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Tableau Takes on Geospatial Analysis

Tableau 4.0 upgrade adds mapping features as well as collaboration and usability enhancements.
Somewhere between dead-simple Google Maps and sophisticated packages like MapInfo and ESRI: That's the target that Tableau Software set for itself in incorporating geospatial analysis features into Tableau 4.0, the latest upgrade of the vendor's desktop and server-based data visualization software.

"For the average worker or business analysts, the 'where' questions often aren't complicated enough to require a GIS tool and knowledge of cartography and map layers," says Elissa Fink, vice president of marketing. "At the other end of the spectrum, MapPoint and Google Mashups are great ways to display data, but they're not intended for analytics. We wanted to make maps part of the analytic workflow within Tableau."

Tableau 4.0 is said to marry data and geospatial analysis so users can click to create insightful analytic maps (see samples below). Data elements such as city, state and country are now automatically recognized as mappable dimensions, and users can also assign geospatial rules to selected dimensions. Once maps are created, users can also change the way data is presented and drill down into the underlying information without a need to understand map layers or complex geographic parameters.

Tableau Visualizations

Examples of geospatial visualizations within Tableau 4.0.

Other upgrades in Tableau 4.0 include support for embedding visualizations within Web applications, Web sites and portals such as Microsoft SharePoint. Conversely, Web applications can also be embedded into Tableau.

Usability enhancements in 4.0 include a new drag-and-drop user interface that lets you grab analyses by looking at thumbnails as well as file names. In addition, logos and custom shapes can be added to maps and scatter plots, and Web-based users can customize and share their data views with colleagues.

Tableau 4.0 will be released on August 7. The desktop software starts at $999 per named user.