Excel vs. Tableau vs. R

We are hard core believers that you should become the master of the tools you own. If your company relies on Microsoft, figure out how to use Excel to make amazing data visualizations. If your company invested in a site-wide license for Tableau, climb over that learning curve and master it. If you are working within a round number in your budget, like ZERO, and relying on free software such as R, become its master. Work whatchur mama gave you.

It doesn’t matter to us what software you use, so long as the visuals you create from it are awesome. We show folks how to make awesome graphs and dashboards in all three of those platforms at the Evergreen Data Visualization Academy and in our Graph Guides program.

We know from experiences developing graphs and dashboards in multiple platforms that each program has its strengths and its confusing idiosyncrasies that make it a pain in the neck. It’s funny, some people like to think “oh this software makes doing X really hard” so they’ll switch to another software where now X is easy but Y and Z are mysteriously horrid. Every program has its trade offs.

To help you know what you are getting in to, at the Academy, we give every tutorial in a ninja level rating. That’s our way of telling you how hard it is going to be to make a particular graph in the program you chose. A 1 means it is super easy to make that graph, and a 10 means it is pretty hard (but possible!).

The table below lists our ninja ratings for some of the many tutorials in the Academy. Listen, ninja ratings are subjective. And rated by those of us who have some experience at this, thinking about what it would be like for a newbie. Even with those caveats, you can sort and compare the ratings to see where things are harder and easier in each program.

TutorialExcel Tableau R CodeR
Advanced Dashboards779
Auto-Populate Office Documents3coming soon7
Back to Back384
Bar + Vertical Benchmark822
Beginner Dashboards679
Bullet Chart725
Bump Chart437
Choropleth, Tile, and Hex Maps3410
Connected Scatterplot367
Customize Colors222
Dashboard Automation9coming soon9
Dashboard with Filters749
Diverging Stacked Bar Graphs946
Dot Plot884
Dynamic Titles844
Embed Legends213
Filled Intersect Line Graph869
Gauge Chart663
Horizontal Dumbbell Dot Plot9105
Horizontal Lollipop534
Interactive Heat Maps839
Line to Area133
Lollipop Gantt764
Nested Area Graph3coming soon8
One Page Handout357
Overlapping Bar Charts547
Pull In Pictures834
Setting the Scale521
Slide Handouts32not possible?
Slope Graph575
Small Multiple Bars327
Sparklines & Indicator Dots178
Basic Bar125
Using Icons353
Vertical Dumbbell Dot Plot4104
Waffle Chart1055

When folks join the Academy, they watch a few of our orientation videos, learn my 4 step process for making graphs, and then dive in to lessons with a ninja level they are comfortable with, tackling more complex tutorials as they gain more skill. Everyone gains several ninja points with us, sometimes racking up points in different software.

In our Graph Guides program, we build you a customized path through these tutorials (and the dozen or so we’ve added since we published this post) and test you at the end – you master graphing in one year.

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