1 2 Previous Next 19 Replies Latest reply on Mar 5, 2014 12:47 PM by Mark Ackerman

    Best option for distributing interactive reports

    Mark Ackerman

      I am looking for the best way to distribute interactive reports in an economical manner.  I am weighing the pros and cons of using packaged workbooks/Tableau Reader versus Tableau Online.  Details below.


      Our company conducts customer satisfaction reports for the senior living industry.  We have recently switched to using Tableau Desktop to create reports because it allows us to customize reports to our clients' needs more quickly.  Prior to that we used Excel and VBA to generate PDF reports.  I am looking into methods for distributing the reports to our clients.  For the senior living communities we plan to distribute PDFs.  The lack of interaction with the reports we feel is more than compensated for by the low cost and ubiquity of Adobe Reader.  We want to keep the corporate reports interactive, however, and that's where I could use some help in finding the best method for distributing reports.


      Packaged Workbooks and Tableau Reader

      At first I thought we would e-mail packaged workbooks, since it would not cost us anything, though it would require our clients to download the latest version of Tableau reader each year.  However, when I tried viewing our reports on a different computer the formatting was all messed up.  Some fonts became larger than they were on my computer, scroll bars popped up all over the place, and things just looked squished together.  So it seems like you may have to tailor the report to each person's screen size, which translates to my needing to ask around 10 people at each company what their screen resolution is and then create several versions of the report that will work with the various screen sizes.  It also seems like the Microsoft Windows font setting can affect font size in Tableau, which would be another hurdle. I would really like Tableau Reader to be a viable option.  If you feel I could make it work, could you point me in the right direction for figuring out how to do it?


      Tableau Online

      Our company is considering using Tableau Online as an alternative.  I did a brief test run of the product and it did not seem to have problems with the layout being affected by screen resolution.  My primary concern with Tableau Online is the price.  I understand the price is $500 per username?  We do survey research for senior living companies and would like all the executives within a company (5-10 people) to have access to all the reports.  Can all the executives within a company use the same username and password to view the reports to keep the cost at $500 per company?  If so, can multiple people sign into the same account and view the reports at the same time?


      I asked my account manager about this and got a rather strange response, which doesn't seem right from what I have read about and experience with trial of Tableau Online.


      "In order to have your clients logging in you would need Tableau Server. Tableau Online is for internal use case for the company using Tableau Desktop. You can’t distribute Online access to the companies that you are working for.


      With that being said with either product you will need each person consuming reports and dashboards to get a license."

      I think she may be new and is mixing up Tableau Server and Tableau Online.  I want to confirm that Tableau Online can be used by people outside our company and that they don't need Tableau Desktop or Server to view the reports.

      Thanks for any advice.

        • 1. Re: Best option for distributing interactive reports
          Russell Christopher

          Hey Mark -


          Generally, when a Tableau customer (you) wants their customers to consume Tableau, one approaches this via an OEM agreement. Essentially, we sell Tableau to you, and you sell it to them. One can't create an OEM agreement around Online, and maybe this is what the person was thinking when they gave the answer above.


          However, n your shoes, I would just tell the person you're confused and ask them for more information

          • 2. Re: Best option for distributing interactive reports
            Mark Ackerman

            Hi Russell,


            Thanks for the reply.  Financially, I don't think asking our customers to purchase Tableau Desktop would fly.  A lot of our projects are small and this purchase would double or triple the cost of many of them.  Even more importantly, it wouldn't solve the problem we are having because the packaged workbooks look equally bad on some other computers when viewing them with Tableau Reader or Tableau Desktop.  It is likely a mixture of screen resolution differences and windows fonts being allowed to affect the workbook.  Windows fonts should not be able to affect the workbook layout.  To me this seems like a bug.  Here's an example that looks similar to what I'm seeing if you add in a few more scroll bars around the charts.




            There is a lot I like about Tableau, particularly how aesthetically pleasing the charts are.  However, the workbooks look just plain bad when viewed on some other computers.  I'm hoping I can find a way to ensure that workbooks will look good when viewed on other computers.  Any advice or article links would be greatly appreciated.

            • 3. Re: Best option for distributing interactive reports
              Russell Christopher

              Hey Mark —


              From where I stand, the best way to ensure a standard viewing experience is to make sure the fonts in play are universally installed by your clients.  If I design a website with a very specific font that doesn’t exist on the client’s machine, then the browser will automatically substitute a “like” font, and that switch can effect formatting and the overall result. Font embedding might be a solution for this, which we don’t currently support.  Resolution Independence is another issue that I can’t really speak to.

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              • 4. Re: Best option for distributing interactive reports
                Mark Ackerman

                I'll make sure I use fairly common fonts.  Here are some screen shots of how my report looks on another computer.  If you have any thoughts on improvements let me know.  I'm going to post these along with another question to the Tableau community and hopefully get some feedback on how to improve things.  Tableau looks like a Lexus when I view the reports on my computer.  I don't want it to look like a beat up Honda Civic when I show it to others.


                View on my computer

                Desktop 1.jpg

                View on another computer

                Laptop 1.jpg


                View on my computer

                Desktop 2.jpg


                View on another computer

                Laptop 2.jpg

                View on my computer

                Desktop 3.jpg


                View on another computer

                Laptop 3.jpg

                • 5. Re: Best option for distributing interactive reports
                  Shawn Wallwork

                  Mark, here are a few comments on your post:

                  • Most of my clients want to distribute through packaged workbook for the reasons you mentioned
                  • My primary client distributes through Server (they want/need the live data connection)
                  • There are definitely strategies for creating workbooks that look good on a wide range of computers distributed through packaged workbooks (more on that when I reply to your last comment).
                  • Tableau Online definitely has the benefit of being browser based, and therefore usually looks good, but you will need a user-seat for each and every user. One company 10 people x 500/user/yr. = $5,000
                  • The other thing you should know about packaged workbooks is that they are NOT really secure, meaning that a packaged workbook is really just a zip file that can be opened up with any utility like WinZip. So anyone can look inside and open up the Excel file and see your data.


                  If data security isn't important, then the package workbook route sounds like that route to go.



                  1 of 1 people found this helpful
                  • 6. Re: Best option for distributing interactive reports
                    Shawn Wallwork

                    Mark here are the basic strategies for getting good looking Dashboards across multiple commuters:


                    • Set your Dashboard size to "Exact". Pick a size that will look good on:
                      • The most import screen (the big cheese)
                      • The second to smallest screen (or the middle screen if the range of resolutions is narrow)
                      • The majority of screens (I poll my clients to find out everyones screen rez, and keep this on file)
                    • Also make sure you allow for the Windows elements and the Tableau elements around the edges. For instance I work at 1920 x 1080 but to keep from getting scrollbars I set my Dashboard to 1900 x 780. That allows for a bottom Windows taskbar.
                    • Float, float, float everything. The only thing I don't float is the filters that I line up inside a floating vertical container (so they are really floating too). And use the sizing boxes in the lower left corner of the Dashboard window to get everything into its exact place.
                    • Choose your fonts wisely, and limit them to 2-3 different ones at most. Check the font substitution on your users screen (I try to get them to send me screenshots, or do a JoinMe so I can see what they're seeing)


                    So how does all this help? First by setting an Exact dashboard size if the users resolution is smaller than the dashboard then that user will only get a single vertical and/or single horizontal scroll bar, not a bunch of scrollbars for the different elements. This is also true of using non-floating layout containers; Tableau tries to move these around to get the 'best' fit, but you can sometimes end up with odd results.


                    That mostly it. I didn't talk about aspect ratios (16:9 4:3, etc.). If you're interested you can read through this:


                    Re: Dashboard Screen resolution


                    It's a couple of years old before the floating objects came in, but it does have a good section about the aspect ratio issues.


                    Hope this helps,



                    1 of 1 people found this helpful
                    • 7. Re: Best option for distributing interactive reports
                      Mark Ackerman

                      Thanks very much Shawn.  I'm glad to hear there is hope for my dashboard.  I don't think I will have time to test your suggestions until Monday, but I am excited at the prospect of being able to deliver something that looks decent.  I'll let you know how it goes.

                      • 8. Re: Best option for distributing interactive reports
                        Andrew Ball

                        Shawn's suggestions are excellent, but I think that the only one that is relevant is checking font substitution.

                        It appears (as you mention) that the default font size is being affected.

                        As a test, try altering the font size away from default and see if that changes anything? Otherwise it really is how windows is displaying them, so not only will you have to restrict your dashboard, you may have to alter your actual screen resolution when designing. If this is the case, then you'll have to design at the lowest resolution to accommodate.


                        With regards to the pricing of server/online, both are per named user, so accounts can't be shared.

                        Online is cheaper for low numbers of users for a few years. Long term, server is cheaper for low numbers.

                        Depending on how many clients you serve, the other option is a core server, which is the cheapest per head for large numbers of users.

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                        • 9. Re: Best option for distributing interactive reports
                          Shawn Wallwork

                          Really Andrew? This is what you think?



                          • 10. Re: Best option for distributing interactive reports
                            Andrew Ball

                            Looking at the screenshots, the actual text itself is bigger, so taking up more space and messing up the views.

                            Trying to figure out why that would be, as why would, for instance, font 9 suddenly take up more space? Sounds like something is messing with the font size to make things more readable.

                            Exactly what that is will take some experimenting though

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                            • 11. Re: Best option for distributing interactive reports
                              Shawn Wallwork



                              The 'appearance' of font size is all about screen resolution; you understand this, right?



                              • 12. Re: Best option for distributing interactive reports
                                Andrew Ball

                                yeah, I get that. But when you fix the size on a bigger screen, it just limits the real-estate used.

                                Changing the screen resolution makes the font appear bigger, but also makes everything else bigger.

                                It is just that in this case, it is altering the font more than the rest. Potentially to do with resolution. But possibly windows disability helper thingy increasing the size of all text. Or something else entirely.

                                • 13. Re: Best option for distributing interactive reports
                                  Shawn Wallwork

                                  Mark, apologies I finally realized this thread has entered an endless loop. If you need more help on this issue please go to my profile and reach out to me by email, I'll be happy to help you.





                                  • 14. Re: Best option for distributing interactive reports
                                    Shawn Wallwork

                                    I acquiesce to your greater understanding.



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