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Welcome to this course on Tableau! Let’s start with a couple of basic questions: what is Tableau and why do people like it?

Tableau is an analytics platform. It is often referred to as the visualization layer of an analytics ecosystem. This makes it the place users go to see and create presentable data charts, dashboards, and stories. Any heavy modification or preparation of the data is generally done before it is viewed in Tableau.

Tableau’s core strength is making it easy for us to visualize information. It allows us to view and interact with data at a high-level and to drill into the same data at a granular level. It’s like viewing a map at the city or state level and then zooming in all the way to view the street names and addresses when necessary. Tableau does this so well that it gives us many opportunities to answer questions in real-time without having to go somewhere else for the data or request additional reporting.

“Tableau” doesn’t mean just one program, though. The Tableau platform includes free and paid products for data connection and preparation, data exploration, and ways to share key findings. In this course, we’re using Tableau’s powerful free offerings: Tableau Public for making visualizations, and its corresponding website (public.tableau.com) for sharing them.

The basic differences between Tableau Public and its paid counterpart Tableau Desktop amount to:

  1. What kind of files we can connect to
  2. Where we can save our work

Tableau Public can connect to local flat file types such as .xlsx or .csv files, or to Google Sheets. Tableau Desktop can connect to over 70 data sources.

When it comes to saving work, Tableau Desktop can save work on a local computer, Tableau Server, Tableau Online, or Tableau Public. Tableau Public saves work to a Tableau Public profile, which we’ll set up in the next exercise.

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