Power BI Synonyms, Take Q&A Experience to the Next Level

In April 2016 a bunch of fantastic features were added to Power BI Desktop. Some of these features, like Query Parameters, Power BI Templates and new drill action to see records, quickly grasped my attention. I wrote about Query Parameters before. You can learn how to use Query Parameters in Power BI Desktop here or more complicated use cases like Query Parameters and SQL Server 2016 Dynamic Data Masking (DDM) here.

Another cool feature is adding Synonyms to the model. Power BI Synonyms can significantly improve the Q&A and query experience. With synonyms, we can now add descriptions to the data model objects such as tables, columns and measures in the Power BI Desktop. The descriptive information could include names that the end-users may possibly use to refer to an object or abbreviations used across the business. Addin these descriptions or, as the name suggests, synonyms makes using Q&A even easier for our customers to find what they are looking for. The customers don’t know all table,  column or measure names. Defining a standard list of names for tables, columns, or measures makes Q&A much more helpful.

For instance, we can add the following synonyms:

Note: The following tables and columns are from AdventureWorksDW.

Original Name Object Type Synonym
FactInternetSales Table Internet Sales, InternetSales
OrderQuantity Column Order Quantity, Order Qty, ord qty
SalesAmount Column Sales Amount, Sales Amt, Internet Sales Amount, Internet Sales Amt
TaxAmt Column Tax Amount, Tax Amt
Freight Column freight
OrderDate Column order date

How it works

It’s easy to set up synonyms in Power BI Desktop. Switch to Model view, then click “Synonyms” from the “Modeling” tab from the ribbon. Then, simply enter the synonyms.

Power BI Desktop Synonyms

After we publish a Power BI Desktop model to Power BI Service, the synonyms will play a great role in Q&A so that when the customer types “ord qty” the Q&A engine will recognise it as “OrderQuantity” and display the results. It’s really cool, isn’t it?

But let’s think a little bit out of the box. What if we add some translations as synonyms? Hmm. I think it would be really great if a Spanish customer could type Spanish column names in Q&A rather than English. I added some translations to FactInternetSales columns and DimDate columns.

Power BI Desktop Synonyms

Thanks to Google Translate for French and Spanish translations. Sorry French and Spanish guys, if the translation looks funny. Smile

Now, I publish the model to Power BI Service. To do so, just click on “Publish” from the “Home” tab from the ribbon.

Publish Power BI Desktop Model

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