In cricket, a century is a major milestone for a batsman, and is widely accepted that regaining focus and continuing with the innings is the hallmark of the really excellent. I don’t think anyone doubts that the #sqlcommunity is truly excellent, so we’ve started on the way to number 200 with this, the 101st edition of Adam Machanic’s (t|b) uber-nerdy blog party.
Jens Vestergaard (t|b) is the host for today’s shenanigans, and our shared topic “Essential Tools”, a great topic to showcase the little things that allow us to make our jobs a little easier. Thanks for hosting Jens, I’m looking forward to reading all the posts and learning about the tools that everyone uses to succeed.
What Would Hermione Do?
The most valuable tool in my arsenal is, without a doubt, my Kindle (or to be more precise, the Kindle App on my iPad). Everytime I look something up in one of the many wonderful tech books I own, I feel like Hermione Granger, on a search for Horcruxes.
I may not use spells or potions, but I’ve definitely had clients who have thought a solution was magic, so to all the people who write books that allow that kind of illusion, I thank you.
You cannot open a book without learning something – Confucious
Below is a selection, but certainly not a comprehensive list, of some of the books I use most often.
- The Definitive Guide to DAX (Marco Russo, Alberto Ferrari)
- Power Pivot and Power BI: The Excel User’s Guide to DAX, Power Query, Power BI & Power Pivot in Excel 2010-2016 (Rob Collie, Avichal Singh)
- Dashboarding and Reporting with Power Pivot and Excel (Kasper de Jonge)
- Storytelling with Data: A Data Visualization Guide for Business Professionals (Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic)
Beauty is in the eye of the template holder
I’m relatively creative, but not particularly artistic. So to build engaging and aesthetically pleasing dashboards and presentations, I definitely need a little help. Thankfully, help is widely available, and fairly inexpensive.
For presentation templates, I have used Creative Market. So far I have found the themes to be simple to use, and they have definitely allowed me to create some quality presentations.
— Gail Shaw (@SQLintheWild) May 9, 2017
— Michael Johnson (@MikeJohnsonZA) May 9, 2017
Time to feel inadequate. pic.twitter.com/dh7mYxUgnd
— Gail Shaw (@SQLintheWild) July 11, 2017
Templates don’t magically make good presentations, but they certainly help you creating engaging slideshows.
Similarly, having themes and templates cannot create beautiful Power BI dashboards and reports, but it can certainly nudge you in the right direction. A very useful resource for themes and templates (they call them layouts) is PowerBI.tips.
My favourite tool on PowerBI.tips is the advanced theme generator. This tool allows you to create a theme to use in your PowerBI reports, and it makes the world of difference. The tool is GUI based, and the Power BI Theme (json) file is created by the tool for you.
Coding standards and formatting are always a contentious issue amongst developers. Except in DAX, where there is only one right way to format your code. The Italian Way! Marco and Alberto have defined a standard for writing legible code, and thankfully, they have made a tool available for us to find out exactly where we’re not following that standard.
Whenever I write a DAX measure, I pop over to https://www.daxformatter.com/ and plug in the measure, to
ensure that I’ve done it right find out what I did wrong.
So there you have it. The resources I use to make my job easier, my presentations and dashboards more appealing, and my code understandable. There are so many more, and writing this post has made me realise how much help I need every day, and how lucky I am to be in a tech stack with such fantastic support.