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Detect Categories (Table Analysis Tools for Excel)

Topic Status: Some information in this topic is preview and subject to change in future releases. Preview information describes new features or changes to existing features in Microsoft SQL Server 2016 Community Technology Preview 2 (CTP2).

Detect Categories button in ribbon

The Detect Categories tool automatically finds rows in a table that have similar characteristics.

When the tool finishes, it creates a report that lists the categories it found, together with their distinguishing characteristics. By default, it adds a new column to the data table that contains the proposed category for each row of your data. You can then review the categories and rename them.

Using the Detect Categories Tool

  1. Open an Excel table.

  2. Click Detect Categories.

  3. Specify the columns to use in analysis. You can deselect columns that have distinct values, such as personal names or record IDs, because these columns might not be useful for analysis.

  4. Optionally, specify the maximum number of categories to create. By default, the tool automatically creates as many categories as it finds.

  5. Click Run.

  6. The tool creates a new worksheet, named Categories Report, which contains the list of categories and their characteristics.

For more information about how to specify options for the tool, see Detect Categories (Table Analysis Tools for Excel).

Understanding the Categories Report

The Categories Report contains two tables, Category List and Category Characteristics, and a Category Profiles chart.

Category List

The first table lists the categories that were found. The Row Count column indicates how many rows of data were assigned to each category.

The model creates temporary names for each category, but you can rename the categories as you like. For example, in the following example, the first category has been renamed Low Income, because that was the top attribute of the cluster.

report created by Detect Categories tool

As soon as you type the new label, the change is propagated to all the other charts as well as to the category list added in the source data worksheet.

Category Characteristics

The second table, Category Characteristics, shows details about the makeup of each category. Click the Filter button at the top of the Category column to see focus on one or just a few categories.

report created by Detect Categories tool

The shading in the column, Relative Importance, indicates how important that combination of attribute and value is as a distinguishing factor. The longer the bar, the more likely it is that this attribute is strongly representative of this category.

Categories Profile Chart

The final chart in the Categories Report worksheet, Category Profiles, is an interactive Pivot Chart that you can use to rearrange and hide fields, filter on values, and customize the chart’s appearance.

Excel 2013 now provides Chart Styles and Chart Elements controls right in the design surface that make it easy to improve the chart design.

report created by Detect Categories tool


The Detect Categories tool has no requirements for the amount or type of data.


When you use the Detect Categories tool, it creates a new column, Category, in the original data table. If you leave this column in the data table and then perform subsequent data mining operations, the presence of this column could influence your results. To ensure that this does not affect other operations, you should make a copy of the data table without the Category column before using other data mining tools.

When the Detect Categories tool analyzes your data, it creates a data mining structure and data mining model by using the Microsoft Clustering algorithm.

After you have created a data mining model by using the Analyze Key Influencers tool, you can use the Data Mining Client for Excel to browse the model and explore relationships in more detail. The Data Mining Client for Excel is a separate add-in that provides more advanced data mining functionality. For information, see Browsing Models in Excel (SQL Server Data Mining Add-ins).

For more information about using the data modeling capabilities in the Data Mining Client for Excel, see Creating a Data Mining Model.

For more information about the algorithm used by the Detect Categories tool, see the topic "Microsoft Clustering Algorithm" in SQL Server Books Online.

See Also


Table Analysis Tools for Excel