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Excellent introduction to PowerPivot
on 5 January 2011
This book examines in detail PowerPivot which is a free add-in for Excel 2010. It makes possible the analysis of very large amounts of data normally beyond the capability of Excel. PowerPivot is not for the faint hearted and is aimed at experienced users of Excel who are familiar and comfortable with lookup functions, pivot tables and databases.
To take full advantage of the book, you will need to download PowerPivot itself and also the author's example files. There are 32-bit and 64-bit versions of PowerPivot and it is essential that you choose the one which matches your 32-bit or 64-bit version of Excel 2010.
The introductory chapter is a personal and interesting account which puts PowerPivot into context and shows the enthusiasm that Mr Excel has for his subject. After discussing how to obtain and install PowerPivot the book then begins to go into detail about how and when to use this application. Whilst it is clear that the author is a passionate advocate of PowerPivot, he is also critical of what he sees as shortcomings - for example, not easily being able to sort in month order - and he devotes a whole chapter to explaining the circumstances in which you might decide that a conventional pivot table might be a better approach.
The book gives detailed descriptions of the steps involved in many different tasks clearly illustrated with accompanying diagrams and supported by the exercise files that you can work through yourself. These include:
* Importing data
* Defining relationships between multiple tables
* Creating pivot tables using multiple sources
* Using the new DAX data analysis functions
* Using Slicers
* Creating charts
There are plenty of tips with two whole chapters on "cool tricks" separately devoted to working with conventional pivot tables and those created using PowerPivot. Advice on solving problems caused by "bad data" is included.
There are a few typographical errors in the text but the tasks are very well explained and so it is not difficult to work through the examples using the files provided to arrive at the required result.
In addition to the book and downloadable resources, there are 13 very watchable and informative You Tube videos in which the author demonstrates a topic from each chapter. These last only a few minutes each but give a good overview and may well be worth watching first before you attempt the exercises.
Overall, this is an excellent introduction to PowerPivot which takes you all the way from importing data to creating dashboards for the boardroom. If you are looking for a stimulating book to guide you towards a good knowledge of PowerPivot, choose this one.