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The Data Interpreter is a feature when connecting to Excel files. It is designed to help identify the structure of the data in the Excel file and turn it into the proper format for analysis in Tableau. Excel files can really be structured in all sorts of different ways and they often contain extra footer and header rows around the data. The Data Interpreter takes care of cleaning and transforming that data for you.
Help for it is here: Quick Start: Use Data Interpreter to Prepare Your Excel Data Source for Analysis
There is a nice blog post on it here:
My favorite tutorial on how to use the Data Interpreter!
Dan, great stuff on the Interworks Blogs, I've learned a lot from them!