Alteryx is surely the king of easy-to-use data manipulation tools, and as a bonus handles predictive and spatial analysis via a very friendly set of tools. One method by which it makes things easy to use is that it has a huge array of built-in tools to drag and drop, thus saving you the task of programming procedures yourself.
This means each tool is easy to use for the desired purpose, but has a downside in that one has to actually locate the tool one wants, when there are probably over a hundred to choose from (I haven’t counted, and besides, you can add more if you wish).
The default tool-picker interface looks like this:
There’s a thin list of tool categories (In/out, Preparation etc.) and then, within each category, a larger list of actual tools (Browse, Date Time Now etc.). The list is so long it cannot fit on one screen, even on a reasonable widescreen monitor.
I understand that the programmers behind Alteryx are already considering improvements to this interface in order to make it easier to find what you need in a hurry, but there are already a few ways that – whilst not life-changing – may help you save a couple of seconds of looking for the correct tool many times a day.
1: Tool search
You see on the top left of the above screenshot that there’s a search box. If you know the tool you are after, just type its name in here and the tools list will instantly filter down to those that match what you typed.
In fact, it’s cleverer than it seems. Tools will pop up even if the name doesn’t match as long as Alteryx thinks it “sort of” relates to what you type. This means, on a good day, it’s also a quick way to find a tool you might have forgotten the name of.
For example, perhaps you need to create what Excel would call a pivot table. There’s no tool called “pivot” in default Alteryx, so what to do? Just type “pivot” into the tool search box and it shows you 3 tools it thinks might relate to pivoting – cross tab, transpose and table. Sure enough, it’s first suggestion of “cross tab” that you probably want to use.
2: Tool favourites
You’ve probably noticed already the “Favorites” tool category. This contains a few tools aggregated from other tool sections. The defaults aren’t bad, but perhaps you want to change them to fit your personal workflow.
It’s as simple as right-click -> remove from favorites once you’re in the favorites section to get rid of one you don’t want (but keep it in its main category section), and right-click -> add to favorites from any of the non-favorite tool categories to add the tool you clicked on to your favourites. In this way you can construct your own custom ribbon that contains the tools you use most often, no matter from which section they come from.
For those who are not fans of the right-click, if you hover over any of the tools in the other sections, you will see a faint star appear to the top right of the tool. Clicking on that will also add the tool to your favourites section.
3: Setting default section tools
You see the icons showing the tool sections available to you on the upper thin ribbon? They’re more than just a way to open a tool category. Note how each one is labelled with all the icon of one of the tools within the category. For example, the “Preparation” section is labelled with a formula-tool conical flask icon.
You can actually drag the small icons down to your workflow and you’ll get the default option for that tool category in your workflow without having to change to its tool category first.
In the example here, clicking and dragging the Preparation category icon will give you a formula tool to use, without changing the select ribbon category away from “Transform”.
But what if you don’t use the formula tool much and wish you can get to drag the Filter tool down without opening that tool’s section? Just right-click the Filter tool and click on “Set default tool”. You’ll notice the icon next to the “Preparation” category changes to resemble the filter tool’s icon – and now you can click and drag that into your workflow without changing away from another tool section.
4: Pin your preferred categories to the left
Perhaps you are less bothered about individual tools, but more bothered by categories as a whole. By default some of the categories are off the right-hand of the screen unless you have a giant monitor. You might be frustrated if you’re a constant “Social Media Tools” category user when you find you have to constantly scroll right to find the category every time you wish to use it.
You can however right-click on the category icon and choose “Pin Social Media” in this case. That will move it to the left and will keep in nice and handy next to your favourites category.