Tips and Tricks for R scripts in the query editor in Power BI

Especially if you are new to R, there are some things one needs to know to successfully run R-scripts in the query editor of Power BI. I will share them here along with some tricks that made my R-life in Power BI easier:

How to get started – useful links:

Input:

You can feed multiple tables into the R-script

If you click the icon “R script”, the table from the previous step will automatically be passed as the “dataset” to the R-script. So if you don’t fill in any R-code, this will happen:

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But if you need the content from other tables as well, you just add them into the square brackets like this:

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“Documentation” looks like this:

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You can use parameters in the R-script

Apart from tables, you can also use text strings as parameters in the script. They need to be inserted into the code with preceeding “& and trailing &”:

RExportCsv= R.Execute(“write.csv(dataset,” “&CsvExportPath&” “)”,[dataset=Actuals])

Beware that they must be text. So if you want to pass a number, wrap it into Text.From(…).

You cannot use anything else apart from tables and parameters in the R-script

Well, at least I haven’t managed it Smile

R-life gets easy-peasy if you use M-functions for your R-script

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New M-function: Table.TransformColumnTypesToFirstRowsTypes for PowerBI and PowerQuery

The following function automatically transforms all columns to the types that have been detected in the cells of its first row. Provided they come as: Number, date or text (but you can add additional type conversions if you need them.).

It also has some rough edges: If the first value is empty, the column will be converted to text. Also, it contains the (improved) logic from this article:  So if a date is written in a way that it could also be a number, then it will be converted as a number. To minimize the room for errors here, I’ve converted the values to text first, but this is still something to watch out for. But in very many cases it will just do what you have long been looking for:

Use cases:

  • You don’t want to use the automatic but static/hard coded type-conversion in the 2nd step (because you know you’re table is going to have more columns in the future and you want to cater for proper type-conversion of them as well)
  • You’ve lost your column types due to some other command (like Table.ReplaceValues)

M-Code

Code to download: TableColumnTypesToFirstRowsTypes.txt

 

Enjoy & stay queryious 😉

How to expand a column that cannot be expanded in Power BI and Power Query in Excel

Especially when working with JSON-data, you might end up with a column that has elements of mixed types in it. The expand column – arrows will be missing, but some elements still need to be expanded, like here:

But there is an easy way to fix it:

Transform to expandable column

Table.TransformColumns(Source, {{“Column1”, each if Value.Is(_, type list) then _ else {_} }} )

It transforms the “Column1” from table “Source” by checking, if the content of the each row ( _ ) is of type list and if yes, keep that value ( _ ) and if not, transform it to a list (by framing it into curly brackets {_} )

Syntax for tables

Table.TransformColumns(Source, {{“Column1”, each if Value.Is(_, type table) then _ else #table({“Column1”}, {{_}} ) }} )

Syntax for records

Table.TransformColumns(Source, {{“Column1”, each if Value.Is(_, type record) then _ else [a=_] }} )

File for Subscribers to download: HTExpandColumnThatCannotBeExpanded.zip

This technique should be applied to columns where the expandable elements all have the same structure. If that’s not the case, you should use this technique instead.

Enjoy & stay queryious 😉

Pivot your table-relationships in Power BI and Power Pivot

While the relationships view of the datamodel provides a very good overview which tables are connected to each other, one cannot see at a glance on which field they are connected to each other.

This is where a pivot table-view of the field-connections can be really helpful:

Pivot-table-view:

Table-Fields-Connections in Pivot-View

 

Here you see the tables on the many-side in the rows and in the columns are the tables on the one-side (of course you can change that). Add some slicers if your model is very large.

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Performance Tip: Partition your tables at crossjoins where possible – PowerQuery PowerBI

Recently I’ve distributed some techniques for partial matches or relative joins between tables using PowerQuery or the query editor in PowerBI. They are very flexible and powerful – yet slow.

To improve performance you can check if there is a chance to “partition” your table using a Table.Group. If you have an equality expression in your statement like we had in our rolling-12-months-exercise here for example:

You can boost performance into a different dimension by grouping your table on the “Associate”-table instead like this:

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