Tableau Licensing: Creator, Explorer & Viewer Explained

Tableau licensing can be confusing. It is difficult to figure out what exactly users can and cannot do with each license type. This blog will cover each Tableau licensing type so you can make the best decision for your company and your budget.

The most fully featured license is Tableau Creator. The problem is the cost. A Tableau Creator license is two times the cost of Tableau Explorer and six times the cost of Tableau Viewer. Is it worth the extra money? Or, would Tableau Explorer or Tableau Viewer be a more cost-effective choice?  We’ll take you through the details for what each license offers and how it aligns to how users create, explore and view data with Tableau.

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What you get with the Tableau Creator license

Below we list the four important features that come with Tableau Creator that may make it worth the expense.

  1. Create and Publish Data Sources. Bottom line, people who need to create and publish data sources need a Tableau Creator license. In fact, every Tableau deployment will require at least one of these license types. Without Tableau Creator users can only create workbooks using previously published data sources.
    The above is true for Tableau Online and Tableau Server users as well.
  2. Tableau Desktop. Tableau Creator is the only license that comes with Tableau Desktop. Tableau Desktop is Tableau’s client-based report development tool. Although many of Tableau Desktop’s report authoring capabilities are now offered in the web-based Tableau Server and Tableau Online, Tableau Desktop still provides more options when it comes to formatting, mapping, and dashboard and data source creation.
  3. Tableau Prep Builder. Tableau Prep Builder is an ETL (extract, transform and load) tool used to create Tableau data sources. Tableau Prep Builder is a graphical tool used to prepare data for Tableau. You only get access to Tableau Prep Builder if you have a Tableau Creator license. This tool has some great features you can use to combine, clean and merge data from a myriad of sources into one “Tableau friendly” data source. Cleaning/merging steps can then be combined into fully documented repeatable flows and run as needed.

Tableau Prep: A Visualization’s BFF (see on-demand webinar)

: Tableau Creator license does not come with Tableau Prep Conductor, the Tableau Sever tool used to schedule Tableau Prep flows. Tableau Prep Conductor requires an additional Data Management add on license. Below is a screenshot of Tableau Prep Builder. To learn more see our on-demand webinar.

  1. Dashboard Starters. Dashboard Starters are visualization templates (complete with demo data) for Salesforce, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Marketo, Eloqua and ServiceNow. These workbooks can be easily modified to connect to your own data. Dashboard Starters are a great way to “jumpstart” analysis of the data behind these complex applications. Tableau Dashboard Starters look great and have built-in calculated fields that can be difficult to build from scratch. Dashboard Starters are available in Tableau Online (hosted SAAS version of Tableau Server) and as Tableau Desktop packaged workbooks (twbx) which you can download.

Example of a Dashboard Starter for Salesforce:

Tableau Creator in Tableau Server and Tableau online environments

Tableau Creator license comes with a web-based license that can be used with Tableau Server. In web-based Tableau Server, users are assigned site roles: Creator, Explorer, Viewer, Site Administrator Creator etc. A user’s site role determines what the user has permissions to do. For users who only need to pull up reports and do minor modifications, an Explorer site role may suffice. But, if users want to create a data source, they need a Creator site role and a Tableau Creator license.

NOTE: For details of what can be done using web-based Tableau Server and Tableau Online verses Tableau Desktop read a comparison on the Tableau website.

What you get with the Tableau Explorer license

Tableau Explorer is web-based only. Users are given a logon to Tableau Server (on-prem or public cloud-based) or Tableau Online (Tableau Online is the fully hosted (SaaS) version of Tableau Server). Users with the Tableau Explorer licenses don’t have access to Tableau Prep, Tableau Desktop or Dashboard Starters. These users can create a new workbook using data sources published to Tableau Server. With the Tableau Explorer license, you can also create subscriptions to share your Tableau dashboards and worksheets via email on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

NOTE: The Tableau Online Explorer license is a bit more expensive than the Tableau Server Explorer license version.

What you get with a Tableau Viewer license

A Tableau Viewer license only provides access to workbooks, dashboards and worksheets that are published on Tableau Server and Tableau Online. Users can change values in filters (i.e. if you have a date filter or drop down for location) but they can’t modify or create dashboards or worksheets.

NOTE: Tableau Viewer license has a minimum requirement of 100 users.

Tableau licensing in a nutshell

If you want to be able to create new data sources, you can use Tableau Prep Builder or Tableau Desktop. But remember, Tableau Desktop only comes with the Tableau Creator license. Tableau Creator may seem expensive, but in reality it is the same price as the pre-2018 Tableau Desktop license. If you only need to access previously published data sources and do minor modifications of existing workbooks, go with the Tableau Explorer license. And if users only need to view Tableau content and change filters, the Tableau Viewer license is for you (as long as you meet the 100-person minimum). All-in-all, Tableau has made excellent additions to an already great set of tools and its licensing is now aligned with how users create, explore and view data with Tableau.

Learn Tableau. Expert instructors. Corporate training & self-paced.

At Senturus, our Tableau consulting services help clients successfully transition to a nimble, large-scale application of Tableau that allows them to securely share data. We offer an extensive array of Tableau training courses—both self-paced and instructor led—to take you across the finish line and maximize your ROI.

All the nitty-gritty details

*See this comparison chart with footnotes on the Tableau website.

Tableau Prep: A Visualization’s BFF (see on-demand webinar)

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