Visualizing records from Airtable in Tableau
  • 11 Nov 2022
  • 5 Minutes to read
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Visualizing records from Airtable in Tableau

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Note
While these articles are meant to serve as helpful guides for our customers, one on one support for integrations with 3rd party tools is limited in support interactions.

This article outlines a solution to efficiently and automatically bring information from your Airtable base into Tableau utilizing a Tableau feature called Web Data Connectors.

NOTE

The guide below is intended for our Enterprise plan customers. Pro plan users are unable to implement this solution since it uses private metadata API.

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How can I use Tableau to visualize my Airtable records?

There are several ways you can use Tableau to visualize your Airtable records:

Option 1:

Export CSVs from Airtable’s web interface and import them into Tableau 

Option 2:

Set up a periodic or near-real-time sync between your Airtable base and a data source that Tableau natively supports, such as a relational database or data warehouse.

Option 3:

Use a Tableau Web Data Connector  to pull records from Airtable into Tableau on demand

This integration guide will focus on option 3: using a Tableau Web Data Connector.


What is a Tableau Web Data Connector?

Introduced in Tableau 9.1 in 2015, Tableau describes Web Data Connectors (WDCs) as a way to “bring the data that you care about into Tableau.” Learn more WDC's and watch a quick video from Tableau here.

WDCs allow developers to build connections to data beyond the existing traditional and Tableau-supported connectors using HTML and Javascript. End users can use WDCs without writing code, but it’s helpful to know that these connectors are built and (sometimes) supported by third-party developers, not Tableau.

Ultimately, the tables and rows you pull in from an external data source, such as Airtable, through the use of a Web Data Connector, can be visualized in Tableau in all of the same ways you already visualize your other data sources.

NOTE
The software made available in this post is not supported by Formagrid Inc (Airtable) or part of the Airtable Service. It is made available on an "as is" basis and provided without express or implied warranties of any kind.


What will I need to get started?

Be sure to have the following ready in order to follow the steps in the next section

NOTE
The URL used in this guide - https://airtable-labs.github.io/airtable-tableau-wdc/- is an example connector we've built for you to get started. You can use it as-is or host your own copy of the code using the guidance later on this page.


Step-by-Step Instructions

Connect to your Airtable base from Tableau
  1. Open Tableau and from the “Connect” pane, select “More Servers…” and then “Web Data Connector"
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  1. Enter the URL of the Web Data Connector and press enter. The URL you will want to use is https://airtable-labs.github.io/airtable-tableau-wdc/. The URL should load and look like the screenshot below:
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  1. In the “API Key” field, paste your API key. Once you click away from the API key field, the “Base” dropdown below it will populate, as shown in the screenshot below. If you prefer, you can select “Specify a Base ID manually” and the dropdown will turn into a free text field where you can provide a Base ID, which always starts with the letter “app”
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  1. Click “Go.” Tableau will use Airtable’s API to retrieve a list of tables that belong to the base:4404192416791unnamed4.png
Select your Tables and Retrieve Data
  1. As you would with other Tableau data sources, click and drag the table(s) you are interested in visualizing to the middle of the Tableau window. We suggest you start by trying one table at a time to start. We’ll cover multiple tables in the next section.
    2. Once a table is selected, you can click “Update Now” toward the bottom of the screen to retrieve the data. Notice how different Airtable field types are brought in as a similar Tableau column data type. The WDC will also attempt to set the proper Tableau column role: numeric fields will be brought in as measures and all others will be assigned the dimension column role.
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    3. Click on “Sheet 1” in the bottom right and build worksheets, dashboards, and stories as you normally would in Tableau
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    4. If your data changes in Airtable and you’d like the Web Data Connector to retrieve the latest records from Airtable, you can right-click the data source in the top left corner and select Refresh
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Additional information

Working with Linked Records

How does this connector handle linked records? Or, What are these “recXXXXX” values I see?

If you have linked record relationships in Airtable, those fields will show the Airtable record ID (“recXXXXX”) when brought into Tableau.

If it fits your use case, the easiest way to visualize the data from the linked Airtable tables is to add lookup, rollup, and/or count fields to your table (in Airtable) and refresh the data source in Tableau.

Alternatively, you can define relationships in Tableau’s Data Source pane. This is possible because the WDC brings in a special “_airtableRecordId” field for each table. Before proceeding, we highly recommend watching the first minute of this video from Tableau’s guide to relationships.

For example, the following screenshot shows a relationship between “Firm Name” (which in Tableau shows the “recXXXXX” value) mapped to the “_airtableRecordId” from the “Firms” table:

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Once setup, we can now go back to our worksheet and pull in data from both tables (“Name” is from the “Firms” table while the other fields are from the “Funding Rounds” table):

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Inspect & Host Example Code

What if I want to inspect the code or host the WDC on my own infrastructure?

No problem! The web data connector at https://airtable-labs.github.io/airtable-tableau-wdc/ is hosted on GitHub Pages and you can view the source code at https://github.com/Airtable-Labs/airtable-tableau-wdc.

If you’d prefer to host the code yourself, Tableau has recommendations on how to host a WDC here. Essentially, you just need a server/service that can host static files (HTML, CSS, and JS). HTTPS is strongly recommended.

If you’re hosting the WDC yourself, you may want to self-host the external Javascript dependencies (<script> elements in the index.html file) as well.



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