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«November 2015»

DirectQuery in Power BI Desktop

In the latest Power BI Desktop a new Preview features was released that now allows you to connect using DirectQuery to either SQL Server or Azure SQL Databases.  DirectQuery is a really neat feature that allows you to point to the live version of the data source rather than importing the data into a data model in Power BI Desktop. 

Normally when you want to get an updated dataset in the Power BI Desktop you would have to manually click the refresh button (this can be automated in the Power BI Service), which would initiate a full reimport of your data.  This refresh could take a variable amount of time depending on how much data your have.  For instance, if you’re refreshing a very large table you may be waiting quite a while to see the newly added data. 

With DirectQuery data imports are not required because you’re always looking at a live version of the data.  Let me show you how it works!

Turning on the DirectQuery Preview

Now, because DirectQuery is still in Preview you must first activate the feature by navigating to File->Options and settings->Options->Preview Features then check DirectQuery for SQL Server and Azure SQL Database


Once you click OK you may be prompted to restart the Power BI Desktop to utilize the feature.

Using DirectQuery in Power BI Desktop

Next make a connection either to an On-Premises SQL Server or Azure SQL database.

Go to the Home ribbon and select Get Data then SQL Server.


Provide your Server and Database names then click OK. ***Do not use a SQL statement.  It is not currently supported with DirectQuery***


From the Navigator pane choose the table(s) you would like to use.  I’m just going to pick the DimProduct table for this example and then click Load.  You could select Edit and that would launch the Query Editor where you could manipulate the extract.  This would allow you to add any business rules needed to the data before visualizing it.


Next you will be prompted to select what you want to connect to the data. Again, Import means the data

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The Big Data Blog Series

Over the last few years I’ve been speaking a lot on the subject of Big Data. I started by giving an intermediate session called “Show Me Whatcha’ Workin’ With”. This session was designed for people who had attended a one hour introductory session that showed you how to load data, to look at possible applications … Continue reading The Big Data Blog Series
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Power BI Q&A Preview Now Live On Your Data

  • 18 December 2013
  • Author: DevinKnight
  • Number of views: 3859

With the recent updates to the Power BI preview and Q&A features added I thought I would do a quick tutorial of how it all works.  This post will walk you through uploading a workbook to Power BI, Using Q&A against that workbook, enhancing the workbook with synonyms and the creating features questions.

First, sign up for a trial at  Once your trial Power BI site has been issued to you login and add your own Power Pivot workbook by selecting Add as shown below.


After you add your own workbook click the context menu and select Add to Q&A.


Next select Search with Power BI Q&A in the top right corner of the site.


This will present you with an empty textbox that is waiting for you to ask a question of your data.  Earlier when I added my own workbook I added a workbook that has presidential election data in it.  So I ask a question about the “Total popular votes by state”. 


With this small amount of information I provide Q&A realizes I’m asking for the Total Popular Vote metric from my Power Pivot model and that I want to see this information by state, which is also in my Power Pivot model. 


A couple other interesting things are presented here.  In the top right there are some hints on getting better search results for this workbook.  If you follow the help link there is some guidance on adding synonyms to your Power Pivot model:

I wrote briefly about synonyms being added to Power Pivot as well here.  Adding synonyms will allow my users to have more flexibility when interacting with Q&A.  Currently without synonyms in my model I must ask very specific question that reference column names exactly how they appear in my Power Pivot model. 

However, with synonyms added to my model I could add other variations of how users may ask my question of “Total popular votes by state”. 

Below I’ve added a synonym to my model on to Total Popular Vote metric.  Synonyms are entered with a comma separated list so I’ve added “votes” as a synonym for Total Popular Vote.


After publishing this workbook back to the Power BI site I can now ask the question more like an end user would.  This time I ask for “votes by state” and get the same results as expected.  This shows how you will start designing your Power Pivot models that you plan on publishing within Q&A.


The last nice new feature that is available in the Power BI Q&A preview is featured questions.  Featured questions are inquires that you would like to highlight on the Power BI site as common questions users ask.  These were in the preview before but you could not create your own. 

To create a featured question you simply click add featured question on the side pane or before you even ask a question click the plus icon (both shown below).

image image

Once you select one of these two options you enter the question and create an icon.  The icon can be small or large, a variety of colors, and with a symbol or even a background image.


Here’s an example of a featured question I created for this election data model.


I really love these new features and I think you will too so go try them out now at

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