Explore Power BI Desktop

I updated my current Power BI Desktop version via the Windows Apps Store recently, and now it is a good time to share the new user interface (UI) of the Power BI after the installation. In the year 2019, during my Specialized Diploma study, the Power BI Desktop skinning was in dark mode. I am not sure when the Microsoft team has changed the Power BI Desktop’s skinning to white mode, as well as having the Filter Pane on the right side.

Another new feature that I spotted is the Power BI has the theme options for the dashboard and reports. This theme is not referring to the Power BI Desktop’s skin. You have to enable this feature from the Power BI Settings, and it allows you to change the theme to suit your dashboard and reports presentation.

To do so, navigate to the File menu, select Options and Settings, then Options. Next, in the Preview feature section, select Customize current theme.

Click OK button to proceed. It may prompt you to restart the machine so that it takes effect and enables the theme feature. There is a list of built-in theme available in the Power BI Desktop, and you can refer to this link for more detail. Furthermore, you can optionally export a theme’s JSON file. You can make amendments by manually modifying the settings in that file. You can rename that fine-tuned JSON file and later import it. It gives more control to the users to customize the theme according to their dashboard and reports.

Getting familiar with the interface

From the Microsoft website, it shares the detail of each pane labelled below. I extracted the picture and its explanation.

  1. Ribbon – Displays common tasks that are associated with reports and visualizations.
  2. Report view, or canvas – It is a place where visualizations are created and arranged. You can switch between ReportData, and Model views by selecting the icons in the left column.
  3. Pages tab – This area is where you would select or add a report page.
  4. Visualizations pane – It is the pane where you can change visualizations, customize colours or axes, apply filters, drag fields, and more.
  5. Fields pane – It is the pane where query elements and filters can be dragged onto the Report view or dragged to the Filters area of the Visualizations pane.

You can collapse the Visualizations and Fields panes to provide more space in the Report view by selecting the small arrow.

The screenshot above shows an example of the collapsible pane for Filter pane. It works for Visualizations and Fields panes too.

Connect to data sources

Power BI Desktop connects to many types of data sources, you can choose from local databases, excel sheets or data on the cloud. There are about 70 different types of data sources available. Go to the Get Data from the ribbon on the Home tab to begin accessing the data. Then, select a source to establish a connection. For some data source connection, you may require to input the user credential to authenticate and accessing the data. Here is the list of data connectors available in the Power BI’s Get Data function.

It brings you to the Navigator window that displays the entities (tables) of your data source. It gives you a preview of the selected data. In the same window, you can choose to Load or Transform Data. If you are not making any changes, formatting and data transformation, then you can click on the Load button, else Transform Data allows you to perform data cleaning and conversion before importing the data into the Power BI Desktop. You are allowed to edit the data after importing too.

Transform data to include in a report

Power BI Desktop includes the Power Query Editor tool that helps you shape and transform data so that it is ready for your visualizations. To launch the Power Query Editor tool, there are two ways to bring up this window:

  1. use Transform Data button on the Home ribbon. [For April/2020 version]
  2. use Edit Queries button on the Home ribbon. [For older versions]

If you click on the Enter Data button on the Home ribbon (as shown above), a Create Table window prompts up. From this window, click the Edit button, it brings up the Power Query Editor tool. Remember, earlier I mentioned about the Load and Transform Data buttons when we load data from the Get Data button? The Transform Data button brings up the Power Query Editor too, similar function as to how the Create Table window’s Edit button works. I am not going to cover any data transformation in this blog. It is a big topic to discuss, so I think it is good to share it with some good examples and dataset in the next article.

Connect from multiple sources

Most of the time, we deal with more than one data source when we build a report. You can use the Power Query Editor tool to combine data from multiple sources into a single report. How does it able to combine into a single table? In Power BI Desktop, it has a feature called Append Queries to add the data from a new table to an existing query.

Create a visual

If I remember correctly, in Tableau, when fields are selected, the Tableau suggests the suitable visualizations to the users to use in the dashboard or reports. I am not sure whether Power BI has a similar feature. In the Report View, drag a field onto the Report View canvas, the Power BI Desktop automatically creates a table visual as default visual. This visual as a report listing because it lists the selected fields in a tabular form. You can choose to have different visuals, such as a bar chart or line graph if you wish to do so.

To create a visual, select a field from the Fields pane, you can drag the field into the data field (Values) in the Visualization pane, or you can click on the checkbox. A table visual displays on the screen, and you can choose another type of visual from the Visualization pane. There is no precedence to create a visual, and you can select a visual before selecting the fields. Each visual has a different visualization pane, for example, if you choose a dual chart, the following screenshot shows shared axis, column and line values. When you choose a pie chart, it displays legend and values.

Publish a report

After all the hard work on the dashboard or reports, you want to publish it and share it with other people. You can do so in Power BI Desktop by clicking on the Publish button in the Home menu. You will be prompted to sign in to Power BI, follow the steps and you will see the published reports after that.

At this point of writing, I do not have any published report to show. Therefore, I cannot put up the steps here and show how to pin a visual to the dashboard. This feature allows you to choose whether to pin the visual to an existing dashboard or to create a new dashboard.


This article is a high-level walkthrough of the Power BI Desktop, that explains how to use it to create visuals and publish the dashboard and reports. I do not cover the explanation of the visualization and publication in this article, I will include them in the next article in the future.

I hope this article gives a good impression of the Power BI Desktop’s features and allows you to have some sensing of this tool. Furthermore, the Power BI Desktop’s buttons are self-explanatory, so you should not have issues or troubles to use and navigate around. Besides that, people who have been using Microsoft Excel and Tableau for data analysis may find the Power BI Desktop has some similar functions because the Power BI Desktop is another data visualization tool too.

Reference: microsoft.com

What is the difference between dashboard and report in Power BI?

I have written about Power BI Desktop and the high-level walkthrough in my previous articles. Both articles I mentioned two keywords, dashboard and reports quite often. In this article, I would like to share about the difference between the dashboard and report in the Power BI Desktop. In general, a dashboard consists of a visual that displays the most crucial information needed to achieve objectives, consolidated and arranged in a single screen. We can use a dashboard to monitor at a glance. A report, on the other hand, is any information that can be at any visuals, such as a table, chart, and etc.

Power BI dashboard is one placeholder

Dashboard displays the most important decision making facts to run a business. Power BI dashboard is a high level view of some key reports, such as Key Performance Index (KPI). It uses to provide day to day information consolidated from the detailed reports. Below is one of the example of a Power BI dashboard.

A Power BI dashboard is a single page, often called a canvas, that tells a story through visualizations. The visualizations you see on the dashboard are called tiles. The visualizations on a dashboard originate from reports and each report is based on a dataset. Readers can view related reports for the details.

Dashboards are a feature of the Power BI service only. They’re not available in Power BI Desktop.

Features of a Power BI Dashboard

  • Automatic refresh.
  • Sharing to users.
  • Power Q&A.
  • Real-time monitoring.
  • Send alerts.

Next, let us move on to the Power BI Report.

Power BI Report

Power BI reports are more detailed data presented in many formats like charts, graphs, tabular, etc. You can have more than 1 page for reports, as shown in the picture above. The data in the report can be used to perform analysis. For example, by using a standard filter function called slicer, the users slice the data according to the filtering criteria. It allows the user to drill down through selecting particular data, and then the report interactively changes. Hovering and highlighting data in Power BI reports give the same interactive changes experience to the user.

Features of Power BI Reports

  • Slicers.
  • Multi-pages.
  • Interactivity.
  • Drill down to explore data.
  • Publish to the Website.

Comparison between the dashboard and report

The Educba website provides a good visual comparison between the Power BI Dashboard and Report. You can refer to the link here.

Key Differences Between Power BI Dashboard vs Report

Below are the important differences:

  • Different data sources are used by power BI dashboard in each dashboard consists of maps, graphs, etc. Only one dataset can be used as a source for Power BI reports.
  • Power BI dashboard capabilities of pinning existing visualization are only from the current dashboard to other dashboards, called as dashboard navigation. The Power BI reports can pin or navigate to any reports or dashboards.
  • Email subscription for power BI dashboard is not available. Reports can be published on the web and subscribed through email.
  • Power BI dashboards have alerting feature where attention needed condition arise dashboards raise an alert, but in reports, we cannot have this feature.
  • Power BI dashboards cannot slice and dice, but reports have many ways to filter and slice.
  • Natural language queries available only available from the dashboard, but for reports, it’s not possible.
  • Power BI visualization cannot be changed, but reports visualization can be changed and saved, but it all depends on user role and permissions involved to access dashboards and reports.
  • Dashboards have the same features of reports, but dashboards can be exported to limited formats, so dashboards are used to visualize the important data rather than analyze data. Data can be exported for the reports only, any formats like excels tabular formats.
  • Power BI dashboards can be set as featured or as favourites but cannot create a featured power BI reports.
  • Power BI reports can be drilled down to different levels of data sets on which reports are built.


At a glance, a dashboard and a report serve different purposes, and they have its own unique features. For good data visualization, you may want to include both dashboard and reports because they complement each other.