Spotfire in the Spotlight
The importance of data analysis is growing and growing. As a result, I find it hard to believe that there is absolutely no need for data analysis tools in your career lion life. Even your own finances can be in need of some heavy data analysis. Honestly, I am way too afraid to do data analysis on my own finances. Afraid being somewhat of an understatement, also writing this blog after a fulfilling after-work shopping spree in Paris. Nevertheless, I would like to share with you my personal experience with data analysis. Tips and tricks with Spotfire in particular.. In my profession, data analysis is part of my day to day life. I have used it to develop a dashboard with my colleagues as well as small data analyses.
Why you need this
I think I am Spotfire’s number one fan. The ultimate fan girl, cheerleading on the sidelines as well as on the field (referring to the office here obviously). No, this article is not sponsored. I wish that were true, it would be nice if the damage of my shopping spree had already been mitigated. So, what is this Spotfire hype about? The great thing about Spotfire is that it allows you to analyse MILLIONS of rows. Where most tools like Excel and Access stop, Spotfire is still in the race. With Spotfire you can load many different types of data files or setup database connections. After this, Spotfire offers an endless amount of options to visualize your data. Certainly outnumbering the visualization possibilities in Excel. Wait, it gets even better. Even after you set up your visualizations, you can easily change the visualization and make visualizations based on selections of data in tables and/or other visualizations. It also possible to mark visualizations by other visualizations and so on. Other features that you may find interesting are the ability to collaborate with others in a Spotfire file and location data analysis possibilities.
Tips and Tricks
Tips and tricks based on my experience with Spotfire:
- Use markings to ease data analysis,
- Make use of calculated columns if necessary, but keep it to a minimum as they may slow down your dashboard,
- You can use the text areas to add controls and buttons to add scripts that allow you to unmark or reset the zoom of all of your visualisations,
- These text areas also allow for property controls that allow you to make a “hierarchy” dynamic that you can use in your visualisation such as the x- or y-axis,
- Use formulas in your visualisation specifying your axes rather than adding calculated columns wherever you can,
- Use keys to link data between tables if this is absolutely necessary by creating with a calculated column concatenating different columns and matching a relation on these keys,
- It is possible to add descriptions to every visualisation that can easily be hidden, and
- Use the marker/line/color by options to enhance data analysis and find patterns.
To balance everything out, here are some disadvantages compared to other data analysis tools like Excel that by no means outweigh the benefits:
- It may take some time to load your data before you can use your Spotfire file on your computer (note, that once it is loaded Spotfire allows you to effortlessly work with big datasets contrary to for instance Excel),
- Managing relations between different tables is cumbersome and can easily lead to mistakes (it is better to keep data in one table or link on key’s), and
- Calculating columns is a bit more work than in Excel (however, note that one’s you’ve created a calculated column it is also directly applied if you refresh/replace your data file).
- Bye bye PIVOT tables! Try out Spotfire by using this link to the trial version. I have a licensed version, but the trial version does not really have an end date. The only difference with the licensed version I have experienced is the possibility to save files to a server that is accessible to others that are not yet equipped.
Hopefully, this article has enthused you to start using Spotfire or described new useful ways for you to apply it. Either way, I hope you will share your experiences, tips, and tricks with Spotfire or data analysis in general in the comment section below.