Tableau Vs Shiny: which one to choose for data visualization


Business Intelligence (BI) tools are becoming extremely popular as companies increasingly rely on data and numbers to determine their performance, analyze processes and find actionable insights, dashboards or visualization of data. These tools help businesses extract actionable insights from data to help them make informed decisions.

According to Markets and Markets, the global visualization tools market is currently valued at $ 5.9 billion. The market is is expected to grow at a CAGR of 11.6 percent to reach $ 10.2 billion by 2026.


Some of the more popular BI tools include Microsoft Power BI, Tableau, Google Data Studio, Shiny, and HubSpot. While the use of all of these tools will depend on various factors, here’s a quick comparison of Tableau and Shiny.


Founded in 2003 by Pat Hanrahan, Christian Chabot and Chris Stolte, Board is an interactive data visualization software focused on business intelligence. It is the most established and popular data visualization tool in the data analysis industry. The paid software offers functionality in a drag-and-drop workflow and is relatively easy to use.

Tableau offers two options for connecting to data. You can connect to a local file like CSV, Excel, JSON, PDF or Spatial. Or, a user can connect to a remote server. Its latest version, Tableau 201.3, was released on September 7 of this year. Check out its latest updates and releases here.


The R programming language offers a dashboard package – Shiny, which helps users create scripts to produce dashboards and host them in web applications. It combines the computational capabilities of R, as well as the interactivity of the modern web.

The Shiny in R package allows you to host standalone apps on a web page or embed them in R Markdown documents or create dashboards. Additionally, Shiny apps can be extended with CSS themes, HTML widgets, and JavaScript actions.


Tableau offers built-in connections, including Google products – Google Analytics and BigQuery. However, Tableau requires third-party tools to connect with AdWords and YouTube Analytics.

Shiny can connect to any data source using a predefined package or custom API calls.

User interface

Tableau’s easy-to-use drag-and-drop format enables a natural workflow. It is designed to be intuitive and intended for people without technical training.

On the other hand, Shiny requires knowledge of the R programming language, which can be difficult for users without previous experience or knowledge of a similar language. Moreover, to create a simple chart, the user has to write the actual code. The code is no longer than a few lines and is fairly straightforward and often negligible for developers. However, this can be difficult for non-technical users.


Tableau provides basic data manipulation functions. It allows users to rotate columns, create groups, and source filter. Moreover, it also offers basic analysis features. Tableau offers a wide range of chart types – bar charts, pie charts, line and area charts, and geographic charts, meeting all dashboard needs. However, not much can be changed in the visuals in Tableau. You can change colors, fonts, aces and titles.

See also

Shiny offers powerful tools for manipulation or discussion and analysis of data. It also offers statistical modeling and advanced forecasting packages. Its ggplot2 and packages allow you to create visualizations of just about anything imaginable. R Shiny, on the other hand, allows for a wide range of customization.

Types of visualizations available with ggplot2 | Source: Graphics gallery


Tableau licenses start at $ 70 per month when billed annually. R Shiny, on the other hand, is open source and completely free.

While both products offer good speed and efficient data processing, R Shiny is easier in terms of repeatability and scalability. In Tableau, when a dashboard is deleted or retired, it should be created from scratch. In Shiny, on the other hand, you only need to modify the script to accommodate changes in dashboards with a similar configuration. This is because Shiny is text-based, and to play it back, just rerun the script. However, to work seamlessly on Shiny, you have to learn R. R is relatively easy to learn and offers endless customization possibilities for Shiny dashboards. Therefore, while Tableau can be quick at prototyping and reporting, Shiny can be used to perform more informed analysis.

To learn more about creating interactive public dashboards and scenarios in Tableau, click here.

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