How to create an MS Query in Excel

How to create a Microsoft Query in Excel (Excel Query)

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You can use Microsoft Query in Excel to retrieve data from an Excel Workbook as well as External Data Sources using SQL SELECT Statements. Excel Queries created this way can be refreshed and rerun making them a comfortable and efficient tool in Excel.

Microsoft Query allows you use SQL directly in Microsoft Excel, treating Sheets as tables against which you can run Select statements with JOINs, UNIONs and more. Often Microsoft Query statements will be more efficient than Excel formulas or a VBA Macro.
example excel ms query
A Microsoft Query (aka MS Query, aka Excel Query) is in fact an SQL SELECT Statement. Excel as well as Access use Windows ACE.OLEDB or JET.OLEDB providers to run queries. Its an incredible often untapped tool underestimated by many users!

Using MS Query in Excel you can extract data from various sources such as:

  • Excel Files – you can extract data from External Excel files as well as run a SELECT query on your current Workbook
  • Access – you can extract data from Access Database files
  • MS SQL Server – you can extract data from Microsoft SQL Server Tables
  • CSV and Text – you can upload CSV or tabular Text files

How to Create a Microsoft Query in Excel

In this step by step tutorial I will show you how to create an Microsoft Query to extract data from either you current Workbook or an external Excel file.

I will extract data from an External Excel file called MOCK DATA.xlsx. In this file I have a list of Male/Female mock-up customers. I will want to create a simple query to calculate how many are Male and how many Female.
MS Query - Sample data

The below process shows how you can create a query for your current or an external Excel Workbook. However, the process for creating a MS Query for Access, SQL and Text (CSV) files is very similar

Open the MS Query (from Other Sources) wizard

Go to the DATA Ribbon Tab and click From Other Sources. Select the last option From Microsoft Query.
Create a MS Query (QueryTable)

Select the Data Source

Create a MS Query (QueryTable)Next we need to specify the Data Source for our Microsoft Query. Select Excel Files to proceed.

Select Excel Source File

Excel MS Query - Select Data sourceNow we need to select the Excel file that will be the source for our Microsoft Query. In my example I will select my current Workbook, the same from which I am creating my MS Query.

Select Columns for your MS Query

The Wizard now asks you to select Columns for your MS Query. If you plan to modify the MS Query manually later simply click OK. Otherwise select your Columns.
Create a Microsoft Query (QueryTable)3

Return Query or Edit Query

Create a Microsoft Query (QueryTable)3Now you have two options:

  1. Return Data to Microsoft Excel this will return your query results to Excel and complete the Wizard

  2. View data or edit query in Microsoft Query this will open the Microsoft Query window and allow you to modify you Microsoft Query

Optional: Edit Query

MS Query - Edit SQLIf you select the View data or edit query in Microsoft Query option you can now open the SQL Edit Query window by hitting the SQL button. When you are done hit the return button (the one with the open door).

Import Data

When you are done modifying your SQL statement (as I in previous step). Click the Return data button in the Microsoft Query window.MS Query - Import to Excel
This should open the Import Data window which allows you to select when the data is to be dumped.
Create a Microsoft Query (QueryTable)3Lastly, when you are done click OK on the Import Data window to complete running the query. You should see the result of the query as a new Excel table:
Excel MS Query - The result
As in the window above I have calculated how many of the records in the original table where Male and how many Female.

AS you can see there are quite a lot of steps needed to achieve something potentially pretty simple. Hence there are a couple of alternatives thanks to the power of VBA Macro….

Excel SQL AddIn

To make usage of MS Query in Excel easier I developed the Excel SQL AddIn. The AddIn allows you to create MS Queries quicker and with less steps. Feel free to check it out.

my query sql addin
The Excel SQL AddIn Ribbon

MS Query Trick

If you don’t want to use the AddIn another way is to create these queries using a VBA Macro. Below is a quick macro that will allow you write your query in a simple VBA InputBox at the selected range in your worksheet.
Create MS Query
Just use my VBA Code Snippet:

Just create a New VBA Module and paste the code above. You can run it hitting the CTRL+SHIFT+S Keyboardshortcut or Add the Macro to your Quick Access Toolbar.

Power Query (Get & Transform)

Another way to run queries is to use Microsoft Power Query (also known in Excel 2016 and up as Get and Transform). The AddIn provided by Microsoft does require knowledge of the SQL Language, rather allowing you to click your way through the data you want to tranform.
MS Power Query - Get and Transform

MS Query vs Power Query Conclusions

MS Query Pros: Power Query is an awesome tool, however, it doesn’t entirely invalidate Microsoft Queries. What is more, sometimes using Microsoft Queries is quicker and more convenient and here is why:

  • Microsoft Queries are more efficient when you know SQL. While you can click your way through to Transform Data via Power Query someone who knows SQL will likely be much quicker in writing a suitable SELECT query
  • You can’t re-run Power Queries without the AddIn. While this obviously will be a less valid statement probably in a couple of years (in newer Excel versions), currently if you don’t have the AddIn you won’t be able to edit or re-run Queries created in Power Query

MS Query Cons: Microsoft Query falls short of the Power Query AddIn in some other aspects however:

  • Power Query has a more convenient user interface. While Power Queries are relatively easy to create, the MS Query Wizard is like a website from the 90’s
  • Power Query stacks operations on top of each other allowing more convenient changes. While an MS Query works or just doesn’t compile, the Power Query stacks each transform operation providing visibility into your Data Transformation task, and making it easier to add / remove operations

In short I encourage learning Power Query if you don’t feel comfortable around SQL. If you are advanced in SQL I think you will find using good ole Microsoft Queries more convenient. I would compare this to the Age-Old discussion between Command Line devs vs GUI devs

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