Tableau Public – A Powerful New Tool for Democratizing Data

In the January 2010 issue of the Visual Business Intelligence Newsletter I redesigned a display of health care costs that appears on GE’s website. I did this using Tableau and provided a link in the article to a live version of the interactive display on the Web. You might have wondered what I did to make that live analytical application publicly available. The answer is that I used something brand new from Tableau called Tableau Public. It was developed as a means for people to share live analytical displays that are of interest to the public via the Web.

A few months ago, when I was approached by UNESCO to help them find a means to share worldwide education data via the Web, I put them in touch with Tableau, and you can now view that information on UNESCO’s website, thanks to Tableau Public. The service is free and includes almost all of Tableau’s usual functionality. You upload your data, build the analytical display or entire application using Tableau Public, and then take the little snippet of HTML code that is generated to embed it right into your website, even though the data and functionality is hosted in the cloud.

I believe in the democratization of important data. I believe in providing people with simple tools for exploring and analyzing data. Tableau Public makes this possible in a way that is more analytically powerful than any free service that’s been offered to date. I appreciate Tableau’s willingness to provide this service, because it not only helps people explore important public data, it does so in a way that demonstrates to those who are stuck with obsolete tools how much more they could do if they had a good visual analysis tool at their fingertips.

For a quick look at Tableau Public, watch the beautiful demonstration video that Tableau has produced, appropriately titled Data In, Brilliance Out.

Take care,

4 Comments on “Tableau Public – A Powerful New Tool for Democratizing Data”

By Tom. March 29th, 2010 at 11:06 pm

Have you ever looked at Visokio Omniscope? It provides similar interactive visualisation functionality on the desktop. I’d be interested to know your thoughts.

By Stephen Few. March 30th, 2010 at 9:01 am


I am familiar with Visokio Omniscope. When compared to the commercial version of Tableau, Omniscope shows real promise, but needs to mature a bit before I can recommend it. I’ve spoken with the Visokio folks and proposed changes that I believe would make better. They’ve assured me that they’re addressing several of my suggestions, which they’ll demonstrate when the next release becomes available. Stay tuned.


By Roderick Ross. April 11th, 2010 at 9:13 am

Hi Steve,

I love reading your blog and recommendations. I am exploring a BI tool to help our customers (in the travel industry) better understand their data. I noticed that Omniscope did not seem anywhere near as powerful as Tableau when it came to date related matters. Perhaps I did not give it a chance, but was this one of the things you mentioned to them?

Can you perhaps share some of the things that you believe make Tableau stand out from Omniscope, and when Omniscope expect a next release that could address these?

The attraction with Omniscope is that it runs on Linux and seems to have a better API, which would suit our production environment better. I could of course get a separate Windows based server just for our BI, but the windows lock-in is a bit of a draw-back for Tableau server for us.


By Stephen Few. April 12th, 2010 at 9:37 am

Hi Roderick,

I don’t think that I noticed the date problems when I took a quick look at Omniscope back in December. I would have paid attention to date handling in relation to line graphs, but I didn’t manage to discover how to produce line graphs in Omniscope until the very end of the review. The folks at Visokio mentioned that they would address several of my suggestions in the 2.7 release of Omniscope, but I haven’t heard from them since December and have no idea how they’re progressing.

Unfortunately, a specific comparison of Tableau and Omniscope would take more time than I have, but if you email me directly at, I’d be happy to send you the list of suggestions that I submitted to Visokio.