Changes to the Default Data Loading Options in Power Query

This past week, the March 2014 update for Power Query became available. As always, I wasted no time in getting it installed. There are a number of significant new features in this release (all outlined at the above link), but one that caught my attention is the new “Selection Well” for multi table import.

The Selection Well allows you to not only see all of the items that have been selected for import, but also allows each query to be edited before the query is executed. This is a significant enhancement to the previous behaviour in which the queries would be executed once, and only then could be edited.

However, the thing that jumped out at me most was the change to the default load settings. “Load to worksheet” is no longer the default, but “Load to Data Model” is.

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Hallelujah! As I’ve pointed out before, I strongly feel that this should be the default given the file size limitations for Excel workbooks in Power BI (still 10 MB outside of the model).  This, on the surface is a very welcome development. However, as it turns out, it’s not quite that simple.

This new default only takes effect when the “Select multiple items” option is selected in the query navigator. (For the record, it is possible to select this option, and then select only one item, and thus take advantage of the new default, but if you need to think about a default, it sort of defeats the purpose). If only one item is selected, then edited, the default is still “Load to worksheet” which I maintain is the wrong default, for all of the reasons outlined in my earlier article.

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I presume that the thinking here is that casual users will expect to see their imported data immediately in Excel, but a user is using multiple tables, then they will understand that they need to use a data model, and will want to create relationships. The fear is that casual users will be confused if they don’t immediately see their data in the workbook.

This behaviour is also similar to that found in the import data dialog. If you choose to select multiple tables:

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The data will automatically be added to the data model, whether or not Power Pivot has been enabled. The final screen shows that, and unless the “Table” view is selected, the data will be imported only into the model, not the workbook.

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I applaud the move within Power Query, but I still feel that load to model should be the default in all cases. The current behaviour is inconsistent. Sometimes it is the default, and sometimes it isn’t, and if you’re not watching, you’ll wind up with the wrong behaviour. I also feel that we should be encouraging Excel’s use as a data client, and discouraging its use as a data base. Leaving the import to worksheet as a default further exacerbated the use of Excel as a “spreadmart” tool.

Friends don’t let friends Load to worksheet.

One thought on “Changes to the Default Data Loading Options in Power Query

  1. Eric Hutton

    To me this suggests that the default should be either be selectable as a user option, or that neither should be selected and the user reminded to select where to load the model if they haven’t done so on closing the query window.

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