Tableau Desktop vs Microsoft Excel

100x productivity improvement

Tableau customers regularly claim that tasks that take hours in Excel are completed in minutes in Tableau – typically a 100x productivity improvement. Not to mention the improved quality of results and additional insights that are gained from Tableau’s superior presentation of the data.

instant access & no limitations

Tableau can access and display unlimited amounts of data. We have customers that analyze 10’s of billions of rows of data. Create pivot tables with unlimited number of rows, columns, members, and cells. Excel has many limitations in all these areas that confound even simple analysis. Just connect and go!


How much confidence do you have that everything is correct with your data in excel? Did someone delete something or change a value by accident? Do the formulas account for all the data? With Tableau there is complete safety. The underlying data is not changed, the formulas are universal – they are always correct, if you make a mistake, simply use the unlimited undo feature. Explore with freedom.


The default charts and graphs created by Tableau adhere to best practices in visualization. This means that the formatting, colors, axes and other aspects of the views are already beautiful – there is no need for mass manipulation of the defaults to get a stunning result. Even better, if you decide that ‘Cust._Sta_Loc’ should be called ‘Customer State’, Tableau will update it everywhere it is used, on every label, axis, legend, and possible place it is presented.

visual analysis

Excel allows you to plot the results of your analysis but Tableau actually helps perform better analysis. The entire process is visual so you get the benefits of the clean, simple presentation of a chart at every step along the way. This encourages data exploration and allows people to understand the data instead of just presenting a report.


Take a simple date: ‘12/25/2008’ and Tableau automatically will roll it up to years, quarters, months, day of the week, etc. No need to have multiple fields or complex calculations. Fiscal months? No problem, adjust with a click.

table calculations

A hidden gem within Tableau. How do you calculate Year over Year growth? It’s a simple click with Tableau. What about Quarterly growth? Click to drill down on dates. Done. What about growth rates for every state/ Product/ Customer? Simple, drag it into the view. As a bonus, simply filter to show just the items with positive growth. It’s that easy. Total elapsed time: 5 seconds.

grouping that really works

Simply click on the items that belong together and ‘Group’. Groups can fix data errors (‘Cali’ and ‘CA’ and ‘California’ should all be the same thing), create new roll-ups (Products into Product bundles, States into Regions), or segment the data. The best news is that groups are easy to create, modify and completely reusable – even in different workbooks connected to different data!

drill through

Want to see what the original data is behind a bar, line or cell in a table? Tableau automatically enables drill through to the raw data with a right click. This filtered, sortable detail data is instantly available to allow you to find data anomalies, additional details or other micro trends in the data.


Maps are very common for analysis and presentation. Where are your best customers? How are regional sales? Tableau makes them simple beyond compare. Double click on a State field and a map appears with your data displayed. Zoom in, add pie charts on the map, drill to zip codes etc. No programming, hunting for maps, linking to other data. It just works.

guided analysis

Tableau allows you to package an entire set of analysis – including the process of analysis – into a single file that can be opened with free Tableau Reader. Arrange the results in a dashboard and provide interactive controls that allow users to sort, filter, drill down or even provide a path for users to navigate through the data to find the cause of interesting points, outliers or other anomalies. All this without programming, macros, writing SQL or anything more than drag and drop, and some occasional typing to provide names for things.

dashboards & templates

Dashboards in Tableau are easy. Just drag and drop the views you've built into an interactive workspace. Combine views from different data sources, filter, highlight, and link across multiple views in one dashboard. You can also embed dashboards in a browser or portal like Microsoft SharePoint. The best part is you can take all your analyses, views, and dashboards and reuse them with new data. Simply edit the connection information and point Tableau at the new data and all the analysis is automatically re-run using that new data.