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Chris Gerrard – Exploring the world of Better Business Intelligence

Common Problems Saving Tableau Packaged Workbooks

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Tableau’s packaged workbooks are tremendously useful. Bundling data with the workbook allows anyone to peruse the data using the Workbook without having access to the original source data. I use them frequently in large BI projects as a way of providing Reports to end users, analyses of data all along the project process chain, even in providing the database schema to downstream technical teams when the “normal” processes take too long.
Packaged Workbooks can be opened with the Desktop Application or the Tableau Reader. Published to the Tableau Serer they’re available just like normal Workbooks.
Creating a Packaged Workbook is really pretty straightforward: create an extract of the data (for every data source used in the Workbook); save or export the Workbook in its packaged form.
There are a couple of reasonably common circumstances I’ve run into again recently; this post covers them.

Problem—SQL Parsing error creating the extract

I’ve seen this more than once: when Tableau tries to create an extract it fails with a fairly obscure error along the lines of “Data format string terminated prematurely”, which seems to indicate that there’s been a problem parsing a date value using whatever internal format it’s employing. There are no calculated fields or data calculations, so it’s really puzzling and Tableau doesn’t really provide any diagnostics.
There’s also the matter that this problem doesn’t surface until the extract is under preparation, implying that it’s not involved with any of the fields being referenced in the Worksheets, which leads us to the

Solution—Hide the unused fields and try to create the extract

Almost too easy, isn’t it? Hiding the unused fields also reduces the size of the extract, which in some cases makes a big difference. On the other hand, the unused fields aren’t available for use in the extract, and therefore in the Packaged Workbook; this isn’t a problem for Tableau Reader users, but limits those Desktop Application and Server users who otherwise could extend the Workbook’s analytics.

Problem—creating the Packaged Workbook generates an “unconnectable data source” message

[insert message here]

Solution—find and close any Data Connections that aren’t being used

Orphaned Data Connections can have a number of causes, but usually because the last Worksheet using the Data Connection gets deleted or pointed to another Data Connection.
Finding and closing unused Data Connections from within the Workbook can be a bit of a hunting expedition–this will be the topic of another post. But very soon the Tableau Inventory will identify orphaned Data Connections.


Written by Chris Gerrard

January 27, 2010 at 11:28 pm

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