Power Query Update Streamlines Excel-Based BI

Microsoft issues a Power Query update aimed at making it easier for Excel users to explore data and extract business insights.

Microsoft business intelligence

Microsoft has released the May 2014 update for Power Query, the Excel add-on that links to the company's cloud-enabled Power BI business intelligence offering. Released on Feb. 10, Power BI is Microsoft's attempt at "bringing BI to a billion users," according to Julia White, general manager of Office product marketing.

The update includes a time-saving tool called Recent Data Sources. Miguel Llopis, program manager for Microsoft Power Query, described Recent Data Sources as "one of the most commonly requested in Power Query and it's about being able to easily reconnect to a previously used data source," said Llopis during a YouTube video walk-through.

A new button under the Get External Data group, within the Power Query tab, generates a menu that displays the 15 most recent data sources. Further, users can now pin up to 10 frequently accessed sources under the "More Recents" category.

Llopis said the new functionality "comes in very handy as it saves users from typing in the same data source information every time." It also helps users keep better track of data sources that are only used occasionally, he added.

The Query Editor ribbon and Insert tab now sport several more transform options. The Insert tab, in particular, includes "several new options to insert new columns based on Text, Number, Date & Time and other common operations referencing values from other columns in a query," said Microsoft in a statement. A new Transform tab displays "common transformations that can be applied to an entire table or to specific columns within a table."

The Online Search pane does a better job of distinguishing between public and private data sources.

Now, results are grouped according to their respective domains without requiring users to run the search again for each data source. As a result, Microsoft removed "the 'All' tab/scope where public results were displayed together with enterprise results," the company said.

The Expand Column feature has been given a more prominent and discoverable location within the Transform ribbon tab. Clicking the option also allows users to directly edit existing Expand steps without modifying the formula.

Other enhancements include a new Choose Columns menu. "'Choose Columns' allows users to search for columns by name and quickly subset a table to the relevant columns, instead of having to scroll in the preview and select several columns to keep or remove," explained Microsoft. The Workbook Queries view now surfaces a list of data sources used in a query or report, helping users "increase their level of confidence in the data retrieved by their queries."

Finally, Microsoft is making it easier to subscribe to new data feeds from the company's Windows Azure Marketplace. A new link in the Power Query Navigator pane guides users directly to the Azure Marketplace Catalog, wherein they can browse and subscribe to available services.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of...