The Power Query Branding Problem

A few years ago I started blogging about Power Query. Back then life was simple: I put “Power Query” in the title of a post and everyone knew what I was writing about, because Power Query was an Excel add-in you could download and install. Now, however, the technology has been renamed “Get & Transform” in Excel 2016 and is a native feature of Excel; the name “Power Query” only applies to the add-in for Excel 2010 and 2013. What’s more, the same technology is used in Power BI’s Query Editor and it’s also now in Azure Analysis Services, Analysis Services 2017 Tabular and the Common Data Service. This is obviously a good thing – I think Power Query is one of the best things to come out of Microsoft in the last decade – but it also presents me with a problem. How can I write about this technology if it doesn’t have a single, official, easily identifiable name?

In more recent times I’ve written posts with unwieldy names like “Introduction to Insert Topic Name Here in Power Query/Power BI/Excel 2016 Get & Transform” and in the future I suppose this will have to grow to “Introduction to Insert Topic Name Here in Power Query/Power BI/Excel 2016 Get & Transform/Analysis Services Data Loading/Common Data Service”. Tagging and categorising blog posts can help here, I know, but it’s the title of a blog post that’s the main determining factor as to whether it gets read or not when someone is looking at a list of search results. It’s getting ridiculous, but how else can I ensure that someone searching for the solution to a data loading problem in Excel 2016 Get & Transform will find a post I’ve written that contains the answer but shown in Power BI?

Inside Microsoft I understand that the team that builds this technology is known as the Power Query team. I certainly think about this technology as being called Power Query, as do a lot of other people in the community. However, my argument is that I can’t just use the name “Power Query” when I’m writing or speaking about this technology because most of its users – especially those who are new to it and who need the most help – don’t think of it as “Power Query”. They think of it as Excel 2016 Get & Transform, the Query Editor in Power BI Desktop and so on, the specific instances of it.

Maybe I’m making too big a deal of this, but in my opinion this is a problem not just for me but for Microsoft too. We all know how much developers rely on internet searches to find solutions to problems, and not having a single name for this technology makes it much harder to search successfully. This in turn makes it less likely that when a developer runs into a problem they will be able to solve it, which in turn means they are less likely to want to use this technology in future.

What’s the answer? It has to be to make the “Power Query” brand visible somewhere in the UI of all the products that use Power Query technology. I know there’s a risk of confusing users instead of helping them here (am I using Power Query or Power BI?), but it could be as simple as making a few small changes like renaming the “Query Editor” window to be the “Power Query Editor”:


I think that would be enough to let people know that “Power Query” is a technology in its own right and that content referring to “Power Query” is relevant to Excel, Power BI, SSAS and everywhere else that Power Query is used. It would also be nice if, now that M is the official name of the M language (and not Power Query Formula Language), the Advanced Editor window and the Custom Column dialog let users know that the code they were writing in them was in a language called M and not some mysterious, nameless scripting language.

What do you think? I’m interested to hear your comments and opinions…

UPDATE: victory is ours! See this comment from Faisal Mohamood of the Power Query team below
Hey there Chris – what you are saying makes complete sense. Power Query is the name of this capability and we will highlight the name of this capability as such in experiences where you are working with Power Query (and M).

43 thoughts on “The Power Query Branding Problem

  1. Couldn’t agree more. It’s really unpractical if you’re giving a training to beginners and you have to explain that the same technology pops up in different places. Really confusing with all the different names, and the same goes up for Power Pivot as well (Power Pivot, the Excel Data Model, the Power BI Desktop Model and SSAS Tabular Model).

  2. Absolutely agree. When I teach Power BI, I’ve got to explain that Query Editor is the same as Power Query in Excel 2010/2013, which is the same as Get & Transform in Excel 2016.

    A bit of a hassle to let people know that when they learn Power Query, they get two (or five now?) for the price of one.

  3. I totally agree, and I don’t think you’re making too big a deal of it. This has become a complete mess over the past few years and it makes it extremely frustrating for those of us who have the job of promoting this technology in a way that is easy for end users to understand. Personally I continue to explain to users that whatever it may be referred to in a particular skew of a product, it is essentially “Power Query” that they are using.

  4. Yep I agree, as it gets used in more and more places it’s important to have a shared name (and I think there’s nothing better than Power Query!).

    Though as koenverbeeck says above, what do you do with Power Pivot? Do you just call it a tabular data model? “Excel, Power BI, and Analysis Services can all host tabular data models”. Saying “Tabular Data Model” doesn’t quite sound like a particular product with a specific language (DAX).

  5. I totally agree about this, it’s not just about writing about Power Query, it’s also about how to use specialized “feature sets” (one of these feature sets could be named “Power Query” in architectural drawings, it would be great to have icon sets for these different feature sets as well. Lets say a yellowicon representing the Query Editor part of Power BI, and a green one for Excel, blue for SSAS …

  6. Agreed. Let’s just stick with Power Query. Nothing wrong with it. Even the Add Custom Column dialogue box in “Get & Transform” refers to “Learn about Power Query formula”…. come on…

  7. Chris: I think you are spot on here. My associate and I are new users of {insert your name here} query technology. My associate uses Excel 2016 I use 2013. We are the only users of {insert your name here} in a company of 3000. Searching for help is hampered but the lack of a “brand name ” but so is selling the concept of expanding the use of {insert your name here} query technology and its associated presentation technologies because the explanation of what it does is too complex; forget explaining how it does it. I have used the term “Excel on Steriods” with some success but would much prefer a “Brand Name” to describe P3. If you can get the Microsoft team to create such a name, I would use it to try to convince my superiors to expand the use of the technologies.

  8. Chris, I read your blog every Fri. It starts my day with a good scoop of knowledge. Thanks!
    Microsoft never publishes its business strategy around tools, which I think is the crux of the issue here. I took a course on Power BI recently and their functionality to transform data is easy to use. I guess Microsoft may have embarked on a strategy to replace Excel with Power BI in coming years. What do you think?

  9. Chris,

    You nailed it — I’ve had this same thought ever since they rebranded PowerQuery to “Get & Transform” for Excel 2016. This causes too much confusion to customers, especially since the product is just now getting traction in corporate environments. Hopefully they correct this soon and can just call it “PowerQuery.”

  10. Agreed, Power Query is what I have been using in any documentation/presentations that I do (with a small mention of Get Data in Excel 2016 sometimes). Microsoft, make it so! 🙂

  11. I feel exactly the same. I run internal trainings at my company to teach people Power Pivot and Power Query, and every time I have to explain to them that even though it is not called Power Query, that’s what is, even if Microsoft doesn’t name it that way all the time.
    Also, many users don’t expect Power Query to be kind of a special tool, they think of Get & Transform Data as a way to establish connections, similar to the old ugly dialogs. When I show them that it is basically a tool within a tool, they are usually blown away, and the comments are always. “Didn’t know that Excel could do that”, “Would have never known”. Also when customers update their Office versions, they don’t even get a splash screen, showing them the new features, or inviting them to try them out. This would also greatly improve adoption.

  12. Funny, I was thinking the same thing this week – about just adding Power to the menu. In a way I can understand the UI police at MS wanting to keep the descriptors on the menu as verb phrases, but there should be no reason they can’t change the window title.

  13. I agree with you all. But don’t you think that a name is just a name? Power Query’s parents decided to call the boy “Get & Transform” when he is at school, and they call him “Queryboy” when he is at the park, and there are other names they utter silently at family events. Who cares? Eventually the boy will grow and use the most frequent name his friends have been calling him all these years. And it seems we all know which name he will keep. So, as his friends – let’s call him Power Query. And let his parents pay for his fancy toys. It’s so fun to be his friends.

    • Hi Gil, my point is not that Power Query is called Power Query. You and I know that. My point is that there’s nothing in the UI to tell the user that, and to tell the user that a blog post/video/book on Excel Get & Transform is going to also apply to Power BI’s Query Editor.

      • I agree Chris. I just wanted to give another perspective (or a distraction). I think that this will eventually get fixed one way or another. The damage is temporary. The kid will grow and be OK. And from James’ comment below, the kid is destined for glory 🙂

  14. Power Query is the name of the functionality and the way we will refer to it going forward. It will continue to surface across more Microsoft products and services. Key ingredient and growing in importance.

    • Nice to see you here, James, I’m honoured! My point is, though, that if Power Query is the name of the functionality, how is the average user meant to know that? It isn’t anywhere in the UI, so how can they search for help about it? How do they know that Power Query = Get & Transform = Power BI data loading = SSAS data loading = CDS data loading?

  15. I completely agree. PowerQuery is snappy and seems to fit with the PowerXXX branding, although I do get confused if these terms are made of 1 word or 2 distinct words. For me, they would work better in searches if they were all consistently one combined word because it would be a much more targeted search term.

  16. For me it will always be Power Query – its a great brand name and describes what it does. I do wish they would recognise it as such in the UI & doco.

  17. Of even more importance (to me) is that when I tell folks about it (folks who have never ever used it) it can be very confusing. First I have to figure out what version of Excel they are one. Then I have to figure out if they would be willing to use the PowerBI tool. Their answer to these questions determine what name I give them for this tool. But by the time I have gotten that far, their eyes have glazed over, and they are convinced that, whatever it is, it is too ‘advanced’ for them. I think, to spread the word to folks who are just getting their feet wet, it needs to be simple to explain.

  18. I fully agree! The technology “Power Query” should be called “Power Query” in all plattforms and the “technology Data Model” should be called “Tabular Model” in all plattform. I would vote for that! There is no sense – even in marketing – to have different labels for the same thing, I really do not understand that …

  19. There is a team is Microsoft called the UI Astronauts whose job is to fix something that is not broken.
    For example in Outlook with the Aug update you cant do an advanced find

  20. 100% agreed Chris. Get & Transform is too much of a noddy name for such as powerful capability. My guess is that MS what to avoid the Power Query moniker otherwise some will think that it is a standalone product…?
    I always append my internet searches with ‘Power Query’, and it always seem to get to the right content.
    Your comments about M are also so true. I hope that MS are working on a better interface for the Advanced Editor – even if it just had context highlighting. At the moment, I bet that most of us paste the content into Notepad++ or similar – which seems so wasteful. Oh, and while we’re in the Advanced Editor; context sensitive F1 help would be cool – just imagine that!!

  21. Since Microsoft removed PowerPivot from most versions of Excel 2016, they then needed to create the appearance that the same was done to Power Query. Hence the name change to Get and Transform.

  22. As far as I know, this is a classic Microsoft move, they invent one great name for one thing, and then they start to use it on many other things, making it all confusing for us!

  23. I completely agree. I have had this issue every single time I talk about Power BI parts to a customer. Why don’t they call it Power Query in all the places where you can find it?

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