One of the consistent complaints we hear from larger organizations migrating to Tableau is the lack of scheduled PDF report emails. Although a standard feature of many business intelligence platforms, it’s not something easily accomplished in Tableau.
So why the hold up on PDF email support in Tableau in the first place? We suspect the lag is because the capability runs counter to many of the benefits Tableau offers. For one thing, PDFs can easily be forwarded to users outside of the organization – folks who should not have access to that data. From a security perspective PDFs are a no no.
For another thing, Tableau can limit data access using row-level security based on the logged-in user. The activity of which users are (and aren’t) viewing reports is recorded and tracked. Interactive features like viz in tooltip and data filtering are all lost with static PDF documents.
But wait…what is that we spy in the beta versions of 2019.3? The Tableau Server and Tableau Online beta release introduces a new PDF email subscription feature! Hallelujah! While this feature isn’t being as highly touted as some of the other excellent additions in 2019.3, we feel it will be the missing piece for many organizations that until now have held off adopting Tableau.
How to email a PDF from Tableau
Piggy backing on its Subscribe feature, Tableau has added PDF options in the Format section. In addition to the existing “Image” option, you can now choose to include a PDF attachment, with or without the image.
The other options in the Subscribe dialog remain unchanged. You can subscribe specific users or groups. Using This View, you can set filters and parameters for specific users and groups.
How the emailed PDFs work
The PDF is simply attached to an email and delivered on a schedule. Maps and charts render as expected. Tables of text render as text in the PDF, although copying and pasting from PDF documents isn’t supported cleanly. But that’s not a big deal since there are better ways to get data into Excel than using the PDF output.
Very long tables of text, like many older reporting systems would use, render well. Page breaks cleanly separate rows of data and column headers are repeated on each page.
For example, the 95-page test report below highlights the clean line breaks and repeated column headers.
A little love goes a long way
This small adjustment from Tableau could have big ramifications for Tableau adoption in larger organizations. Instead of being an adoption hurdle, the ability to schedule PDF report emails will now be an easy to implement feature that flows nicely with the rest of Tableau.
BUT KEEP IN MIND: Each email address you target will need a Viewer license to be subscribed to emails. Read our blog to learn more about Tableau licensing.
If you need help with Tableau, get in touch with us. From mentors who will develop your self-sufficiency to on-call expert staffing and help with enterprise wide roll outs, we can help.