The First Two Steps of a New Project

June 19, 2017

The First Two Steps of a New Project

By Dan Howell  June 19, 2017

When starting a new project, it is helpful to follow two tips to make it easier to:

  • See only what you need to see, eliminating a lot of horizontal scrolling
  • Isolate particular rows by row number to spot check rows in a large dataset
  • Return to the original sort order

When starting a new project – especially when working with very wide data or very long data – add these two steps to the beginning of your project. As you are building your steps, modify them as needed. Once you are done building out your project, simply remove or mute them if they are not needed.

Assume you have some data that looks like this:

Follow these steps when starting a new project:

  1.  Click on the Columns icon in the left-hand Tools bar
  2.  Remove any columns that you don’t need to see.
    Don’t worry – this isn’t a permanent decision, in fact, it is very much a temporary measure to make it easier on you and reduce how much horizontal scrolling you have to do.
    Notice in this image, we have hidden 491 out of 501 columns. That’s going to make it much easier to work with the 10 columns needed to build the logic (i.e. compute dates based on “days to birth” “days to death” days to last visit” etc). 

The second step – not necessarily related to the previous step – is to add an Auto Number column.

  1. Click on the Auto # icon in the left-hand Tools menu.

  1. Give the column a meaningful name like “rownum” or “OriginalSortOrder”
    (you are the only one that will see it, so name it what makes sense to you)
  2.  As you are working, you might change your Edit Columns step, or mute it temporarily by clicking on the eyeball.
  3. You might use the origSortOrder column if you need to get back to your original row order or isolate some rows for spot-checking. Sometimes it’s handy to have this at your fingertips. It is also helpful if you want to zoom in on particular set of rows by number in a dataset with many rows.
  4. Once you have completed creating all the steps in the project, either mute these two first steps, or remove them from the project entirely.
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