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Howto: Get more flexibility when importing data from text files

Updated: 18-Aug-2010

Microsoft does not recommend or support the use of Office applications in a server-side environment (see http://support.microsoft.com/kb/257757 ). In the case of PowerPivot, the data refresh facility is implemented within an NT Service and, as such, falls under this restriction. In this article we will use the ACE provider to give you more control over importing text files. So long as the importing of data is done using the PowerPivot for Excel add-in, then you in a supported environment. However you should not be refreshing the data on the server as that uses the ACE provider in an unsupported environment.

Question: By default PowerPivot has two limitations when working with text files (using the Office ACE OLE DB provider): (1) will only import data from files with an extension of .txt, .tab, and .csv; and (2) it will only recognize tab, comma, semicolon, space, colon, and vertical bar and column delimiters. Is there a way to change PowerPivot’s configuration so that it will recognize other file extensions or column delimiters?

Answer: Yup — that is a technical term.  You can use a schema.ini file in the same directory as the imported text file to specify all kinds of things that aren’t available through the PowerPivot UI, including fixed column rather than delimited text file format.  Here’s a web page with the info:

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms709353(VS.85).aspx

(Thanks to Ron Pihlgren for this solution. Ron is the PowerPivot client test lead – and his blog is included in my blogroll.)

Enjoy.

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