perfect” for all intents and purposes and that’s not a good way to learn. Instead, connect to your own dataset. Remember: depending on your version of Tableau, you will be limited to certain file types.

First, start utilizing the vast Tableau community. You can literally Google your problem and likely come up with an answer. You can also visit the official Tableau Community forums to ask questions and learn from other confused people. I do this on the regular.

Deven Wisner Tableau Community

Second, commit to at least one #MakeoverMonday per month. Challenge yourself, along with many other Tableau users, to recreate a visualization. In one revision of a viz, I learned THREE new things.

Deven Wisner Makeover Monday

Third, find your local Tableau User Group (TUG). You’ll be able to connect with other users and work through visualizations together.

Now…go forth and continue your path to becoming a Tableau beast.

P.S. This is cross-posted on Ann K. Emery’s blog (because awesome people stick together)!

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