There are a lot of cool new features in the September 2016 update for Power BI, so many in fact that several of the really important changes in the Query Editor are in danger of going unnoticed. In this post I want to walk through how to use the new Invoke Custom Function button in the Query Editor in Power BI and explain why it’s such a useful thing to have.
More advanced Power BI users will know that a lot of data loading patterns involve using custom M functions. In the past implementing these patterns involved learning M both for writing functions and also for invoking those functions. A few months ago Power BI introduced the ability to automatically generate functions from queries that use parameters, without needing to write code, and now with the latest update we can also invoke functions easily by clicking a button. This means that a lot more advanced data loading patterns are now available to users who don’t know any M and there’s even less need for someone like me to open the Advanced Editor window and start writing code.
Let’s take a look at how this works with a very simple example. Say you have a table that contains sales data, with the number of units sold and the price paid:
You now want to add a new column to this table that calculates the sales value as Units * Price, and you have a function to do this. Here’s what the M code for that function (called “Calculate Value”) could look like:
[sourcecode language=”text” padlinenumbers=”true”]
(Units as number, Price as number) => Units * Price
With a query that returns your sales data and another query that returns the Calculate Value function, you can easily create a new column on the sales data query and invoke the function for each row. Go to the Sales query, go to the Add Column tab on the ribbon, and click Invoke Custom Function:
You’ll see the Invoke Custom Function dialog appear. Here you can choose the query that returns the function you want to use and enter the values you want to pass to that functions’ parameters. At the moment you can type in a value or pass values from a column in the table you’re invoking (strangely enough you don’t seem to be able to use Power BI parameters here yet though?):
Click OK and the function is invoked for every row in the table:
To take a more realistic example, look at this post – this new functionality replaces the step where I create a new Custom Column and invoke the GetSheet1() function that I created.
This is why Power BI is so successful: Microsoft are not only implementing high-profile wow features but also adding the obscure, unsexy features that nonetheless make a real difference to the productivity of advanced users.