Engine Works

Under the hood of Alteryx: tips, tricks and how-tos.
Alteryx Alumni (Retired)



Editor's note: you may need some background on what Macro Maynia is. Find it here.

My submission for Macro Maynia might be a little more foreign to everyone than the examples in the coming weeks, but I am hoping to compensate for that with a clear writing and so many pictures.




Macros are like knitting.


Yes, knitting.


Yes, I am pretty much a grandma.



Bear with me.




Standard Macro


standard macro can be thought of like knitting with a pattern. It’s a set of instructions that are repeatable. If I want to knit a hat, a scarf, a sweater, or a blanket, I can find a pattern that will tell me exactly how to do it.


Just like a knitting pattern, a standard macro allows you to package a process in an easily sharable format, so anyone can repeat the same process to get an expected outcome.



With the power of a knitting pattern, anyone and everyone can (and should) make a Yoda hat for a baby!


© MaiyaMayhem, © rhianelaine, © ADAllen, by ladybugles, by stefanijaye, by laurenswool© MaiyaMayhem, © rhianelaine, © ADAllen, by ladybugles, by stefanijaye, by laurenswool

Using a pattern can also help prevent outcomes like this:


now imagine this with your datanow imagine this with your dataA standard macro is a pattern (workflow) bundled up into a neat package. You can use standard macros the same way you would use any other tool in an Alteryx workflow (in fact, many Alteryx tools are macros!).


Batch Macro


Imagine you wanted to knit matching sweaters for your family. Maybe for Christmas, or a super awesome family photo (or both!).




To make the sweaters, you would repeat knitting a pattern for each member of your family, all the way through.




Generally speaking, this is what a batch macro does. It repeats a process for a provided number of inputs. If you have twenty family members, you would knit twenty sweaters (and not see the light of day again for six months). If you have twenty “batches” (groups) of data you needed to process, the batch macro would repeat the process twenty times, once for each item or group of data.


But wait a minute, little Timmy and Aunt Andrea don’t wear the same size!


The Little Dude by Andrea Rangel - https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/the-little-dudeThe Little Dude by Andrea Rangel - https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/the-little-dude

Knitting patterns often come with instructions for different sizes. The instructions change a little bit depending on what size sweater you need to make, but the process and the outcome are effectively the same. You’ll knit a little more to make a larger sweater or less to make a smaller sweater, but the process and outcome are very similar.


A batch macro can work the same way. A batch macro will repeat a process for a given set of data, tweaking the process slightly for each group within the data. If you need to calculate a 5% tax for purchases in Colorado and a 10% tax for purchases in Washington, you can do so in batches, using the same process but a different tax rate (I have no idea what the tax rates actually are).


Iterative Macro


After spending half a year knitting sweaters, let’s imagine we are not totally sick of knitting and now we want to make a blanket for our bed.


We all know blankets come in many different sizes. Often, instead of giving you exact instructions for each possible size of a blanket, many blanket knitting patterns will give you a set of instructions to repeat until you get to the size you want.


© putyourflareon© putyourflareon


© Kemper Wray© Kemper Wray

If we want to knit a blanket that is at least six feet long, we will repeat the pattern until the length measures to six feet (or more) in length, checking the dimensions at the end of each repeated set of instructions.


Pattern Iterations in a BlanketPattern Iterations in a Blanket

This is how an iterative macro works. It repeats a process until a given condition is met. This condition, whatever it might be, (e.g., a certain number of iterations, a value threshold for the outcome of a repeated calculation, a true or false test if all pages have been downloaded from an API) is the stopping point. The macro isn’t sure how many times it will need to iterate to get to the end, but it will know when it is done. Iterative macros can be handy for any process that you're not sure how many times it will need to be repeated for a data set, or something that needs to be repeated a certain number of times that doesn't necessarily match an input list. 


All the Macros


To summarize, standard macros are like knitting something with a single pattern, batch macros are like using a pattern to make multiple sweaters for a given list of people (one sweater per person, adjusting the size of the pattern for the person), and iterative macros are like knitting a blanket of a pre-defined size, where you repeat a given pattern until you meet the pre-determined threshold (the size of the blanket). 


If this didn’t help you with understanding Alteryx macros, maybe you should pick up knitting. It’s a great hobby.




8 - Asteroid


Your article made me laugh.  I needed that on a Monday morning.

Alteryx Alumni (Retired)



Seeing your comment made me so happy - I needed that on a Monday morning :)

10 - Fireball
10 - Fireball

omg @shoesnsocks4 ...I can’t believe you didn’t write this blog post 😂


Another awesome post @SydneyF! Will have to point people to this next time I get the question :)

Alteryx Alumni (Retired)

Love love love this blog post. You made it so easy to understand @SydneyF! And as always...meme game on fiyah!

11 - Bolide

Great analogies, Sydney!

5 - Atom

As a knitter, cat-lover, and new Alteryx user:  THANK YOU!

11 - Bolide

Great article. THANK YOU!

5 - Atom

Great article, had fun reading it! xD

7 - Meteor

I love the article, and your explanation of Macro is so on point. Thank you ❤️!

5 - Atom

Loved reading it. :)

6 - Meteoroid
i like it
6 - Meteoroid
I like it.
7 - Meteor

Thank you @SydneyF .  Very well-written article, it makes me understand immediately.  One of the biggest challenges I have with Alteryx is that the tool names can be very confusing at times, what a tool/kind of tools is called "Batch macros", it confuse the hell out of me as in a normal Macro also deals with a stream of data more than just one single record, which i would consider as "batch" as well.