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If your datasource is a DB you can use the sql query to limit the number of records , you can write the query in the sql editor tab of the input tool.
If your datasource is csv/excel/yxdb then the files will be of small size which alteryx can easily read without any issues and you can limit the size after the input tool using a formula or filter tool.
You can enable profiling and see which tools are taking more time to process the records.
thanks for the feedback. I was in sql editor on the I input, which is linked to a database. The problem I have is, all the formulas i'm trying is giving me errors. I tried linking the database, with no filters or manipulation, then created a "Filter" using the dynamic formula. I then copied that dynamic formula into my input (sql editor), but continue to get errors. I'm not sure what is going wrong at this point. While this particular workflow would work with either method, i'd like to utilizes this function on much larger workflows i'll be building)..note - i'm about a week in with my Alteryx knowledge, but am proficient in sql, excel, access, etc...
I will also try the profiling to see where my hangups are.
Unfortunately, I don't have a way to use SSMS for this particular database. I just thought it was strange that the filter query could not be pasted into the InputData connection as a select statement. The field is in date format, but I just can't get this function to work in this case.