Monday, 30 September 2013

Alteryx 8.5 - New Features - Tool Palette and New Tool Icons

With the release of Alteryx 8.5 and the new features it brings I have been thinking it is time for a refresh of the macros which I have previously posted to this site (along with completing a few which never quite got posted).  But first I thought a quick review of some of those new features might be in order.

The biggest change you are going to notice with Alteryx 8.5 is the new interface and horizontal layout.  When I first started using this it felt strange and that is expected.  This is a interface many of us have been using for several years and although it has evolved over those years there have been certain constants from release to release: the tool icons; vertical layout; a vertical toolbox to name a few.  I cannot remember an Alteryx release where the interface has changed so drastically.  So it is going to feel strange.

What surprised me was how quickly I adjusted to the new icons and horizontal layout.  Within a few days I was using the product as efficiently as I had been using the previous release.  But more interestingly I think that in the months since then my efficiency has improved even more than that.  And further, my use of the new interface has also evolved in that time to make use of the different features.

This post looks at some of the new Tool Palette features and the new tool icons.

Tool Categories

The first feature I really like is the tool categories now run horizontally across the screen. Like so

The old Toolbox can be seen to the right.  My favorite thing about the new Tool Palette is that on my 1920 x 1080 resolution monitor I can see all of the categories and all of the tools within those categories without the need for a scroll bar.  On the old one you always had to make a choice of being able to see all of the categories or all of the tools. (The screenshot to the right shows all of the categories.)


Search Box

But having said it is great to see all the categories something I have always struggled with is remembering which tools are in which categories.  The times I have searched in a couple of categories looking for a particular tool only to give up and go for the All Tools.  Which brings us to the next new feature: the Search Box.

If I want the Dynamic Rename tool, but can't remember its category, then I can start typing its name in the search box and the tools shown filter down as I type.  So in this example by the time I have typed the first two letters I am down to five tools and can easily pick out the one I want.


Another small but really nice feature is how easy it is to put tools in and out of your favorites category.  Each tool now has a small star in the top right corner of it's icon in the tool palette:

Clicking that small star to make it gold adds that tool to your favorites, clicking it again removes it.  This allows you to quickly build up a collection of the tools you use the most and speed up your module building.

Tool Tips

These are great for when you can't quite remember which tool you were looking for.  So back to looking for the Dynamic Rename tool above.  You know it is called dynamic something so you type dy in the box and bring up the five tools we saw above.  Now if you can't remember if it was Dynamic Rename you needed or Dynamic Replace; hovering your mouse over the tool icon in the palette (or if you are impatient like me, double clicking it) brings up a brief description of what that tool does

and you can quickly see that yes it was Dynamic Rename I was after not Dynamic Replace.

Standardization of Tool Icons

The 8.5 release completely refreshes the tool icons and for many of us long time users this was a big change and perhaps one of the most scary.  We had been working with these icons for several years and could recognize each of them by sight like old friends.  By comparison the new icons have a rather uniform look to them, each category of tools has a unique shape and color consistent across the whole category and I think for many of us there was an initial feeling of how can we tell these tools apart?

But look closely and each tool is just as unique as it was before and just as identifiable.  They are still our old friends they just have new uniforms.