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

About the Series …

This is the sixteenth 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, and the related Books Online and Samples.

What We Accomplished in our Last Article

In the last article of the series, Basic Set Functions: The Except() Function, we explored the useful Except() function, whose purpose is to return the difference between two sets. In addition to discussing the purpose and operation of the Except() function, we focused on the treatment of duplicates by the function. We examined the syntax surrounding its uses, and illustrated its application in practice exercises, providing hands-on exposure to the use of Except().

We first undertook a multi-step example in which we exposed default handling of duplicates by the function, then explored an additional example where we practiced the use of the ALL flag to override the Except() function’s default duplicate handling. Throughout the practice exercises, we discussed the results we obtained with each step’s execution, remarking on the distinguishing characteristics of optional flag settings.


In this lesson, we will expose what many consider one of the most useful functions in the MDX arsenal, the Filter() function. The general purpose of the Filter() function is to allow us to filter out parts of a set that we do not need in a given situation, and to return a subset of a larger set as a result. Uses of the Filter() function, as with many MDX functions, can range from the sublimely simple to the impressively advanced, and it can be used in many innovative ways. The objective, of course, is the support of precise analysis to meet our business needs. We will see in this article how the Filter() function is a prime example of the efficiency and precision we can attain by using judiciously chosen functions from our MDX toolsets.

Along with an introduction to the Filter() 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 MDX results 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.

Latest Articles