How to Import Excel Files into Alteryx

Alteryx is an incredible tool for automating and streamlining processes that work with Excel and CSV Files. Learn how to import files into Alteryx to start building out Alteryx process automations.

While Alteryx supports dozens of different file types and connections to numerous databases and systems, many people will start their Alteryx learning journey using Excel files. As a data processing tool Alteryx allows you to visualize data transformations and record data processing steps to replay them on demand or scheduled on an Alteryx Server. The combination of these two benefits of the Alteryx platform make it a great tool for streamlining and automating repetitive spreadsheet processing.

Excel File Types Supported by Alteryx?

Alteryx supports most of the Excel file types that people use today, XLSX, XLS, XLSB, XLSM. The XLSX file format was released with Excel 2007 replacing the older XLS format. Future XLS support is being discontinued starting with Alteryx Designer 2024.1 while introducing additional features to make it easier to work with the newer XLSX file type.

If you have processes that currently depend on XLS source files, we recommend delaying the upgrade to 2024.1 or later versions, or see if you can get the source file in a different format, such as XLSX, CSV or TXT that Alteryx will continue to support.

How to Import Excel Files into Alteryx

To import an Excel file into Alteryx, start with an Input Data Tool from the In/Out section of the Alteryx Toolbar. Drag it to the Canvas and configure it by selecting the tool and choosing “Set Up a Connection”. From the Files section, select “Microsoft Excel” from the list of supported file types. Then choose a file path and sheet name to import.

Once you click OK on the final screen, you will have an Input Data Tool that is pointed to a specific Excel file. When you click off to the side of the tool, it will refresh with an annotation of the file name below. You can further configure the tool by selecting it, and adjusting the Options in the Configuration Panel.

Here’s how in more detail.

Step 1.) Start by dragging an Input Data Tool from the In/Out section to the Alteryx Canvas.

The Alteryx Input Data Tool from the In/Out section of the Alteryx Toolbar

Step 2.) Select the new Input Data Tool and choose Setup a Connection from the Configuration Panel on the left side. Note: Instead of “Set Up a Connection” older versions of Alteryx may have a triangle that you press to select a file. Setup a Connection sounds like it would be designed for SQL or databases but is also how you select files from your local computer.

Selecting Setup a Connection to import an Excel file into Alteryx

Step 3.) Select the File section on the File Connections window that pops up, and choose XLSX, XLS, XLSB, or XLSM from the list of supported file types.

Screenshot of the different Excel file formats supported by Alteryx and choosing a file

Step 4.) Choose a file from your desktop computer to import using the Windows explorer.

Selecting an Excel file to import into Alteryx from Windows

Step 5.) Select a worksheet from the Excel workbook. Each input tool supports the importation of a single sheet at a time after selecting a file. This screen also allows you to import a specific range of cells or a list of sheet names within the workbook.

Selecting a sheet from an Excel workbook to import into Alteryx

Step 5.) Configure additional options

Additional configuration options when importing Excel files into Alteryx

After this step, the Excel file has been imported into Alteryx where you can further connect additional tools to it to build out the rest of your Alteryx workflow.

Note: A shortcut to importing Excel files into Alteryx is to drag and drop an Excel file from the Windows Explorer directly onto the Alteryx Canvas. An Input Data tool will be automatically generated, you can even drag and drop multiple files at one time to create multiple Input Tools into a single step.

Configuring the Import of Excel .XLSX Files

To further adjust the import settings of an Excel file, you can modify the Options section of the Input Data Tool Configuration screen. The exact import settings available will change depending on the file type. XLS files have different options than XLSX etc. but the most common ones will be the same.

Screenshot of various Excel import configuration options in Alteryx Designer

Some of the common configuration changes you will make include:

  • Start Data Import on Line – This lets you skip headers or the top rows of an Excel file prior to importing it.
  • Output File Name as Field – This adds a column to your dataset of the file name being imported.
  • First Row Contains Data – This tells Alteryx to interpret the first row as column headers or as data

If you need to adjust any of the other import settings, such as changing the selected Sheet, you can click the ellipsis button to the right of the Table or Query which will allow you to modify the Excel Input settings.

How to change the Sheet name being imported into Alteryx

All configuration changes will take effect immediately. You can click off of the Data Input Tool to refresh the configuration panel, but there is no need to click a Save button. Changes made are automatically saved for you and take effect the next time you run the workflow.

Importing Multiple Excel Files at One Time

While this article is focused on importing a single Excel Sheet into Alteryx, there are methods to import multiple sheets or multiple files at one time. These methods are extremely useful when working with larger amounts of data and help you avoid having to Union numerous Input Data Tools together.

The exact method used will depend on how your data is formatted. Alteryx makes it easy to consolidate files that are in the same file format, but additional steps are needed if you want to control which files are imported from a folder or if the column names differ between files.

Check out our tutorial on 4 Different Ways to Combine Multiple Files in Alteryx.

Errors When Importing .XLS or XLSB files in Alteryx

When you first install Alteryx and begin working with XLS files, many users will get an error message, such as: Error opening connect string: Microsoft Access Database Engine. This error typically occurs because Alteryx requires the Microsoft Access Jet Driver to be downloaded from Microsoft and installed to properly read in XLS files.

You can learn more about some of the limitations and requirements of working with XLS or XLSB files directly from Alteryx here; How to Enable Microsoft Excel Binary (XLSB), Excel Legacy (XLS), Access (ACCDB) for In/Out tools.

And once again, be aware that XLS support is being deprecated in Alteryx 2024.1 and later versions which will require many users to work with a different import data type or convert XLS to XLSX files prior to importing them into Alteryx.

Conclusion

Importing Excel files into Alteryx is quick and easy using the Data Input Tool but may require additional setup for older XLS data types. Once Excel files are imported into Alteryx, you can connect additional tools to them to build out a workflow. If you’re working with multiple files at one time or want to consolidate a folder of files, techniques are available but the one you choose will largely depend on the consistency of formatting of the incoming files.

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