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9. Messages Window
In this lesson, you will learn how to interpret feedback messages from Alteryx regarding your data and workflow.
The Messages window is broken into 5 categories
- Errors inform users when a tool is not configured correctly
- Conversion Errors inform users when data exceeds files limits or cannot be converted correctly
- Warnings will occur in a variety of circumstances, such as when a field is missing or computer processing power is low
- Messages provide general feedback on the workflow
- Files displays all files linked to, in, or from the workflow
- In previous lessons, we've learned how to prepare, filter, and summarize our data for further analysis.
We'll take a quick break from data preparation to answer a question that may've been going through your head. What happens if I don't assign my data correctly? If data is incorrectly assigned, it can often be impossible to proceed further. Alteryx helps to prevent such errors from occurring by providing a Messages section in the Results window. Being aware of these messages and knowing how to interpret them is fundamental to mastering the application. For this example, we're going to input the UNESCO World Heritage site's data set. We'll bring a new Input Data icon onto the canvas and connect our data set.
On the left side of the Results window, there are two icons. To this point, we focused on the one that looks like an arrow or the Output icon. Today, we'll look at the three line icon above which references messages.
Selecting this icon will bring up messages broken into five categories, Errors, Conversion Errors, Warning, Messages, and Files.
We'll quickly run through each of these message categories. Errors informs you when a specific tool is not configured correctly. Conversion Errors informs you when data exceeds field limits, for example, too many characters or that certain data cannot be converted. A typical example would be a string character in a number field such as a currency symbol. Next, you'll get a warning message if a field is missing. For example, if you deselect a field that is used by a tool later in the workflow. You will also get a warning message if there's an issue with your computer's resources such as memory. The messages section provides feedback on your workflow. For example, that is concluded running.
The files icon shows you all files being linked to, in, or from your workflow.
Finally, the all button at the end displays all messages in one window. To demonstrate a typical error, we'll run the workflow.
You'll see that the workflow returns 55 conversion errors. Certain fields from the UNESCO World Heritage site data are character heavy. If we look at the messages, we can see that fields are being truncated.
This is to say, characters that overflow our maximum field length are being chopped off. It could be that these fields are not relevant for our analysis but, in most cases, we'll want to retain this data. We'll need to modify the Alteryx settings so that these extra long fields do not become truncated. As mentioned in the lesson on importing data, this change needs to be made from the input data icon.
We'll navigate to the input data icon, go to the configuration window, and scroll down to field length.
The maximum number of characters for a string field is 8,192 so let's set the field length at 5,000 and run the workflow again.
You'll see that the conversion error messages have now disappeared. If we click on the right arrow icon in the results window, we can see some of the output from our data displayed. Notice that there are red flags being displayed on our extra long fields.
If we hover the mouse over these red flags, we see the message This cell has truncated characters.
If you expand the field to display more of the characters, you can see the full sentence is not reflected.
This is because Alteryx will abbreviate extra long fields in the results window. However, we have no conversion errors.
So, the data's there, it's just not being displayed for practical reasons. We can check this very easily. We'll navigate to the In/Out tab, bring a browse icon onto the canvas, connect it to our workflow, and run the workflow again.
We can now use the Cell Viewer to see the actual contents of any specific cell.
In the Browse window, we'll select one of the extra long cells and click Cell Viewer.
A new window opens up with a field name, record number, and cell contents.
If we scroll to the right, we can see that this cell contains the entire string of text. Paying attention to warning messages from the results window is an important step in good analysis. Sometimes, the warning will be for data that we don't wish to interrogate on this occasion and so the data can be deselected using the select icon. However, if there's an issue with relevant data, we'll need to solve the problem before proceeding. We'll end here and in the next lesson, we'll go over some best practices based on the material we've covered so far.