Extending Tableau: how our customers are creating their own "apps"

By Andy Cotgreave 11 Out, 2012

Here at Tableau HQ, we do our best to deliver you amazing functionality, free of bugs. Sometimes customers have use cases and requirements that we don't yet deliver. These may not always be on our roadmap for the future. Fortunately, we have passionate users who create their own apps and extend Tableau functionality themselves. This post examines the kinds of apps that are being created.

What I love about this list is that these tools are possible because of the way we store information in Tableau. Our TWB files are XML format, so if you want to go ahead and build something it's easy. XML is a standard file format and anyone with some programming skills can ahead and create their own "apps".

The Tableau Excel Data Reshaper

Excel Reshaper
Do you connect to data in Excel? Is it sometimes badly formatted or in the wrong shape? In which case you need the Tableau Reshaper Add-in for Excel. This tool is going to help you out if your data is not in the correct shape, or you have blank cells that need filling in. If you need more info understanding the best shape for Tableau data, check out this great video by Ross Perez.

Create your own filled maps

Create Your Own Filled Maps
Next up is mapping. Tableau's maps are very cool and should satisfy the majority of use cases. But sometimes you really want to use sometime custom geocoded polygons that we don't supply out of the box. You can create polygons using shapefiles, but wouldn't it be nicer to incorporate your custom shapes into Tableau's internals? This is where Richard Leeke, champion of the Tableau Community, stood in with his Filled Map creating tool.

Speed up your dashboards

Does your dashboard perform slowly? There are many things you can do to speed up your dashboards. Using Interworks' Tableau Performance Analyzer will help you speed up slow workbooks.

Audit your workbooks

TWB Auditor
Do you have lots of workbooks? Have you got some huge workbooks with many data connections? Do you need to be able to audit your workbooks in order to work out what data is being used where? If that's the case, the TWB Auditor is for you. You can point this tool at a folder and it will analyse all the workbooks in the folder. You can then view and explore the data in Tableau itself.

Case statement generator

Do you find yourself writing long case statements in the calculated field dialog? Alex Kerin created this Case statement generator to speed up the process for you

Explorer for Tableau Server

Moving onto Tableau Server, Interworks, one of our Gold Partners, have produced the Explorer for Tableau Server in case you want a differnet interface for your Tableau Server.

These tools demonstrate the passion of our customers - they acknowledge that Tableau cannot fix every bug or develop every feature, even though we would love to. They show that it's possible to open up our files, or logs, and examine/adapt them to their own needs. I'd like to thank these developers for working on these tools and contributing to our vibrant user community.

Please note that these tools are not covered by Tableau support. You can approach the authors directly, via the Community channels to ask for help.


Submitted by Ken Geis (não verificado) on

I too have poked into TWB files, but when I read Tableau's terms of use, it looks like your lawyers don't want me to do that.

Submitted by Andy C. on

Hi Ken
My personal understanding is that the TWB file is an XML file; as such, we can't stop you peeking inside it. We certainly wouldn't support any problems caused by you editing the files in any way. Andy

Submitted by Shawn W. on

Andy, thanks for this post. The only one you missed (the one I use the most) is Alex's Case Statement Generator. (The one I use second most is your reshaper, great job on that, thanks).


Submitted by Andy C. on

Thanks Shawn - added Alex's code. And fixed a dodgy link.

Submitted by Chris G. on

Here's another one: http://betterbi.biz/TWIS.html

TWIS pulls out all of the information from your Workbooks and captures it in two forms: a set of CSV files that make it available for you to explore and analyze with Tableau; and a set of maps that show the linkages between Workbooks, Dashboards, Worksheets, and Data Sources.

Here's a Tableau workbook that shows the Tableau Demo Workbooks' contents: http://betterbi.biz/TWIS/TableauDemoTwbs/TableauDemoWorkbooksTWIS.twbx
the first worksheet shows which dashboards are in which workbooks. Other sheets and dashboards similarly show the various workbook, dashboard, worksheet, data source, data fields, calculated fields, etc.

The maps are particularly useful in revealing your Workbooks' structure. Maps of the Tableau Sample Workbooks and a selection of Tableau Public-published workbooks are online here: http://betterbi.biz/TWISMaps.html

TWIS is free for noncommercial uses.

Submitted by Chris G. on

Here's another one: http://betterbi.biz/TWIS.html

TWIS scans a collection of workbooks and extracts the contents into data in two forms.

The first is a set of CSV files containing the structural data for Workbooks, Dashboards, Worksheets, Data Sources, Database Fields, Calculated Fields, Parameters, and a couple of other things. A couple of initial Tableau Workbooks with standard analyses of the Workbooks are included in the distribution.

The second is a set of maps that visualize the Workbook - Dashboard - Worksheet - Data Source structure for each workbook, and for the collection as a whole.

TWIS can be downloaded from here: http://betterbi.biz/TWISDistribution.html#GetItGetGoing (it's free for noncommercial use)

Information on the maps is available at http://betterbi.biz/TWISMaps.html - they're pretty cool.

Submitted by Rashad (não verificado) on

This is all well and good, however having an XSD that defines the schema you have and thus allows us not to have to understand the XML from scratch would be extremely handy.

This would allow manipulation directly from Java/C# etc. without ever touching the XML.

non-humans click here