Thursday, April 25, 2013

Needed: More File Names and Better Interaction

Working with a lot of different Workbooks is interesting, challenging, satisfying, and on good days fun.

But it's not without its challenges. In a typical day I work with enough workbooks, from enough different places, to make anything that gets in the way of me getting to the one I need, when I need it, aggravating. Particularly when a client comes into the office with some thoughts on what they want or need next for their presentation; the one that's about to happen.

Cutting to the chase: Tableau's limit of nine Workbooks in its File menu is limiting, e.g.:

The screen cap above was taken on my trusty little laptop. Its screen isn't very large, but it's plenty large enough to accommodate at least twice as many recent file names as the current limit of nine. The file menu has plenty of room to grow downward, and the home page could certainly adjust the thumbnails and names to fit in that many, or more.

How it should work

The number of most recent files should be configurable, with a limit, if any, much higher than nine. Tableau is a tool designed to allow the user rapid friction-free access to data without restriction on the number of records, and what it the list of most recent files if not such a data set?

The new, improved, most recent file list should also be provided with mechanisms to help the user choose which file they're really after. In my example above, the first two files have the same name – they're separate working copies of one I was working on. The home page tooltip is helpful, but only minimally. It doesn't contain any information except the file's directory and name (and I'm happy for that), but it would be really if it provided more, and more interactive, information to help me choose which file I want. The file's size, last modification date and time, #s of dashboards, worksheets, and data sources would be nice. Something, say, like a mini-sheet of files that would make it much easier and clearer to see what I've been working on and when. And while we're at it, why not throw in a filter that would let me zero in on that one special file; Tableau Server has a basic filtering ability in its content presentations, why shouldn't Tableau Desktop?

Note that the "World Indicators.twb" tooltip will be activated from the "File" menu as well as from the home page.
There's no reason for Tableau to restrict itself to the obsolete Microsoft notions of what the proper menu structure and functionality for computer programs should be.

But wait! There's more!

While we're on the subject, this is only one more example of information about itself that Tableau should surface as data.

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