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The Alteryx Guide for Excel Users

Working with data in Excel can be simple, but it can also be challenging and time-consuming, especially when working with multiple sources and formats of data. Data has to fit into rows and columns, has size limitations, and joining data from multiple spreadsheets requires complex formulas that leave your results vulnerable to errors. What's more, whenever your data changes, you have to repeat each step in the data prep and blending process all over again.

Alteryx takes a different approach with a workflow-based environment that allows you to prep, blend, and analyze data from multiple data sources and types, including unstructured data. And because you spend your time constructing a repeatable workflow that documents exactly how you work with data, you simply have to re-run the workflow any time your data changes — resulting in less time spent analyzing data, fewer errors, and greater consistency.

We've listed some of the most common data-related tasks that many analysts attempt to do in Excel. Alongside, we show how you would do it using Alteryx. These examples are meant to help Excel users understand how to translate their Excel knowledge into an Alteryx tool and workflow environment.

To learn more about how Alteryx can help empower Excel users, download the e-book A Radical Guide to Data Analytics Mastery for Spreadsheet Users. Then, follow along by downloading a free trial of Alteryx


Opening Files

In Excel

In Alteryx

To open the Excel program, click File and then click Open. 

Alteryx for Exel Opening Files

Locate the folder in which the file is located, then just click and open. 

Alteryx for Exel Opening Files 2

  DB File InputTo access data in Alteryx, you drag-and-drop an Input Data Tool onto the canvas, locate the database, and simply select.

Then click on the Connect a File or Database drop down in the configuration section. 

Open Files Alteryx

Next, find your file wherever it might be located. 
Open Files Alteryx 2

Opening Different File Types/Structures

In Excel

In Alteryx

Excel can open a limited amount of structured data from local files.  

Excel Open Different File

The file types, sources, and structure can be expanded by accessing data from the web, text, and a wider range of other data sources. 

Excel Open Different File 2

DB File Input   Alteryx offers users a wide range of data access to multiple sources and structures of data. Using the Input Tool, users can access data locally from Excel, Access, XML, SAS, SPSS, MapInfo, as well as data stored in databases or HDFS. 

Alteryx Opening Different File Types

In addition, Alteryx has direct connectors to access data stored in cloud systems such as Amazon S3, Twitter, Foursquare, Marketo, Salesforce, and Microsoft Sharepoint, or other Big Data environments such as Amazon Redshift, Impala, Spark, and others.

Input Multiple Files from a Folder

In Excel

In Alteryx

In Excel, if one folder has multiple files of the same type (e.g. .CSV), you need to select one at a time, and each file then opens in a separate worksheet. 

Excel CSV

DB File Input  To do this in Alteryx, drag an Input Tool onto the canvas, locate the folder and insert a wildcard (*). In this case we are bringing in two .CSV files.

Using the Input Tool locate the directory and file you are looking for. In this case it is POS_Data.

Alteryx CSV Input

Then once you bring in the POS_Data file, you go to the configuration section and edit the directory path by adding a (_*.csv). This will bring in all of the .CSV files in the same directory and join together as long as they are the same table structure and format.

Alteryx CSV Input 2


Rename Columns

In Excel

In Alteryx

Renaming columns is quick and easy in Excel. You simply click on the column cell and change the name.

Renaming Columns in Excel

Alteryx Select Tool  It’s also easy in Alteryx. Using the Select Tool, you simply rename the field to whatever you want.

Renaming Columns in Alteryx

Change Data Types

In Excel

In Alteryx

If you want to force Excel to consider numbers as a string, you can precede the numbers with an apostrophe (’), or select the cells and/or columns, then go in the Format Cells menu to view and set other types of information, such as currencies, dates, etc. 

Excel Change Data Type

Alteryx Select Tool  In Alteryx, the Select Tool allows you to change the data type to whatever format you want. 

Alteryx Change Data Type

Autofield Tool  In addition to the Select Tool, you can use the Auto Field Tool. As its name suggests this tool can interpret the data and assign the type and size appropriate for the content. This is especially useful for fields that contain text strings.

Date Time field  Some conversions are a little more complex. Dates can be awkward, because the Select Tool may not be able to understand your preferred date format. To satisfy this, there is a specific DateTime Tool.

Removing Columns

In Excel

In Alteryx

To remove a column used in a calculated field, you must first copy and paste values before deleting the original, otherwise your formula will break.

Removing Columns in Excel

Alteryx Select Tool  In Alteryx this is not a problem. Just use the Select Tool and uncheck the box next to anything you don’t need or want to hide, and it will be removed from your workflow without affecting formulas.

Removing Columns in Alteryx

Removing Rows

In Excel

In Alteryx

This is either a manual selection in Excel, or you need to use a quick filter to find what you don’t need.

Excel Remove Rows

Filter Tool  If you can list the criteria, you can use the Filter Tool. If it’s complicated, you can use a formula to build IF expressions or use the switch () function. 

Removing Rows in Alteryx


Create New Columns

In Excel

In Alteryx

The most common way to create new fields in Excel is to insert a new column, name the column, and write in a formula if necessary.

Create new Column Excel

Formula Tool  In Alteryx, rather than inserting a column into the table, you just add a new output field to your workflow using the Formula Tool. Simply type in the new field (Value Targets in this case) and your new field is calculated on every row.

Create New Column Alteryx

Tip 1: If you need to concatenate with first name and last name together, use a formula with the + symbol. Most other text‐based formulas use the same name and syntax, for instance Left () or Right (). The Alteryx manual (press F1) will help you identify those which don’t.

Text to Columns  Tip 2: If you’re splitting a field with a regular format (for instance, maybe splitting a comma-separated address field), use the Text To Columns Tool.


IF Statements

In Excel

In Alteryx

Everybody uses IF statements in Excel. It is one the most popular decision-making functions in the platform. To create a new Sales Potential column that buckets scores as High, Medium, or Low, you utilize this IF statement in Excel:

=IF(V2>2500, "High", IF(V2>1499, "Medium", "Low"))

Excel IF Statement

Formula Tool   The Formula Tool is a powerful processor of data and formulas. Use it to add a field to an input table, to create new data fields based on an expression or data relationship, or to update an existing field based on these same premises. To create the same IF statement in Alteryx, simply create a new output field called Sales Potential, and using the Total Sales field, input the following expression:

IF [Total Sales] > 2500 THEN "High" ELSEIF [Total Sales] > 1499 && [Total Sales] < 2501 THEN "Medium" ELSE "Low" ENDIF 

Alteryx IF Statements

Auto Sum

In Excel

In Alteryx

Creating an Auto Sum in Excel requires that you select the related fields and rows and then click the Auto Sum symbol. Or you can write a =SUMformula.

Excel Autosum

Summarize Tool  The Summarize Tool can do a host of summary processes, including grouping, summing, count, spatial object processing, string concatenation, and much more. In this example the Summarize Tool is used to group transactions by customer and to total up the transactions to see the customer’s total spend.

Alteryx Autosum

Calculate Cumulative Sum of Rows

In Excel

In Alteryx

To create the cumulative sum of rows in Excel, you must create a new column, then set the cumulative range. In this case the starting point is =S2, and then you add =S2 + R3 for the second row. Once this is established, you can copy the formula for the rest of the related information.

Excel Cumulative Sum

Multirow Tool  The Multi-Row Formula Tool takes the concept of the Formula Tool a step further, allowing you to utilize row data as part of the formula creation. This tool is useful for parsing complex data and creating running totals, averages, percentages, and other mathematical calculations. In this case, you create a new field, and then create an expression.

Multirow Alteryx

Calculate Percentages of a Total

In Excel

In Alteryx

Calculating percentages on each field based on a total in Excel may require you to first build a table of your data, then build a Pivot Table based on that data. The other option is to write an SUMIF() statement to calculate the percentages for each month and amount. Below is a Pivot Table example. 

Excel Calculate Percentage

Excel Calculate Percentage 2

Multifield Tool Alteryx The Multi Field Formula Tool makes it easy to execute a single function on multiple fields. This example builds new columns/fields in the data that display a percentage of each month. 

Alteryx Calculating Percentages 1

Alteryx Calculating Percentages 2



In Excel

In Alteryx

Filtering in Excel is easy. You simply select the worksheet or columns you want to filter, and then select the filter drop-down.

Excel Filtering

Filter Tool  The Filter Tool in Alteryx lets you do a basic filter to split data into two streams: True (data that satisfies the expression) or False (data that does not).

Alteryx Filter


In Excel

In Alteryx

Sorting by multiple columns in Excel is easy. Just highlight the worksheet and do a sort or custom sort.

Sorting in Excel

Sort Tool  The Sort Tool in Alteryx makes it just as easy, allowing you to organize your data exactly the way you need it. Just select the name of the column and choose between ascending or descending.

Sorting in Alteryx

Pivot Data

In Excel

In Alteryx

Pivoting data in Excel (such as transposing data or creating a cross tab) will typically require that you build a Pivot Table to get the data in the shape you want.

Pivot Data in Excel

Transpose Tool  The Transpose Tool allows you to pivot the orientation of the data table. It transforms the data so you may view horizontal data fields on a vertical axis. This tool is useful for extracting non-conforming data. There is no limit to the amount of records or fields that can be transposed. 

Transposing in Alteryx

Crosstab Tool Alteryx   The Cross Tab Tool pivots the orientation of the data table. It transforms the data so vertical data fields can be viewed on a horizontal axis summarizing data where specified. 

Alteryx Cross Tab

Reorder Fields

In Excel

In Alteryx

To reorder columns or fields in Excel, you have to highlight the columns, then use the Shift key to drag and drop the columns to the space you want. 

Excel Reorder Fields

Alteryx Select Tool  To reorder columns in Alteryx, you use the Select Tool or you can do the same in the Formula Tool.

Reordering in Alteryx


Append Data

In Excel

In Alteryx

With Excel, you must ensure that the columns of the two tables are exactly the same and in the same order. Then you copy the entire contents of the second table, and paste it into the first empty row of the first table.

Append Row Excel

Union Tool Alteryx  Alteryx makes this easier. The Union Tool allows you to combine multiple worksheets based on the field names while maintaining the position of each column. You can easily change the order of the column headers in each worksheet so they match up.

Append Row Alteryx

Blend Data: VLOOKUPS

In Excel

In Alteryx

To join multiple worksheets in Excel, you can use the VLOOKUP formula or INDEX MATCH formula to bring in information to the data sets from a different source(s) or table(s). INDEX MATCH is used instead of a VLOOKUP formula if the lookup value is not in the left-most column, which means you can’t use the VLOOKUP formula. 

Vlookup in Excel

Join Tool Alteryx  If you need multiple matches to have their own rows, a join does a better job. You can input two data sets and join them using either the Join Tool. If you’re connecting to a compatible data source, you can join them in the Input tool. 

With the Join Tool you join two tables with a common field (primary key) to create the following:

  • Inner Join (J): new columns to the right of the source table (L) in which there are the values of the table to join (R) that satisfy the collation
  • Left Join (L): the records of the original table (L) that have not found a match in the table to join (R)
  • Right Join: (R): the records of the table to be joined (R) that have not found a match in the source table (L).

Join in Alteryx

Lock Join Tool Alteryx  You can also utilize the In-DB Join Tool if you are working with data in a database. The Alteryx In-DB Join Tool enables blending and analysis against large sets of data without moving the data out of a database, and can provide significant performance improvements over traditional analysis methods. 

The In-DB Join Tool lets you do inner, left, right, and even full joins. 

  • Inner Join (J): creates new columns to the right of the source table (L) in which there are the values of the table to join (R) that satisfy the collation.
  • Left Join (L): creates the records of the original table (L) that have not found a match in the table to join (R)
  • Right Join: (R): creates the records of the table to be joined (R) that have not found a match in the source table (L).
  • Full Outer Join: creates all records contained in both the (L) and (R) tables

Learn more about Alteryx in-database tools here.


Grouping Rows and Aggregating

In Excel

In Alteryx

If you want to summarize data in Excel you build a Pivot Table.

Aggregate in Excel

Summarize Tool   The Summarize Tool in Alteryx works just like a Pivot Table in Excel. You can group data, then sum, count, or perform other calculations on other fields.

Aggregate in Alteryx

If you haven’t already downloaded Alteryx, get a free trial

To learn more or get help with other features in Alteryx from Alteryx users, visit the Alteryx Community.

We would like to extend a special thanks to our partner the Information Lab for their contribution. Learn more about the Information Lab.

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