1. Introduction to Applications and Macros

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Applications and Macros

14 lessons , 5 exercises

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In this lesson you will be introduced to the Alteryx interface tools, learning the difference between an Analytical App and a Macro. The different types of macro are also discussed.



  • Applications are workflows that have interactive elements built into them
  • The application interface allows users to interact with and adjust the underlying workflow without directly editing tools
  • Applications have the file extension .yxmz


  • Macros are Alteryx workflows that are packaged up as a tool for use in other workflows
  • These are similar to other Alteryx tools, and can be thought of as user designed tools
  • Macros have the file extension .yxmc


When dealing with large volumes of data you invariably come across tasks that you'll want to repeat again and again. Alteryx facilitates the automation of various procedures through applications and macros. As we view the workflow tab in the configuration window we can see that work flows will typically default to a standard file type identified by the yxmd file extension.

However, there are two other general Alteryx file types, analytical apps and macros.

Analytical apps have the file extension yxmz.

These files are self contained programs designed to perform specific functions. Apps in the Alteryx environment enable you to create certain user interface graphics allowing a user to interact with an underlying work flow, like giving the user a drop down choice between sorting by customer or by product when generating a report. We previously used these file types for the Q and A portion of our exercises.

You can use an app to make your work flow more dynamic saving you from creating multiple versions of the same basic workflow to address different queries.

Another powerful use for these apps is to serve up information to other people in your organization, who may not be familiar with Alteryx. In other words, you can design an Alteryx work flow that interrogates a range of data sources and then presents a simple user interface or dashboard to display the relevant information to stakeholders in a dynamic and flexible way. Moving on, Alteryx macros have the file extension yxmc.

A macro can be thought of an an Alteryx work flow that has been packaged up as a tool that you can use in other work flows.

As such, macros are similar to the various tools available on the tools palette. One example of a macro is the cache data set tool we used in the statistical analysis course. There are four different types of macros in Alteryx, standard, batch, iterative and location optimizer.

We'll look at these in more detail later. When designing apps and macros you'll use work flows similar to those you've seen to date. However, absent macros make extensive use of tools found under the interface tab of the tools palette. These black and white tools connect to different parts of your work flow and enable you to toggle variables inside formulas, filters, date fields, et cetera.

The macro input and macro output icons can connect to each end of the work flow. This turns your work flow into a tool that you can save as a discreet function and use on future work flows. At this point, you should have a basic understanding of macros and apps. As a reminder, macros work like tools, whereas apps allow a user to interact with a work flow. In our next lesson, we'll explore the interface tools in more detail as we develop our first Alteryx app.