Power BI external Tools – ALM Toolkit

How do you do schema changes to your model without refreshing the entire model?

This is especially applicable for large models using incremental refresh where refreshing the entire data set takes a long time to process.

The ALM toolkit really helps with this process

The examples I am going to use aren’t incremental refresh but it will hopefully give some idea on how to use the ALM toolkit

And a big proviso here. You can only do this with Premium workspaces


Open your model in Power BI desktop. From here go to External tools and open the ALM Toolkit (Ensure you have the latest version of the AML toolkit downloaded)

The source has already been populated against the open model. We now need to set the target


Go to the service. Workspace Settings.

At this point the workspace needs to be in Premium

You need to copy the workspace Connection which is only available in Premium. Once copied, add into Workspace

We can see that the pbix file and the data set in service are identical. ‘Same Definition

Lets make some changes

Adding a new measure

add a new measure in your desktp pbix dataset.

Total Product Standard Cost = SUM(FactResellerSales[ProductStandardCost])

And back to ALM toolkit.

Before continuing, go into Options

Make sure that the Processing Option is default and that we are only going to process affected tables

For table updates, retain partitions should be checked, This is very specific to Power BI Incremental loading. Incremental loading works with partitions and we don’t want ALM toolkit to go to the database and affect any of the partitions ‘For example you could have a partition for every year’

Click  Compare

And then Select Actions

Hide Skip objects will get rid of everything that hasn’t changed.

Now we can see the one new measure

We want to add the new measure without completely refreshing the data set

Then go to Update

Are you sure? message is returned

Quick note on XMLA Endpoints

At this point you need to have Read Write enabled on the XMLA endpoint

“XMLA endpoints enable open-platform connectivity to Power BI datasets. With these capabilities, customers can leverage a single one-version-of-the-truth semantic model across a range of data-visualization tools”


To do this you need to be the Power BI Admin or global Admin. In Admin Portal > Capacity settings > Workloads > XMLA Endpoint = read Write

If the next step doesn’t work you may need to speak to your Admin about the above. this is because we are using an external tool to update the schema.

When I tried this, I didn’t notice errors but the changes started to add up as I went along the process.

Back to the Update

Click OK to are you sure? and the measure is quickly updated. the database wasn’t read or updated. All that happened was a quick schema update.

Why would you want to run an upload, full or Incremental for new measures? this is the perfect way of introducing those new measures as quickly as possible.

Adding a calculated Column

Adding calculated columns aren’t advised because they don’t get compressed in the tabular database, Its always worth doing this in Power Query Editor or ideally in your source reporting database.

Back in the desktop file

A simple calculated column is created.

In ALM toolkit go back to Options

Again, the following options should be set

Then go to Compare. Select Actions and Hide Skipped Objects

And here is the new calculated Column.

Next click Validate Selection

If we were working with Incremental refresh and partitions you would see all your partitions here along with the above information.

If you have these partitions when you update you will see a process message, but don’t worry, it hasn’t done any data processing at the source, its simply added the new column and processed only within the model.

You can go into Power BI Service and do a quick Edit on a report,

drag the new column in to see that there is data for that column, but nothing else has been processed.

Adding new tables or new columns at source or in Power Query Editor

In this case we actually need the data to process.

  • The measure just needed the DAX to be added to the model.
  • The calculated column simply used the data already within the data model without doing a process.

For this new logic we do need to process the data.

Back in the ALM toolkit you need to untick, for table updates retain partitions because we now need to pull the data in for all the partitions and process all that data.

Process only affected tables is an important option here, We don’t want to process anything but the new table or column.

Once you have the settings set above you can go on to validate and update. And importantly this time the new data will be processed into the model, rather than just a schema change.

And every partition will be processed on an incremental load because of the change to the settings.

This is an excellent way of dealing with updates on large models but its important to note

  • Only available for Premium
  • Ensure Admin Settings – Read Write enabled on the XMLA endpoint

Power BI July 2020 Mini Blog – Launch External Tools

This is part of the Semantic modelling for Power BI Programme and its a big one. Very exciting

The first thing you should see is External Tools on your ribbon (Making sure you are on the Jusy 2020 release of Desktop)

In the first instance, this doesn’t appear to be avilable. Why is this missing?

This is because you may not have the latest releases of the External tools.

These tools are:

  • ALM toolkit
  • DAX Studio
  • Tabular Editor

Currently, I only have DAX Studio but this isnt enough to give me the External tools Menu item? Whats going on?

DAX Studio

My Current release is

Going to DAX studio there is a new version


this is the release you need for Power BI. Click on the installer to download the new release (Power BI Has been closed down during this process)

Do you want to run this file? Click Run

Once installed open up Power BI

External Tools is now an option

However DAX Studio is greyed out

go into Preview Features and make sure Store datasets using enhanced metadata format is turned on.

Check the External Tools Folder

C:\Program Files (x86)\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Power BI Desktop\External Tools

I now have the DAX Studio JSON file in the External tools folder

ALM Toolkit


After installing, take another look at your external template Folder

Tabular Editor


Again, a new JSON file is added to the folder

So now we have all three tools connected into Power BI. Lets have a look at what they can do for you. the following is a few basics from each tool

DAX Studio

With a Power BI pbix file open. go to External tools and click on DAX Studio. It will automatically connect to the data set you have open

Go to Advanced and View metrics

This is a great way of using the Vertipaq Analyser to look at Tables, Columns, relationships, partitions and a Summary of your data model

You get to see which items have low and high cardinality. What items are taking up too much space in your model and really helps you get a feel for what you can do to make your model better

ALM Toolkit

The ALM toolkit comes from the Analysis Services space. Due to Power BI encompassing an Enterprise architecture along with self service, we can now start to use these community tools with Power BI datasets.

Its a schema comparison tool for your datasets.

Use it many scenarios such as incremental Refreshing, metadata only deployment (Now available for Premium and Pro)

This is another big hitter and requires a much more in depth look

Tabular Editor

Again, tabular Editor will connect to the tabular database you have open within your pbix file.

This is an excellent tool to help with quickly modifying tabular models.

If you do anything in here, like add measures into a folder, you will see the change straight away in Power BI Desktop.

You can also test and create measures in here which can offer a much easier way to do this than within power BI Desktop.

basically, using this tool you can automate some of the more tedious tasks and save lots of time.

Like DAX Studio. You can also analyse your entire model to get a feel any improvements you can make.

There are some great videos out there on how to make the most out of this tool and if you use Power BI heavily this is a must have.

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