Googling Tableau’s Release Notes

Tableau releases maintenance updates on a regular basis – about monthly. Since Tableau connects to dozens of kinds of datasources, which are themselves constantly updated, it’s always a good idea to stay on the latest maintenance release for your Tableau version. (E.g. if your company is running Tableau Server 8.2, you should upgrade to the most recent 8.2.x – 8.2.8 as of today.)

But in environments with intensive change control requirements, it can be very useful to be able to find specific, relevant reasons for upgrading.

Two frequently asked questions in this regard are:

1. How can I find a listing of issues fixed between whatever release I’m currently using vs. the latest maintenance release?

2. How can I find which release had a fix for a specific issue?

The Tableau support website enables both these scenarios.

The release notes for maintenance releases are available here:

Every version’s release notes are available using this URL scheme:

Let’s say you’re running 8.2.1, and the current 8.2 release is 8.2.8. To find all the fixes between, say, version 8.2.1 and 8.2.8, you can look at:

and so on. They’re now all linked on the releases page, so you can just open them in new tabs manually, or you can write a script to download them.

But, what if you don’t know when an issue was fixed, and you don’t want to have to search a whole bunch of individual release note pages? Then, you can use Google’s site search feature, and specify the following site base:

For example, if you wanted to search for release notes related to HP’s Vertica, you could do:

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 12.35.06 PM

Or if you wanted to scope it to only show Vertica release notes from version 8.2.x releases, add /8.2 to the end of the site parameter:

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 12.37.00 PM

Here, let me Google that for you.

Enjoy! Leave a comment to let me know if you find this tip helpful, or have other use cases for Tableau’s release notes.

TabPal: Custom Tableau Color Palette Generator

Color is tremendously powerful in creating data visualizations.

Tableau allows you to create custom color palettes. And usually people do this by:

  1. Find an image with the colors you want to use
  2. Use an eyedropper color picker tool; select each color in the image.
  3. Get the color code.
  4. Open your preferences.tps file and write a line of XML by hand that includes the color code.
  5. Repeat for each color.

But that’s old-school. One of my colleagues created a web app that automatically creates custom Tableau color palettes from any image.

  1. Find the URL of an image with the colors you want to use
  2. Paste it into

Tabpal identifies the dominant colors and spits out custom palette information ready to add to your Tableau prefs. Done!

For example, say I wanted to make a viz about the history of Apple, using the color scheme of Apple’s old rainbow apple logo.

Apple’s original rainbow logo, from

I fed it to TabPal. Here’s what I get:

tabpal output

TabPal grabs the top five colors in the image, identifies them, and creates the color-palette XML I need.

But, we’re not quite done yet. The Apple rainbow has six colors, so I used a web color picker (I like Colorzilla) to identify the blue color’s hex code — it’s #118ECE — and added it to the list TabPal generated, then added it to my Tableau preferences file.

color palette prefs

Now I can make my Apple viz in six colors. Moof!

apple color palette

Interested in learning more? Check out this webinar on Best Practices for Using Color in Data Visualization by Tableau Research Scientist Maureen Stone. She’s wicked smart!

Best Music of 2014 meta post

I like to listen to music while I’m working.

In fact, I like to listen to music all the time.

Especially good music.

Here’s some:

For anyone interested, I put together a 6+ hours Spotify (yeah yeah) playlist of my favorite tracks from 2014 (and still working on it).
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:06 PM on December 12 [4 favorites]


NPR Music has put together a massive playlist of their best of 2014, Songs We Love.

That link above launches the groovy in-browser app, which lets you listen on shuffle, choose a genre, and gives you artist info, as well as other functionality. You can view the entire list here if you are more eye-curious than ear-curious.

In a somewhat complete Spotify playlist


Open With Multiple Versions of Tableau Desktop on Mac OS X

Do you have multiple versions of Tableau Desktop installed on your Mac?

You might be beta testing the new version, but still need to work with a current version for production work. Wish you could just right-click on a .twbx and choose on the fly which version to open it in?

Well, thanks to Mac OS X, it’s easy. No registry hacking required. (Note that this isn’t supported by Tableau — it’s a Mac OS X feature, so talk to your favorite Apple Genius if you need help.)

  1. Install multiple versions of Tableau Desktop on your Mac. Go to the Applications folder and rename each one with its version so you can keep them straight.
  2. Launch each version at least once. (During first run, Mac apps do things like register with the OS.)
  3. Right-click a .twbx and select Open With > Other…
  4. Check Always Open With and select the version you want to add, then click Open. (The checkbox seems to be necessary to make the option “stick” in the Open With menu. You can change the default version at any time by repeating this step.)
  5. Now, you can right-click and have your choice of Tableau version available at your fingertips.

Enjoy! Post a comment if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to answer when I get a chance.

(If your question is, “how can I beta test the new version of Tableau?” the answer is, contact your Tableau account manager and they’ll be happy to sign you up!)

Unpackage Tableau .twbx Workbooks on the Mac


Tableau Desktop’s .twbx packaged workbook files are archives which contain both a .twb workbook file and the data.

On Windows, Tableau Desktop installs an “Unpackage Workbook” command which is available by right-clicking any .twbx file.

And Tableau Desktop is coming to the Mac! But the unpackage workbook feature is not included in the initial release. As a workaround, you can rename a .twbx file to .zip, then double-click the .zip file to decompress it.

But if you want to be able to right-click (or control-click) a .twbx file and choose “Unpackage Tableau Workbook” on your Mac, here’s what to do.

Warning: this is an unsupported utility!

Download this Automator workflow file, unzip it, and double-click Unpackage Tableau Workbook.workflow. When prompted, click Install, then click Done.

service installerservice installer complete

To use, just right-click or control-click a Tableau packaged workbook and select Unpackage Tableau Workbook.



1. The file does not require a .twbx extension, as long as the file type is Tableau Packaged Workbook.

2. If the service is run on a file other than a Tableau Packaged Workbook, the service will take no action.

3. Files are unpackaged to slightly different destinations on the Mac vs PC. On PC, the .twb goes in the same directory as the .twbx; data goes inside a new folder:

Result on Windows

Result on Windows

On the Mac, both the .twb and the data directory go inside a new folder.

Result on Mac

Result on Mac


Go to ~/Library/Services
Delete the file Unpackage Tableau Workbook
Log out and log back in

Known issue

If you unpackage a workbook that has already been unpackaged in the same location, Automator will throw an unclear error. This is because the shell script doesn’t handle the scenario when a duplicate file already exists. (Repro: unpackage the same workbook twice in a row. To resolve, delete or rename the folder of unpackaged files.)

This is not a very helpful error message

This is not a very helpful error message

What is this thing?

It’s a simple Apple Automator workflow which calls a shell script. Sometime soon, I’ll write another blog post soon explaining the details. I also hope to post the code to github, in case you want to contribute improvements to the community.

If this was helpful to you, please leave a comment and let me know!

If it’s not working for you, feel free to leave a comment, but I make no promises that I’ll respond or be able to help – your best bet is to just follow the uninstall information above.

Benchmarking mobile browser performance



Back in the early days of PC’s, comparing performance was relatively easy: just look at the processor and the clock speed. A 486/33 (with an Intel 80486 CPU running at 33mHz) will perform calculations about twice as fast as a 486/16.

Figuring out performance from mobile device specifications is a little more opaque these days. It can be much quicker and easier to just run a benchmark. 

For web-based applications, one useful benchmark is’s SunSpider JavaScript benchmark

Running this can give you an idea how much of the performance difference between two different mobile devices or browsers is due to raw JavaScript speed.

Sorry, Internet Explorer 8 is NOT going EOL next week



Web developers and users notoriously hate old Internet Explorer versions.

You might think from the web that as of April 8, 2014, Internet Explorer is going to be unsupported, end of life, on its way out, an ex-browser, going the way of the dodo, dead.

Sorry. Not quite.

It is only on Windows XP that IE 8 is going EOL. IE support now follows the support lifecycle of the OS it is running on – so EVERY version of IE on XP is going EOL next week, not just IE8.

IE8 originally shipped as Windows 7’s built-in browser version. IE8 on Win7 (like Win7 itself) is still in mainstream support until January 2015. IE8 on Win7 will be covered under extended support until January 2020.

It’s the latter date – end of extended support – which most IT teams consider to be EOL for MS desktop products, because that’s when they’ll stop getting security updates.

So, if you create software for enterprises, you may have customers using IE8 for years to come.

MAC vs. Mac

Sometimes people refer to a Macintosh computer as a MAC – in all caps.

This is wrong.

Further, it is a sign to Mac users that you don’t really get Macs.

I’ve heard the argument that MAC is the correct parallel to PC. But this is incorrect; PC is an acronym for Personal Computer, while Mac is the short form of Macintosh, just as Dan is short for Daniel.

(There is a MAC acronym – Media Access Control. When you use MAC, that’s what you’re saying. But that’s not important right now.)

Don’t believe me? Check Apple. You’ll see they only ever use Mac – even when combining Mac with other words (Book) and letters (i).

Mac, not MAC

Apple only uses “Mac” – never “MAC”.

So if you want to look literate to Mac users, don’t call it a MAC.

This is one of those things that is like USING ALL CAPS IN EMAILS. While it doesn’t bother some people at all, it really bugs other people.

(Of course, if you’re TRYING to troll Mac users, go right ahead! I know it’s futile to ask trolls to stop trolling.)


Root Cause Analysis reports


So, you’ve investigated a problem, asking why and how.

Now you’ve got to write up a root cause analysis report. And that’s where the art comes in.

A good RCA is one that can, ideally, be used to make changes at the root cause to avoid having this sort of problem occur again.

In some cases, an RCA won’t be able to achieve that goal, but even then it can provide value if it helps make clear how to work around the problem, or why the problem cannot be easily solved.

So a RCA report should focus on what is relevant and actionable for the audience.

In this application crash example, talking about issues around development practices (compiler settings, IDEs, code review practices) might be quite helpful for the developers, but it doesn’t help the end user of the software; they can’t influence the development process. Instead, focus on what is actionable for them. In this example, this could include both staying current on maintenance releases, and making sure the relevant details of the end user’s scenario or environment is communicated to the developers, so they can be included in test cases.

So you might produce an RCA for the customer from this which focuses on those aspects, and doesn’t go down the development path. Of course, it’s still a good idea to share those items with the development team!

Related posts:

Root Cause Analysis: Five Why’s

Root Cause Analysis: Don’t just ask “Why?” — also ask “How?”