DAX Studio for Power BI: Everything You Need to Know

on BI Tool, Business Intelligence, Data Analytics, Data Integration, Data Visualization, Power BI, Tutorials • March 16th, 2022 • Write for Hevo

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Power BI is a rapidly growing Business Intelligence (BI) tool and a Data Visualization software developed by Microsoft to transform the way Data Analytics is used by organizations to solve business problems. Power BI makes working with data really easy with real-time high-level analytics, extensive modeling, and custom development. However, when using Microsoft Power BI, you’ll frequently discover that you need to create formulae and expressions to analyze data and calculate values to solve real business problems. This is where DAX Studio Power BI comes in.

DAX Studio is a free client tool that allows you to perform advanced calculations and analysis on your Power BI data models using DAX queries. Data Analysis Expressions (DAX) is a collection of functions, operators, and constants used to create formulae and expressions in Power BI and various other Data Analysis services such as Microsoft SQL Server, Excel Power Pivot, etc. This blog will take you through various aspects of DAX Studio Power BI and help you get started with it. But beforehand let’s discuss this robust BI platform in brief.

Table of Contents

What is Power BI?

DAX Studio: Power BI
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Power BI is a Business Intelligence (BI) tool and a Data Visualization platform offered by Microsoft that allows organizations to analyze business data and generate reports. Power BI comes with a set of built-in tools, apps, and connectors that can deeply delve and work with data to provide actionable insights, immersive visuals, and interactive reports.

Power BI is actually self-service Business Intelligence which means that you can easily aggregate data, analyze data, visualize data, and produce some fantastic-looking visual reports. Power BI lets you pull data in from multiple sources such as Oracle, SAP, or a Data Warehouse of your choice. It can handle everything from your simple Excel file all the way to massive amounts of data. You can leverage the Power BI Chart, Graphs, KPIs, Reports, and Dashboards to analyze the data and get interactive insights.

Key Features of Power BI

Power BI has proven to be a reliable and user-friendly Data Analysis and Visualization tool. Let’s discover some of its key features responsible for its immense popularity.

  • Easy Integrations: Power BI offers integrations with multiple connectors that allow users to pull in data from various data sources.
  • AI Support: Power BI allows users to deploy Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques such as Image Recognition and Text Analytics to prepare data, develop Machine Learning models, and quickly extract actionable insights from structured and unstructured data.
  • Report Sharing: Power BI is built for developing security that allows teams to share access in a very controlled manner. Users can easily share their reports with other team members without compromising data security.
  • Real-Time Dashboards: Power BI has the capability to display real-time data and visuals in any report or dashboard. Power BI dashboards update in real-time allowing users to instantly solve issues and uncover opportunities.
  • Customized Visualization: Power BI offers high customizability and allows users to leverage its custom visualization library to create visualizations as per their needs. In addition to that, analysts can also generate highly customizable visuals for their next Power BI report by using open-source data-viz modules from R and Python.

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What is DAX Studio?

DAX Studio Power BI
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DAX Studio is an open-source tool for Power BI that allows you to write, execute, and analyze DAX queries. DAX are predefined codes, functions, and operators for performing analytics-specific data tasks. The Power BI DAX Library houses over 200 functions, operators, and constants that provide immense flexibility in Data Analysis tasks. On top of that, new functions and functionalities are regularly added to DAX Studio in order to accommodate new features.

DAX studio comes with an in-built editor that allows you to write and execute queries. It facilitates object browsing, query editing and execution, syntax highlighting and formatting, formula and measure editing, integrated tracing, and query execution breakdowns. In simple words, DAX Studio showcases vital information with respect to the data model and your DAX queries. It can be connected to various data sources including:

  • Power Pivot for Excel
  • Power BI Desktop
  • Tabular Analysis Services
  • Visual Studio

What can you do with DAX Studio in Power BI?

  • Learn DAX Language: DAX Studio not just helps you to author DAX queries and analyze the performance of your data models but also helps in learning the DAX language. You can explore the Query Builder available on the Home tab to learn more about DAX.
  • Optimize your Model Performance: VertiPaq Analyzer is a tool integrated with DAX Studio that allows you to easily optimize your model performance. It provides an immediate report of the data distribution and memory consumption and helps you resolve the issues. You can also run a measure in DAX studio and leverage the Server Timings tool to see how the formula is being interpreted.
  • Visualize DAX “table” Functions: In DAX Studio, you can visualize the result of measures that contain a table function in DAX. This allows you to see the result table to check if the desired table is being produced. This functionality is not provided in Power BI Desktop.
  • Extract your measures into a Spreadsheet: You can easily extract a list of your measures from your DAX Studio data model into a Spreadsheet, making it easy for you to document and reuse them.

Download, Install, and Setup DAX Studio Power BI

  • Well, to get started you need to first download the latest version of DAX Studio. It’s an open-source tool and is available to download for free. Once the file is downloaded, just run the install routine.
DAX Studio
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  • Upon running the installer, you can choose between “All Users” and “Current User” to proceed. It is recommended to use the default ‘All Users’ install option as it gives the richest user experience.
DAX Studio: Install Mode
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  • Allow windows access to the app and accept the license agreement.
  • Choose the destination location and click on “Next”.
  • Choose the components you want to install and click on “Next”.
DAX Studio: Installation
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  • Proceed with the installation and click on “Finish” once the installation process is complete.
  • DAX Studio is now installed on your system. The next step is to connect it with Power BI. You can connect DAX Studio with Power BI by launching it directly from your Program Files within Windows.
  • Upon launching the DAX Studio standalone application, you’ll be prompted to choose the type of connection. You can either connect it to a PBI file or a Tabular Server. You can connect to any of your opened Power BI Desktop files by selecting the correct data model.
DAX Studio: Connect to Power BI
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  • After selecting a connection type, click on “Connect”.
  • You can skip the “Advanced Options” while connecting the PBI file.

DAX Studio UI Basics

Now that you’ve successfully connected DAX Studio Power BI, you can start working with the data models using the fascinating features of DAX Studio User Interface (UI). There is a lot to DAX Studio, let’s discuss a few important components of the UI to get started.

DAX Studio UI
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  1. Metadata Panel
  2. The Ribbon
  3. Query Pane
  4. Output Pane

Metadata Panel

The first thing you’re going to notice inside the DAX Studio is the metadata of your tables in your data model. This is the Metadata Panel and you can find all the tables, columns, and DAX measures in your data model here. Any table marked as a “Date Table” will have a clock icon displayed next to it.

The Ribbon

Next comes the ribbon from where you can access all the features of DAX Studio. Let’s discuss the various important options embedded in this ribbon.

DAX Studio: Ribbon
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  1. This is the “Run” button that executes your query.
  2. The “Clear Cache” button allows you to clear the cache for the current Database.
  3. The “Output” button specifies the location where you want to send the query results. You can also change the default output format from the Output Pane to other accepted formats such as Excel or a file (CSV or TXT).
  4. This option displays a drag and drop form of Query Builder.
  5. The “Format Query” button leverages the DAX Formatter service to provide a nicely formatted query that is easier to read.
  6. Clicking “Load Pref Data” will import the performance data from Power BI Performance Analyzer.
  7. The “Connect” button shows the connection to the Power BI Desktop files. You can also click this button to connect DAX Studio to a different data model.
  8. Clicking this button refreshes the metadata manually.

Query Pane

DAX Studio: Query Pane
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You can write, modify, format, and view your queries in the Query Pane.

Output Pane

DAX Studio: Output Pane
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This is the default Output Pane where the results of your query are displayed. It has 3 tabs:

  • Output: Here, you can find general information about query run time.
  • Results: This is simply a temporary storage location where the output table is returned after query execution.
  • Query History: This displays the previously executed queries.

How to Write Queries in DAX Studio?

To start with DAX queries, you will need a data model inside your PBI file. Let’s discuss some of the important aspects of writing queries.

Query Builder

  • Open DAX Studio and click on “Query Builder”. Clicking on it will open the Query Builder Pane.
DAX Studio: Query Builder
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  • You can drag and drop columns and measures in this newly opened Query Pane. For the purpose of this demonstration, drop the “Fiscal Year“, “Category” columns, and the “Total Sales Amount” measure in the Columns/Measures area.
DAX Studio: Drag and Drop Columns/Measures
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  • Once you have dropped the columns and measures in the Query Pane, just click on the “Run” button and DAX Studio will generate the result under the Results tab.
DAX Studio: Result
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Doing this, DAX Studio automatically writes your first query for you. You can click on “Edit Query” to see the code generated by Query Builder.

DAX Studio: Query
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Every DAX query starts with the EVALUATE keyword. The most straightforward DAX query takes the form of EVALUATE <table expression>. Let’s delve a bit more into the EVALUATE statement.

The EVALUATE Statement

EVALUATE is a DAX statement containing a table expression and is a must for query execution. A query can also have multiple EVALUATE  statements depending on the requirements. The syntax of the EVALUATE statement is given below.

EVALUATE <table expression>

The <table expression> is the name of a table. It could be a DAX function capable of returning a table such as FILTER or SUMMARIZECOLUMNS. Let’s understand this better with an example of extracting a table of data.

Extracting an Existing Table

This is the most simple use case to help you get started, you can simply extract an existing table of data from your data model.

The query is very simple and easy to understand. It simply uses the EVALUATE statement followed by the name of the table you want to extract. For the purpose of this demonstration, the Product table is being extracted from a sample data model. 

EVALUATE
	Product

It is always a good practice to use line breaks in the Query Pane to space out things and improve the readability of DAX queries. The Product table is returned in the Results tab.

DAX Studio: EVALUATE
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Filters

Moving on, you can get creative and start specifying filters on this sample data model to get specific data.

/* START OF QUERY BUILDER*/
EVALUATE
SUMMARIZECOLUMNS(
            ProductCategory[Category],
            Products[Brands],
            KEEPFILTERS( TREATAS( {"M"}, Customer[Gender] )),
            KEEPFILTERS( TREATAS( {"RED"}, Products[Color] )),
            "Total Sales", [Total Sales]
)
/* END OF QUERY BUILDER */

KEEPFILTERS is the keyword to apply filters. As you can observe, these filters specify the Gender (from Customer table) as “M” and Color (from Products table) as “Red”.

Click on “Run Query” to execute this and see the table returned under the Results tab.

DAX Studio: Filters
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Conclusion

Power BI is all about Data Analytics, Data Visualization, and Business Intelligence. Data Analysis Expressions (DAX) is a formula expression language used in Power BI and other Analysis Services to perform analytics-specific tasks. And, DAX Studio is the best tool to analyze DAX queries in Power BI. It’s a free open-source tool from SQLBI that allows you to write, execute, and analyze DAX queries.

This blog introduced you to Power BI and helped you understand how DAX Studio can add value to your analysis. Power BI makes Business Analysis more efficient through intuitive, interactive, and easy-to-use services. Moreover, analyzing and visualizing your data by loading it from a Data Warehouse to Power BI can be cumbersome. This is where Hevo comes in.

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Share your experience of working with DAX Studio Power BI in the comments section below.

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