I was always mesmerized by the concept of data visualization. Being able to represent complex data in a form that is easily understandable by users is truly a feat of Artificial Intelligence. Tableau, a market leader among the various data visualization tools available, is one such tool that helps to visualize complex data with ease.

Recognized as a leader in analytics and business intelligence platform for 9 consecutive years in Gartner Magic Quadrant, Tableau has a variety of options when it comes to analytics and visualizations and according to me, it keeps getting better and better with every update. The latest 2021.1 update comes packed with some impressive features and these are some of them that caught my eye:

  • Einstein Discovery
  • Quick LODs
  • More Data Connections
  • View Metrics
  • Dashboard Extensions in Tableau
  • Write to Excel in Tableau Prep
  • Device Designer for Web Authoring
  • License Improvements


Einstein Discovery

After its acquisition by Salesforce, Tableau has been at the advantage of being able to leverage Salesforce capabilities. In this update, Tableau has introduced its integration with a powerful AI driven Salesforce product – the “Einstein Discovery”. With this feature, I can get smart predictive modelling capabilities for quick business decisions without any effort of creating complex codes or algorithm. Einstein Discovery has been rolled out in Tableau through three approaches, through dashboard extensions, through analytics extension, and through Tableau Prep which was released in version 2021.1.3. Although this feature requires an additional Einstein Discovery License, I find the end benefit totally worth it.


  • Through Dashboard Extensions: To use “Einstein Discovery” in dashboards, I can just add an extension object on the dashboard and select Einstein Discovery. It will analyse the selected data and build predictive models. It shows me the top predictors in the view along with metrics that can be improved, and thus helping business decisions. This feature is available in Tableau Desktop, Tableau Server and Tableau Online.


  • Through Analytics Extension: With this feature, I can directly embed predictions into Tableau calculated fields. All I have to do is go to Salesforce, use Model Manager to generate a Tableau table calculation script and paste the script into the calculated field in Tableau. This script then accesses predictive models in Salesforce by passing the data required for the model. This saves my time since I don’t need to create a code for the model. This feature is only available in Tableau Desktop and Tableau Server.


  • Through Tableau Prep: This feature was released in 2021.1.3 and its ingenuity is worth mentioning. With “Einstein Discovery” in Tableau Prep, I can now use predictions while preparing data. I can bulk score my data and create fields to show prediction outcomes, to show top predictors and to show recommendations for improvement of the output.



Quick LODs

LOD calculations are frequently used in Tableau to perform calculations on a fixed dimension. Where previously I had to mention the dimension to be fixed and the measures to be aggregated in a calculated field, now all I must do is select the dimension and measure in the data pane and right click to create an LOD calculation. Or even better, hold “Ctrl” to drag and drop the required measure field onto the dimension to be fixed. As simple as that.

I can modify the calculation with more dimensions or change the type of aggregation later, if required.

This feature is most beneficial as it reduces the chance of errors while creating   complex LOD calculations, like misplacing a bracket, or adding any unnecessary characters by mistake.



More Data Connections

With the increase in popularity of Microsoft Azure services among users, Tableau has added multiple Azure connectors including Azure SQL Database and Azure Data Lake Gen 2 along with the existing Azure Synapse Analytics and Databricks. I can now connect to data that is stored in Azure’s SQL Database and Data Lake using the native Tableau connectors. Tableau has also introduced authentication to Azure services using the Azure Active Directory, making the connection more secure.

In addition to this, four new data connectors have been added to Tableau Online and Tableau Server. They are Amazon Athena, Apache Drill, OData and SharePoint Lists.




View Metrics

A difficulty that I had faced with the metric feature was that I was not able to know the other metrics that were created in the same dashboard. With this update I can see all the metrics associated with a particular dashboard and modify these metrics if required or create new ones within the metrics pane.

And previously, only if my site role were “Creator” or “Explorer”, I could see the metrics. But in this update, I can see all metrics connected to a dashboard irrespective of my site role.



Dashboard Extensions in Tableau

Earlier, to use an extension in a Tableau Dashboard, I had to drag and drop the extension object on the dashboard which would take me to its extension gallery web page and then I had to download it and then locate the downloaded extension on Tableau. Sounds tiring right?

Not anymore! With this update, all I have to do is drag and drop the extension object onto the dashboard to select the required extension. I can now see all extensions and filter the list based on categories within the “Add an Extension” window in the Tableau screen.



Write to Excel in Tableau Prep

This is one feature that will prove useful to any regular Tableau Prep user. The days of exporting an output to csv and then converting it manually to an xlsx file are finally over.

Using the latest version of Tableau Prep, I can directly export the output of a workflow into an xlsx file.


Device Designer for Web Authoring

Where before I could only generate device specific layouts in Tableau Desktop, now I can create custom phone or tablet views within the web itself. I no longer have to modify the device layout in Tableau Desktop and re-publish whenever a change in device layout is required.


Licensing Improvements

With this update, Tableau has introduced zero downtime licensing for the Tableau Server. Now for most of the tasks, whether it is the activation of a license or updating a feature that got added or applying some changes to user capacity, I no longer need to perform a server restart.



So, these are some features that have been helpful to me and these are just a few of the lot. To view all the new features in 2021.1, you can view it at Tableau 2021.1 New Features.

In my view, Tableau has done a great job with its timely and inventive updates and seeing the rapid growth of AI and the increase of its application in numerous industries, I can predict for sure that Tableau will surprise the data science community with more innovative updates.


Images Courtesy: Tableau

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