Arcadia Data vs Tableau and Other Visual Analytics Tools

Published on November 5, 2015


New to Arcadia? Considering switching over from another Visual Analytics tool, such as Tableau? In this series of posts, you will learn about the differences between Arcadia, Tableau, and other similar tools. This first entry will cover some of the basic differences found in Arcadia.

Reposition your Thinking about Arcadia versus Tableau Desktop and other Visual Analytics Tools

Along with terminology, there are a few conceptual differences that analysts who usually work with other analytical tools will need to adjust to, as follows:

  • Arcadia Instant is both Admin and Designer. In contrast to Tableau, this means Arcadia is both Tableau Desktop and Tableau Server/Online. In Arcadia Instant you act as both the overall administrator of all views and data sources as well as the designer of new visualizations. Since Arcadia Instant is only on your machine, you have all the administrative permissions. (In the Arcadia Enterprise solution, different permission levels can be set for various users.)
  • Browser Based. If you’ve used other browser-based analytic tools, you should be able to get comfortable with Arcadia quickly. If not, keep in mind that you’ll often open new tabs to do things, and committing and saving your selections is part of the processes. If you go back to a tab you were working on previously, you’ll need to refresh things before you’ll see the changes you made in other tabs.


Apps. Tableau uses the term “dashboard” while Arcadia uses the term “app” for a collection of visuals that can interact with each other. The two aren’t precisely synonymous as “app” also tends to encompass the idea of a “workbook.” Many other data analysis tools use the term app for various purposes (e.g., Alteryx, Qlik, Composable Analytics, and many more). In Arcadia, app specifically refers to a group of visualization charts or visuals collected on a single page.

Pills and Shelves. Just like Tableau, Arcadia has pills and shelves. A pill is the visual element that contains a field (dimension or metric) that you then place on a desired shelf. You can then click the pill to make changes to that field (change its display name, alter the number of decimals, etc.). Shelves are where you put pills to build your viz (e.g., a tooltip shelf, a filter shelf, etc.)

Parameters. In Arcadia, you can create a parameter by using << >> in many places. Currently this is mostly used to indicate the existence of filters in titles, but they can also be given default starting values. For example, you might have a parameter in a title such as <<Country:Canada>>. You can also use these to pass a value into a link viz (web page URL) or an extension viz (HTML). There is a lot more potential here for parameters, which have yet to be implemented in Arcadia.

Calculated Fields = Expressions. If you wish to create a new field based onoff a calculation, you can do this with expressions. There are two places where you can write an expression: in the viz itself, which will only apply and be shown on that viz as a field; or in the dataset’s attributes, which will show everywhere the dataset is used.