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Tableau Public in a free solution from Tableau Software. It has mainly two product:
1) Tableau Public (Server): It is the free version of Tableau Server but hosted on the cloud by Tableau Software. As it is free, it requires that all workbook and data are freely accessible to everybody. In terms of data source, all should be extracts and there is a limit of 1 millions rows.
2) Tableau Public (Desktop): it is the free version of Tableau Desktop, or course with limitations, such as the workbooks can be save only to Tableau Public (Server) and it only connects to local data.
To work with Tableau Public you need to create an account in Tableau Public here and download Tableau Public (Desktop). Having a user license of Tableau Desktop, you can create data visualizations and then publish them to Tableau Public, of course, with restrictions in term of number of data rows and data source always needs to be an extract.
There is other interesting product included in Tableau Public, the Author Profile, where you can showcase all your data visualization published in Tableau Public. You can see my Author Profile here.
You can read more a bout Tableau Public here.
There are some differences between Tableau Desktop and Tableau Desktop Public. I'm going to mention what I consider are the most important:
1) Tableau Desktop Public allows you to connect only to local data and you have to make an extract to public the workbook to Tableau Server Public
2) Tableau desktop Public does not allows you to save your workbook locally in your PC, you have to save it to tableau server Public
3) There is a limit in the number of rows in your data source that recently was increased to 1 million rows.
The rest of functionality are pretty much the same.
I hope this answer your question.