Build and Organize your Flow

After you connect to the data that you want to include in your flow, you can begin cleaning and shaping your data by adding new steps to the flow or inserting steps in between existing steps.

To organize your flow, you can change the default step colors, add descriptions to provide context for your steps or cleaning actions, or reorganize your flow layout to make complex flows easier to follow.

Add or insert steps

As you build out your flow, you can add different step types to perform the actions that you need. For example use the Add Step option to add a cleaning step to split fields, apply filters, or perform a variety of other operations to clean dirty data. Use a Join or Union step type to combine data tables or add a Script step type to incorporate your R or Python scripts into your flow.

As your flow begins to takes shape, you may need to go back to earlier steps in your flow and insert different step types to perform various actions like adding an additional cleaning step or aggregating your data to use the same level of detail as a later step.

The menu options that you see will vary depending on your Tableau Prep Builder version and whether you are adding a step to build out the next step in the flow versus inserting a step in between existing steps. If you are using Tableau Prep Builder version 2019.3.1 or earlier, refer to that section to see your menu options.

You can't add input steps using these menu's. Instead you'll need to drag tables from the Connections pane to the Flow pane. For more information, see Connect to Data.

Note: Some features or actions that you include in your flow may not be compatible with the version of Tableau Server that you are signed into. Flows that include incompatible features can't be scheduled to run using Tableau Prep Conductor. For more information about managing version incompatibility, see Version Compatibility with Tableau Prep.

Add steps

Hover over a step until the plus icon appears, then click the icon and select a step type. This menu appears when you are adding a step to build out the next step in the flow.

Select from the following options:

  • Add Branch: Split your flow into different branches. This option appears when opening the Add menu from between two existing steps.

  • Add Step : Add a cleaning step to perform a variety of cleaning actions. For more information about the various cleaning actions you can use, see Clean and Shape Data.
  • Add Aggregate: Create an Aggregation step where you can select the fields that you want to aggregate or group. For more information, see Aggregate and group values.

  • Add Pivot: Create a Pivot step where you can perform a variety of pivot options to convert column data to rows, or row data to columns. For more information, see Pivot Your Data.

  • Add Join: Create a Join step where you can manually add the other input to the join and add the join clauses. As an alternative, you can drag and drop a step to join files. The following example shows dragging the Orders_Central Input step and dropping it on Join:

    For more information about creating a join, see Join your data.

    In Tableau Prep Builder version 2019.1.3 and later, if you connect to databases that include tables with relationship data you can also create a join from the menu in the Flow pane. For more information about joining tables using this method, see Join data in the Input step (version 2019.1.3 and later).

  • Add Union: Create a Union step. Add tables to the union by dragging them to the step and dropping them on the the Add option that displays. As an alternative, you can drag and drop a step onto another step to union files. For more information about creating a union, see Union your data.

  • Add Script (version 2019.3.1 and later): Create a Script step to include R and Python scripts in your flow. For more information, see Use R and Python scripts in your flow.

  • Add Output: Create an Output step to save the output to an extract file (.tde or .hyper), a .csv file, or publish the output as a data source to a server.
  • Paste Step or Paste Steps: Add copied steps from the same flow. For more information about copying and pasting steps in the same flow, see Copy steps, actions and fields.

Insert steps

Insert a step between existing steps. Input and Output step types aren't available from this menu. The options vary depending on your product version. If you are using an earlier version of Tableau Prep Builder, refer to the Version 2019.3.1 and earlier section below.

  1. Hover in the middle of the flow line where you want to insert a step until the plus icon appears. Then click the icon and select a step type.

  2. Select from the following options:

    • Insert Step: Insert a cleaning step between existing steps to perform a variety of cleaning actions. For more information about the various cleaning actions you can use, see Clean and Shape Data.

    • Insert Aggregate: Insert an Aggregation step between existing steps. You can select the fields that you want to aggregate or group. For more information, see Aggregate and group values.

    • Insert Pivot: Insert a Pivot step between existing steps. You can perform a variety of pivot options to convert column data to rows, or row data to columns. For more information, see Pivot Your Data.

    • Insert Join: Insert a Join step between existing steps . You can manually add the other input to the join and add the join clauses. As an alternative, you can drag and drop a step to join files. The following example shows dragging the Orders_Central Input step and dropping it on Join:

      For more information about creating a join, see Join your data.

      In Tableau Prep Builder version 2019.1.3 and later, if you connect to databases that include tables with relationship data you can also create a join from the menu in the Flow pane. For more information about joining tables using this method, see Join data in the Input step (version 2019.1.3 and later).

    • Insert Union: Insert a Union step. Add tables to the union by dragging them to the step and dropping them on the Add option that displays. As an alternative, you can drag and drop a step onto another step to union files. For more information about creating a union, see Union your data.

    • Paste Steps: Insert copied steps from the same flow between existing steps. For more information about copying and pasting steps in the same flow, see Copy steps, actions and fields.
Version 2019.3.1 and earlier
  1. Hover over a step until the plus icon appears then click the icon and select a step type. Insert Step inserts a cleaning step between steps.  All other options will create a branch from the flow.

  2. Select from the following options:

    • Add Branch: Split your flow into different branches.

    • Insert Step: Insert a cleaning step between existing steps to perform a variety of cleaning actions. For more information about the various cleaning actions you can use, see Clean and Shape Data.

    • Add Aggregate: Create an Aggregation step where you can select the fields that you want to aggregate or group. For more information, see Aggregate and group values.

    • Add Pivot: Create a Pivot step where you can perform a variety of pivot options to convert column data to rows, or row data to columns. For more information, see Pivot Your Data.

    • Add Join: Create a Join step where you can manually add the other input to the join and add the join clauses. As an alternative, you can drag and drop a step to join files. The following example shows dragging the Orders_Central Input step and dropping it on Join:

      For more information about creating a join, see Join your data.

      In Tableau Prep Builder version 2019.1.3 and later, if you connect to databases that include tables with relationship data you can also create a join from the menu in the Flow pane. For more information about joining tables using this method, see Join data in the Input step (version 2019.1.3 and later).

    • Add Union: Create a Union step. Add tables to the union by dragging them to the step and dropping them on the Add option that displays. As an alternative, you can drag and drop a step onto another step to union files. For more information about creating a union, see Union your data.

    • Add Script(version 2019.3.1 and later): Create a Script step to include R and Python scripts in your flow. For more information, see Use R and Python scripts in your flow.
    • Add Output: Select this option to save the output to an extract file (.tde or .hyper), a .csv file, or publish the output as a data source to a server.

Change the flow color scheme

Tableau Prep Builder assigns each step in your flow a color by default. This color scheme is applied throughout the flow to help you keep track of your data throughout the flow as you apply cleaning steps, join, union or aggregate the data so you know which files are impacted by your operations.

To select a different color scheme for your steps do the following:

  1. Select one or more steps.

  2. Right-click on a selected step and select Edit Step Color.

  3. Click on a color in the color palette to apply it.

To reset the step color back to the default color, do one the following:

  • Click Undo from the top menu.

  • Cntrl+Z or Command-Shift-Z (Mac).

  • Select the steps you changed, right-click on a selected step and select Edit Step Color, then select Reset Step Color from the bottom of the color palette.

Add descriptions to flow steps and cleaning actions

As you build your flow and perform various cleaning operations, you might want to add a description to help others who might later look at or work with your flow to better understand your steps. You can add a description to any individual step in your flow directly on the Flow pane or to any cleaning action in the Changes pane to provide additional context for your changes. The description can be up to 200 characters long.

For more information about viewing changes in the Changes pane, see View your changes.

Add a description to flow steps

When you add a description, a message icon is added underneath the step. Click the icon to show or hide the description text in the Flow pane.

  1. In the Flow pane, select a step.

  2. Do one of the following:

    • Right-click the step and select Add Description from the menu.

    • Double-click in the name field for the step, then click on Add a description.

  3. Type your description in the text box.

  4. Click outside the text box or press Enter to apply your changes. By default, the description displays underneath the step. To hide the description click the message icon.

  5. To edit or delete the description, right-click on the step or description then from the menu, select Edit Description or Delete Description.

Add a description to a change entry (version 2019.1.1 and later)

  1. Select a step in the flow pane.

  2. Open the Changes pane or Changes tab.

  3. Right-click or Ctrl-click (MacOS) on an entry in the Changes pane and select Add Description.

  4. Enter a description for the change action.

    The description appears below the generated text for the change with a comment icon.

  5. To edit or delete the description, right-click or Ctrl-click (MacOS) on the change item, and select Edit Description or Delete Description.

Reorganize the layout of your flow (version 2019.2.2 and later)

As you build a flow, Tableau Prep Builder uses a default layout. Each flow is laid out and processed from left to right, with Input steps beginning on the far left of the canvas and Output steps ending on the right side of the canvas. However if you build large, complex flows, they can quickly become hard to follow.

To clean up the layout of your flow, you can select and move steps so the flow layout is organized in a way that makes sense to you. For example, you can fix crossed flow lines, move your flow steps to clean up extra white space, or rearrange your flow steps to show a clear sequence of events.

For example. the following flow is confusing and hard to follow:

To clean up this flow you can select and drag steps up, down, left or right and drop them to a new location in the canvas. Flow steps can't be moved to a position that disrupts the left-to-right process flow. For example, you can't drag a union step that is positioned before a join step, to a position that is after that join step in the flow.

When dragging flow steps to an allowed location, an orange box displays. If the location isn't allowed, no orange box displays and the steps return to their original location when you try to drop them.

To move steps in your flow, do the following:

  1. In the Flow pane, select the steps that you want to move. You can click on a specific step, drag to select multiple steps, or Ctrl-click or Cmd+Click (MacOS) to select steps that aren't next to each other.

  2. Drag and drop the steps to the new location.

    Note: If you don't like the reorganization moves that you make you can click Undo in the top menu to reverse them. However, if you perform cleaning actions in between moving steps, you may undo those actions as well. The Undo option reverses your actions in the order that you performed them.

Watch "Reorganize flow steps" in action

The following example shows rearranging a flow using drag and drop.

Use the flow navigator tool

When working with large flows, scrolling back and forth to search for a particular area of the flow that you need to go back to can be difficult. The flow navigator tool makes this easier. The flow navigator is a miniature version of your flow that appears in the lower right corner of the canvas.

Click in any area of the graphic to jump to that area of your flow or use the following toolbar options to navigate:

Toolbar option Description
Collapse the flow navigator graphic. In the collapsed state, you may only see the percentage indicator. Simply hover on this to expand the toolbar and click the up arrow to expand the graphic again.
Expand the flow navigator graphic.
Change the size of your flow to fit on your screen.
Zoom in and out of your flow. You can click on the percentage indicator to restore the view to 100 percent.

Remove steps from the flow

At any point in the flow, you can remove steps or the flow lines between steps.

  • To remove a step or flow line, select the step or line you want to remove, right-click the element, and then select Remove.

  • To remove multiple steps or flow lines, do one of the following:

    • Use your mouse to drag and select a whole section of the flow. Then right-click on one of the selected steps and select Remove

    • Press Ctrl+A or Cmd+A (MacOS) to select all elements in the flow, or press Ctrl+click or Cmd+Click (MacOS) to select specific elements, and then press the Delete key.

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