Using Tableau Public to Analyze Open Data


by Albert Lin

April 10, 2016

Tableau is a powerful and easy to use data visualization tool that allows you to link properly formatted tabular data, such as data in .csv and .xls formats. The software also allows for the manipulation and aggregation across dimensions (e.g. record numbers, time and classification types) in order to analyze trends. Tableau can be a very effective reporting or presentation tool, and with just a couple of steps, you can begin creating professional-quality dashboards that might otherwise take much longer if you were just using Excel. If you are familiar with pivot tables, Tableau works in a very similar fashion. This quick start guide will walk you through downloading, signing up, and connecting your data to Tableau Public.

Sign Up and Download

Tableau Public is a free version of the software, which has all of the needed functionality to begin exploring the datasets on the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center. You can download it by going to public.tableau.com. The installation process requires only the entry of an email address.

Finding Data and Filetypes

Tableau requires the data to be consistently structured, or else you’ll run into issues loading your data. The basic requirements are that each column contain the same type of data, with each row aside from the header row representing a single unique record. All tabular datasets on the Regional Data Center’s open data portal typically adhere to this standard.

Connect Your Data

Tableau has the ability to connect directly to dynamically updating data sources and continue to receive those updates without the user having to re-upload or reconnect a data file.

  1. To access this functionality, locate the “Preview” button on the main page for the dataset you are working with on the Regional Data Center’s Website. Click this and select “Preview”
    311Tableau1
  2. 2. On the Preview page, select the green “Data API” button in the upper left corner. Scroll down in the embedded popup until you locate the Odata link. Copy this link.
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    311_Data_-_In_Development_-_311_Data_-_WPRDC

  3. In Tableau, locate the Odata link on the “Connect” sidebar on the start page. Paste the server link and click “OK”
    Screenshot_11_16_15__9_27_AM

Video Demo

You can explore the demo dashboard that we created here.

Additional resources