Engine Works

Under the hood of Alteryx: tips, tricks and how-tos.
13 - Pulsar
13 - Pulsar

One of the lesser used aspects of Alteryx (if you have Designer and Server) are Analytic Apps. In their help documentation, Alteryx talks about being able to execute a workflow with parameters without seeing the actual workflow. To give more clarity to this idea, Alteryx actually gives a developer a way to parameterize a workflow and give the end user the ability to make changes without ever needing to learn Alteryx!!!! Imagine the possibilities!




(Retrieved from: https://imgflip.com/i/4hq1bf)


Think of all those times coworkers came to you for an update to a dataset you had sent them before. You already automated that with an Alteryx workflow, and now they can change the time frame of the dataset, the product hierarchy information, any location information, anything they want with a few additions to the workflow! Analytic Apps are an immense power that leads your organization towards self-service analytics. Being able to add a few tools easily to create simplistic and effective front-end interfaces for end users to interact with is something that makes analysts' lives much easier in the world of ad-hoc analytics.


Here is an example that was built in the past. We had several requests: to be able to pull information related to different hierarchy aspects of our products; a desire to limit locations that are pulled; and, send a file to the end user when it is completed. To create a front end like this within a programming language like R or Python would be quite complex, but thanks to the power of Alteryx, the interface is created by simply dragging tools onto the canvas.



Sample App.png

Front End Sample.png


When you know what the front end will look like for the end users, the challenge becomes: how do you tell Alteryx what changes to make within the workflow? This can be a tricky task; however as a Designer developer, you can change literally ANY setting of a tool with an Action tool and you can even change the XML of a workflow! (If you didn’t know all workflows underneath are XML and you can check out my other blog post here.


Here is the Interface tools tab on the tools palette in Alteryx where you will find the tools to help you build the front-end interface of your app:






The interface tools can be used for not only apps, but macros as well. Some of the tools are specific to macros (and won’t work in apps) include the Control Parameter (for a batch macro), Macro Input, Macro Output, and Folder Browse (which is not supported on Server). All the other tools are fair game within an Alteryx Analytic App. Of the remaining tools in the palette, a few will not create a front end to an interface, but tell a workflow how to handle an input from an end user. Those three tools are the Action, Error Message, and Condition tools. For the tools you can use to create something in the interface, let’s take a moment and see what each one would look like in an app:


1. Check Box – creates a single check box in your interface allowing a user to have the option checked or unchecked when the workflow runs


In Designer                            VS            On Server

check box - designer.png                       Check box - server.png


2. Date – creates a calendar type interface that allows a user to select a single date (defaults to today’s date)


In Designer                          VS            On Server

Date - designer.png                         Date - server.png


3. Drop Down – creates a single selection drop down list


In Designer                                VS            On Server

Drop down - designer.png                  drop down - server.png


4. File Browse – creates a text box like insert where a person can input a full file path to be used in the workflow


In Designer                          VS            On Server

files browse - designer.png                file browse - server.png


5. List Box – creates multiple check boxes for a user to select from. This is like a drop down, but allows for multiple selections


In Designer                          VS            On Server

list box - designer.png                            list box - server 1.png


6. Map – Allows a user to put points, lines, or polygons on a map to be consumed by a workflow as spatial objects


In Designer                          VS            On Server

map - designer.png                          map - server.png


7. Numeric Up Down – Allows a user to use up and down arrows to select a specific number to be passed into a workflow


In Designer                               VS            On Server

Numeric - designer.png                       numeric - server.png


8. Radio Button – Allows a user to select an option and can be grouped together to force a single selection within an app and is passed into a workflow as a true false variable


In Designer                                      VS            On Server

radio - designer.png                        radio - server.png


9. Text Box – Allow a user to enter in free text (can be a single line or allow multiple lines, and even mask text if passwords would be passed) to be consumed by a workflow


In Designer                                  VS            On Server

text box - designer.png                     text box - server.png


10. Tree – Allow a user to make selections in a hierarchal order and pass as many selections of varying levels into a workflow


In Designer                          VS            On Server

tree - designer.png                 tree - server.png


Analytic Apps are truly an amazing power within the Alteryx space and can help an organization push towards more self-service analytics. With single building blocks, an Alteryx developer can create immersive interfaces with varying levels of differences by simply changing settings within the tool, while not needing to know how to code complex interfaces and interaction points. This is just the beginning and over the next several parts in the series we will dive into the philosophy of an app (the chicken and egg question of Analytic Apps: What comes first the chicken/User Interface or the egg/workflow), share a base randomized dataset, and build a fully customizable analytic app. When the series is complete you should be able to help your organization with analytic apps and strive towards self-service analytics.

ACE Emeritus
ACE Emeritus

Brill Chris! I'm bookmarking this!

17 - Castor
17 - Castor

@cplewis90  Nice.


This lines up my next blog perfectly...there's something coming.



17 - Castor
17 - Castor

this is such a well written series - thank you @cplewis90 


cc: @ydmuley