I’m not going to pretend that this blog post is a properly impartial review – I know the authors of both of these books to varying degrees – but I thought it was worth writing a few words on two new books I’ve acquired recently which are worth additions to any Power BI enthusiast’s bookshelf or e-reader.
The Definitive Guide To DAX
Something I’ll never understand about my friends Marco Russo and Alberto Russo is their love of writing books – they generally have a new one out every year, sometimes two (personally I find writing books painful). Their latest publication is “The Definitive Guide To DAX” and it does indeed live up to its title. No-one outside the dev team comes close to Marco and Alberto’s knowledge of DAX, the language of Power Pivot, Power BI Desktop modelling and SSAS Tabular, and in this book they have documented everything that they know about it down to the smallest detail. Want to know what the KeepFilters() function does? Or the GenerateAll() function? How about all the new DAX functions and features in the latest versions of Power BI Desktop which will also appear in SSAS 2016 Tabular? They’re all here, and more. As such this is essential purchase for anyone doing serious work on the Microsoft BI platform, although probably more as a reference than a book to read end-to-end. It’s fair to say there’s a certain amount of overlap between this and some of their previous books on Power Pivot and SSAS Tabular, but the language – and the community’s understanding of it – has evolved sufficiently to justify buying this book too.
[I received a free copy of this book for review]
Buy it here from Amazon UK | US
‘M’ Is For Data Monkey
As the author of the only other book on Power Query, I suppose I should really be keeping quiet about “’M’ Is For Data Monkey” in case you buy it instead of mine. However 18 months of UI changes and functionality improvements mean my book is now a bit out-of-date, and what’s more important is that Ken Puls and Miguel Escobar have had the advantage of a lot of real-world experience with Power Query that I didn’t have (indeed no-one had) when I was writing in early 2014. The book itself is not a formal introduction to the M language but a guide to what you can do with it in Power Query; while a lot of what’s here will be useful in Power BI this is definitely a Power Query book and the target audience is Excel Pros rather than BI Pros. The decision to focus on Excel Pros was a good one to make, in my opinion, because it plays to the authors’ strengths and means that the book has a very practical focus. A lot of the tips and tricks here are ones I’ve used successfully myself, and I don’t mind admitting that I learned one or two things from this book as well.
Buy it here from Amazon UK | US
Other Books Are Available…
There are a couple of other new books out that, although I haven’t seen them, will also be worth checking out. Rob Collie has just released Power Pivot and Power BI, essentially the second edition of DAX Formulas For Power Pivot; Matt Allington has just released Learn To Write DAX; both are going to be good choices for Excel users wanting a DAX tutorial. Finally, last week Teo Lachev announced on his blog that he has published the world’s first dedicated Power BI book. Teo is another author whose books I admire so I’m sure it will be excellent, although I’ll be interested to see how he handles the problem of writing about a product that changes so much so quickly.
Looking for some summer holiday (or winter holiday, depending on which hemisphere you live in) reading? If so, may I suggest my new Power Query book? “Power Query for Power BI and Excel” is available now from the Apress site, Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and all good bookstores.
It’s an introductory level book. It covers all of the stuff you can do in the UI, it has a chapter on M, and it goes into a reasonable amount of detail on more advanced topics; it is not a 500-page exhaustive guide to the product. I’ve focused on readability and teaching the fundamentals of Power Query rather than every looking at every obscure M function, but at the same time if you’ve already used Power Query I think there’ll be plenty of material in there you’ll find interesting.
Now for the bad news: the book is out-of-date already, although not by much. One of the best things about Power Query is the monthly release cycle; unfortunately that makes writing a book on it a bit of a nightmare. I started off writing in January and had to deal with lots of added functionality and changes to the UI over the next few months; I had to retake pretty much all of the screenshots as a result. The published version of the book is based on the version of Power Query that was released in early June rather than the current version. Hopefully you can forgive this – the differences are minor – but it’s a good reason to buy the book as soon as you can! I want to do a second edition in a year’s time once (if?) the release cycle slows down.
I’ve been teased a bit for blogging and teaching so much about Power Query recently, so the final thing I want to say here is why an old corporate BI/SSAS guy like me is getting so excited about a self-service ETL tool. Well, the main reason is that Power Query is a great piece of software. It does what it does very well; it does useful things rather than what the marketing guys/analysts/journalists think is hot in BI; it is easy to use but at the same time is flexible enough for the advanced user to do really complex stuff; it is updated regularly based on feedback from its users. I only wish all Microsoft software was this good… Honestly, I wouldn’t be able to motivate myself to blog and write about Power Query if I didn’t think it was cool, and even though it hasn’t been hyped in the same way as other parts of the Power BI stack it is nonetheless the part that people get excited about when I show them Power BI. It’s not just me either – every day I see positive comments like Greg Low’s here. I think it is as important, if not more important, than Power Pivot and I think it will be a massive success.
Oh, and did I mention that I’m also teaching a Power Query course in London later this year….?
Within a matter of days, “Expert Cube Development with SSAS 2012 Multidimensional Models” will be published. It’s the second edition of the very successful (19 5* reviews on Amazon US as of now) book on SSAS cube development that Marco, Alberto and I wrote a few years ago, updated for SSAS 2012.
You can pre-order it now from the Packt website, Amazon US or Amazon UK.
Before you rush off to order a copy, there are a three things I’d like to point out:
- This is basically the same book as the first edition with updated screenshots, a few bugs fixed, and several sections updated/expanded for SSAS 2012. There are no substantial changes. If you already have a copy of the first edition it’s probably not worth buying a copy of the second edition.
- The book only covers SSAS Multidimensional models, it does not cover SSAS Tabular models.
- This is not a basic introduction to building SSAS cubes – it’s aimed at intermediate-level SSAS developers who are already familiar with cubes, dimensions and MDX and who want to learn about best practices, design patterns, performance tuning and (most importantly) which features work well and which ones don’t. If you like the material I post here on my blog, you’ll probably like the book.
If you’re OK with that then by all means, go ahead and get your wallet out!
I decided to wait until I had a real, physical, made-of-dead-tree copy of it in my hands before blogging, but I’m pleased to announced that the new book that Marco, Alberto and I wrote on SSAS 2012 Tabular models is now available to purchase (even though, as Marco says here it was actually officially released a few weeks ago).
A sample chapter can be found here:
You can buy it all all good bookshops, including Amazon UK. It has two five-star reviews on Amazon already, and Javier Guillén wrote a very detailed review here. Why not buy several copies so you can share it with your colleagues, friends, significant others, children, neighbours etc? It also makes ideal beach reading if you are currently on your holidays.
You may also have noticed there’s another SSAS Tabular book out, by Teo Lachev. Teo is an author I have the utmost respect for and I’m a big fan of everything he’s written; this book lives up to the high standards of his previous work. While it’s true there’s some overlap between his book and ours, the focus of his book is broader, covering topics such as Sharepoint, whereas ours has a narrower focus and goes into much greater detail on subjects such as DAX; so (again, as Marco says) you should probably consider buying both.
At long last, the SSAS 2012 Tabular book that Marco Russo, Alberto Ferrari and I have been working hard on for the last few months is now available for pre-order!
You can get it from Amazon UK, Amazon US, oreilly.com and all good bookstores…
I’ve just seen that my friend Tomislav Piasevoli’s new MDX book has just been published – it’s called “MDX with Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Analysis Services Cookbook” and you can get it here:
I was one of the technical reviewers on the book, so I’m not even going to pretend to review it, but it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re looking to deepen your knowledge of MDX and see some worked examples.
There’s no way I could ever pretend to be an impartial reviewer of Marco Russo and Alberto Ferrari’s new book, “PowerPivot for Excel 2010: Give Your Data Meaning”. First of all, they’re good friends of mine (we wrote “Expert Cube Development with SQL Server Analysis Services 2008” together last year); and secondly, I got a freebie copy of the book. But all that aside, I do honestly think it is a really good book. Just as an example, I’ve been playing around with some DAX problems over the last few days with a view to writing a some blog posts and had been struggling to get the EARLIER function to work in the way I’d been expecting; there are only a few examples of its use on the web but I found the book had a very detailed explanation of how it works. Indeed a large part of the book is concerned with DAX and it’s probably the best resource on that subject that I’ve seen, so that’s reason enough to buy it.
It’s important to point out, though, that Marco and Alberto’s book doesn’t really go into any detail on PowerPivot for Sharepoint – there is one chapter at the end, but it’s main focus is on PowerPivot for Excel. If you want to learn more about the Sharepoint side of things I can recommend “Professional PowerPivot for Excel and Sharepoint” by Siva Harinath, Ron Pihlgren and Denny Lee (and yes, I got this book as a freebie too – it’s one of the perks of being a blogger that you get loads of free books!). There’s very little overlap between the two books – the only thing they both cover is the basic info on how to build a PowerPivot model, and that subject is so basic most people will be able to work it out for themselves – so it’s probably worth getting both if you’re serious about learning PowerPivot.
One last bit of advertising: Marco and Alberto are running a two day PowerPivot workshop in the Netherlands at the beginning of December. More details can be found here: