Authoring and editing reports via server in tableau

Web authoring is a feature that gets the most mileage out of a Tableau Server view or dashboard. Web authoring is used by the majority of Tableau users to build one-off reports. This blog describes how to perform authoring and editing reports via servers in Tableau.

Authoring and editing reports via server

Customized views work well for making small changes to existing files or parameters, but more robust editing is sometimes necessary.

The tableau server’s in-browser editing functionality provides a simplified version of the desktop experience. It allows users to edit current workbooks, setup advanced visualizations, and save that work back to the server. This feature also provides for an under-supported element of the enterprise community- the middle tier of users who do not desire the complexity and power of the desktop tool but wish for the ability to probe the data in such a way that they are not predictable for the report publisher. Web-tablet authoring provides the ability to self-serve the information from any device capable of accessing the tableau server and constructing a web-session, without even installing a software.

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What is required to author reports on the web?

In “Bringing it all together with dashboards” post you have learnt about web and mobile access to tableau server reports. You have observed that a personal computer’s web-based interaction is very identical to the tablet-based interaction. This is also true when considering the web-tablet authoring functionality. This functionality, like all other web-based interfaces to the tableau, is exclusively a function of the tableau server environment and is not feasible for utilizing only the desktop or reader products. To author on the web, you need:

  • A site with web authoring enabled
  • A live web connection
  • A tableau server interactor license
  • A standard web browser with a live web connection
  • A pre-existing workbook must be published to tableau server.
  • Appropriate permissions are required for web editing.

(Related Article: What Are The Options For Securing Reports In Tableau?)

If you want to author via a tablet, you must download tableau’s iPad application from apple, or download an android application from goggle play in case of an Android tablet. These elements might be crucial, but are not sufficient. The server permission for web edit is allowed as shown in figure10-18.

Permitting web edit

Figure10.18 Permitting web editing

As with all other permissions on the tableau server, web editing also can be configured at multiple levels-user, group, workbook, project, or site. Tableau server users can also access saved data sources via the content tab and create a new workbook using that data source. Only one desktop license is required to publish the original report template to the server, but any number of tableau server interactor licensees can edit the report or create new reports from published data sources. This is the initial iteration of server-based authoring. Tableau does not impose additional licensing fees to access the web-tablet authoring tool.

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Server design and usage considerations related to web and tablet authoring

Tableau Server enables users to create new workbooks from published data sources, and also enables to edit views directly on the server.
Tableau’s web-tablet authoring system is largely a client-side functionality provided through  HTML5 layer. This means that the web-tablet authoring system will have limited impact on the majority of tableau server processes.
When web authoring is allowed on Tableau Server, users who have Web Edit capability for a workbook can click the Edit menu to make changes to the view. They can also create new workbooks from published data sources.

Web authors can:

  • Create new views (sheets), duplicate, and rename views in a workbook.
  • Change aggregation of measures in the view can also change the default aggregation of measures in the Data pane.
  • Use Show Me to create views.
  • View underlying data (via tooltips).
  • Create and edit calculated fields, and use quick table calculations.
  • Change the data type of fields.
  • Drag fields to different mark types in the Marks card.
  • Use the Analytics pane to drag reference lines, trend lines, and other objects into the view.
  • Add, modify, and remove filters (shown as Quick Filters), and edit a quick filter layout. (General, Wildcard, Condition, and Top tabs are not available)?.
  • Convert a discrete field to continuous or vice versa. This option is available for measures and date dimensions.
  • Show hidden fields.
  • Convert measures to dimensions or vice versa.
  • Hide a measure or dimension.
  • Assign a geographic role in a field.
  • Create groups by selecting marks in the view and then clicking Group Members (paper-clip) in the tooltip for that selection.
  • Use sets (cannot create).
  • Use parameters (cannot create).
  • Show labels, totals, and subtotals.
  • Swap X and Y axes.
  • Changing the view size.
  • Exclude or remove fields in the view.

The tableau server administrator should be aware that users editing views via this method will surely generate activity in the server’s vizQL process. And, if the workbook being edited is based on a data server, extract-driven data source, those processes will also experience increased loads. This impact is identical to the effective impact of adding additional tableau desktop interactions-presuming a server-mediated data connection.

(Related Article: How To Consume Information In Tableau Server?)

When web-tablet authoring results in a high number of workbooks save or creates via the server save as a dialog, tableau server will experience additional demand placed on its repository and storage systems in a manner similar to the load that would be expected via tableau desktop utilization.

These additional loads are an acceptable thing. They mean that your user-base is engaged in actively using the system.

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Differences between desktop authoring and web or tablet authoring

The experienced tableau desktop user will immediately notice that the web-tablet editing interface closely mirrors the familiar desktop environment. Editing through the web or tablet is very similar to the desktop tool, though it is simplified and limited in a few ways. This section will detail the functional differences between the two authoring experiences. While limitations in the web-tablet authoring environment are highlighted, you should not interpret this section as a negative critique. Web authoring is a significant innovation that will provide benefits to the majority of your user base.

The goal here is to highlight the differences so that you are aware of what can be done via the web versus what can be done through the desktop application. The web-tablet authoring environment is designed to provide a simplified version of the desktop experience. It is not intended to replace the desktop application. Tableau version 8 is also the first iteration of this functionality, and it will probably evolve and improve in future releases.
To summarize the above in points, it looks something like this:

  • Web authors can create new workbooks only from data sources published to Tableau Server.
  • Users cannot add data sources to a published workbook.
  • Data model editing is not supported on the server.
  • Dashboards and stories cannot be created or modified on the server.
  • Actions from the right-click menu are not available.
  • Formatting options are not available.

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Drop areas for rows and columns but no, show me! Drop area

Many of the standard desktop options and layouts are available within the web-tablet authoring interface. The left-hand side re-creates the data window, including any data source(s), measures, and dimensions. The column and row shelves, along with the pages, filters, and mark cards also exist in their standard positions. Users can create visualizations in the same drag/drop manner that is fundamental to tableau’s desktop authoring experience. One difference is that all the fields must be dragged to the shelves and that the in-view drop areas for rows and columns do not exist, nor does the default show me! Drop-area function in the view’s center. See the web-authoring interface in figure 10.19.

web-authoring interface

Figure 10.19 The web-tablet authoring view

Notice that some of the tools found in the desktop product icons or main menu appear in the web environment at the top of the authoring space.

                                    (Related Article: How To Organize Reports For Consumption In Tableau Server?)

No dashboard support

There is no dashboard display in the server authoring environment. In fact, the dashboard’s editing is not interpreted in the web-tablet editing experience. Any workbook that contains dashboards will display those views broken into their component parts (even if hidden) versus being displayed as the combined entity you see in the desktop application.

Data source manipulation is not supported

All data sources needed for analysis must be included at the time of publishing from tableau desktop. The web authoring system does not allow for any manipulation of the metadata layer. You can’t add new data sources, remove unused data sources, create calculated fields or parameters, change default field properties, or edit relationships between data sources. In general, the web authoring environment doesn’t support metadata management. These capabilities exist exclusively in the desktop tool.

No right-mouse-button click functionality

While tablet users won’t be surprised at the lack of a secondary click option, this may surprise PC-based web authors. Any functionality accessed through right-clicking on tableau’s desktop tool is not supported in the web-tablet authoring system. Some of these functions facilitated by right-button clicks on the desktop are enabled through simple menu-based control in the web-table environment. Dimension-specific controls are shown in figure 10.20.

The dimension specific controls in figure 10.20 were exposed by selecting the small drop-down arrow in the market dimension pill. Similar measure-specific controls are shown in figure 10.21.

Quick table calculations are referred to using the drop-down arrow in the Sales pill on the column shelf.

Quick filters only: No complex filtering

Desktop users who are accustomed to creating “complex” filters like “top10,” or utilizing specific conditions, will notice that these filters will persist in the web authoring session. However, web editors can’t add new versions of these complex filters. Web editors are able to add quick filters to view, and the full suite of quick filter types are available.

Dimension-specific controls

Figure 10.20 Dimension-specific controls

Measure-specific controls

Figure 10.21 Measure-specific controls

Cell sizing is exclusively menu-based

Cell sizing is controlled exclusively through the cell size menus; users can’t drag elements of the visualization to resize those items-nor can they drag to resize the sheet as a whole. And, web editors cannot drag to control the “fit” of the view within the design space. Figure 10.22 displays the web tools fit and sizing controls.

cell-sizing control

Figure 10.22 Web fit and cell-sizing controls

Even though the desktop dragging for resizing the elements isn’t available in the web environment, the cell-size menu provides this facility.

Sheets cannot be renamed

While creating newly supported worksheets, web-authors cannot enter customized names for the worksheets. New sheets created are numbered sequentially.

Sorting is only available through quick sorts

Unlike tableau desktop, the authors cannot set sorts based on specific fields, default sorts, or pre-sort information in a robust manner. Sorting is exclusively allowed through the in-visualization quick sorts that are omnipresent on headers in all tableau visualizations.

                                                                                     (Related Article: Managing Tableau Server In The Cloud)

Limited control of color, size, text and tooltips

Tableau desktop allows nearly infinite control of colour palettes, size ranges, shapes, and tooltip content. The web-tablet environment provides none of the above fine-grain controls.

Multi-select/Ctrl-key functions are not available

Tableau’s show me! The facility works very well. However, desktop users are fond of using the ctrl+select technique for multi-select the fields and then later applying to show me! to create visualizations, will notice that this isn’t possible through the web-tablet system. All of the tableau’s standard visualizations are available in the web authoring system as can be seen in figure 10.23.

Web authoring

Figure 10.23 Web authoring with show me!

As fields are placed on shelves in figure 10.23, relevant chart types will be highlighted just as they are on the desktop. Even though this doesn’t quite match the desktop authoring experience, the web-authoring environment provides robust visualization capabilities.

Saving and exporting via the web-tablet environment

The web-tablet environment provides a number of options for sharing work and insights.

  • Export

Similar to the desktop tool, web-tablet authors have a full suite of the export functions in addition to the standard server-based export functions. Figure 10.24 displays the available web options.

Web-tablet export functions

Figure 10.24 Web-tablet export functions

Exporting images, data, crosstabs, and pdf documents are all supported.

  • Save and save as

Recall that in figure 10.3 the web/edit permission must be allowed to enter the web edit system. Similarly, the ability to overwrite the existing workbook is also permission based. If a user has sufficient  permission to save their work from the web-tablet editing system, they will be given the option to save the workbook, which will overwrite the original desktop version. Note that tableau server does not save a copy of the original document by default, so saving in the web-tablet system is equivalent to republishing it through the desktop tool. The save as dialog does provide the user with the ability to republish the altered workbook under a new name, or into another project.

Recommendations for implementing web-tablet authoring

Web-tablet based design has not been designed to entirely replace the desktop tool. Enterprises should view web-tablet authoring as a supplementary tool that enables a previously under-served cohort group to access tableau’s ad-hoc analysis and reporting capabilities.
Paired with relevant data source access and training, the web-tablet authoring tool facilitates self-service business analysis in a controlled environment –providing users with the ability to ask questions that were not anticipated within the original design of the report. Key points to remember when designing reports that will be open to web-tablet authoring are:

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  • 1. Give component worksheets logical name(s) that will not be obscured by the standard desktop practice of hiding sheets that have been added to dashboards.
  • 2. Design template workbooks and template data sources that can be readily approached by non-technical users that may not have data analysis expertise or experience with the tableau desktop tool.
  • 3. Provide transparent information about data sources-including refresh rates, sources, assumptions , and contact information for the original publisher.
  • 4. Do not presume users will understand how to use the web-tablet authoring environment, provide training, and help motivated individuals use the system effectively.
  • 5. Create a specific sandbox project/ area where new users can save work and gain confidence.

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Last updated: 03 Apr 2023
About Author

As a Senior Writer for Mindmajix, Saikumar has a great understanding of today’s data-driven environment, which includes key aspects such as Business Intelligence and data management. He manages the task of creating great content in the areas of Programming, Microsoft Power BI, Tableau, Oracle BI, Cognos, and Alteryx. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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