I’ve been playing a lot with Web Authoring lately and thought it would be fun to pass on some thoughts and tricks about this awesome new feature in Tableau Server 8
So I am. Now.
We’re going to cover three topics:
- Creating Report Templates
- Securing Report Templates (the meat of this post)
- Embedding the authoring experience
What’s a report template? It is simply a report that you’re creating to be a “starting point” for your users. Think of it “Show Me” for dashboards. A user will open a template report, modify it, and then save it somewhere else.
Since the report template is something that will be leveraged by many people, you’ll want to make sure that a user doesn’t inadvertently modify it. We’ll get into that momentarily.
Keep in mind that Web Authoring in Tableau currently focuses on modifying existing worksheets – it’s not a tool you’ll use to create new dashboards or modify existing dashboards in terms of viz placement, size, etc. As a result, YOU will want to create a set of templates that you feel represent the breadth and width of dashboard types that users need to create.
Or maybe not – maybe you’ll only create a single template. We’re using Tableau after all, so you’re in charge.
Anyway, I’d suggest you drop your report template(s) in a distinct Project – the reasons for doing so will become obvious in a second:
I created 4-5 templates, each containing a different number worksheets organized into distinct layouts:
And let’s be blunt – this technique is not perfect nor totally compete. For example, if while in Web Authoring mode you choose to display a quick filter for one of the worksheets nested n your dashboard, it’s not going to magically appear IN the dashboard.
Securing Report Templates
This is the interesting bit. We want to allow:
- Users to launch the Web Authoring environment
- Those same folks to save their changes as a different dashboard (generally – you don’t have to allow saving)
We do not want users:
- Modifying the original templates
- Overwriting the original templates
- Dropping new templates into our project. This is OUR house.
So here’s the short version of what to do:
Edit the Permissions of your Project:
Set permissions for All Users like so:
Remove other permission sets in the permission list and don’t forget to apply your changes by clicking Assign Permissions to Contents.
Now dear reader, you could stop here…but you don’t want to do that, right? You want to understand what you’ve just done, correct? (Yes, you do – please read on).
So, what does each permission we’re playing with do?
Web Authoring: Granting this permission causes the “Edit” hyperlink to show up when the user views the viz:
Download File: This is the fun bit. Download File controls whether the Save and Save As buttons show up inside the Web Authoring environment. If the user has not been granted Download File, they can still edit a viz, but they can’t save their changes. Most of the time you’ll want to allow this, but now and then you might want to set things up as a true “ad-hoc” without the ability to save.
So now you’re thinking, “OK, it’s obvious I don’t want users to be able to click ‘Save’ because that would modify my template. There has to be a way to show only the ‘Save As’ button”
….and unfortunately you’d be wrong. Currently we show either both buttons or neither of them. We’ve done well but we can do better, don’t you think? Why don’t one of you create an “Idea” out on tableausoftware.com about this?
To block the user’s ability to modify the template, we’ll use two more permissions:
Delete: Denying this permission prevents users from inadvertently deleting a template
Write: This baby does the real work. Denying Write keeps users from overwriting the template in the project if they click ‘Save’ and also stops them from creating new ones.
I think the rest of the permissions are pretty self-explanatory. Here are some other thoughts, but you can figure the other wrinkles out on your own:
- You might also want to add an additional permission set which allows a small group of folks to put new template workbooks in this project.
- Make sure there is a different project that actually allows users to “Write”, or they won’t have a place to save reports.
Embedding the authoring experience
Several of the OEM partners I work with at Tableau (especially SaaS players) have already expressed interest in adding the authoring experience in their apps in the same way they embed dashboards and vizzes.
…and even though this wasn’t a specific design goal in v8, you can via an IFRAME or popping open another window.
To begin, I’d recommend opening it up in a distinct browser window– the hard-coded size of some of the Web Authoring UI may be a touch too large for embedding directly inside another page. That’s up to you, though.
How do you launch the Web Authoring environment? Easy-peasy:
Use Web Authoring Templates to amaze and impress your friends. You will appear more handsome, virile, and intelligent than ever before and people will like you (even more).