Chris Webb posted about Data Explorer being available for public preview and I thought I will give it a quick spin. You can download it here . The installation is pretty straightforward. After the installation, when you open Excel (I am using Excel 2010), you would see a new Data Explorer tab like below.
Data Explorer can import data from a number of sources including Facebook (How cool is that!!!). The complete list of sources and how-to is here. For the purpose of this small exercise, I am using data from Lending Club. It is available to download from their website.
Once the data source is et up and connected, new query screen shows up and this is where many of the transformations can be done. I am going to list few here which can be of use to general users.
1. Change Type of column
By default the data type of the column is set to Auto-Detect. You can change it to your specific data type by right-clicking on the column and selecting the type from Change Type option.
Similar to changing the data type, you can do some simple transformations on the columns. To do this, right click on the column in the query window and select Transform. The options in Transform menu will depend on the data type of the column. For numeric columns, this option is greyed out.
3. Adding a new column
New columns can be very easily added and formulas can be used. The complete formula reference is listed on Office help page.
For example, in the below screenshot I am adding a new column which will take the lower range of FICO Score (FICO score is like credit score in US).
4. Undo transform
One of the nice features was the ability to Undo a transform (oh!! how I miss the undo button in SSIS). On the left hand side, you would see Steps section. If you expand that, it will list all the steps you have taken so far to transform data. Clicking the X against it will undo the transform you did in that step. If you try to remove a step other than the last step, you get a warning.
Some other handy transforms are Split, Replace Values and Group By and I think they are self explanatory.
I did face an error though while doing some transformations. The file mentioned above contained 11428 records. After doing some transformations, I was trying to save the Query and get the data in a workbook, at which point I was persistently getting the following error. Not to mention, I sent a lot of frowns to MS. What worked was, using a sample of rows to do transformations and then import all in the workbook.
All in all, it’s a nice utility to do some simple transformations and combine data from different sources in excel. Soon I am planning to take look at how it works with Facebook data.