Jeremy Kashel

Jeremy Kashel's Blog

Power View in SQL Server 2012 RTM

Power View has been given a couple of small changes from RC0 to the RTM release:

Firstly, you can now choose the colour of the various visualisations via the Themes section, which you’ll find on the new Styles ribbon tab:


This will allow you to change the colour for a slicer, table or card, whereas for a chart it will set the palette that gets used for the chart series. Surprisingly it seems to set the theme globally, rather than allowing you to set the colour/palette for a single object:


The other change that I’ve noticed is that the Card visualisation now has a Style option on the ribbon:


This allows the cards to be displayed without normal coloured background, with a much larger font. So potentially useful for highlighting key numeric facts:


I do really like Power View, in particular the clean look & feel, fast performance, export to PowerPoint and animations to name a few. However, even though RC0 added a lot of new features, I think it’s still missing some of the functionality offered by other reporting tools. I know that it’s marketed as a data visualisation tool rather than a reporting tool, but those lines will become a bit blurred for users. This is where Connect comes in…

One connect suggestion that I’ve created is to allow drill down in Power View charts. If you’ve used Power View to perhaps spot a trend or spike in the data, then it makes sense for you to manipulate the view to find the root cause, which I think drill down would help with. Other suggestions that I think would be useful are heat maps and allowing Power View to access multidimensional models. Please vote on Connect if you agree!

Power View Default Field Set

Here's another quick tip when creating data models for use with Power View - Default Field Sets can be created in both Tabular SSAS and PowerPivot that give the user a shortcut for automatically adding multiple fields to a report.

As an example, here's a screenshot of the Default Field Set in PowerPivot - this will tell Power view that the following fields should be automatically selected when the table is added to a Power View report:

Default Field Set for blog

I'd seen this in the documentation a while back, but hadn't actually used it, nor could I see a way to select the table. In fact, although there's no checkbox, it's just a simple single click on the actual table name, as I’ve highlighted below:


When you click on the table name Product above, you will now get the following fields automatically added to a table visualisation:


So not exactly rocket science, but worth doing! Here's how to set up the Default Field set for PowerPivot and Tabular Analysis Services.

Master Data Services in SQL Server 2012 RC0

There’s been a whole host of changes to MDS in the SQL Server 2012 RC (Release Candidate) 0 that came out the other week. This blog post gives an overview of the changes, before diving into detail on a few of them. At a high level, the following changes have been made to MDS:

  • Improved Master Data Manager front screen UI and navigation paths
  • Collections interface updated to Silverlight
  • Improved Excel user interface & functionality
  • Auto generation of entity code values, without using business rules
  • New deployment tool
  • SharePoint integration

Let’s take a look at each of these changes:

Improved Master Data Manager UI

Although the UI improvement (shown below) is good, the best thing about the Master Data Manager changes, in my opinion, is that clicking on the Explorer feature no longer takes you into the Model View, but instead takes you straight into your master data for your core entity (e.g. in a Customer model this entity would be Customer). I’m not sure if this would get a bit frustrating if you didn’t want the core entity, but then again everything seems very quick in RC0, so I don’t think it’s really going to matter.

Front screen

There’s also a new button next to a domain-based attribute that apparently has been designed to help with Many-to-Many relationships. I can definitely see that working, but it’s useful to have anyway to jump to the member details for the domain based attribute that you are viewing, many-to-many or not:


Collections Interface Updated to Silverlight

The collections interface is now much slicker, getting the Silverlight makeover seen in other areas of Master Data Manager. Switching between collections, for example, which could take a while in R2, now happens very quickly, making collections far more useable. The screen shot below shows how you edit collection members by picking members from one of the entities and adding those over into the collection by clicking the Add button:


Collections now have the concept of a Weight, meaning that you can alter the weighting value associated with the collection members, which could be useful for reporting purposes. The idea is that you extract the collection members and the weight values in a subscription view. A Weight column is actually included in the 2008 R2 collection subscription views, but there was no front end to modify the weight value, which has of course now changed:


Improved Excel User Interface and Functionality

The MDS Excel Ribbon has been given a makeover, meaning that you now see the following in the ribbon:

Excel toolbar

It’s interesting to see that the Favourites section has been replaced with the concept of ‘queries’. The idea is that you can send a query file via email to another user, providing that user has the Excel add-in. When the user double clicks on the query file (extension *.mdsqx), Excel will open and make a connection to MDS, using the connection and filter information provided in the file. This will result in Excel opening, with the user prompted if they would like to connect to MDS:

confirm connection

It’s also good to see that a few of the domain-based attribute issues have been addressed, namely the display of domain-based attribute names when you filter an entity and also the display of the names and the codes together in the Excel sheet. Here’s a screen shot of the how the attribute names are now visible when filtering the Country domain-based attribute that exists in the Customer model:


Auto Generation of Entity Code Values

If you wanted the code to be auto-generated in 2008 R2, you had to use a business rule. You can still do that if you want, but the create entity admin screen has changed slightly to include an option to auto generate the code. This works slightly better than business rules in my opinion, at least as far as the Excel add-in is concerned, as the code is returned to the user immediately after publishing, whereas the business rules require you to do a refresh in Excel and of course need more development! Here’s a screenshot of the add entity screen:


New Deployment Tool

Deployment has been altered in SQL 2012, with the addition of a new deployment tool, plus the fact that subscription views now get deployed. It seems that the current R2 deployment method (in the Administration section of Master Data Manager) is still included but now will not deploy data. To do that you need to use MDSModelDeploy.exe, as explained here. As an example, here’s how you can deploy the sample Customer model using MDSModelDeploy.exe, for default installations:

MDSModelDeploy deploynew –package “C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\110\Master Data Services\Samples\customer_en.pkg” –model “Customer” –service “MDS1”

SharePoint Integration and Further Details

Master Data Manager now supports a set of parameters that allow the MDS UI to be displayed without the header, menu bar and padding area. This means that MDS can now be incorporated into SharePoint or other websites. For the details on this, as well as more details on the above points, take a look at the following Technet article.

Working with Images in Power View

Power View includes several ways to create visualisations with images, ranging from a simple table, to the scrollable tile visualisation. In this post I’m going to explain a bit about the tile visualisation, showing how it can be used in Power View, before showing a couple of tips for working with images in both PowerPivot and Analysis Services Tabular models.

Power View Tiles

The Power View Tiles visualisation allows you to display a scrollable series of images, which, when clicked on, will display data of your choosing. The report below is an example of this:


What’s nice about the View above is that the names of the products are automatically displayed underneath the images. This is a sensible place to display the product names, as it means the area below can focus on whatever product level data you want, in this case Revenue by Month for the selected product.

This works fine in the sample models (in my case the Tailspin Toys model that I think came with CTP3) but it wont work in vanilla PowerPivot / Tabular models unless you configure a few model settings. Trying to reproduce the report above without these settings will give the following tile visualisation, minus the product names:


PowerPivot Advanced Settings

To address this in PowerPivot, you first of all need to switch to Advanced Mode, which you can do by selecting this option from the File menu in PowerPivot:


This gives you the following advanced tab:


Clicking on the highlighted Table Behaviour button in the ribbon gives you the following Table Behaviour window:


Here you can “change the default behaviour for different visualisation types and default grouping behaviour in client tools for this table”. The following properties should be set in order to get the tiles working correctly:

  • Row Identifier – Specifies a column that only contains unique values, which allows the column to be used as an internal grouping key in client tools.
  • Default Label – Specifies which column gives a row level display name, e.g. the product name in a Product table. This is key, as when a row level image is used, this property specifies which value to display alongside the image in tiles and other image-based visualisation.
  • Default Image – Specifies which column contains images representing the row level data, e.g. pictures of products.

The full details for all these properties can be found here.

Tabular Models

Tabular Models contain the same properties, which can be edited when you open a tabular project in the new SQL Server Data Tools. The image below shows how the properties have been configured for the column in my model called Image:


Back to Power View

If we now build a tile visualisation using the image column, we will see that we get the names of the products returned along with the image. It’s also worth noting that the Image and Product Name columns have now have an icon next to them, indicating that the field exhibits “row level” behaviour:


Finally, for some examples of what’s new in Power View SQL 2012 RC0 take a look at this post on the Reporting Services Team Blog.