For most of us new Data Schoolers, the first week learning was both challenging and fun as we had the first encounter with a whole new tool – Alteryx. Thanks to our amazing coaches, all of us were able to produce a meaningful workflow to present in our first ever presentation by the end of the week. (We even have a teammate actually passed the Alteryx Designer Core Certificate Exam after only this one week’s learning. Great work Martin! Congrats again!)

Here I’d like to talk about the most important knowledges I’ve learned during this first week learning of Alteryx. These will be covered in three parts.

 

1.    Resources that helpful for the learning of Alteryx

 

A tool as powerful as Alteryx is normally complicated enough to make you think the learning will be hard. But also true is that plenty of resources are there to make the learning as easier as possible. Here is the most useful one for first time learners, I think.

Sample workflows / One tool example

As there are more than 300 tools in Alteryx now, how to get the information and sample to use them seems a difficult task.  But with the help of these sample workflows or one tool examples, this becomes much easier.

What make these sample workflows useful are:

  • They have real sample data to show the result of the tool, or a task done by the workflow
  • Adequate explanations to help you understand what’s happening
  • Different scenarios show different use cases of the tools

First place to find these sample workflows is from the “Help” menu, locate the sample workflow for the tool you want to study or the task you want to tackle by navigating through the sub menus.

Another way to show the sample workflow of the tools is by clicking on the icon of the tool you want to check, then click on “open example”.

 

2.    Tips for Alteryx documentation

These tips are also best practices in building good Alteryx workflows. Just like any other programming language, good documentation is essential to make the maintenance tasks easy. The documentation tips covered here are in three parts which are showed in the following picture.

  • Annotation of an individual tool: the text message showed alongside the tool, good for explaining what the tool does
  • Comment tool: adding image or text as documentation components to the workflow
  • Container: put tools in groups by what they do, use different colours to tell them apart

 

3.    A special tool learned when preparing the first presentation

During our first week learning in The Data School, we learned quite a lot of tools in Alteryx. But when preparing the first presentation on the first Friday, I run into a problem in the workflow where I needed to google a new tool to solve it. This tool is Block Until Done Tool.

  • Scenario: Output two different data sheets into one Excel file.
  • Error: If you just add two Output Data Tools, pointing to the same Excel file without connecting these two Output actions to the different anchors of a Block Until Done Tool, you will get an error.
  • Reason: The first output action will lock the file, causing the second output action unable to proceed.
  • Solution: By adding a Block Until Done Tool and connecting the two output actions to its different anchors, the workflow can do the second output after the first output is done and unlock the file.

Yimin Long
Author: Yimin Long