Classify Iris part 1: Prepare the data

Azure Machine Learning services (preview) is an integrated, end-to-end data science and advanced analytics solution for professional data scientists to prepare data, develop experiments, and deploy models at cloud scale.

This tutorial is part one of a three-part series. In this tutorial, we walk through the basics of Azure Machine Learning services (preview). You learn how to:

  • Create a project in Azure Machine Learning Workbench.
  • Create a data preparation package.
  • Generate Python/PySpark code to invoke a data preparation package.

This tutorial uses the timeless Iris flower data set. The screenshots are Windows-specific, but the Mac OS experience is almost identical.


  • Create an Azure Machine Learning Experimentation account.
  • Install Azure Machine Learning Workbench.

You can follow the instructions in the Install and create Quickstart article to install the Azure Machine Learning Workbench application. This installation also includes the Azure cross-platform command-line tool, or Azure CLI.

Create a new project in Azure Machine Learning Workbench

  1. Open the Azure Machine Learning Workbench app, and log in if needed. In the PROJECTS pane, select the plus sign (+) to create a New Project.

    New workspace

  2. Fill in the Create New Project details:

    New project

    • Fill in the Project name box with a name for the project. For example, use the value myIris.
    • Select the Project directory in which the project is created. For example, use the value C:\Temp\.
    • Enter the Project description, which is optional.
    • The Git Repository field is also optional and can be left blank. You can provide an existing empty Git repo (a repo with no master branch) on Visual Studio Team Services. If you use a Git repo that already exists, you can enable the roaming and sharing scenarios later. For more information, see Use Git repo.
    • Select a Workspace, for example, this tutorial uses IrisGarden.
    • Select the Classifying Iris template from the project template list.
  3. Select the Create button. The project is now created and opened for you.

Create a data preparation package

  1. Open the iris.csv file from the File View. The file is a table with 5 columns and 150 rows. It has four numerical feature columns and a string target column. It does not have column headers.



    Do not include data files in your project folder, particularly when the file size is large. We include iris.csv in this template for demonstration purposes because it's tiny. For more information, see How to read and write large data files.

  2. In the Data View, select the plus sign (+) to add a new data source. The Add Data Source page opens.

    Data view

  3. Leave the default values, and then select the Next button.

    Select iris


    Make sure you select the iris.csv file from within the current project directory for this exercise. Otherwise, later steps might fail.

  4. After selecting the file, select the Finish button.

  5. A new file named iris-1.dsource is created. The file is named uniquely with a dash-1, because the sample project already comes with an unnumbered iris.dsource file.

    The file opens, and the data is shown. A series of column headers, from Column1 to Column5, is automatically added to this data set. Scroll to the bottom and notice that the last row of the data set is empty. The row is empty because there is an extra line break in the CSV file.

    Iris data view

  6. Select the Metrics button. Observe the histograms. A complete set of statistics has been calculated for each column. You can also select the Data button to see the data again.

    Iris data view

  7. Select the Prepare button. The Prepare dialog box opens.

    The sample project comes with an iris.dprep file. By default, it asks you to create a new data flow in the iris.dprep data preparation package that already exists.

    Select + New Data Preparation Package from the drop-down menu, enter a new value for the package name, use iris-1, and then select OK.

    Iris data view

    A new data preparation package named iris-1.dprep is created and opened in the data preparation editor.

  8. Now let's do some basic data preparation. Rename the column names. Select each column header to make the header text editable.

    Enter Sepal Length, Sepal Width, Petal Length, Petal Width, and Species for the five columns respectively.

    Rename the columns

  9. To count distinct values, select the Species column, and then right-click to select it. Select Value Counts from the drop-down menu.

    Select Value Counts

    This action opens the Inspectors pane, and displays a histogram with four bars. The target column has three distinct values: Iris_virginica, Iris_versicolor, Iris-setosa, and a (null) value.

  10. To filter out nulls, select the bar from the graph that represents the null value. There is one row with a (null) value. To remove this row, select the minus sign (-).

    Value count histogram

  11. Notice the individual steps detailed in the STEPS pane. As you renamed the columns and filtered the null value rows, each action was recorded as a data-preparation step. You can edit individual steps to adjust the settings, reorder the steps, and remove steps.


  12. Close the data preparation editor. Select Close (x) on the iris-1 tab with the graph icon. Your work is automatically saved into the iris-1.dprep file shown under the Data Preparations heading.

Generate Python/PySpark code to invoke a data preparation package

  1. Right-click the iris-1.dprep file to bring up the context menu, and then select Generate Data Access Code File.

    Generate code

  2. A new file named opens with the following lines of code:

    # Use the Azure Machine Learning data preparation package
    from azureml.dataprep import package
    # Use the Azure Machine Learning data collector to log various metrics
    from azureml.logging import get_azureml_logger
    logger = get_azureml_logger()
    # This call will load the referenced package and return a DataFrame.
    # If run in a PySpark environment, this call returns a
    # Spark DataFrame. If not, it will return a Pandas DataFrame.
    df ='iris-1.dprep', dataflow_idx=0)
    # Remove this line and add code that uses the DataFrame

    This code snippet invokes the logic you created as a data preparation package. Depending on the context in which this code is run, df represents the various kinds of dataframes. A pandas DataFrame is used when executed in Python runtime, or a Spark DataFrame is used when executed in a Spark context.

    For more information on how to prepare data in Azure Machine Learning Workbench, see the Get started with data preparation guide.

Next steps

In this first part of the three-part tutorial series, you have used Azure Machine Learning Workbench to:

  • Create a new project.
  • Create a data preparation package.
  • Generate Python/PySpark code to invoke a data preparation package.

You are ready to move on to the next part in the series, where you learn how to build an Azure Machine Learning model: