Troubleshooting

TableBuilder

Getting access, troubleshooting tables, data and system performance

Released
19/11/2021

Access

How do I access TableBuilder

Register in the ABS Registration Centre to access datasets in TableBuilder.

  • You automatically get access to basic datasets (free) by registering
  • If you register with your organisation email address, and your organisation is already registered, you also automatically get access to Census TableBuilder Pro (free) and any other datasets your organisation has subscribed to (paid)

How much does TableBuilder cost

  • Basic datasets are free, including Census TableBuilder Basic and Businesses in Australia
  • To access Census TableBuilder Pro (free) you need to join your organisation in the Registration Centre - contact microdata.access@abs.gov.au if you are not automatically joined to your organisation when you register
  • Other datasets can be accessed by purchasing a subscription

I have forgotten my password/user ID

Select the forgotten password or user ID link on the TableBuilder log in page and follow the prompts.

If you have forgotten which email you registered with or your secret question and answer, contact microdata.access@abs.gov.au.

I cannot log in with my email address

TableBuilder user ID is a number. If you have forgotten your user ID, click on forgotten user ID from the TableBuilder log in page.

How do I update my personal details

Log into the Registration Centre using the same user ID and password that you use for TableBuilder.

You can update:

  • your address
  • phone number
  • secret question/answer

You can also see which organisation you are a member of and see all the data series that you have access to.

How do I update my email address

Your email address must match your organisation, and this can only be updated by an ABS staff member.

If you have changed your email address because you have changed organisations, ABS will remove you from your old organisation and add to your new organisation. This will give you access to your new organisation's subscribed paid products.

Using your new email account, email microdata.access@abs.gov.au with:

  • your name
  • the names of your former and current organisations
  • your old email address
  • your user ID number

If you have changed your email address because you have changed your name, email microdata.access@abs.gov.au using your new email account with:

  • your former and current names
  • the name of your organisation
  • your user ID number

Can I share my log in details with colleagues or friends so they can access ABS registered products

No, you must not share your password with anyone

  • Each user needs to register individually in their own name
  • You have agreed to Conditions of use that you will not share your access credentials with any other person, including other people in your organisation
  • Additional organisation users can access your organisation's paid subscriptions for free
  • If users or organisations are found to have breached the conditions of use, access may be revoked

I cannot see the dataset I want to use when I log into TableBuilder

  • Your organisation may not have subscribed to the data series you are trying to access. Check which datasets your organisation has access to in Registration Centre
  • Subscribe to additional data series in How to access

Tables

Why do I have to queue my table and why are graphs, maps and quantiles no longer available

The ABS regularly reviews its security position in an ever-evolving cyber environment to ensure the best safeguards are in place for the data we hold. In our latest review, we identified an update needed to provide greater data protection.
Some changes have been made to the way that table data is retrieved. This has been necessary to ensure the security and privacy of data. You will still be able to access the same data as before and all your saved tables and custom groups will still be available.

In the updated version of TableBuilder, when you create a table, you submit your table to the queue and it will be populated with data and returned to you for download, rather than having it returned on screen. This is similar to the previous process used to generate large tables. This process is likely to take less than a minute for small tables, several minutes for large tables and an hour or longer for very large tables. 

As data is returned in downloads rather than on screen, the following functions are no longer available:

  • quantiles
  • graphs
  • maps

Why did my table download as a CSV

The default download format is CSV, you can choose your preferred download format in the top right corner before you queue your table. 

If you queue a table in XLSX format and then open the table outline using the view link from the Saved and queued tables view the default format will be set to CSV. You can change the format before you re-queue the table. 

What are the largest tables I can create in TableBuilder

Tables can be up to 40 million cells, including totals and wafers. Very large tables may take several hours to populate depending on the size of the table and other tables in the queue.

  • Excel 2007 has a limit of 16,384 columns x 65,000 rows and less than 100,000 cells.
  • use CSV to download larger tables

How can I reduce the size of a large table

Options to reduce the size of your table include:

  • Remove categories that you may not be interested in, such as Not applicable categories.
  • Turn off totals - this does not change the size of your large table but can improve the time it takes to populate the table. However if you are planning to use totals, you should use the totals generated within TableBuilder rather than summing the interior cells. See also Totals on the Confidentiality page.
  • Group categories together that you want to include but do not need to view separately, by creating a Custom data group.

How can I display my table more effectively

There are a number of options to improve your displayed table layout. These do not affect your total cell count for Large table mode.

  • Hide totals, by clicking on the three dots menu beside each variable within your row headings and unticking Total.
  • Select Zero suppression for rows and/or columns in the Options menu. This hides rows or columns where all cells are zeros. If you are using wafers, then this option hides rows or columns where all cells are zeros across all wafers, so rows or columns of zeros may appear in some wafers.

I can't add mesh blocks to my table

TableBuilder has a limit of adding 60,000 categories from any one variable to a table. As there are more than 60,000 mesh blocks in each of Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland you need to select fewer geographic categories when using mesh blocks. If you have already ticked too many mesh blocks, click untick all to start again.

You are also unable to add mesh blocks to tables in combination with certain variables, see Confidentiality for more information.

Why do I have dashes in my table

A table outline preview is available within TableBuilder. To see the data for your table, queue and download your table.

Can I upload my table back into TableBuilder

No, you can only save tables in TableBuilder and then open them in a later session.

You can share and upload custom data variables that you have created either inside or outside TableBuilder.

After editing or sharing a custom group, upload is not working

There are a number of errors that can occur when Uploading custom data including:

  • leading zeros have been dropped when editing in Excel
  • reusing an existing custom data group name
  • not having access to the right dataset, or not having that dataset open when uploading
  • errors in the header row
  • loading a file type other than CSV
  • file is too large (greater than 20MB)

My table with nested variables on a row, column or wafer is causing problems

Nested variables (multiple variables nested on one row, column or wafer) can cause issues for some TableBuilder functions. Nesting up to 10 variables is possible for some variables but may cause performance issues. Nesting fewer variables is recommended, particularly for large classifications

Data

Which geographic areas and variables are available in TableBuilder

Data item lists for each dataset available in TableBuilder datasets are available via TableBuilder topics and Available microdata.

In TableBuilder in the Table view, the i links next to each dataset name link to the associated web information and data item list.

Is Census data before 2006 available in TableBuilder

No. TableBuilder includes Census data from 2006 onwards. See Historical Census Data for earlier data.

Can I create my own variables and classifications to use in a table

  • Multiple variables cannot be combined to create a new variable. For example, Age and Sex cannot be merged to create a single variable. However, filters can be used to display certain categories only. For example, Sex=Male and Age=17 can be added as filters to a table so that the data in a table applies only to male 17 year olds. See Add and remove a filter.
  • You can create a new category by collapsing an existing variable categories. For example, Age categories in single years can be collapsed to create a new category for 0-17 year olds. See Custom data.
  • You can also upload your own variable classifications. New classifications must use existing variable categories within TableBuilder. For example, a new geographic classification that has been constructed using mesh blocks can be uploaded to TableBuilder. See Custom data.

Why do I have only zeroes in my downloaded table

There are several reasons this may happen:

  • Sparsity settings may prevent your table from displaying data. Some datasets have an additional quality measure applied to tables with too many very small cells. This measure is particularly relevant to survey datasets and has not been applied to Census TableBuilder datasets. Very small cells of a table using survey data may not be reliable, as not enough records have been selected in the sample to accurately estimate the population for that combination of characteristics. A sparsity error appears below the table where this has occurred.
  • The ABS sometimes releases 'shell tables' in advance of releasing a dataset, to allow you to become familiar with the variables and structure of the dataset and to set up and save tables for future use. If your table includes variables that have not been released yet in the dataset you are using, it shows zeros.
  • There may be an outage with the TableBuilder system. If the issue is not caused by sparsity or shell tables, report the issue by emailing microdata.access@abs.gov.au.

How does perturbation affect my results

Perturbation is applied across all non-zero cells in a table, including the totals cells. Perturbation may change the true cell value by either increasing or decreasing the value by a small amount. This introduces almost no bias. However, small cells may change by a large amount in proportion to the true value, and therefore should not be relied upon. Other factors also affect the reliability of small cells, such as sampling error, respondent errors and processing errors. 

Why don't the interior cells in my table add up to the totals displayed

All non-zero cells in tables are subject to perturbation, a small adjustment made to cell values, including totals, to protect the confidentiality of the data. In TableBuilder, totals are not calculated by summing the interior values of the table. Instead, more accurate totals are provided by calculating the true total, and then perturbing this value.

Why is there sometimes a large difference between the sum of the interior cells and totals displayed

Perturbation makes small changes to all estimates including both the interior cells of the table and the totals. If you attempt to reconstruct a total on the basis of the perturbed interior cells, you are adding together the small changes made to each cell which may result in a large change relative to the perturbed total. It is recommended that totals are constructed in TableBuilder, rather than by summing the interior cells from an exported table.

Can I create medians and means in TableBuilder

Summation options for continuous variables, such as sums, medians and means can be created in TableBuilder for continuous variables. Some datasets, such as Census TableBuilder, contain only categorical variables. To create medians and means for categorical variables, download the data into a spreadsheet to generate these formulas.

Performance

TableBuilder is timing out

TableBuilder times out when no action has been taken for 30 minutes. Log in again using your user ID and password.

When I submit a table to queue, it takes a long time to return

The time it takes for the system to process and return your table depends on size of your table and the number of other tables in the queue.

  • Small tables normally complete within a few seconds or a minute.
  • Larger tables may take several minutes.
  • Very large tables may take several hours.

Check the Saved and queued tables screen (via the three dots menu at the top right) to see if your table has finished processing.

Click refresh on your browser to update the queue status. 

If your large table has still not returned after 24 hours, contact microdata.access@abs.gov.au.

My download does not appear to be progressing or is taking a long time

  • Different browsers have different functions and speeds to download tables. Not all browsers show progress while downloading.
  • Very large tables may take a several minutes to download even though they have been zipped. 

My downloaded zip file is empty

Some special characters cause queue issues and your zip file will be empty when it completes. Do not use these characters when naming your queued table:

  • ? * < > / \ |

It takes a long time to add a new variable to my table

While working in a large table, it can be slow to drag variables between rows, columns and wafers. This may happen for:

  • large datasets
  • large variable classifications with hundreds or thousands of categories.

When I search all datasets my results are incomplete

The all datasets search (top right corner) returns a maximum of 2000 results per type of result:

  • datasets
  • tables (saved or predefined)
  • variables
  • categories

If your search exceeds 2000 for one of these search types, TableBuilder displays (2000+) in red in the bottom left corner against that type. You can:

  • refine your search to a more specific term to return complete results
  • use the dataset specific search to view results for that dataset only - open the dataset you are interested in and use the dataset search in the bottom left corner

When I search all datasets TableBuilder is stuck at the loading screen

For some searches, your search may get stuck at the loading screen, and not return your results. To resolve this error, follow the steps to close the session and clear the cache.

In Custom data, is there a limit on the number of areas that can be included in my custom geographic area

There is no limit on the number of areas that can be included for your custom group. However, when you are editing very large number of areas the system may slow down.

An error message box is displayed asking you to contact your administrator

If you get an error 'The requested URL was rejected. Please consult with your administrator.' you need to provide details of the actions you were performing in TableBuilder when the error occurred. Send the details to microdata.access@abs.gov.au.

TableBuilder takes a long time on the log in page or when I open TableBuilder

There is a known issue with some browsers where the 'processing' blue circle appears even though no action is underway. Move your cursor so that this disappears and you can continue working.

Why can't I add my summation option using click and drag

There is a known issue if you tick median or mean and then try to drag the summation variable onto column, row or wafer pop up, TableBuilder gives you an error:

Only one summation option can be added to a table

To add median or mean use the add to row, column or wafer buttons at the top of the left panel instead. 

Adding sum to your table is not affected by this error.  

Why is my queued table returning an error

There is a known issue for some summation variables where the queued table results in a status of error. We are working with the software provider to resolve this issue.

Try a different summation variable or contact microdata.access@abs.gov.au.

I am having a technical problem with TableBuilder, how do I report this

If you are not able to resolve your query through the help provided in this guide, email microdata.access@abs.gov.au.

If you would like assistance to analyse your table results, submit a Consultancy services request form. This is a charged service. 

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