How to get started with QlikView

By Barry Harmsen

Getting started with QlikViewLately I have been getting a lot of inquiries by people asking me how to get started with the Personal Edition of QlikView. It seems to be a very popular new year’s resolution this year, and one that is definitely a lot easier to keep than losing weight, getting fit or quitting smoking (hang in there everyone!).

Rather than answering everyone individually, I am trying to take a more lazy efficient approach by writing this post in which I lay out what I believe is a good path to get started with QlikView, without having to immediately draw your wallet to buy training.

Update 2012/11/23: Mike García and I have just released our book QlikView 11 for Developers, available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Packt and many other places. While it is not free, it does offer a cost-friendly, guided way to start learning QlikView.

Before we start

There are two important things to keep in mind while learning QlikView, or any other software-related skill for that matter:

  • You cannot break anything (beyond repair): if you accidentally break something it can always be fixed, do not be afraid to push the buttons and try things out.
  • Save early, save often: Even though anything you break can be fixed, it can sometimes get very time-consuming. It is a good idea to make regular backup copies of your project. You can set QlikView to automatically back up a predefined number of instances by going to Settings -> User Preferences -> Save -> Use Backup.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s learn QlikView!

Follow QlikTech’s free online trainings

QlikTech offers a series of free online trainings on their website (you will need to sign up). Here are the trainings that I think are most relevant if you want to get up to speed quickly:

  • QlikView for End Users: A very basic course for end users, but a good place to start nonetheless as it gives a good overview of how to interact with QlikView documents and reports. If this seems too basic, remember that you cannot become the karate master without first waxing the car 😉
  • Build your first QlikView document: A short course (around 30 minutes) that shows you how to import some data from Excel, apply simple transformations, present the information in QlikView and distribute the resulting document.
  • Getting Started for Designer: This is where things start to become a little more involved. This training focuses on the front-end aspects of QlikView and shows you how to create the various objects in a QlikView document (charts, listboxes, sheets, etc.) and how to lay them out properly.
  • Getting Started for Developers: This course focuses on the back-end aspects of QlikView and shows you how to load data from various sources (databases, XML, etc.) and how to overcome common data modeling problems.

After you have completed these courses, it is time for the next step.

Start solving your problem

Now that you have acquired some basic QlikView skills, it is time to apply them to an actual problem that you want to solve. I firmly believe that having an itch to scratch is the best way to learn QlikView, it ensures that you are more engaged and motivated to see things through than if you were working on a fictional case.

A good problem is one that is moderately challenging. Too easy and you will not learn anything, too hard and you may not finish it. I suggest to choose a work-related problem that is high-impact and has a moderate-to-high feasibility, like a reporting job that is taking you X hours each week, where X is obviously a big number. This way, when you succeed, you have something to show for it and have immediately freed up time to continue further improving your skills.

If you cannot think of a problem to fix in your professional environment, you could consider something from your personal life. Subjects such as personal finance, energy consumption or exercise schedules can all be excellent candidates for your first real QlikView document. See for example my Energy Dashboard, bonus points if you can tell when we had an addition to the family.

For those that are either itch-less or just very uncreative, the QlikView Tutorial that QlikTech offers is a passable surrogate for solving an actual problem.

Resist the urge to manually modify your data outside of QlikView

When learning QlikView, you invariably hit the steep part of the learning curve and are not sure how to perform certain data transformations. When this happens, one of the tendencies I have regularly noticed is for people to circumvent the immediate issue by reverting back to their old habit of manually modifying data, usually in Excel, and then loading the modified data into QlikView.

Unless your project is a one-off, the entire process of transforming your data outside of QlikView is automated or you are on a very strict deadline you should resist the urge to modify your data outside of QlikView. One of QlikView’s benefits is that it allows you to build a document once and simply refresh the data. Do you really want to make all those manual modifications each time you need to refresh your document?

Instead of choosing the easy (effective yet inefficient) way, invest a little time in utilizing the available reference materials and online resources to solve your problem. The investment in learning to avoid manual data manipulation is one that will pay itself back many-fold.

Utilize the available reference materials and online resources

Below I have listed some of the available reference materials and online resources that can help you while you are learning QlikView.

  • QlikView Help: The help file in QlikView is the first place to look when you are stuck. It can be found under the Help menu or can be opened by pressing F1. When you select an object (for example a chart or listbox) or highlight a word in the script (for example “load” or “set”) and press F1, QlikView automatically opens the corresponding help-topic.
  • The QlikView Reference Manual: The QlikView Reference Manual is an extensive (1400+ pages) reference manual that covers every aspect of QlikView, from installation to document design and data loading. It is located in the Documentation folder of your QlikView installation, usually C:\Program Files\QlikView\Documentation.
  • QlikCommunity: As a new user, one of the first online resources that you should consult is the QlikCommunity, QlikView’s global online community. You can use the same ID that you used for the online courses. Of special interest are the following resources:
    • Forum: The forum is very active, it is a great place for users of all experience levels to ask questions and get answers.
    • Share QlikViews: A place where you can share QlikView’s and look at examples made by other users.
    • QlikView Wiki: A wiki with QlikView How-To’s, usually for subjects that are a little more advanced.
  • QlikView LinkedIn groups: LinkedIn offers some excellent groups to ask questions and connect with other (local) QlikView professionals, of special interest are:
  • QlikView blogs: Though it has not always been that way, the QlikView blogosphere (for lack of a better word) has really blossomed after the release of QlikView 10. QlikView blogs can be a valuable source of information for a new user, as many of them have in-depth tutorials covering basic subjects for novice users.  You can find (what I think is) a list of the best QlikView blogs under the QlikView Blogroll header in the right-hand column on this page.

The more you do it, the easier it gets

After you have completed the online courses, build your first real QlikView document and managed to utilize the various reference materials and online resources to overcome problems encountered along the way you are well on your way to mastering QlikView. Now you can use the skills you have learned to solve new issues and build even better applications, moving up the learning curve with each iteration. As with any skill, the more you do it, the easier it gets!

Update 2012/06/04: QlikTech redesigned their site in 2011, breaking most links in this post. The trainings mentioned can be found here: