Dear Internet Diary,

In my first week at the Data School, I learned how to use this software called Alteryx. To describe it from an Alterook’s perspective, it’s Excel in steroids – faster, stronger and smarter. You might be wondering by now: What in the world is an Alterook? It’s a term I coined for someone new to Alteryx, or short for Alteryx rookie. As of now, there are no Google result for this word related to data or Alteryx. When this becomes a common jargon in the industry, remember it started here. I used Excel to prepare the data of the viz I submitted for my application here in the Data School. After learning the basics, I tried preparing some of the data set using Alteryx. I learned some tricks thru feedback and curiosity when I did this activity. Here are some Alteryx decluttering tips from an Alterook:

Alterook Decluttering Tip 1: Use a Wildcard in Input Data Tool

I want to use 19 similar CSV files as my input. Therefore, I dragged all of them into the canvas. Dragging Multiple Input Data Files to Canvas That was an Alterook mistake! Now, I need to select 19 Input Data tools to connect to the next tool. It also made my canvas crowded without even starting to use any other tools. Instead of doing this, I can use a single Input Data tool to bring in multiple similar input files at the same time using the * wildcard. I followed these steps:

  1. Place all input files in the same folder. It would help if there were no other files with the same file extension in the folder.
  2. Drag an Input Data tool in the canvas.
  3. In the Input Data tool configuration, enter {target folder}*.{target file extension} in the Connect a File or Database input box. Here’s an example for my case:

Alterook Alteryx Decluttering Tips - Input Data Tool Configuration

Alterook Decluttering Tip 2: Use Alteryx Tools Efficiently

I discovered that efficient placement and usage of tools will not only decrease the number of tools used, but also reduce the processing time. The effect is not noticeable for small data sets. However, when I start to deal with very large data sets, the processing time will be proportional to the data size. Knowing how each tool functions is a big factor in doing this. For example, in my data set, it has several fields and I only need the highlighted data: Needed Data I followed these steps for my initial approach:

  1. Select and rename required fields using a Select tool:First Step
  2. Split Field_8 by a space using a Text To Columns tool:Second Step
  3. Use a second Select tool to select and rename required fields:Third Step

Here’s my efficient approach using a single Select tool: Alterook Alteryx Decluttering Tips - Efficiency Step The key step here is setting the size of the field Field_8 to 1 so that it drops the succeeding characters after the first one. Hence, no need to use a Text To Columns tool. This is possible because the data I need happened to be a fixed single character and located at the beginning. This way, I reduced three tools into one. Selecting the appropriate type and size also decreased the size of the final output from 23.3KB to 11.6KB.

Alterook Decluttering Tip 3: Align and Distribute Tools Evenly

I can align my tools horizontally and evenly distribute if there are three or more of them. What I need to do is to highlight my target tools, right click on any of them, and choose Align and/or Distribute Horizontally: Alterook Alteryx Decluttering Tips - Aligning and Distributing Alteryx Tools Horizontally Similarly, I can do this vertically: Alterook Alteryx Decluttering Tips - Aligning and Distributing Alteryx Tools Vertically

Other Alteryx Decluttering Tips:

Other methods to organise my canvas are using annotations and containers. My colleague Eric Loi discussed these methods in his blog.


Following these simple Alteryx decluttering tips from an Alterook makes my workflow easier to understand and reduces processing time. Additionally, it creates a canvas that’s pleasing to the eye and might be helpful when I am presenting to a client in the near future.

JB Reyes
Author: JB Reyes

JB hails from the Philippines where he was an anti-malware engineer for 5 years. After moving to Australia in 2017, he worked his way up in a school supply company starting with a role as a despatcher and then taking on roles in IT support and bookkeeping. His passion for data is so deep that he can spend hours exploring and analysing data without tiring or getting bored. When JB is not all over data, he spends his time playing basketball, Pokémon cards with his daughter and building robot plastic models. If there is one dish that he would have to eat for the rest of his life, it would be Lechon, a Filipino delicacy (roasted pig) that reminds him of home.