If the Tableau Packaged Workbooks (.twbx files) that you're opening contain data extracts from SQL Server, Tableau Reader should open them without hesitation. The Reader itself, though, isn't designed to connect to external data sources.
When authoring a view from Tableau's desktop products, a user gets asked if s/he wants to create an extract at the point of connection or can do so at any point under the Data menu for supported datasets (basically, anything to which it can connect which isn't a data cube). That extract is what Reader would open, as well as providing quick and ready access to one's data without requiring a direct connection to the database which houses it.
Hope this helps answer your question.
If you want to create a packaged workbook that can be viewed in Tableau Reader, and the data source is a live database (data sources that require Tableau Desktop Professional), you will have to extract the data first (from the menu Data -> Extract). Extracted data is like a snapshot of the current data in the database. If you are distributing the workbooks with Tableau Reader, you can open the workbook in Tableau Desktop Professional and refresh the extract to use a current data snapshot, and send out the workbook with the refreshed data.
Publishing to Tableau Public requires every data source to be extracted first.
If you need to distribute a workbook, or visualizations connected to a live data source, Publishing to Tableau Server is the best route. Tableau Server does not have the restriction of requiring an extracted data source.
Oh- here's an example for you.
Try downloading this workbook, and then opening it in Tableau Reader.
The underlying data comes from a SQL Server 2008 database, but is packaged with the workbook so that its data is accessible.
Thank you for the replies. I have discovered that i can package the workbook using an extract from the SQL source, but we were looking for a way to update this dataset without the need to do so manually by opening the workbook in Desktop and refreshing the extract. We wanted a "hands off" way to refresh the data, and have the packaged workbook available on a network share for viewing.
That is unfortunate that the Reader does not connect to data sources directly.
When the extract is refreshed manually from within Desktop, can we open the .twbx file and do so, or does the original .twb file need to be refreshed, and then a new package created?
Thank you for your help.
Tableau Server provides extract refreshing as you describe it.
When refreshing manually, all you have to save is the twbx file.
So the twbx file can be opened, the extract refreshed, and then the twbx saved upon itself?
That is correct.