Tableau vs Google Data Studio

Tableau vs Google Data Studio

Tableau vs Google Data Studio. Wondering what the differences are? Look no further. Here you will find a list of 27 actual features that make a huge difference

Tableau vs Google Data Studio

Tableau and Google are two software vendors that each offer an easy to use, drag and drop environment for data visualization. Since Google Data Studio is new (officially still in beta) to the industry, I wanted to take a look at how it compares to Tableau and share my findings, given that I've been using both of these tools. I started using Google Data Studio almost as soon as it was released in May 2016, and I've been an active user of Tableau for the past two years.

Disclaimer: This is an independent review. The author does not receive any compensation from either of the software vendors mentioned in this article.

Core Differences

1. Web-based tool vs desktop tool

Tableau is primarily a desktop application. It does offer sharing and viewing capabilities, through Tableau Online, Tableau Server and Tableau Public. However, only the desktop application has full functionality. Most of the work is done on the desktop, and only then published to one or more of the above destinations.

Data Studio 360 is a web-based tool; it is only available via the browser. This brings up the issue of its collaboration and sharing capabilities (which we will discuss later). The quality of your internet connection may affect your experience with the tool.

2. Availability

Tableau Desktop is available in most countries. In January 2016, Tableau claimed to have more than 46,000 customers, in more than 150 countries.

Data Studio is available in over 180 countries as of Match 7, 2017.

3. Price

Tableau Public is a limited version of Tableau and is available for free. A Tableau Desktop license starts at $35.00/month for Personal Edition and $70/month for Professional Edition.

Data Studio is free. Previously, users were able to create only 5 free reports, but Google has removed this limitation.

Data Connectors and Data Manipulation

1. Connectors

Connectors are the biggest differentiator. Tableau connects to various data sources, including files, databases, and Google’s products such as Google Analytics, Google BigQuery, Google Cloud SQL and Google Sheets. It does not offer access to other Google’s products, such as AdWords, Attribution, or YouTube Analytics, but you can get an access to these via third party tools.

Data Studio 360 offers connectivity to Google’s data sources that include AdWords API, Attribution 360, BigQuery, DoubleClick Campaign Manager, Google Analytics, Google Sheets, and YouTube Analytics. It has also released a connector to the MySQL database. Obviously, the list of Data Studio’s native connectors is quite limited – so you are looking at getting your data into Google Sheets, Google BigQuery, or Cloud SQL first.

2. Working with data at source

Tableau offers various ways to prepare data for visualization. For example, you can hide columns, create groups of columns, split columns, pivot columns, and apply filters at source.

Data Studio 360 does not offer data preparation at the moment.

3. Joining data sources

Tableau has data-joining capabilities that include inner, left, right, and full outer joins. It is possible to join multiple data sources and use the resulting data in Tableau visualizations.

Data Studio does not provide data joining capabilities. Datasets have to be built outside Data Studio and then brought in for visualization.

4. Data blending

Data blending is a method of combining data sources that is typically used when the datasets cannot be joined (because of differing granularity of the data). For example, you can combine marketing campaign data with product sales data, and blend it by date.

Tableau supports data blending. Data Studio does not support data blending.

5. Using multiple data sources in a single dashboard or report

Sometimes you don't want to join or blend data – all you want is a single dashboard that includes charts that come from very different data sources. For example, you may want to include revenue, cost, sales, and warehouse stocks in one dashboard.

In Tableau, you can connect to multiple data sources, create sheets with visualizations, and then add multiple sheets to a single dashboard.

Data Studio also provides the functionality to add multiple data sources to a single report. Charts can then be created using these data sources.

6. Data source management

Tableau allows users to connect to and use multiple data sources in visualizations. However, if these are connected to the workbook, they can be difficult to manage. For example, if multiple data sources are added to a data visualization, it is hard to tell which ones are being used, and which aren’t.

Data Studio provides a data source management view that shows not only which data sources are included in the view, but also, those which aren’t used.

Working with Data and Visualizations

1. Visualization types

Tableau offers the following standard (drag and drop) visualizations:

  • tables,

  • heat maps,

  • highlighted tables,

  • maps and filled maps,

  • pie charts,

  • horizontal/vertical bars,

  • stacked bars,

  • side-by-side bars,

  • circle view,

  • side-by-side circles,

  • line charts,

  • discrete line charts,

  • dual axis lines,

  • area charts,

  • discrete area charts,

  • combination charts,

  • scatter plots,

  • histograms,

  • box-and-whisker plots,

  • Gantt charts,

  • bullet graphs,

  • packed bubble charts.

It is also possible to create custom visualizations in Tableau, such as sankey diagrams, sunburst charts, etc.

Data Studio 360 offers:

  • time series charts,

  • bar charts,

  • pie charts,

  • tables,

  • maps,

  • scorecards,

  • scatter plots,

  • bullet charts,

  • area charts.

It is possible to modify existing data visualization types to some extent, such as making a pie chart look like a doughnut, but Google Data Studio is not as flexible as Tableau.

2. Calculations

Both tools offer the standard aggregation functions, such as average, count, maximum, minimum, sum, and count distinct.

Data Studio offers 53 functions, including aggregations, arithmetic, date, geo, text and other functions.

Tableau offers number, text, date, type conversion, logical, aggregate, user, and other functions, as well as table calculations. In total, Tableau offers over 150 functions.

3. Pages

Tableau offers a feature called Pages. For example, if you add a Date field to Pages, it will break up the data by date and allow you to browse through each day individually. It is even possible to turn on the loop so that no clicking is necessary.

Data Studio 360 does not have this feature.

4. Story

Tableau offers a Story type of dashboard that allows you to create a presentation to guide users through the ‘story’ in the data.

Data Studio does not have a similar feature.

5. Filters

Data Studio and Tableau both offer filters. It is possible to filter data for each visualization individually, or to add a filter to the report to allow the end user to drill down into the data, if they wish to do so.

Tableau allows users to filter the entire dashboard by clicking on an individual data point. Data Studio does not offer this feature.

6. Drag and drop analytics

Tableau provides drag and drop analytics features, such as reference lines, bands, boxes, and also modelling and summarizations. Google Data Studio doesn't offer any drag and drop analytics features for application to an existing chart.

7. Selecting metrics and dimensions

Metrics and dimensions in Tableau are selected through drag and drop or via right-clicking and selecting 'Add to sheet'.

Data Studio automatically selects the dimensions and metrics, based on the type of chart the user picks on the toolbar. Sometimes, this feature is helpful; more frequently it actually limits you in what kind of chart you can use with what kinds of dimensions and metrics. Being unconventional isn't always an option in Data Studio.


1. Sharing options

Tableau has done an impressive job in empowering the user to share visualizations. A user can share a workbook by publishing to Tableau Public Gallery, Tableau Server, or Tableau Online. It is also possible to save a Tableau visualization as an image or PDF. However, it does not provide much in the way of collaborative work and collaborative editing of the workbook while still in development.

Data Studio borrows its sharing capabilities from Google Drive, meaning you can share a report or a data source using Google Drive. It can be viewed in the browser by people who you share it with, or by anybody who has a link. It is also possible to work on the data visualization collaboratively while it is still under development. Users can access and edit the same report in real time.

2. Access control

Tableau Online and Tableau Server allow you to set content permissions. Tableau's access control options are geared toward enterprise customers. It is possible to create custom rules to assign access, and you can assign permissions at the level of project, workbook, or data source. Levels of access include: unlicensed, viewer, interactor, publisher, and administrator (site or server). It is also possible to make workbooks public on the web by publishing to Tableau Public.

Similar to Google Drive, Data Studio offers multiple levels of access: viewer, editor, and owner. It is possible to grant access to a specific report or to a folder that contains multiple reports. You can share your reports by manually adding a collaborator's email address, or via a link, and with individual collaborators or a group of collaborators. It is also possible to make the report public on the web.

3. Security

Tableau offers user authentication and data security. Tableau also allows publishers to set up user filters that control what data users can see in a published view, based on their access control.

Data Studio uses Google's authentication protocol and data security.

4. Mobile and Tablet access to data

Tableau provides a mobile app that allows users to view and edit dashboards. Tableau Online also lets your users view and edit dashboards via the browser.

Data Studio reports can be viewed on any device that has a browser.

Support and documentation

1. Documentation and tutorials

Both tools are fairly easy to grasp and start working with. Tableau has an extensive documentation and a long list of useful tutorials. Data Studio offers some documentation, and a list of 6 tutorials is currently available on their support website.

2. Forums and community

Tableau's user community has grown tremendously since its initial release. Tableau forums are very active, and it is possible to get answers for questions posted on them very quickly.

Google Data Studio has a Google+ community page; however, as a new product, it doesn't have a lot of followers yet.

Visualization design

1. Dashboard layout

Tableau allows two types of layout on a dashboard: tiled layout and floating layout. Floating layout allows you to specify the exact position and location of an object (chart). Tiled layout lets you arrange the dashboard in a grid. Both types are useful; however, sometimes it can be challenging to create the exact look and feel of the dashboard.

Data Studio allows you to drag and drop charts onto the grid and size them by dragging and dropping. This approach feels more natural and enjoyable for the user.

2. Device Preview

Tableau offers a Device Preview feature, that lets the user customize how the dashboard will look on various devices, including mobiles and Tablets. It is possible to set it to automatically adjust to the device screen size. It is also possible to manually set how the dashboard will look across devices.

Google Data Studio has responsive design and adjusts automatically. It isn't possible to manually set how the dashboard will look across devices.

3. Themes

Tableau provides 3 workbook themes: default, modern and classic. Google Data Studio provides 2 themes: simple and simple dark.

4. Fonts

Tableau provides 150+ fonts to choose from. Google Data Studio offers 28 fonts.

5. Colors and color charts

Tableau has several color palettes for users to pick from. Users also can pick colors themselves using the color picker or sliders.

Data Studio has only one standard color palette, though it is also possible to select a color using the color picker or a color code.

Overall conclusion

In summary, while Tableau is seen to offer better data visualization solutions in this comparison, Google has made impressive advances in reporting, to narrow the gap. Tableau is the more complete and powerful tool for visual data discovery and visualization; while Data Studio presents itself as a good solution for building beautiful reports.

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