When we are given a dataset to process and transform in Alteryx, it is very tempting to dive straight in and get to the solution ASAP. However, at the end of it all, when it is time to take stock and document the workflow, what you have done along the way will most likely determine whether it will be plain sailing or a pain in the arse.

In this blog, I will go through the tools and tips that you can (and probably should) use to make your life easier, both when documenting and when revisiting the workflow in a few weeks’/months’/years’ time. I was not expecting write so much about this topic, but I just went on and on and on…to the point that I decided I need to split the one blog into two. So here’s Part I.

(Edit: Here is the link to Part II)

The Basics

Here are some tools that you really should use as you are building out your workflow. Add them to your favourites and make them a habit!

Containers

Starting with my favourite of them all: The wonderful Container (or, more accurately, the Tool Container):

Containers help you group tools together. It creates structures in your workflow that can be colour-coded and labelled, and you can then move multiple tools around the canvas all at once, with a simple click-and-drag of the mouse. What’s more, you don’t even have to drag it from your tool palette! Just select the tools on your canvas that you want to group together, right-click, and you can do it straightaway.

The benefits of containers are immediate. For example, after grouping tools together by their function in the workflow and then labelling them, it would first make your workflow much neater and, second, it is now much easier for you to locate the parts of your workflow that might need some re-tweaking. It takes much fewer clicks and less typing than annotating every tool, and is also easy enough to do as you go. Still not convinced? Have a look at the difference a few containers make:

No containers — everything, everywhere, all at once

 

With containers — much better!

 

I have more to say about containers, so keep a lookout for a separate blog on containers 🙂

COMMENTS

Comments are great when you want to add details and notes to your workflow, which containers cannot provide on their own. You can document your though process that you might not remember a few weeks later (let’s face it, you probably will forget in a few days’ time).

However, a comment does not need to be a long-winded, detailed essay at all. It can be a meaningful addition without you spending more than a minute on it. Comments also pair well with containers – add one to a container and describe what the tools are meant to achieve in tandem, what are some limitations to note, or what are some assumptions about the data that are coming into the container. In fact, as far as possible, try to add comments IN the containers and not outside them, so that if/when the containers are moved, the comments will move along with them.

I also like to use the comment tool to make a title for separate sections of the workflow. Such titles act as headings for separate collections of containers that can be grouped together. With the correct font face and size, the titles will be easy to read and locate, even when you are zoomed all the way out for large workflows.

 

I have seen some other uses for comments that I personally wouldn’t recommend but that is beyond the scope of this blog. I might combine that with the separate blog on containers… I’ll post a link here when I get around to it 🙂

Anyway, I have gone on for way too long now. I will wrap up THIS blog with a Part II, which will touch on annotations and how I use them, and some tips on arranging and tidying up your workflow.

 

 

J Tay
Author: J Tay