Alteryx Tips and Tricks from Beginner to Pro

If you’re new to Alteryx or have been using the Alteryx Analytics Platform for years, these tips will help you get up to speed fast, or help you design and develop analytic workflows faster than ever before.

This guide is meant to supplement the learning materials and training paths that are available directly from Alteryx. Rather than re-creating the already excellent material that Alteryx provides on the Alteryx Community. This article highlights many of the things that we wish we knew when we were beginners but only learned after several years of using the platform.

You can connect Alteryx tools left to right but not right to left.

If you try and connect tools right to left, you will drag the tool around the canvas instead of drawing a connection line. Tools must be connected from the output anchor (green square) at the right of the tool to the green input anchor of the next tool.

Use Alteryx Tool Examples as a Quick Reference

Alteryx has built in examples for almost all of the tools available to use when developing workflows. If you’re unsure of what a tool does, or when you would use it try right clicking the tool and click “Open Example”. Tool examples can also be found in the universal search box in the top right of Alteryx Designer when searching for a tool’s name.

Open Alteryx Tool Example
Alteryx Example Workflow Screenshot

Utilize Containers to Organize Workflows

You can select multiple tools in the canvas and add them to a container by right clicking Add to New Container. Containers help you stay organized. You can title them, change their color and turn the tools on or off using the blue button in the top left. The arrow in a circle at the top right lets you minimize the container.

Alteryx Container Screenshot

Copy and Paste Alteryx Tools and Containers

You can copy and paste tools, multiple selections of tools or containers by right clicking copy and then pasting or using keyboard shortcuts CTRL + C, and CTRL + V. You can copy whole or partial workflows and paste them in other parts of the same workflow, or you can create a new workflow to paste them into. Try re-using parts of an existing workflow to save time when automating a new process.

Cache and Run Alteryx Workflows to Speed Up Development

You can right click most tools in a workflow and choose “Cache and Run” This function stores all of the data up to that point locally, so when you run a workflow, you won’t have to wait for the data to pull or for the first part of the workflow to process.

Once Cached the tools show up in bubbles. You have to right click and Clear Cache prior to the data refreshing.

How to Cache and Run an Alteryx Workflow

How do you create a Full Outer Join in Alteryx?

You can re-create a Full Outer Join in Alteryx by placing a Union tool after a Join tool. Connect the Left (L) and Join (J) outputs from the join tool to the input of the Union tool.

Recreating a Full Outer Join in Alteryx

If you adjust the data types or column names in the join output, only records that match will be updated. The L or R outputs will remain the same.

Learn to Love Crosstab and Transpose

Transpose and Crosstab are ways to recreate some of the functionality you would get in an Excel Pivot Table. They also make it much easier to manipulate data. For example, you could put many columns into a single row to do transformations on it, or you could split a column into many rows to have field names to reference.

Our comprehensive guide explains the concepts of using Cross Tab and Transpose to pivot and unpivot data.

How do you Re-Create a Pivot Table in Alteryx?

You can calculate totals for rows and columns using the Crosstab Tool, which allows you to replicate the format of an Excel Pivot Table. You can add subtotals to rows or columns, and even calculate values as a percentage of the row or column total. The option is seen by scrolling down to the bottom of the aggregation methods.

Calculating Row and Column Totals in Alteryx

Note: Alteryx does not have a method to create inter-active pivot tables like you would see in Excel. All of the data is output as values when writing to a report or an Excel spreadsheet. A common workaround is to output the Alteryx data to a tab in an Excel workbook and create the pivot table in a separate tab. This method a time saver, but not 100% automated.

Additional Alteryx Tools

Alteryx has additional tools available beyond what comes installed. Some of the most popular and useful are Crew Macros. The publisher of the macros is developer who works at Alteryx and wanted to go well above and beyond to help the community solve many common issues that come up.

You can download them here:

Add Subtotals to Alteryx Reports with Summarize and Union Tools

To add a subtotal row in Alteryx, use a Summarize tool to sum the needed columns. Next add a Union tool to place the totals in the same dataset as your original data. The location of the Summarized values is determined by the order that it was connected to the union tool.

Alteryx Summarize and Union to get Subtotals

You can change the order that data is shown coming out of a Union tool by Selecting a Specific Output Order in the configuration of the tool.

Subtotals can be given names in a row by adding a field using a formula tool.

AMP Engine Compatibility Mode

The Alteryx AMP engine splits a workflow into a bunch of tiny pieces for multi-threaded processing. This makes the workflow run faster but also means that your data outputs in a different order once Alteryx pieces it back together.

You can turn it off in the Workflow Runtime settings. If you click the canvas they become available in the configuration window under the Runtime tab. Engine compatibility mode will maintain the order of your data but run a little bit slower. It can be the best of both worlds.

Where to turn off Alteryx AMP Engine

Learn more about the Alteryx AMP Engine here:

Enable Alteryx Performance Profiling to Troubleshoot Slow Workflows

Performance Profiling will show you how long it takes each tool to process in a workflow. It’s the first step in optimizing Alteryx workflows. Some tools take longer than others to process. For example, a Data Cleanse tool may be slower than using a Formula tool or Multi-Field tool to adjust a specific field.

Some tools will require the full dataset to be processed before calculating results. The use of these tools can be minimized to increase processing speed. Performance Profiling can also help you identify if the calculations are slow or if the data input and output methods take the most time.

Using Performance Profiling to Make Alteryx Faster

Turning off all Browse Tools or all Output Tools in Alteryx

You can speed up workflow processing by turning off Browse tools. They can be turned off all at once in the Runtime settings. You can also disable all output tools as an option. This is useful when developing a workflow and you don’t want to over-write existing data.

Name ODBC Connections the Same Across Alteryx Designers

If you do not have Alteryx Server, but have multiple Alteryx Designers in your company, name your ODBC connections the same in Windows. This allows users to open and modify someone else’s workflow without having to update the Input Tool for the ODBC connection every time.

Use a Alteryx Block Until Done Tool to Output to Multiple Excel Tabs

The Block Until Done tool allows you to force the order that a workflow is processed. It won’t start processing #2 until it completes #1. This technique is useful to avoid a cannot write due to a file being in use error when outputting multiple tabs to the same spreadsheet.

You can add a 2nd Block Until Done tool to the 3rd output and chain them together if you have more than 3 outputs.

Alteryx Block Until Done Tool Example

Excel sheet names are designated after ||| in an Output Tool

When working with Excel Workbooks, you can designate the specific sheet name that you want a file to output to by typing it after the filename.xlsx||| in the Alteryx Output Tool. You may need to select an Output Option for Create New Sheet or Overwrite Existing Sheet.

Output Alteryx to Multiple Excel Sheets

Use the Alteryx Output Tool for Multiple Tabs of an Excel Workbook

You can use this feature to generate a new tab for each set of data. If you have a column of departments, you could use the Take File / Table Name option at the bottom of the screen to generate a new tab for each department or other category in your dataset.

How to automatically output to multiple Excel tabs

You can use .\ or ..\ to designate a relative filepaths in Alteryx

The file path becomes relative to where the Alteryx workflow file is saved. It lets you save all of our source files and output files in the same directory. When you move the folder you won’t have to update any file locations in the workflow.

Use the Alteryx RegEx Tool to Parse Almost Anything

While it’s not the easiest tool to learn, it can be extremely useful. RegEx is a way to formulaically split text or match text based on text patterns. Text patterns are defined by formula.

Alteryx RegEx can delimit almost anything

Great resource to see many different RegEx examples:

Server UNC file paths are not the same as your computer’s file paths

If you find yourself getting file path errors when publishing from Alteryx Designer to Alteryx Server check how your file paths are setup. Most servers don’t have a C:\ drive with the same file structure as your desktop and won’t be able to find your files.

Importing multiple files from the same folder to Alteryx

You can use a * in a file name to point Alteryx to a folder of similar files. If they’re all the same format it will consolidate them into one big dataset. Much faster than importing and using a Union to combine a bunch of files.

Use Alteryx to Import Multiple Excel Sheets at One TIme

Alteryx Keyboard and Mouse Shortcuts

There are not as many shortcuts in Alteryx as there are in Excel. Excel is much easier to move around due to it being a grid, but here are some of our favorites:

Alteryx Keyboard Shortcuts

Shortcut to run workflows CTRL + R

Select All CTRL + A

Add Browse Tool CTRL + SHIFT + B

Find Tools CTRL + F

Show/Hide Interface Designer CTRL + ALT + D

Alteryx Mouse Shortcuts

Zoom In or Out CTRL + Scroll Wheel

Move Workflow Hold Down Scroll Wheel Button

Add Tools to Workflow Right Click Canvas for Contextual Menu

Link to more shortcuts

Shortcuts in Alteryx Designer | Alteryx Help

Run Alteryx on Decent Hardware

Because Alteryx processes data locally, you want to make sure that the system you are using is a powerful one. Many work computers are spec’d out for people using basic Microsoft Office applications and running web-based programs. A more powerful machine will run workflows faster and save you time.

The following link shows the minimum, and recommended system requirements for Alteryx Designer.

System Requirements | Alteryx Help

Use a High-Resolution Monitor

We recommend using a high-resolution monitor for Alteryx. Many common work setups will see people using two monitors which is great for heavy Excel use. However, with Alteryx it is nice to be able to see more workflow on the screen at one time. When selecting a monitor, be careful to find one that’s bigger and has a higher resolution. WQHD, UWQHD and 4k are designators that a monitor has a higher resolution. Avoid ones that are FHD or 1080p as you won’t get the benefit of being able to fit more on the screen.

In closing

We know that it can be a bit overwhelming as an Alteryx beginner, and hope this guide helps! These are just a handful of tips and tricks to get you started.

We will continue to update this Alteryx guide for people to reference. Send us a note in the contact section if there are items that you think would be useful to add or that you wish you knew when starting out!

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