Power BI Designer is available both as a web application and as an desktop application which you can download to your PC. As you might have surmised, the two versions are mirrors to one another when it comes to functionality, with the biggest difference is the need to upload the results. The local version allows people who have an older version of Excel loaded to do Power View-like report functionality which they may not be able to do with the version of Excel they have.
If you want to get started with Power BI Preview and you live in the United States, click here www.powerbi.com/dashboards . You don’t need to be a current Power BI customer to download and use the preview. The best way to learn how to use it is through the videos which Microsoft has included on the application start up screen shown below. I highly recommend watching them as they succinctly describe how it works.
Things to keep in Mind when using with Power BI Designer
This product is still in preview, so there are some things that you can’t do, like change the colors. It was also meant to be non-developer friendly, so Power BI Designer picks a lot of things for you, and then you can change them afterwards. This model may be a little disconcerting if you don’t care about line charts, which seem to be the default. Microsoft created this program with the intent that you would be uploading the finished product to a Power BI tenant, it isn’t designed to have any native security or data refresh. This is not Excel, as the files you save in Power BI Designer have the suffix PBIX, so you have to have Power BI Designer to open these files.
The steps for creating a dashboard are identical to how the Power BI Designer works with the online preview. First you need to select a data set, which can be from nearly anywhere–Azure, HDFS, Facebook, SSAS, Sql Server, MySQL,Sales Force, csv, to name a few—and then it will attempt to visualize your data sets for you. If you don’t like the visualization, most likely a line chart, which was defualt selected you can select a different visualization format, such as a treemap, funnel chart or any of the different options. To complete the dashboard, merge your selections onto one screen by tiling smaller visualizations onto a dashboard. The data displayed on the dashboard is contextual, so if you change the value all of the corresponding visualizations will change along with the selection.
Wait, There’s More
Microsoft is just now rolling out with Power BI Designer, and like Ronco’s ginsu knives, there are a lot more things planned for the product in the future. Here’s a list of suggestions made so far. If you think the product really needs something, go tell Microsoft as it appears they are actively monitoring the feedback. When they do release something I find noteworthy, I’ll let you know in a later post.
Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur