Reviews

Tableau: High powered, highly visual Excel

Tableau arose out of a Stanford University research project from 1997 to 2002, and was spun off as a company in 2003. (Keep in mind that Jim Goodnight started SAS as a small college project which he later grew into a multi-billion dollar mega-software vendor.)

As part of a Department of Defense initiative, PhD candidate Chris Stolte created a “Visual Query Language” to explore large multi-dimensional databases. As luck would have it, Stolte’s university mentor was Pat Hanrahan, a founding employee of Pixar.

Tableau arose out of a Stanford University research project from 1997 to 2002, and was spun off as a company in 2003. (Keep in mind that Jim Goodnight started SAS as a small college project which he later grew into a multi-billion dollar mega-software vendor.)

As part of a Department of Defense initiative, PhD candidate Chris Stolte created a “Visual Query Language” to explore large multi-dimensional databases. As luck would have it, Stolte’s university mentor was Pat Hanrahan, a founding employee of Pixar.

Together, they created what has been called “a kind of high powered, highly visual Excel,” which is a really good way of explaining the innovative software product. One of their first interested partners was Essbase, which makes sense. A common user interface for the Essbase cube was Excel, and Tableau was a nice next-generation version of that.

Tableau is the type of visual analytics software that Microsoft itself should have added to Excel.
The main Tableau products include:

– Tableau Desktop (authoring/publishing tool)
– Tableau Server (web hosting component)
– Tableau Reader (web viewing tool)

Tableau Desktop is an Excel spreadsheet hopped up on visualization steroids. Based on selections, Tableau points out to the user the “best practices” for visually displaying data.

Several of about twenty-four “Show Me” options light up for the user. Simply clicking on one, such as a geographic map or a stacked bar chart, does all of the work. There is no coding and no macros, just an easy to use graphical interface.

NOTE: The above is an excerpt from a review by Doug Lautzenheiser, who owns a technology consulting company and is a user of the software himself. To read the full, comprehensive review, go to http://www.itcentralstation.com/product_reviews/tableau-review-by-doug-lautzenheiser (User registration required; you can also log in with LinkedIn credentials).

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