Documentation For New Excel 2016 DAX Functions

Microsoft has published documentation for the new DAX functions in the Excel 2016 preview here:

There’s a lot of detail, including examples (although the ConcatenateX() page isn’t live at the time of writing – but I’ve blogged about that already), so it’s well worth reading through.

NaturalInnerJoin And NaturalLeftOuterJoin DAX Functions In Excel 2016

Continuing my series on new DAX functions in Excel 2016, here are two more: NaturalInnerJoin() and NaturalLeftOuterJoin(). Both do pretty much what you’d expect.

Consider the following two tables in an Excel worksheet, called ColourFruit and FruitPrice:


With these tables loaded into the Excel Data Model as linked tables, the next step is to create a relationship between the tables on the Fruit column:


Both functions only work with two tables that have an active relationship between them, and both take two tables from the Excel Data Model as parameters. Once you’ve done that you can use these functions in a DAX query.

The queries

evaluate naturalinnerjoin(ColourFruit,FruitPrice)


evaluate naturalinnerjoin(FruitPrice,ColourFruit)

…both perform an inner join between the two tables on the Fruit column and both return the same table:


The query

evaluate naturalleftouterjoin(ColourFruit,FruitPrice)



The query

evaluate naturalleftouterjoin(FruitPrice,ColourFruit)



For NaturalLeftOuterJoin() the table given in the first parameter is on the left-hand side of the left outer join, so all rows from it are returned, whereas the table in the second parameter is on the right-hand side of the join so only the matching rows are returned.

ConcatenateX() DAX Function In Excel 2016

This is the first of many posts on the new DAX functions that have appeared in Excel 2016 (for a full list see this post). Today: the ConcatenateX() function.

The mdschema_functions schema rowset gives the following description of this function:

Evaluates expression for each row on the table, then return the concatenation of those values in a single string result, separated by the specified delimiter

Its signature is:

CONCATENATEX(Table, Expression, [Delimiter])

It’s easier to understand what it does using a simple example though. Consider the following table on a worksheet in Excel 2016:


When you add this table to the Excel Data Model (I called the table Sales) you can add the following measure:

Purchasing Customers:=

If you then use this measure in a PivotTable, you see the following:


As you can see, the measure returns a comma-delimited list of all of the customers who have bought each product. Very useful…

Point-In-Time Dimension Reporting In DAX

Before I start, I have to state that the technique shown in this post isn’t mine but was developed by my colleague Andrew Simmans, who has very kindly allowed me to blog about it.

Over the last few months I’ve been working on an SSAS Tabular project that has not only presented some interesting modelling challenges, but has shown how DAX can offer some new and interesting solutions to these challenges. Consider the following scenario: a supermarket sells products, and we have a fact table showing sales of products by day. Here’s some sample data:


To complicate matters, each product has one product manager but product managers for particular products change from time to time. Normally this might be solved by adding the product manager name to the Product dimension table and implementing a Type 2 Slowly Changing Dimension. In this case, though, we want something slightly different: instead of seeing sales attributed to the product manager who was in charge of the product at the time of the sale, and therefore seeing sales for the same product attributed to different product managers on different dates, we want to attribute all sales for a product to a single product manager but be able to use a second date dimension to be able to determine the point in time, and therefore the product manager in charge of each product at that point in time, that we want to report as of. To put it another way, we want to be able to find the state of a dimension on any given date and use that version of the dimension to do our analysis.

For example, we have the following table showing which product manager was in charge of each product at any given point in time:


Between January 1st 2013 and January 3rd 2013 Jim was the product manager for Orange, but from January 4th 2013 onwards Rob took over as product manager for Oranges; Fred was the product manager for Apples the whole time. We want a PivotTable that looks like this when we choose to report as of January 2nd 2013:


Notice how Jim is shown as the product manager for Oranges. If we wanted to report using the managers as of January 5th 2013, we would want to see Rob shown as the product manager for Oranges like so:


The solution to this problem involves a combination of two DAX techniques that have already been blogged about quite extensively and which I’d encourage you to read up on:

  • Many-to-many relationships, in this case the solution developed by Gerhard Brueckl, described on his blog here.
  • ‘Between’ date filters, which I wrote about recently but which Alberto has recently improved on in his must-read white paper here.

Here are the table relationships I’ve used for the sample scenario:


I’ve added a second date table called ReportingDate which contains the same rows as the Date table shown above; note that it has no relationship with any other table.

This problem is very similar to a many-to-many relationship in that a product can have many managers across time, and a manager can have many products. Indeed we could model this as a classic many-to-many relationship by creating a bridge table with one row for each valid combination of product and manager for each possible reporting date; on my project, however, this was not a viable solution because it would have resulted in a bridge table with billions of rows in it. Therefore, instead of joining the ReportingDate table directly to the ProductManager table, we can instead filter ProductManager using the between date filter technique.

Here’s the DAX of the Sum of Sales measure used in the PivotTables show above:

Sum of Sales:=





FILTER(ProductManager, MIN(ReportingDate[ReportingDate])>=ProductManager[StartDate] 


IF(ISBLANK(ProductManager[EndDate]), TRUE(), 






This is not necessarily the best way to write the code from a performance point of view but it’s the most readable – if you need better performance I recommend you read Alberto’s white paper. What I’m doing is this:

  • Only return a value if a single reporting date is selected
  • Filter the ProductManager table so only the rows where the selected reporting date is between the start date and the end date are returned, ie we only get the rows where a manager was in charge of a product on the reporting date
  • Use the filtered ProductManager table to filter the main fact table using the Calculate() function, in exactly the same way that you would with a many-to-many relationship

You can download my sample workbook here.

Defining DAX Measures In The With Clause Of An MDX Query

It’s a little-known fact (but certainly not completely unknown – it was mentioned in Marco, Alberto and my SSAS Tabular book I think) that you can define measures using DAX in the WITH clause of an MDX query. This means you can write queries like the following against an SSAS Tabular model:

measure ‘Date'[Demo Calc] =

select {measures.[Demo Calc]} on 0,
[Date].[Calendar Year].members on 1
from [Model]


The official documentation, such as it is, is here:

Unfortunately you can’t use it from Excel 2013 using the new ‘create calculated measure’ functionality; I also talked to the nice people behind OLAP PivotTable Extensions and there are some very good reasons why they can’t support this either.

What use is this then? You’re only going to be able to use it in scenarios where you control the generation of the MDX on the client side, such as SSRS reports, which may not be all that often; in fact, in these situations you might be better off writing the whole query in DAX. It’s only going to be useful when you need the power of MDX and DAX in the same query. For example, you might want to take advantage of DAX’s superior ability to detect multiselects, but write all your other calculations in MDX. I’m clutching at straws here though! Still, it’s an interesting thing to know about. Please leave a comment if you can thing of a situation where you can use it…

A New Events-In-Progress DAX Pattern

I’ve been working on a very complex SSAS Tabular implementation recently, and as a result I’ve learned a few new DAX tricks. The one that I’m going to blog about today takes me back to my old favourite, the events-in-progress problem. I’ve blogged about it a lot of times, looking at solutions for MDX and DAX (see here and here), and for this project I had to do some performance tuning on a measure that uses a filter very much like this.

Using the Adventure Works Tabular model, the obvious way of finding the number of Orders on the Internet Sales table that are open on any given date (ie where the Date is between the dates given in the Order Date and the Ship Date column) is to write a query something like this:



    VALUES ( 'Date'[Date] ),



        COUNTROWS ( 'Internet Sales' ),

        FILTER( 'Internet Sales', 'Internet Sales'[Ship Date] > 'Date'[Date] ),

        FILTER( 'Internet Sales', 'Internet Sales'[Order Date] <= 'Date'[Date] )



ORDER BY 'Date'[Date]

On my laptop this executes in around 1.9 seconds on a cold cache. However, after a bit of experimentation, I found the following query was substantially faster:



    VALUES ( 'Date'[Date] ),




            'Internet Sales',



                    , 'Internet Sales'[Order Date]

                    , DATEADD('Internet Sales'[Ship Date],-1, DAY))

                , [Date]

                , 'Date'[Date]





ORDER BY 'Date'[Date]

On a cold cache this version executes in just 0.2 seconds on my laptop. What’s different? In the first version of the calculation the FILTER() function is used to find the rows in Internet Sales where the Order Date is less than or equal to the Date on rows, and where the Ship Date is greater than the Date. This is the obvious way of solving the problem. In the new calculation the DATESBETWEEN() function is used to create a table of dates from the Order Date to the day before the Ship Date for each row on Internet Sales, and the CONTAINS() function is used to see if the Date we’re interested in appears in that table.

I’ll be honest and admit that I’m not sure why this version is so much faster, but if (as it seems) this is a generally applicable pattern then I think this is a very interesting discovery.

Thanks to Marco, Alberto and Marius for the discussion around this issue…

UPDATE: Scott Reachard has some some further testing on this technique, and found that the performance is linked to the size of the date ranges. So, the shorter your date ranges, the faster the performance; if you have large date ranges, this may not be the best performing solution. See

UPDATE: Alberto has done a lot more research into this problem, and come up with an even faster solution. See:

Comments And Descriptions In DAX

With my Technitrain hat on I’m sitting in on Marco’s Advanced DAX course in London today, and the question of comments in DAX came up – which reminded me that this is something I’ve been meaning to blog about. DAX as a language supports comments, but unfortunately it’s not possible to add comments inside a DAX measure or calculated column expression in either PowerPivot or SSAS Tabular right now (which is where they’re most needed – I hope this changes in the future). That said, there are some other things you can do to add textual explanations and descriptions to your DAX measure code.

Before we get onto the workarounds, a quick word about comments in DAX. These can only be used in DAX queries, and the types of comment supported are the same as in MDX: double-dashes and double-forward-slashes for single line comments, and forward-slash-asterisk to start a multi-line comment and asterisk-forward-slash to close a multi-line comment. Here’s an example:

--single line comment

//another single line comment

/*a multi-line


evaluate table1


What can be done with measures though? After all, that’s where the most complex DAX is usually written.

First of all, you can add a description to a measure by right-clicking on it in the measure grid and selecting Description:



Unfortunately this description is not easily accessible to end users anywhere (it would be great if it appeared as a tooltip in a PivotTable, for example) but it can be seen in an Excel worksheet by running a DMV query. DMV queries can be run in Excel 2013 in the same way as DAX queries, using a query table as described here; the DMV query to use is:


measure_name as [Measure Name], [description], measure_is_visible 

from $system.mdschema_measures



Unfortunately all hidden and implicit measures are returned, and even when the table is filtered so that only measure_is_visible=true there are still a lot of measures that probably shouldn’t be shown.

Similarly, descriptions can be added to any column (calculated or not) in your model, again by right-clicking on it and selecting Description.


This description can be displayed in the worksheet using the following DMV query:


hierarchy_name as [Column Name], [description] as [Description] 

from $system.mdschema_hierarchies

where cube_name='model'



You can also write text direct to cells in the measure grid too. When I first saw a customer do this I was worried that it might not be supported, but I’ve been told that it is; so long as you don’t use the =: used for defining measures then you should be ok.


This is probably the best way to add comments to your code, if only because it’s the most visible to anyone looking at your PowerPivot/SSAS Tabular model. Of course, for it to be effective you’ll need to have a system for arranging your measures in the measure grid; in “SQL Server Analysis Services 2012: The BISM Tabular Model”, Marco, Alberto and I recommended that you arrange all your measures in the top-left hand corner of the measure grid and I think that’s still a good idea, but the use of text in cells to create headings for groups of measures as well as descriptions can help a lot too.