Power BI Desktop – A simple introduction

What is the Power BI Desktop?

Power BI Desktop is a free application you install on the local computer that lets you connect, transform, and visualize your data. Product Group at Microsoft works tirelessly to roll out monthly updates for Power BI Desktop.

There are two ways one can install the Power BI Desktop. Depending on the download method, the Power BI desktop is updated. If Power BI Desktop is installed from Microsoft Store, then it gets updated automatically. Whereas if one were to download the msi installer file, it is the user’s responsibility to keep the desktop updated.

Downloading and installing the Power BI Desktop either from the Microsoft Downloads Page or from Microsoft Store will give more information such as minimum system requirements as shown below.

From Store

From Downloads Page

With Power BI Desktop, connect to various data sources, model your data, create stunning reports, and finally publish it to a workspace and share your content with others.

Let us now connect our data and consume it in the Power BI Desktop and create some reports. For the rest of the reading, I will be using the word Desktop and/or PBID interchangeably. Both these words refer to Microsoft Power BI Desktop.

I will be using the below dataset for this exercise. Click to download and follow along.

Open your PBID and click on get data on the top left

Choose Excel from the drop-down menu

Once you click the Excel, a navigator window will open. Navigate to the location of your source file

Once you select the file, a pane will display the data in its current state. Clicking the name of the table will display data in preview mode. Clicking the checkbox will enable you to either load or transform the data.

We will load the data. To know more about transform data, please go through the Power Query module. It uses the same data source and walks step by step on how to transform your data.

Once the data loads into the PBID, you will see all three tables on the right side. Since we fetched our data from Excel, you will also see three icons on the left.

These are

Report Canvas — this is where we will create various visuals

Data View — this shows all the tables and associated data

Relationship View — this shows the relationships between each table. For the most part, the Power BI does a fantastic job of identifying these relationships. Upcoming blogs will show how one can manually create and manage these relationships

Click on the Report Canvas view, and you should see a blank canvas since we have not created any visuals yet. If you observe on the screen’s right side, we have Filters pane, Visualizations pane, and Fields pane.

Filters pane — allows us to apply a filter to a visual, page or the entire report

Visualizations pane — these are out of the box visuals that come with PBID

Fields pane is where we can select attributed (columns) of a table, create hierarchy, calculate columns, measure, quick measure, add to drill through, and add to filters.

Creating a visual is very simple. Choose a visual that best describes and shows compelling insight into your data. Once you choose/click on a visual (in visualizations pane), it gets added to Report Canvas. Choose the attributes that you want to visualize, and your visualization is created instantly.

You can change the settings for each visual by clicking on the paintbrush icon.

This was a simple introduction to the Power BI Desktop. Stay tuned for more such introductions/updates and my blogs on use cases. Please do let me know how was this? How can I make it better, so every one of us can use this awesome tool?

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