This time it is with data+visual London, 22 February 2017

Tableau – Part Three

It’s a shame I missed parts one and two, but as part on my MA in Online Journalism assignment I attended a data+visual London Meetup.

The meeting was held at Tableau’s impressive offices in Southwark. Well, they impressed me anyway.

This Meetup’s main presenter was Géraldine Zanolli, product consultant at Tableau. She was joined by Marina Lindl, manager, Product Consulting EMEA.

Together they were going to demonstrate how users can combine the power of Excel and Tableau.

We would be shown how to prepare Excel files for analysis, and how to leverage Excel mastery in Tableau. There was also a short ‘give it a go’ session, with prizes awarded to the best data displays.


Marina and Geraldine setting up the Tableau presentation

How to try Tableau

There are three versions available:

  1. Tableau Desktop
  2. Tableau Server
  3. Tableau Online


All three have a free trial period. There is also Tableau Public, which is a free, limited version.


The company says that its mission is to “help people see and understand their data”. It is doing this by writing business intelligence (BI) software to transform  the way people use data to solve problems.

It can create visually-appealing reports, charts, graphs and dashboards using a data source.  The reports are interactive and can easily be shared. Using ‘drag and drop’ it aims to be user friendly so there is no need for a technical background.

Data visualisation

This is the process of describing information through visual rendering. Technological advances have made data visualisation more powerful than ever before.  The ability to visualise data effectively leads directly to better understanding, insight and better business decisions.



Excel has been the default software for data visualisation. After all, it seems that MS Office is everywhere. It is also easy to learn the basics of using it for spreadsheets.

It also has a chart wizard to assist users in creating a visual representation of the spreadsheet. But it can be slow and inflexible. Making changes can be a real pain.

This presentation was to show how  Tableau allows users to connect to Excel data to ‘easily’ create charts and graphs with total flexibility. Tableau uses drag and drop instead of a wizard.


With Excel analysis the only sharing option is to send a file with static charts.  We were told that with Tableau an interactive visualisation can be published online and anyone an view it in a web browser.
Excel diehards were also told that the visualisation can be automatically updated when  automatically the original Excel file is edited.  For those who report daily, weekly, or even monthly with Excel, this means you can largely automate the hours you spend in Excel.

The presentation

The main presentation was very entertaining and it looked as though Tableau is easy to pick up and use. However, I found that in the workshop section I couldn’t remember anything. I was entertained, but not trained. It was like going to see a standup comedian. You have a great time, laugh a lot, but cannot remember any of the jokes.
The following videos explain most of what was covered during the event.

The workshop

We were given two excel files and tasked to design a visual representation of the data. The data was based on EU potatoesSelling Price of Potatoes; Potato harvest statistics.

We were given 30 minutes to come up with something pretty.

The workshop is underway.

As I mentioned, I couldn’t remember how to play with the data. However, three people did manage to put something together.

Makeover Monday

The Tableau community does like to share their work. This is regularly done during Makeover Monday. The potato data was the Makeover challenge for 20 February.

User skills can be found by following #makeovermonday on Twitter. Below are some examples produced by those who know what they are doing.

What next?

In an earlier blog, I created a map of London where a click on a borough showed the median income for 2013-14. It took a while, even when following someone else’s coding instructions.

I wanted to try this with Tableau Public. However, I have found that the maps available with the free version of Tableau are limited.

My first try just ended up sticking the City of London over the whole of Greater London.

Good old Google

By Googling I found a blog by Russian Sphinx, who had created a map of the London Boroughs. I downloaded it and tried adding my Excel file of tax payer income to it.

Of course, it didn’t work. I had to build a relationship between the map and the Excel file. Both contained GIS codes, so when these were matched it worked! It took around 20 minutes to do this. The coding I used before took a couple of days to work through, including finding out how to host the map on line.

So Tableau Public definitely wins in this case.


Will I continue to use Tableau Public?

Short answer, yes. I still don’t really know how to use it, but there are plenty of YouTube videos to help me to find my way around it.