Tableau Review

Qlikview vs Tableau? I have to choose and I’m not sure

Most users love Excel, non-users hate it. When it comes to data visualization, Excel is generally dispised, except by those that have to make dozens of charts every single day. I call this the Excel Stockolm Syndrome. These are the forsaken data visualization users that keep making 3D pies when they should know better by now. Tired and overwhelmed. Not in the mood the learn yet another tool just to make those elusive “effective charts”. If you link good visualization to a tool they have no access to, you can be sure that the whole message is lost.

Becoming a Data Visualization Anarchist

I think things can be changed from the inside, improving the way people use Excel. I write for Excel users because I’m one of them. That’s not going to change soon. But I love data visualization, not the tools that make it happen. I specially like interaction, multiple charts and making them available on the web. And I need to manage more data (not big data, just more data). Some things can’t be done in Excel or require too much effort.

The Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa has a funny short story called The Anarchist Banker. The idea is that only a banker can be a true anarchist, because only a banker can be free from “social fictions”, specially money… In data visualization, this means getting the tools out of the way, by learning them or avoiding them.

I chose the learning path and I’m learning R now. I always wanted to make those scatterplot matrices. And I want to play with the ggplot2 package. A programming language is covered but R is not going to pay the bills.

Enter Tableau and Qlikview

I will not complicate matters  by discussing how I chose Tableau and Qlikview and not Spotfire, for example. I just want to choose one. Qlikview vs Tableau. Comparison articles like this and this are very helpful, but a man is a man with his circumstances. Each starting point is different from everyone else. Let me tell you what I think I know about these tools in this early stage.


I like Tableau, I have to admit it. I like the fact that you don’t have to fight stupid defaults in design and formatting, because I share the same data visualization principles.

I like its enthusiastic and knowledgeable community. Let me give you two simple examples. I spent a lot of time making this horizon chart in Excel, and Joe Mako quickly came up with a better version in Tableau.

Then I tried to be creative with the bamboo charts and Joe Mako strikes again, with a better implementation. I’m starting to get nervous… (kidding)

I know and respect many Tableau users, not because of Tableau but because I share the same views regarding data visualization.

Apparently, maps in Tableau are good enough, so that’s a good point.

And as a blogger, I want to make my work available to the web, and Tableau Public is a nice option (my population pyramid).

The Guardian often publishes Tableau visualizations. I’d like to try that with the local newspapers here.

On the other hand, we know how stubborn some datavis experts are. Is Tableau that stubborn? Can clear vision and the right principles become a straitjacket? I really hate straitjackets (“the idea of”, never actually tried one…)

In my country, Tableau is virtually unknown and I am not sure if I want to sell shoes in Africa.


I know even less about Qlikview. The first chart I see in its video is the  pie chart above. Not exactly a shiny example of good data visualization principles.

Apparently there is a very active Qlikview community on Linkedin but not so much on Twitter. Probably this is meaningful.

I keep reading that Qlikview is better than Tableau when it comes to making dashboards, while you should explore the data with Tableau. It’s a good point in favor of Qlikview (that’s what I need now). Extensions and the market seem to be interesting too.

Qlikview has several business partners here. Actually, I was invited to work in some Qlikview projects in 2013 (obviously I have to learn the basics until then). They can pay a lot of bills.

Its not always about features

Not everything is black and white, not everything can be decided based on feature-by-feature comparison. Not everything is heart, not everything is reason. If I choose Tableau, my data visualization skills will improve a lot. Qlikview is harder to predict. I’m sure there are many users that dislike the pie above. If not, Qlikview can be more, hummm, challenging.

What I’m going to do

I mentioned those Qlikview projects, but I’ll try to remove them from the equation, at least for now.

I have a simple dashboard in Excel and I’d like to create Tableau and Qlikview versions. That’s probably one best ways to evaluate a tool, using my own work.

So, can you help me?

I’d love to learn from you. Can you answer questions like:

  • How do they compare regarding maps? Is it simple to add your own maps?
  • Is it true that it’s easier to make a a centrally designed dashboard in Qlikview, while Tableau has a more exploratory nature?
  • How can I share a Qlikview chart in my blog?

And please don’t tell me I have to learn both…

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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Add a Comment

author avatarit_user7452 (CEO with 51-200 employees)


Well, you have made a great start with your shortlist - you have selected 2 of the most developed data visualisation / visual analytics tools available. I have to declare a bias - my business was both a Tableau and QlikView user (and reseller / implementor - along with Visokio Omniscope), but we dropped QlikView about years ago. We had some specific issues (particularly with version 9 of QlikView), but there was a more general challenge too - we found that we needed more developer skills to use QlikView, when we wanted self-service by analysts. I would suggest that's one of a handful of fundamental differences... I would summarise the primary differences as:
* All-in-one visual BI (QlikView) vs. Best-practice data visualisation (Tableau)
* Proprietary storage (QlikView) vs. Data anywhere (Tableau)
* Self-service (Tableau) vs. Developer built (QlikView)
* Pixel perfect layout (QlikView) vs. Rapid assembly (Tableau)
* Exploration & discovery (Tableau) vs. App creation (QlikView)
* Scripted ETL (QlikView) vs. Guided data-blending (Tableau)

That's an oversimplification, of course, and zealots on both sides can pick holes in this shorthand response, but I would defend those essential differences. Yes, both are embracing the other's points of differentiation (e.g. Tableau has a capable extract engine, and QlikView now supports direct connect, but neither is as capable as the other on my second point).

So, if you are a visual analyst with access to well-formed data I would pick Tableau.. Yes, Tableau has very competent mapping and can use its own engine or link to external mapping services. It's very suitable for centrally defined dashboards (although these support less customisation than QlikView, they are extremely easy to create and suit 99% of cases)... and you can publish to the web, for free, if your content is public domain -search for Tableau Public.

If, however, you are a developer, looking to create specific analytical apps for a defined user base - especially if you need to source, refine and manage data before visualising it (and you don't have database and ETL tools to hand) then you will probably benefit more from QlikView.. I'm not sure how you can share content easily via the web with QlikView - perhaps a QlikView advocate can help you?

Good luck - happy to discuss further if useful..