Microsoft unveils new Tabular Model Definition Language for Power BI

Last month, Microsoft announced an end-of-support date for Power BI Desktop on Windows 8.1. Recently as well, TypeScript support and other new features were introduced to the tech giant's premiere data analytics platform.

Today, a new Tabular Model Definition Language (TMDL) has been unveiled for Power BI, available now in public preview.

A blue pipe with binary data flowing

The need for the TMDL arose due to highly complex BIM files extracted from huge, semantic data models created using Power BI. Traditionally containing model metadata in the Tabular Model Scripting Language (TMSL), this file is considered very difficult to further process. Moreover, collaboration in the form of multiple developers working on the same model can be quite an arduous process as well.

The TMDL meanwhile, introduces the following ways to overcome the limitations of TMSL:

  • A human readable format using a YAML-like syntax. Each tabular metadata object has a textual representation with minimal delimiters. Indentation is used to indicate parent-child relationships between objects.
  • A better editing experience, especially for properties containing DAX and M expressions.
  • A standard folder output format where each model object has an individual file representation, making TMDL more source control friendly well suited for collaboration.

For now, the TMDL allows serializing of model metadata as multiple text files, as well as the reading of a folder with TMDL text files and reconverting it to an appropriate Tabular Object Model (TOM). In the future, Microsoft plans to release an open-source VS Code extension for a better TMDL editing experience. The tech giant will also be integrating TMDL into more Microsoft tools, with adoption currently supported for all community-developed tools that write tabular model metadata files.

You can learn more regarding the TMDL by checking out its documentation here. Those interested in getting started with it right away can do so by following the steps mentioned here.

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