Lesson 1: Create a New Tabular Model Project

Applies to: SQL Server 2016 and later Analysis Services Azure Analysis Services Power BI Premium

In this lesson, you will create a new, blank tabular model project in SQL Server Data Tools. Once your new project is created, you can begin adding data by using the Table Import Wizard. This lesson also gives you a brief introduction to the tabular model authoring environment in SSDT.

Estimated time to complete this lesson: 10 minutes


This topic is the first lesson in a tabular model authoring tutorial. To complete this lesson, you must have the AdventureWorksDW sample database installed on a SQL Server instance. To learn more, see Tabular Modeling (Adventure Works Tutorial).

Create a new tabular model project

To create a new tabular model project

  1. In SSDT, on the File menu, click New > Project.

  2. In the New Project dialog box, expand Installed > Business Intelligence > Analysis Services, and then click Analysis Services Tabular Project.

  3. In Name, type AW Internet Sales, and then specify a location for the project files.

    By default, Solution Name will be the same as the project name; however, you can type a different solution name.

  4. Click OK.

  5. In the Tabular model designer dialog box, select Integrated workspace.

    The workspace will host a tabular model database with the same name as the project during model authoring. Integrated workspace means SSDT will use a built-in instance, eliminating the need to install a separate Analysis Services server instance just for model authoring. To learn more, see Workspace Database.

  6. In Compatibility level, verify SQL Server 2016 (1200) is selected, and then click OK.

    Screenshot of the Tabular model designer dialog box with arrows pointing to the Integrated workspace option and Compatibility level drop-down list.

    If you don't see SQL Server 2016 RTM (1200) in the Compatibility level listbox, you're not using the latest version of SQL Server Data Tools. To get the latest version, see Install SQL Server Data tools.

    If you're using the latest version of SSDT, you can also choose SQL Server 2017 (1400). However, to complete lesson 13: Deploy, you'll need a SQL Server 2017 or Azure server to deploy to.

    Selecting an earlier compatibility level is only recommended if you intend on deploying your completed tabular model to a different Analysis Services instance running an earlier version of SQL Server. Integrated workspace is not supported for earlier compatibility levels. To learn more see, Compatibility level.

Understanding the SSDT tabular model authoring environment

Now that you've created a new tabular model project, let's take a moment to explore the tabular model authoring environment in SSDT.

After your project is created, it opens in SSDT. On the right side, in Tabular Model Explorer, you'll see a tree view of the objects in your model. Since you haven't yet imported data, the folders will be empty. You can right-click an object folder to perform actions, similar to the menu bar. As you step through this tutorial, you'll use the Tabular Model Explorer to navigate different objects in your model project.

Screenshot of the Tabular Model Explorer dialog box.

Click the Solution Explorer tab. Here, you'll see your Model.bim file. If you don't see the designer window to the left (the empty window with the Model.bim tab), in Solution Explorer, under AW Internet Sales Project, double-click the Model.bim file. The Model.bim file contains all of the metadata for your model project.

Screenshot of the Solution Explorer section with the Model.bim file highlighted.

Let's look at the model properties. Click Model.bim. In the Properties window, you'll see the model properties, most important of which is the DirectQuery Mode property. This property specifies whether or not the model is deployed in In-Memory mode (Off) or DirectQuery mode (On). For this tutorial, you will author and deploy your model in In-Memory mode.

Screenshot of the Properties window where you can see DirectQuery Mode set to Off.

When you create a new model, certain model properties are set automatically according to the Data Modeling settings that can be specified in the Tools > Options dialog box. Data Backup, Workspace Retention, and Workspace Server properties specify how and where the workspace database (your model authoring database) is backed up, retained in-memory, and built. You can change these settings later if necessary, but for now, just leave these properties as they are.

In Solution Explorer, right-click AW Internet Sales (project), and then click Properties. The AW Internet Sales Property Pages dialog box appears. These are the advanced project properties. You will set some of these properties later when you are ready to deploy your model.

When you installed SSDT, several new menu items were added to the Visual Studio environment. Let's look at those specific to authoring tabular models. Click on the Model menu. From here, you can launch the Table Import Wizard, view and edit existing connections, refresh workspace data, browse your model in Excel with the Analyze in Excel feature, create perspectives and roles, select the model view, and set calculation options.

Click on the Table menu. Here, you can create and manage relationships between tables, create and manage, specify date table settings, create partitions, and edit table properties.

Click on the Column menu. Here, you can add and delete columns in a table, freeze columns, and specify sort order. You can also use the AutoSum feature to create a standard aggregation measure for a selected column. Other toolbar buttons provide quick access to frequently used features and commands.

Explore some of the dialogs and locations for various features specific to authoring tabular models. While some items will not yet be active, you can get a good idea of the tabular model authoring environment.

Additional resources

To learn more about the different types of tabular model projects, see Tabular Model Projects. To learn more about the tabular model authoring environment, see Tabular Model Designer.

What's next?

Go to the next lesson: Lesson 2: Add data.