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Pentaho Documentation

Transformations, Steps, and Hops



A transformation is a network of logical tasks called steps. Transformations are essentially data flows. In the example below, the database developer has created a transformation that reads a flat file, filters it, sorts it, and loads it to a relational database table. Suppose the database developer detects an error condition and instead of sending the data to a Dummy step, (which does nothing), the data is logged back to a table. The transformation is, in essence, a directed graph of a logical set of data transformation configurations. Transformation file names have a .ktr extension.


The two main components associated with transformations are steps and hops:

Steps are the building blocks of a transformation, for example a text file input or a table output. There are over 140 steps available in Pentaho Data Integration and they are grouped according to function; for example, input, output, scripting, and so on. Each step in a transformation is designed to perform a specific task, such as reading data from a flat file, filtering rows, and logging to a database as shown in the example above. Steps can be configured to perform the tasks you require.

Hops are data pathways that connect steps together and allow schema metadata to pass from one step to another. In the image above, it seems like there is a sequential execution occurring; however, that is not true. Hops determine the flow of data through the steps not necessarily the sequence in which they run. When you run a transformation, each step starts up in its own thread and pushes and passes data.

Note: All steps are started and run in parallel so the initialization sequence is not predictable. That is why you cannot, for example, set a variable in a first step and attempt to use that variable in a subsequent step.

You can connect steps together, edit steps, and open the step contextual menu by clickingFile:/edit.png to edit a step. Click the down arrow to open the contextual menu. For information about connecting steps with hop, see More About Hops.


A step can have many connections — some join two steps together, some only serve as an input or output for a step. The data stream flows through steps to the various steps in a transformation. Hops are represented in Spoon as arrows. Hops allow data to be passed from step to step, and also determine the direction and flow of data through the steps. If a step sends outputs to more than one step, the data can either be copied to each step or distributed among them.