When you publish a workbook to Tableau server that does not use a data source hosted on Tableau server a packaged workbook is created with your data source inside it then before sending it to the server. So if you had created an extract from the Excel file the workbook sent to the server would have an extract of the data and not a copy of the full Excel file. I hope this helps!
Thanks Shawn. The link you provided had the statement I was looking for:
When we publish a workbook to Tableau and the workbook has a live connection (including a connection to a naked extract) to a file-based data source, we get the “Include External Files” option. This default puts a copy of the live connection’s data into Tableau Server (more on that in a minute), thereby making it a static data source.
Yep I forgot about that one.
The most interesting thing about this to me is that when you download the workbook from Server, you get the Source Excel file along with it if you look for it
My experience and the current behavior on my Tableau server does not match Shawn's explanation. I am able to publish a .twb with a live connection to an Excel file to Tableau server then delete the Excel file and the workbook on the server continues working just fine. The original Excel file is not actively being used because Tableau converts the .twb to a .twbx and sends the Excel file with it. This is why when you download the workbook it returns the same .twbx that was created when you sent the workbook to the server. The Drawing with Numbers article is referring to issues with updating a data source.
Interesting. I'd never tried that. And I just confirmed that it works the way you said.
Thanks for confirming Kent!
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Can you confirm the exact process (i.e. step by step instructions) for the following: "I am able to publish a .twb with a live connection to an Excel file to Tableau server then delete the Excel file and the workbook on the server continues working just fine. The original Excel file is not actively being used because Tableau converts the .twb to a .twbx and sends the Excel file with it. "
The reason why I ask is because this does not match with my experience. If I publish with a live connection (i.e. Include External Files is turned *off*) and I delete the original Excel file then Tableau throws an error. I've run into this as we've gone through server migrations and have missed files that were in live connections.
Also, if Tableau was no longer actively using the live connection Excel file then updates to the original Excel file wouldn't be seen on Tableau Server, and that is simply not the case with live connections.
Note that Include External Files has to be turned off *every* time we re-publish a workbook with a file-based connection, otherwise Tableau will send it. The only way I can match up your statement with my own experience is if at some point Include External Files is left on then Tableau's behavior will be what you describe.
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I just did some further testing with this and verified that Tableau has two distinct behaviors for TWBs:
1) If the workbook is a TWB with a connection to a file that is accessible to both Tableau Desktop and Tableau Server and has been published with "Include External Files" turned OFF (i.e. using a live connection) then I see the following:
a) If I update the data in the original file then I see the changes in *both* Tableau Server and the TWB.
b) If I download the workbook from Tableau Server it's a TWB, *not* a TWBX as Kent described.
c) If I move the original file then in my web browser I get an "Unknown Server Error" from Tableau Server with details about not being able to find the path of the file, *not* a still-working viz as Kent described.
d) As far as I can tell the Excel file does not live on Tableau Server at all, which is not what Kent described.
2) If the workbook is a TWB with a connection to a file that is accessible to both Tableau Desktop and Tableau Serverand has been published with "Include External Files" turned ON (i.e. NOT a live connection) then when downloaded the workbook is a TWBX.
a) If I update the data in the original file then I see the changes in only the local TWB, *not* Tableau Server.
b) If I download the workbook from Tableau Server it's a *TWBX*.
c) If I move the original file then I get Worksheet Unavailable error in Tableau Desktop, there are no changes in Tableau Server.
d) It's clear that the Excel file *does* live on Tableau Server, which is as Kent had described.
What Kent described in Re: Excel data source file passed to Tableau Server when publishing workbook with Excel data Source? matches behavior #2, it does *not* match behavior #1. In looking at Kent's description where the divergence seems to happen is "live connection". My definition of "live connection" is that "Include External Files" is turned OFF, so that way if there's an update in the original data that will be reflected when the Tableau viz refreshes. If Kent's definition of live connection is different then I can reconcile the descriptions of the behavior, otherwise the only way I can reconcile them is if the workbook as saved as a TWBX prior to publishing (because that has a different set of behaviors).
Kent, can you document what steps you used to generate the behavior you described, and verify what happens if you follow behavior #1?
Thanks for pointing out that the settings when publishing can change this behavior. I read John's initial question as him having published a workbook with the default setting of include External file checked. The default behavior for Tableau server with Excel is to send the file with the workbook to the server which was what I believe he was asking about. So my example to show this would be to
1 Create an excel file with a few dummy rows such as A,B,C,D then
2 Pull the file into Tableau and drop the field on the rows shelf
3 Publish the view to the server with all the default settings left on including "Include External Files"
4 Look at the view on the server
5 Delete the Excel file
6 Confirm that the view still works on the server
As far as the behavior #1 when I uncheck include external files I get the following warning message from Tableau letting me know that this is probably a bad idea and will lead to issues because Tableau server would need access to the Excel file. This type of setup for me usually leads to a view that won't load at all on Tableau server unless I use the UNC path which is a pain for most users.
Jonathan, I'm getting a different behavior than you describe in the first section of your response:
1. I created a simple workbook connected to an Excel file and saved as a twb in a path Server and Desktop can access:
2. I published the workbook to Server with the Include External Files unchecked. I clicked Yes to get past the warning.
3. I confirmed the workbook was published and working:
4. I move the original file to a new folder
5. I then did the following without receiving any errors of any kind:
- Refreshed the view
- Browsed away from the workbook and then back to it
- Closed all browser windows and then reopened the workbook/worksheet
- Went to Edit mode in Server and refreshed the data source
- I also cleared my Browser cache & other data (forcing me to log back into the server)
- I forced the refresh http://tableau02/#/views/Test/Sheet1?:refresh=y
- I repeated all these several times, attempting to make it fail, I was never able to
- Finally I moved the Excel file to my Desktop (which Server is completely blind to), I still couldn't make it fail or error out
Have you got any other suggestions on what I can do to make this fail? How is Tableau finding the data after I've moved the file. Or I guess 'where' is Tableau finding the data after I move the file.
I did confirm that you are right, the workbook does download as a twb (something I hadn't tried the other day when working on this).
Thanks for the clarification, Kent! I agree that the UNC path is a pain (as is having to re-un-check the Include External Files and go through the warning every time to republish). Please know that whether Include External Files is on or not is a really important clarification because a regular issue here on the forums is something like "Help! I published my viz to Tableau Server and updated the Excel file and now I don't see the changes on Server."
Shawn, I'll email you separately and we can do a screenshare.