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Power Query: What is it? What’s it for?

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power query

If data analysis is increasingly valued by companies, data analysts must undertake a significant amount of preparation work before they can make use of the available information. Fortunately, there are tools that facilitate data processing from various sources. This is particularly the case with Power Query. So, what is it? What is its purpose? What are its features? And its advantages? Find all the answers in this article.

What's Power Query all about?

Power Query is a data extraction, transformation, and loading (ETL) tool that allows users to connect, import, and prepare data from various sources for subsequent analysis in Excel, Power BI, or other applications.

The goal of Power Query is to help you standardize your databases to simplify post-analysis. The idea is to facilitate data processing, from collection to update.

To achieve this, Power Query offers a multitude of features, such as importing from different data sources, connecting the query editor to the source file, data transformation, reporting, and more.

For Data Analysts, automating these tasks saves valuable time.

How does Power Query work?

Power Query is directly integrated into Microsoft tools such as Power BI and Excel.

It is very easy to use Power Query in Excel. However, please note that this solution is only available in the most recent versions (starting from Excel 2016).

If you have one of these versions, you can simply:

1. Go to the “Data” tab.
2. Under the “Get & Transform Data” section.
3. Click on “Get Data” and then use the Power Query Editor.

From there, the query editor opens in a new window.

However, for Excel 2010 and 2013 versions, Power Query is not integrated automatically. In this case, you need to go to the Microsoft website to download Power Query and then install it on your Excel worksheet.

What are Power Query's features?

To simplify analytics work, Power Query provides several features aimed at improving data quality.

Data import

Power Query can import data from a wide variety of sources, including an Excel workbook, a text file, a SQL database, a website, an API, and more.

To do this, you should follow these steps:

1. Go to the “Data” tab.
2. Click on “Get Data.”
3. Select the data source you need.

If the information is usable as-is, you can add it directly to your worksheet. However, if you want to change the format, Power Query’s query editor allows you to transform the data.

Transforming data

Once the data is loaded into Power Query, you can transform it as you wish.

It’s important to note that Power Query works by column. The goal is not to modify individual cells but columns. This saves time when processing data.

With Power Query, you can:

– Convert some textual data into numeric data.
– Delete columns.
– Change column headers.
– Standardize the format of all the data.
– And more.

This is a non-exhaustive list, as the Power Query dashboard offers over 300 transformation options, including AI-based modifications. This gives you unparalleled flexibility compared to other data processing tools.

Once all the data is in the right format, you can integrate it into your Excel worksheet for better utilization. Indeed, thanks to this standardization work, it becomes easier to create charts, pivot tables, reports, and more.

Update data

The strength of Power Query is its connectivity. This solution can connect to multiple sources to update data in real-time. So, as soon as a modification appears in the original file, you can see it in Excel. To do this, you simply need to refresh your table.

In addition to real-time updates, Power Query’s query editor presents information in the correct format. If you formatted the original file during import, Power Query saves all the parameters of an existing query (e.g., column deletion, header modification, displaying numeric data, etc.). Every time this tool loads new information, it retraces the initially applied steps to provide you with the correct data model, without you having to do anything.

This feature is particularly useful in companies that use constantly changing datasets, such as financial data or customer data. Thanks to this real-time refresh, companies can make better decisions.

What are the advantages of Power Query?

Saving time

For analysts, Power Query automates all the tasks involved in data preparation. In other words, the most time-consuming tasks that add little value to the business.

As a result, data analysts can spend more time analyzing and interpreting data to improve the quality of the decision-making process.

Connection from a wide variety of data

Power Query can connect to all types of data sources. Whether you are importing information from an Excel spreadsheet, a PDF document, a database, a website, an API, or any other source, Power Query is capable of leveraging this external data and updating it in real-time.

Ease of use

To use Power Query, you don’t need to write a single line of code. Since this solution is directly integrated into your analysis tools, you simply need to follow the various options presented in the dashboard to import, transform, or connect your data.

Power Query, automated data preparation

Data preparation is often a time-consuming task that can encroach on the analysis phase. Yet, this step is essential to ensure data quality and the relevance of decisions made. Power Query precisely reduces the preparation time with its automated features.

With this query editor, you can import data from a wide variety of sources, transform the data to make it easier to work with, and update your dashboard in just a few clicks.


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