Power BI Website: You’ll Need Just A Web Browser



In previous section (from the Power BI from Rookie to Rockstar book) you’ve learned about Power BI Desktop, and you’ve developed a sample report with that and published it to Power BI website. In this section I’ll explain some of Power BI website’s functionality. You will understand at the end of this section that Power BI is not just a host for Power BI reports, it gives you option to connect to data sources, and build reports as well, All in web browser! You won’t need to install anything to use it. I’ll also show you Power BI app for mobile and we’ll explore it to see what it gives us in overall.

In this section I will go through below modules with you;

  • Create Reports in Power BI Website
  • Get Data from Website
  • Building Dashboards
  • Sharing
  • Power Q&A
  • Power BI Mobile App

I have to mention it again that this section is still part of Introduction to Power BI chapter of the book, and topics above will be covered lightly. Later in future chapters we will go through all options above deeper in details. Purpose of this section (and the whole Introduction to Power BI chapter) is to gives you an understanding of Power BI tools and services, and prepare you for detailed discussions in future chapters.

Power BI Website

Power BI Website is a location to host your *.pbix (Power BI) files. You can publish Power BI files directly from the website, or from Power BI Desktop (As you’ve seen in previous section). However Power BI website is not just for hosting these reports. You can create dashboards from reports in Power BI and share dashboards with others. You can also connect to some data sources directly from the website, and create the report online. Yes, you can do it all with just your web browser. You can also edit an existing report, and re-write it, or save it as a new report. You can schedule data sets to refresh automatically (not all data sources supports this feature). As you see Power BI website is not just a hosting location then, it is much more. Sometimes you can do some stuff just with the web browser.

Create Reports in Power BI Website

You can edit reports in the website and rewrite them, or you can save them as a new report. You can also create a new report from an existing or new data source. Let’s use the data set that we’ve built in previous section and use that as the source for our new report. Follow the instruction below to create a report in the website.

Login to PowerBI.com website with your login. From the left pane menu under Datasets you’ll see Pubs Analysis (the data set that we’ve built from previous example). You can also see Pubs Analysis under reports as well. Pubs Analysis report is the visualization report we’ve built, and the dataset just contains metadata, and the data. click on ellipsis button near Pubs Analysis data set and choose explore from the popup menu.


When you click explore, a report window will open in the main window. This is similar to Report tab in Power BI Desktop. You’ll have the Visualization, Fields, and Filters pane in the right side (numbered as 1 below), You can add pages (numbered as 2), and you can save the report, or view that, or add a text box to it (numbered as 3). Here is an screenshot of the report editor online


The report editor is not exactly similar to the report tab of Power BI Desktop, there are less functions here (For example you cannot add image here). But most of the functionality is available through the online report editor. and it works perfectly with the web browser. Let’s build a simple report;

Create a “Line and Stacked Column Chart” from the Visualization pane. Ste Shared Axis as Order Year (from sales table), and Column Series as city (from stores table), and Column Values as sales amount (from sales table), and finally Line Values as qty (from sales table). The report illustrated below;


Let’s create another visualization in the report. Add a Funnel to the report. Set Group to city, Values to qty. Also set Color Saturation to sales amount. Color saturation will highlights the funnel bars based on sum of sales amount.


For the last chart in this report, let’s build a pie chart. I know that pie chart is not good chart for visualization, But I want to use it for 3 distinct categories with really distinguishing values. (Please remember that don’t use pie chart with categories are more than 3 and 4, and values are quite close to each other). Add a pie chart to the report. Set it with Legend as state (from stores), and Values as qty. below is the view of pie chart


Now let’s save the report with name of Pubs Analysis Extended (save option is in top left side of the report editor). You now see the new report under Reports. if you click on it you’ll see it in the viewer.


Build Dashboard

You can build dashboards from your existing reports. dashboards will be primary view point of you or users (from website or mobile app). To create a dashboard, click on Add button close to Dashboards in the left pane, and create a new dashboard with name of Pubs Dashboard.


An empty dashboard will be created. Now go to Pubs Analysis Extended report and click on the right top side of funnel chart to “Pin Visual” as below. You’ll see a success message that chart pinned to dashboard.


Go to Pubs Analysis report, and pin visual the Map visualization as well. now the Pubs Dashboard looks like below screenshot;


If you click on any item in the dashboard you’ll be redirected to the underlying report.


Dashboards can be easily shared with other users. just click on ellipsis button of dashboard and choose Share.


Get Data

You can connect to some data sources from the Power BI website. This option is available through Get Data button.


There are some data sources supported in online Get Data. You can get data from services (such as Google Analytics, MailChimp, CRM, Salesforce…), or get data from Files (such as Local File, OneDrive), or get from Databases (such as Azure SQL DB, Azure SQL DW…). Some of these options requires Power BI Pro, but most of them are available through normal Power BI account. screenshot below shows services that supported to get data from (the list updates frequently, and every month new data sources will be added)


Power Q&A

Power Q&A is the question and answering engine of Power BI which works based on natural speaking language. You can ask questions in English language from the Power BI dashboard and get responses! Power Q&A engine will translate your query to machine query and respond that with visualization of the data in the model.

To ask a question simply use the question bar in the dashboard


For example you can ask from Pubs Dashboard: “Show city sales amount”, and the response is:


you can even change the visualization to map with this question: “Show city sales amount on map”


Power Q&A is a very powerful engine. There are some tips and tricks of how to develop your data model so Power Q&A could generate best responses to questions. I’ll cover these tips and tricks in future chapters of this book.

Power BI Mobile App

Power BI app is available for Android, Apple, and Windows Phone. simply download it from Goolge Play (Android), or AppStore (Apple), or Windows Store (Windows Phone). After the installation login with your username, and you’ll see dashboards there. screenshot below shows the dashboard in Android phone, but other apps are similar to this.


You can highlights some parts of the report and share it as an image


You can even share it from Mobile App




In summary you’ve learned about options that are available to you from Power BI website. You’ve learned that even without Power BI Desktop you can create and edit reports and get data from data sources. You’ve learned how easy is creating dashboards and sharing it with other users. You’ve seen some examples of Power Q&A which answers your natural language questions with visualization items and the data in the model. You’ve also learned that Power BI Mobile Apps interacts nicely with Power BI site and dashboards.

In the next chapter we will go deeper through Get Data Experience of Power BI Desktop and will explore options for different data sources. Data transformations with M formula language also will be discussed in the next chapter.



Reza Rad
Reza Rad is an Author, Trainer, Speaker and DW/BI Consultant. He has a BSc in Computer engineering; he has more than 15 years’ experience in databases, programming and development mostly on Microsoft technologies. He is a Microsoft MVP in Data Platform for seven continues years (from 2011 till now) for his dedication in Microsoft BI. He is author of some SQL Server and BI books, and also Power BI online book; from Rookie to Rock Star.


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