PowerPivot to the People (Getting Started with PowerPivot for Excel)

Friday Sep 17th 2010 by Deanna Dicken

New with SQL Server 2008 R2, PowerPivot is an extension of Analytical Services providing power users with a familiar tool for analyzing massive amounts of data from disparate sources (including web and data feeds). PowerPivot comes in two flavors: PowerPivot for Excel and PowerPivot for Sharepoint. This article gets you started with PowerPivot for Excel.

New with SQL Server 2008 R2, PowerPivot is an extension of Analytical Services providing power users with a familiar tool for analyzing massive amounts of data from disparate sources (including web and data feeds).   PowerPivot comes in two flavors:  PowerPivot for Excel and PowerPivot for Sharepoint.  This article gets you started with PowerPivot for Excel.

Installing PowerPivot

The PowerPivot plugin for Excel can be downloaded from the official PowerPivot site: www.powerpivot.com.    

PowerPivot can be installed on both x86 and x64 systems including Windows XP sp3, Windows Vista sp1, and Windows 7.  If you aren’t installing it on Windows 7, you will need to install .Net Framework 3.5 SP1.

A minimum of 1G of memory is required to run PowerPivot, but 2G is recommended.   Depending on the solution, more memory for PowerPivot can increase the performance of the transformations due to its in-memory processing capabilities.

Also on the PowerPivot site is a link to a trial for Microsoft Office 2010 Professional Plus if you don’t already have it installed.  If you customize the installation of the Office Suite, you need to choose at least Excel and the Office Shared Tools.

Once Microsoft Office is installed, you can download the PowerPivot install from the download page on the PowerPivot site.  Locate and click on the PowerPivot install file.  The add-in will actually install the next time you run Excel, at which time you will be asked to approve the installation of the PowerPivot add-in. 

Creating Your First PowerPivot

Now that the PowerPivot add-in is installed, you can see that you have a new PowerPivot tab across the top of Excel.  Clicking on that tab displays the PowerPivot ribbon.  To select the data to use for your PowerPivot, you will need to click on the PowerPivot Window button (highlighted on the left below).

On the PowerPivot window, select Get External Data from Database -> From SQL Server.  Notice that you can also get data from many other sources including data feeds, text files, and the web.  In this case, however, we are going to use the AdventureWorks2008DW sample database.

In the Table Import Wizard, specify localhost for the server and AdventureWorks2008DW as the Database name.  If you need to install AdventureWorks2008DW, you can find it here.

Hit Next and make sure to select “Select from a list of tables and views to choose the data to import” from the next screen.

From the table list, select the FactResellerSales table and rename it to ResellerSales in the Friendly Name column.


While you are there, click the Select Related Tables button.  This selects the 7 tables in the database that have a relationship with the FactResellerSales table.  Click Preview & Filter just to have a look; we won’t change anything here, though you could use it to filter out rows and columns from the model.

Click Cancel to get out of Preview & Filter and then hit Finish on the Table Import Wizard screen.  This brings up the following window which displays the progress on each table import.

A Details link displays in the message column on each import line if there is information or errors regarding the import.  Notice there is a detail link on final step, data preparation.  Clicking that displays a popup window with information about the data preparation.  Most of it is successful, but it does inform you of a few errors.  For instance, self-joins are not supported in the case of employee.  Fortunately, none of these affect the pivot we are creating.



Closing the Table Import Wizard reveals the model from which we will work.  First, let’s tweak a few things.  You see each imported table is represented on its own tab in the model.  Let’s select the ResellerSales tab.

Scroll all the way to the right and click on “Add Column” in the header.  For the expression, subtract TotalProductCost from SalesAmount.  You can either type in the expression as it appears below, or build it as you click the columns.

Now we need to give our new computed column a better name than ComputedColumn1.  Right-click on the column header and select “Rename Column” from the drop down menu.  Change the name to “Profit”.

To get started on the Pivot Table, we need to switch back to the workbook itself.  You can either just click on the spreadsheet in the background or you can use the toolbar button that looks like the Excel icon (next to Formatting) to switch back. 

Once back in the workbook, select the PivotTable button and choose Chart and Table (Horizontal) from the menu.  This allows you to create  both a chart and table for your data contained on one table.  The chart will be on the left and data will be on the right.

When asked for a decision on placing it in a new or existing workbook, choose the existing workbook.

The Field List panel on your right controls the contents of the pivot.  Let’s begin by dragging the fields we are interested in from the list into their respective areas.  First drag the amount fields for TotalProcuctCost, SalesAmount, and Profit from the ResellerSales table down to the Values list.  Drag the SalesTerritoryRegion from DimSalesTerritory to the Row Labels list.  Similarly, drag the ResellerName column from the DimReseller table down to the Row Labels list and drop it in below the SalesTerritoryRegion column. 

Now that the report is filled in, we’ll clean it up a little.  Change the header “Row Labels” to “Region\Reseller”.  Change the headers over the three amount fields to remove “Sum of” from the name.  Your pivot report and Field List panel should resemble the following screen shot.

It’s starting to look good, but the chart is way too busy.  Maybe we should just look at one region at a time.  So let’s add a horizontal slicer.  From the Field List, choose SalesTerritoryRegion again and drag it to the Slicers Horizontal list.  Now you see a button for each region displayed at the top of the report.  Click on France.  You’ll see the report and chart filter down to display just the region of France and its resellers.

Let’s further narrow down the chart by doing a manual filter using the filter button on the chart for ResellerName.  From the list, first click Select All to unselect all the resellers, then pick just Accessories Network, Ace Bicycle Supply, and Atypical Bike Company.  This reduces the Resellers displayed on the chart to just these three.  Note that if we would have selected resellers not from France (our existing Region filter), the chart would be empty.

The resulting chart is much easier to read having just the three resellers of interest graphed.

We are not quite done.  It’s bothering me that our amounts have more than 2 decimal places, so let’s take care of that real quick.  Select all the data for the three amount columns and when the formatting menu appears, select the $ icon as shown below.

And now, the final product.  Congratulations on completing your first PowerPivot report.


Hopefully you found it quite easy to create your first PowerPivot.  Explore the other options for data sources and PowerPivot reports.  There is so much more you can you can do with this powerful analytical add-in for Excel.

» See All Articles by Columnist Deanna Dicken

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