So you just picked up Alteryx and want to quickly improve your workflows? Here are a few settings and healthy habits you should form as a new Alteryx Designer user.
The real key to success, annotations are not only helpful for other people viewing your workbooks, but more importantly, for yourself. Get into the habit of creating annotations for each tool as you use them. Reinforce your own understanding by laying out your processes step by step, but also plan for the future when you review your workflows in a years time trying to figure out what you were doing in the first place. Sometimes the automatic annotations are helpful, other times they are not…
Don’t forget to turn your annotations on under Workflow Configuration > Canvas > Annotations > Show w/ Tool Names
Section your work into Containers
Nothing is more beautiful than a well organised and well laid out workflow. If you have a set of tools all working to solve one problem, consider grouping them together within a container. How you section your workflow is up to you. Containers not only visually group sections of your workflow, but can also be used to hide (top right arrow) and turn off (top left switch) its contents when you don’t need to see/use them (hint: it can speed up your workflow). Don’t forget to name them and colour them for extra style points!
Curate your own FAVORITES bar
No one knows what tools you need except for you. Alteryx provides you with some of the most commonly used tools in the favorite bar. But whether they match your intended usage will most likely vary. Do you hate having to search in each of the palettes for the right tool? Just add it to your FAVORITES by clicking on the STAR in the top right corner of the tool. Alternatively, right click and add to favorites. This way, every tool that you need is within reach, speeding up your workflows.
Check your connection progress
The absolute last thing you want to happen in the middle of a workflow is to wait several precious seconds for your workflow to run. Whenever your run a workflow you can view the connection progress between each tool as the workflow runs. This connection progress tells you both the number of rows being sent between tools, but also the size of the data. As you start to work with larger datasets, or start building more complicated workflows the connection progress numbers will increase and your workflows will begin to take slightly longer. Pretty soon that almost instantaneous workflow will take almost 3.8 seconds to run! Ah!
The connection progress numbers can tell you when your data starts to get too large for your computer to easily handle, but also can tell you if you have accidentally lost some data. Did your data suddenly go from 40mb to 40gb? You may have configured that tool wrong. Did your data go from 4000 rows to 400? Was it meant to?
Check your JOIN outputs
Joins can be really confusing for beginners. A simple explanation of the join tool is that it takes two separate inputs, figures out what data (columns) match (JOIN output) and outputs the rest as LEFT and RIGHT outputs.
- LEFT – Data in the left input that isn’t in the right input
- JOIN – Data that is in both the left and right inputs but only the matching data
- RIGHT – Data in the right input that isn’t in the left input
If you aren’t entirely sure what you’re doing, using a join incorrectly can cause you to lose some data. Blindly getting the output from a middle join can cause you to lose precious data contained in the left and right inputs that wasn’t present in the other.
Explore the ONE TOOL EXAMPLES
If you’re just starting out, chances are you have no idea what any of the tools do. Although the names are more or less descriptive of their function, it always helps to look through the ONE TOOL EXAMPLES to figure out some of the more common use cases for each tool. Explore these examples whenever you get stuck and don’t know how to configure a tool.
BONUS TIP: Use a SELECT tool after everything
One of the most versatile tools you will end up using every time is the Select tool. Get into the habit of adding a select tool after major changes to your data so that you can:
- Change data types – before you run into issues trying to concatenate integers, or run out of data to store the cell contents in
- Rename columns – rename your columns as soon as you can. Don’t get confused trying to sift through seven columns all named Header
- Remove unnecessary columns – if you know you wont need that specific column at all, just get rid of it. Save yourself the computing power and untick them.
- Reorder your columns – don’t waste time scrolling to find the right column, bring it to the front of the list by Right-Clicking and dragging it to the top
Make your life easier by forming these habits now, you probably wont regret it!