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Have you ever built an Alteryx App only to realize that some part of the process must remain in Excel? Instead of abandoning your Alteryx App all together, you may be able to use the Alteryx API and call your app from Excel. We’ve put together all the necessary VBA code so that it should be quick and easy for you to call an Alteryx App from Excel and get the results back. The Alteryx app for our sample, API Tester.yxzp, has been included in case you want to upload it to your private gallery and test out the Excel to Alteryx API using your Alteryx server.
SAMPLE EXCEL FILE - Input
We are going to be working with the attached “Reverse String.xlsm” to demonstrate the API. Suppose you wanted to reverse a string in excel (“Hello World” should be converted to “dlroW olleH”). You can’t quite get it in Excel, but you could quickly use the ReverseString function in Alteryx. Now the only trick is getting your data from Excel to Alteryx and back to Excel. We’ll have the user enter the string on cell E5 and then hit the Run Alteryx Button. Cell E6 will then be the results we get back from Alteryx
HOW TO SETUP THE VBA
When working with the Alteryx API, you need to setup some settings/configurations in your excel file before you can deploy it. If you open up the VBA editor (Alt + F11), there is Sub called Doer where we will have to enter a few key settings that apply to your Alteryx App. This is a one time setup for each different application that you setup.
strKey – this is your unique Alteryx Key. It is unique to all the apps in your private studio. It can be found here for the Alteryx public gallery
strSecret – this is your unique Alteryx Secret. It is unique to all the apps in your private studio. It can be found here for the Alteryx public gallery
strAppID – this is your app’s unique ID. When you look at your app in a browser, the appID is the unique ID at the end of the URL. For our sample, our AppID “589b70eceffc2a0bb0a2d530” can be found at the end of the App’s URL
AlteryxURL – this is the base URL where the app resides. For the public gallery, it is : https://gallery.alteryx.com. You would switch this your URL if you were going to use your private gallery. A private gallery would be of the format resembling: https://server.domain.com/gallery.
Data – Any data that needs to be passed from Excel to Alteryx can be saved as string variables in the VBA. For our simple app, we’re only passing one item, the string that we want reversed. In order to pass more complex data, we’ve found it easier to save the data to a .csv and then have the Alteryx App read the .csv as part of the app.
strQuery – This is the entire set of information that is being sent from Excel to the API for processing. It’s in JSON format. For each item, you need a name and value. The name corresponds to the interface tool’s name in your Alteryx App. The value corresponds to the value that want to set. From our Alteryx App, you can see that we’ve given our textbox tool the name “input_string”. For the value, we’ll be passing whatever string the user enters into excel.
To see all the questions for a given app, the API documentation is immensely helpful. After you enter your key and secret, you would go to the second GET, type in the appID, and then try it out to get a list of the name value pairs that we must send from Excel to Alteryx. Note that you only send the name and value fields from the response body.
Save – This variable is a Yes or No answer for whether or not you want to save the data coming back from Alteryx. In this case we would say Yes. For more complex apps, we may have our Alteryx workflow save the data to a network folder that our excel VBA would go grab once Alteryx is done. That post run coding would be added under the Part_Deux sub in the VBA editor. There we would have Save=”No”
Output_Name – this is the column name of the output data that we want to retrieve from Alteryx. In our sample, the column Name is “Output_String”. This only applies if Save=”Yes”
SaveLocation – this is the cell range where the output should be written. This process currently only supports writing one cell of data back to excel. Anything more complicated should be handled through custom VBA in the Part_Deux sub. This only applies if Save=”Yes”
NOTES ABOUT WHAT IS GOING ON BEHIND THE SCENES
While I won’t go through everything that is going on in the background, here are some key points:
Ensure that you have references to Microsoft XML, 6.0 if any errors pop up.
The VBA takes all the settings and adds the time and a random string before posting a request to the Alteryx Server to run the job in the RunAlteryx sub. It has to combine all these items, URL encode certain parts, create a base64 hash, and send this to the Alteryx server in just the right order.
It then makes a Get request to check the status. If the status is complete, then the VBA moves on to get the results; otherwise, the VBA creates another request to check the status in 1 second. Note that Excel will be operational during this time since it’s not during any work. This loop will continue until the status is either completed or error. Note that it will update the status on the bottom left of your screen to indicate that Excel is waiting on Alteryx to run the job.
Once the Alteryx app returns a completed status, the VBA will then make another get request for the output that you’ve requested (only if save=”Yes”). If Save=”Yes”, the VBA then saves the output to the specified cell.
If you want to write any of your own code that should execute when the code is done, place it in the part_Deux sub. For example, perhaps you have a private server setup where the Server will write an output file to a network folder that excel can read in from. The code in part_Deux might look something like the below:
Dim ActBook As Workbook
Dim FromAlteryx As String
FromAlteryx = "\\server\" + Environ$("username") + "_out.csv"
Set ActBook = ThisWorkbook
On Error GoTo 0
Selection.PasteSpecial Paste:=xlPasteValues, Operation:=xlNone, SkipBlanks _
Workbooks(Environ$("username") + "_out.csv").Close
SAMPLE EXCEL FILE - Output
Assuming we have everything setup correctly, our app should return the reverse of the string that is input:
Assets are an important part of your workflows in Alteryx. Assets will need to be included if you want to share, schedule, and publish your workflows to your Gallery. We run into many cases where users are able to run workflows on their Designer but they fail on Scheduler and Gallery. In a lot of cases it is due to the pieces of the workflow are not all there in the Scheduler and Server database. In this article, we will talk about when you need assets, how to package the assets, and what assets you want to make sure are a part of your workflow.
When You Need Assets:
When building and using workflows in the Alteryx Designer you don’t need to do anything with your assets as they are a part of your workflow locally, but if you want to move the workflow somewhere or to someone, you will need to package the workflow.
When sharing your workflow with another user, the workflow will need to be packaged with those assets so that the user can run the workflow without error. This would include input files as well as macros. If the workflow is connected to a database or using Alteryx Data, the user will not be able to run the workflow successfully unless they have access to those data sources on their own machine.
If you have Server or Desktop Automation, the Scheduler will be using a database separate from your Designer. If you have Server you will be using a MongoDB and if you have automation you will be using a SQLite database. This would mean that any macros that are not on the server or SQLite database would need to be added. By packaging the workflow and scheduling the package, the Scheduler will be able to access any custom macros or macros not included with Alteryx. This would include Predictive as well unless you have installed the predictive tools to your Server. If you have version 11.0 Server or later, you can send your workflows to your private gallery and schedule them on your server. When you do that, Alteryx will package the workflow the same as if you were sending an app or workflow to the Gallery as below.
The Gallery works a little different than packaging a workflow or Scheduled workflow. The difference is that the Assets will need to be on the Alteryx Server along with the workflow for the app, macro, or workflow to be used on the Gallery. Basically, the Save As option to the Gallery of your choice will start the packaging process of your workflow and Assets. The Save As a workflow window will appear with information about your workflow that you are sending to the Server Gallery. Select Workflow Option. Below the Workflow Options you will select Manage workflow Assets. This is where you can include and exclude information being sent to the Gallery.
Packaging the Assets:
Select in the tool bar Options ->Export Workflow. This will then launch a window that will show the name of your workflow, the location where the package will be stored, and the list of workflow assets.
When sending your workflow to the Gallery, you will do a Save As to and the Company’s Gallery. A window will open and you will see Workflow Options at the bottom of the page.
Select Workflow Options
You will then reach the Assets window which is similar to the packaged Assets window above.
You also have a second option when sending workflow to the gallery. In the Workflow Configuration window, select the Events tab, Select Add, Run Command. You will see a tab called Assets where you can add assets to the workflow. This is especially helpful when you are adding a chained app to the gallery. Check out Jordan’s article for the step by step: Adding-Files-to-the-Gallery.
What Assets Do I Need:
Great! I found the assets, but why are some missing, some checked, some not checked and which ones do I really need and what don’t I need?
You may see that you have Input and Output assets. When you are packaging a workflow to send to a user, you can include those assets if the user does not have those files to run the workflow. If the user does have the files or they are going to update the Input files or Output files, then you would not include them. The Input and Output assets will never include database connections only files.
The .yxmc files can be an important part of your workflow. Many of the Alteryx tools are .yxmc files and if these macros are a part of the Designer package, you won’t need to include them in the package as Alteryx knows that these tools will be in the workflow (example Report Header Tool is a macro). If macros are downloaded from the Alteryx Gallery, custom created, or sent from another user, these macros will need to be included as Assets.
We receive quite a few questions on how to properly chain workflows together. We have a few options that depend on what Alteryx type you are using.
If you have Designer only, your options are to use the Crew Macros which are found on the Community. No link provided as the tools get updated. Please use the Community search for the latest Crew Macros.
In the Crew Macros set, the tools that you will be looking to use are the Runner Tools. You can find a description of the tools here Runner Tools.
Note: You will have to create another workflow using these macros to execute the workflows.
If you have Designer with Scheduler or Alteryx Server, you can use the Crew Macros on the Scheduler, but they are not able to be used on the Gallery. You have other options that will allow you not to have to build another workflow using the Runner Tools and use the workflow on the Gallery or Scheduler.
When you have Scheduler or Server you have access to the Alteryx Engine Command. This will allow Alteryx to run workflows through the command line to execute additional workflows or programs. In most cases, the AlteryxEngineCmd.exe will be located in C:\Program Files\Alteryx\bin\AlteryxEngineCmd.exe.
Great, so what do I do with it?
In your Workflow Configuration window, you have a tab called Events. In that tab you can add a Run Command event. You can choose to run the command as:
In the Command: you can either browse to your AlteryxEngineCmd.exe or type in the location like so - C:\Program Files\Alteryx\bin\AlteryxEngineCmd.exe
In the Command Arguments [Optional]: You will add the location of the 2nd workflow along with the name of the workflow and file type.
VERY IMPORTANT: Notice in the example above that we have quotations around the string. The reason for this is that the command has difficulty with spaces in the directory paths. By putting quotes around the string, this tells the command to essentially ignore the spaces. However, best practice is to not have spaces in your directory paths when using this command.
Note: This method is a great method, but can be finicky. if you are running other command process or do not have admin access to the folders it can cause issues.
You have another option as well! You can turn your workflows into apps for either Gallery or Scheduler use and have them run consecutively.
When you drag an Interface Tool onto the canvas your workflow will automatically change to an App. If you don't want to use an Interface tool you can still change the workflow to an app to use the chained app option. Once you change the workflow to an app, you can use the Interface Designer window to chain the apps together.
Note: When creating chained workflows to use in the Scheduler and Gallery, the workflows and Assets for the workflow must be placed on the Server. Also, the Server will need to have access to any database connections, file directories, and input files.
Want to know more about the Interface Designer? Interface-Designer-Part-1
Want to schedule workflows to run consecutively? Check out this article - Scheduling-Workflows-Using-Event-Run-Command
Receiving the error below when attempting to schedule a module?
“An error occurred in the scheduler. Server Error: 500 Server Error GetExpectedValue: Expected “Container” but got “Sid” Incorrect type requested 1 actual 4”
Post v10.5 release, your Alteryx Server and working environment must be of the same version in order to enjoy the upgrades of the release and still be able to commit scheduled workflows correctly. When the versions of your worker and server do not match, you’ll receive the error above. While our recommendation is to be using the most up to date release, you can always upgrade or revert your designer version either at our Downloads page (current version) or the Previous Releases webpage. To check on the version you’re using, you can navigate in the Designer to the Help >> About menu.