MDX Essentials: Basic Set Functions: The EXCEPT() Function

About the Series …

This is the fifteenth article of the series, MDX Essentials. The series is designed to provide hands-on application of the fundamentals of the Multidimensional Expressions (MDX) language, with each tutorial progressively adding features designed to meet specific real-world needs.

For more information about the series in general, as well as the software and systems requirements needed for getting the most out of the lessons included, please see the first article, MDX at First Glance: Introduction to MDX Essentials.

Note: Service Pack 3 updates are assumed for MSSQL Server 2000, MSSQL Server 2000 Analysis Services (“MSAS“), and the related Books Online and Samples. Images are from a Windows 2003 Server environment.

What We Accomplished in Our Last Article

In the last article of the series, Basic Set Functions: The Intersect() Function, we explored the commonly used Intersect() function, whose purpose is to return the intersection, or the common members, of two sets. We discussed the Intersect() function in general, and emphasized its capabilities within MDX, and its usefulness within our analysis toolsets.

In addition to discussing the purpose and operation of the Intersect() function, we focused on the treatment of duplicates by the function. We practiced the use of the function in general, then with an example of the addition of the ALL flag, to override the Intersect() function’s default duplicate handling. Throughout the multiple-step practice exercise, we discussed the results we obtained with each step’s execution, remarking on the distinguishing characteristics of each.


In this lesson, we will focus our attention on a function that behaves in a manner that is dramatically different from the INTERSECT() function. Instead of returning the common members of two sets, EXCEPT() returns the difference between two sets. Duplicate handling is managed through the use of a flag, as we shall see, similar to the manner we have exposed for other functions in previous articles.

The EXCEPT() function provides important capabilities within MDX, and is yet another tool that MDX provides us to make access to multidimensional data more efficient, and our coding more concise. Along with an introduction to the EXCEPT() function, this lesson will include:

  • an examination of the syntax surrounding the function;
  • illustrative examples of the uses of the function in practice exercises;
  • a brief discussion of the results datasets we obtain in the practice examples.
William Pearson
William Pearson
Bill has been working with computers since before becoming a "big eight" CPA, after which he carried his growing information systems knowledge into management accounting, internal auditing, and various capacities of controllership. Bill entered the world of databases and financial systems when he became a consultant for CODA-Financials, a U.K. - based software company that hired only CPA's as application consultants to implement and maintain its integrated financial database - one of the most conceptually powerful, even in his current assessment, to have emerged. At CODA Bill deployed financial databases and business intelligence systems for many global clients. Working with SQL Server, Oracle, Sybase and Informix, and focusing on MSSQL Server, Bill created Island Technologies Inc. in 1997, and has developed a large and diverse customer base over the years since. Bill's background as a CPA, Internal Auditor and Management Accountant enable him to provide value to clients as a liaison between Accounting / Finance and Information Services. Moreover, as a Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP) - a Certified Public Accountant recognized for his or her unique ability to provide business insight by leveraging knowledge of information relationships and supporting technologies - Bill offers his clients the CPA's perspective and ability to understand the complicated business implications and risks associated with technology. From this perspective, he helps them to effectively manage information while ensuring the data's reliability, security, accessibility and relevance. Bill has implemented enterprise business intelligence systems over the years for many Fortune 500 companies, focusing his practice (since the advent of MSSQL Server 2000) upon the integrated Microsoft business intelligence solution. He leverages his years of experience with other enterprise OLAP and reporting applications (Cognos, Business Objects, Crystal, and others) in regular conversions of these once-dominant applications to the Microsoft BI stack. Bill believes it is easier to teach technical skills to people with non-technical training than vice-versa, and he constantly seeks ways to graft new technology into the Accounting and Finance arenas. Bill was awarded Microsoft SQL Server MVP in 2009. Hobbies include advanced literature studies and occasional lectures, with recent concentration upon the works of William Faulkner, Henry James, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, Honoré de Balzac, and Charles Dickens. Other long-time interests have included the exploration of generative music sourced from database architecture.

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