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Improve the Prep Connections pane to Input step information so we can tell what goes with what [RELEASED | 2020.1]

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[20190819 original idea edited to make the issues & feature request more clear per Michael Gillespie’s question. Pictures are in an attachment because Jive won't let me put them in the body.]




In this screenshot I’ve opened three connections and have four inputs. At a glance it is impossible to tell what input goes with what connection:


pic #1


If I start clicking on the connections then I’m not helped. There are three Orders Inputs and I can’t tell which Orders input goes with which Connection. Both Superstore DataBlick and Superstore-2015 have Orders tables.


Issue #1: Similarly named tables from different connections can’t be distinguished without manual inspection of the data outside of Prep.


Here’s the Orders input:


pic #2


And here’s Orders 2. Note that the Table name in the Input configuration pane is also Orders 2.


pic #3


In both these Input steps I connected to the respective Superstore data sources and dragged in the respective Orders tables, so this is the current (as of v2019.3 beta 1) default behavior to rename the 2nd Orders table as Orders 2. Note that these two files have the same initial fields in the list, the only hint that there’s a difference is that one has 24 fields and one has 26, and in order to figure out which goes with which I’d have to review the data in another application (like MS Excel) because there’s no way to look at the raw tables in Prep in the Connections pane (which is something that we can do in Desktop, see for that feature request).


This use case occurs for a variety of reasons, the most common one for us is that we have multiple files coming from different organizational units that have similarly named worksheets (like Sheet1, or the ever-common “Data”, etc.).


Issue #2: Renaming an input step changes the table name and then we can’t figure out what input step goes with what connection. In the case of Shipping Mode I’ve renamed the input step. Just like the Orders 2 Input step above this also changes the Table name:


pic #4


In this situation I have to hunt through every connection to try to find something like Shipping Mode, only that doesn’t exist in any connection and there’s no indication in the Input step that there’s been a rename. In this situation maybe I know enough about the terminology to guess that Shipping Mode is probably Ship Mode however there are two different tables in the Superstore DataBlick connection named Ship Mode and again I have no way in Prep to look at those raw tables to compare them to what I’m seeing in the Input step.


If I’m a user who is just creating a flow this renaming issue isn’t necessarily a big deal, however if I’m someone else opening up the flow so I can edit it or adapt it to my use or I’m coming back to a flow that I edited days or weeks ago (and I’ve forgotten all the details about what I created) then Tableau Prep has created a massive challenge for me. We’ve run into both of those situations in real-world use of Prep.


In my original post of this feature request I’d used a screenshot of the Superstore sample workflow that ships with Prep:


pic #5


@Michael_Gillespie had asked about scrolling down in the Connections pane to see the orders_south_2015 connection, which is a really reasonable question. Given the two issues I’ve raised so far I hope it’s now clear that there are situations where scrolling down won’t actually work to figure out what input step goes with what connection.


Issue #3: Wildcard inputs add even more complexity. In this view the orders_south_2018.csv connection is used to build the South Data Input only I can’t see any orders_south_2018.csv in the list of Included files:


pic #6


In this case it really is an issue of needing to scroll down the list of included files to see the orders_south_2018 file. However this is again making users work harder than they need to in order to answer the “what goes with what” question, plus there’s an additional issue in that the Input step doesn’t show the root level of the hierarchy so if we’ve got multiple copies of the data on our hard drive (which regularly happens) then we can't necessarily be sure what data is being used. So to get a full picture the user has to do one of two paths:


- Starting from the input step the user has to see the list of top-level files, then keep that list in mind as they go through the connections to figure out what connection is used, then they have to Edit the connection to actually see the root folder.

- Or, starting from the connections, the user has to go through each connection, note which table(s) are available, and edit the connection to find out the root level,then click on the Input step and go through the list of included files to figure out what is there.


Both of these are require more effort than could be required.




The lack of information for users about what input step goes with what connection or vice versa gets in the way of Tableau Prep’s goal to make data preparation faster/easier/better, particularly for the more new-to-data-preparation users (or at least new-to-something-more-than-MS Excel users) who are squarely in Prep's target market. Therefore this feature request is for the following:


1) Some way in the Connections pane to identify which Input steps (if any!) go with each connection. For example maybe I can click on a connection and all the associated input steps get highlighted, or there’s a heads-up display that draws a line from that connection to all the Input steps, or even just a list of connections & input steps (for example as a context menu for the given connection so I could click on one in the menu and then the canvas would zoom to the selected Input step and that step's configuration pane would be opened).


2) More information in the Input step to identify the associated connection. This would include: a) In the Input step configuration pane explicitly naming the connection, b) include the folder path or server/ database of the connection, and c) if the step has been renamed still including the name of the original source table andor putting the rename as a change in the Changes list.


I’ve attached the v2019.3 beta 1 flow I used for the above screenshots. (Apologies for attaching a beta file, I just wanted to do my tests using the newest version available). The pics files has the pictures used for this.


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