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It’s a dark night, with a cool breeze whispering through the dry autumn leaves. You’re working on an important Alteryx project for your boss (who really likes pretty visualizations and consistent formatting) and are about to add an output tool to the canvas when you suddenly discover – OH HORROR! – you are stuck with a plain old boring table of data as your final output in Excel!
This will simply not do.
You need some commas, some colors, some headers, some summarizations, some conditional formatting... and to make things more difficult, you also need the output file to include a specific name, like a Vendor name or a date stamp, or a Region.
So you refill your soda and start looking at some solutions:
So how do you get from a crazy manual solution/macro/code to a nice, simple, happy solution where all the townspeople can live happily ever after with their nicely formatted output files?
Now the IMDB teaser for the film “The Blob” says this movie is about "An alien lifeform that consumes everything in its path as it grows and grows." Not particularly encouraging for solving your reporting problems... but this is where we flip things around a little bit. In our Alteryx scenario, these Blob tools do consume things when you use the Input variety... but they also transform things and output things, and they do so in a friendly, non-destructive sort of way!
First, let's talk about "What is a blob?" Steve McQueen was probably battling red Jell-O in that 1958 film, but from a data perspective, a blob is just a big amorphous chunk of data, which can represent a variety of formats. A blob could be a file, an image, an audio clip, or a video – any multimedia file or object can be classified as a blob from a data perspective. “Blob” stands for Binary Large Objects, and it acts as a way to collect information stored as a single entity in a database, or in our case, in a record in a workflow.
Alteryx has three tools in the Developer category for working with Blobs:
Blob Input is how you can read an image or media file into your workflow to be contained in a single record and used elsewhere in your flow.
Blob Convert is how you could take data from your workflow and convert it into a Blob data type, or vice versa (we're not going to use this one for our specific use case, but it’s still cool).
Blob Output is how you can write a record with your Blob of data to an output file.
Now that we are armed with our Blob tools, how do we put them together?
Cue the dramatic music! You now have a workflow that will give you a dynamically named output file with all the formatting bells and whistles applied.
Probably could win an Academy Award with this one!
In the sample workflow attached, you will see a simple process that takes a formatted Excel template file, creates a new file with it that includes the user's name, and then outputs additional information to specific cells in the new file.
Much like their Hollywood counterpart, the Blob tools are simply “Indescribable… Indestructible… Nothing can stop it!” So you better just sit back and enjoy that nicely formatted output file!
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