Best Wishes for the Festive Season and Happy New Year – may it light up with Power BI

 It has been a while since I have blogged, however I have recently been busy with customers and partners talking about Power BI –

I have really been enjoying being able to quickly gain insight from both internal and external datasets leveraging Power Query. The December update add an ability to connect to Exchange server and be able to get insight out of that semi-structured data source – Emails.

Every year I send out a season's greetings and new years email to thank everyone I have worked with in that year. In the past the way I used to get the email addresses to send out the message to was by using SQL Server and linked server query to Exchange server. This year though was able to use Power Query's new capability to connect to Exchange as follows:

  1. Install Power Query for Excel 2013 (December 2013 update) -
  2. Start Excel 2013 and select Blank Workbook
  3. Go to the Power Query Ribbon-> From Other Sources -> From Microsoft Exchange


  1. Type in your Exchange servers email address & password from which you want to extract data

    After entering the details the below Query editor window will appear, on the left side you will see the Navigator and the ability to extract data from the different facets of Exchange Server – Mail, Calendar, People, Tasks, Meeting Requests. As you can see you can get whole lot of insights from your Exchange server and be able to analyse your personal productivity/get insight from semi-structured data in your emails.


In my case I wanted to work on extracting the list of people I have sent an email out to in the Year 2013, so this how I did this:

  1. Selected Mail in the Navigator
  2. Filter the Folder Path to only show data from Sent Items – the first time you click on the down arrow next to Folder Path column, you will need to click on Load More to show the entire list as below.

  1. Next filter out the data to only show for Year 2013 – scroll across to the DateTimeSent column, click down on the arrow and use the Date/Time Filters to then select "Between"     



  1. Scroll back to ToReceipents column and select the expansion arrows next to the column name

Click on OK to add both the name and email address columns

  1. Click on the Load to Data Model checkbox and Apply & close (at the left top of the ribbon bar)

    This loads the data into Power Pivot model ready for us to query and further filter as required. You will notice that each of the steps that we took has also been recorded in the Applied Steps section, enabling you to have full audit of how you created the data set.

Other new enhancements that are now available in the Power BI preview are:

Power BI Q&A now available…

One of the Power BI features users have been most interested in is Q&A, which takes data exploration to a whole new level. With Q&A, users type ad-hoc questions and the system provides them with answers in the form of interactive charts and graphs. The search like experience is instantaneous and uses natural language query, interpreting the semantics of question the user is typing. We've received great responses from customers who have tested this capability on the preview sample data. Today we enable the ability to explore your own data with Q&A. You can add your own models to Q&A and begin to explore them with natural language query.

Try Q&A today by uploading your workbook to your Power BI Site. Do this by clicking on the add link and selecting "Upload file". This will upload and enable your workbook for use in the Power BI site.

After your workbook has been enabled, click on the three dots on the thumbnail for your workbook and select "Add to Q&A":

One you've completed these steps you can navigate to the Q&A question by clicking the "Search with Power BI Q&A" link in the upper right hand corner of your Power BI site:

Image: Q&A feature of Power BI for Office 365

Also, keeping in line with our goal to make Excel the only tool you need for data analysis and visualization, we are also excited to announce updates to the Power Query add-in for Excel preview, introducing new data source support and usability enhancements.

Connectivity to New Data Sources


Exchange: We add support for connecting to your Microsoft Exchange account and retrieving information about your Mail, Calendar, People, Tasks and Meeting Requests.


Dynamics CRM Online: We enhance Power Query's OData support to consume OData feeds from Dynamics CRM Online.


JSON light support: We enabled consumption of JSON light OData feeds via the "From OData" experience.


Sybase IQ: We add Sybase IQ to our list of supported databases.

Below is an example of a simple visualization created by connecting to your exchange account.

Image: Analyze your outlook data with the new Exchange connector

Automatic Detection of table relationships:


Last month we improved how you connect to databases by providing navigation to the list of databases and tables and providing import of multiple tables. This month we add relationship detection between these tables automatically creating the relationships in the model for you.

Transformations in the Query Editor:


New additions to the Query Editor ribbon include:


Number Transformations: If you have used the "Transform" menu in the ribbon or context menus, you will have noticed transformations for Text and Date/Time/Timezone columns. In this update, we have added new transformations that can be applied to Number columns.


Fill Down: You can now use the "Fill Down" button in the ribbon to fill values down within the selected column(s), filling empty cells in the column with the value of the first non-empty cell above them.


Sort Ascending/Descending: Easily define a sort criteria for selected column(s) by using Sort Ascending/Descending buttons in the ribbon.

Improvements to Search:


Search for Certified results: Last month we introduced Certified Shared Queries. We now add an option to the Search ribbon to allow you to narrow your search to only certified results if you choose.


Enabling copy of Name and Description on Search results: We thank you for your preview feedback! A consistent request has been for the ability to copy the name and description of a Search result into your clipboard. This is now possible by right-clicking on these two fields in the Search results fly-outs.

We hope that you enjoy these new features and usability improvements. Don't hesitate to let us know your thoughts through the forums and through the Smile/Frown feature.