Microsoft Power BI Desktop

by | Feb 2, 2018 | Data Analytics

7 Min Read. |

Power BI is used to connect to data, form it, model it, and build reports and visualization to help uncover insights. BI is simply the process of collecting data, analyzing the data and finally visualizing the data so you turn data into information. The great thing is that for this purpose multiple tools are available in the market. One of these tools is Microsoft Power BI Desktop and Power BI actually is not a single tool. It consists of multiple connected tools.

What is Microsoft Power BI Desktop?

Let’s take a look at one of the tools called Power BI Desktop. The Power BI tools are Desktop, Power BI Service, and Power BI Mobile. Now let’s quickly understand why we have these tools. The desktop is a local application which you can simply download and in this application, you can connect Power BI to different sources and you can analyze your data and visualize your data in charts for example. After local work is done you can publish it on Power BI Service. This is a cloud application. You can use Power BI Mobile app to access your project and from mobile devices.
We will focus on the local application, Power BI Desktop. And the great thing is that the download of Desktop is free as long as your work remains locally. If you want to increase its capacity for sharing purposes you need to buy pro version. For all purposes, you can use the free version. For now, it’s only available for Windows OS.

You can download the windows application from the link below

Getting Started

First Screen

When you install the Power BI Desktop the best place to get started is to get data from the first screen. It gets the list of all data sources it supports. As an example, we will choose a SQL server database. Type in the name of the machine you need to connect to. And then this navigator will show you all the databases available to you. You can browse through the table you are interested in. For example select Finance. You can load it directly or choose to edit the query, transform the data as it gets pulled into the Power BI Desktop. For example, a typical finance database consists of some information about sales, segments, products, countries, etc. in this query you can do a whole bunch of things. Add/remove columns, group, sort, etc. Also perform transformations, to shape and construct the data you want to. Finally hit close and load.

Drag and Drop Process

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After you load the data into the Power BI Desktop, on the right-hand side you can see various different columns that got pulled in. You can start with visualization. Choose the field you are interested in and drag on to the canvas on the left-hand side. You can, for example, analyze the data by-product and it splits it out for you. Try some different visuals as it supports different visualizations. For example to insert a map, click on the icon and start dragging. Select the country field and it will visualize it by country sales. Now you can see the country where a particular product is sold most. You can also see a country that takes the second place and so on. Let’s try the doughnut style using the same field of units sold.

Doughnut Style Visualization

We can also manipulate how this visual is made up. For example, if we look at it by segment you can see we are doing most of the sales in the Govt. area. Finally, we can choose the details on the table. You can add more numerical values as well. Save this locally as your sales report. You can also choose to publish it to Power BI Service. You need to sign in first if you are not already signed in. It will go straight to Power BI Server. When finished you can open it up and in the browser where you can see that report you just now published. You see the same visuals ready to pin to the dashboard and share with people.

Sign in option is not important for the moment since we are working locally for now.

Tutorial: Creating A Report Using Power BI

The picture below shows how a Power BI Desktop’s interface appears. The highlighted part in blue color, on the left pane, displays the report, data and relationship space. By default, the report workspace will initiate. This is where you build reports. Below is the data work area which is used to view the imported data collections. The last tab is the relations tab which gives you the relationship between various variables in a data collection if they are well defined. On the right side, you will see Visualizations and Fields working area. 

Working Area

Importing Data 

So let us import the financial information in Power BI. You can click on the Get Data tab which is highlighted in the picture below and load the data for further processing.

Importing Data (Get Data)

Go ahead and add the finance dataset. Power BI will ask you whether you want to load data or edit it. I have simply loaded it. You can also edit it as per your requirement. You can inspect by clicking on the Data tab on the left side corner of the screen. Here is an example, we have taken simple sales data from few countries. In the right corner of the screen, you can see all the fields the dataset has. Refer to the picture below

Finance Dataset

Creating Visualizations

Let us return to our working area and create a simple report. The first step is to choose a visualization. I would be using a column chart visualization. When you click on the wanted visualization, a template is conceived in the report working area.

Choosing a Visualization

After choosing the visualization, I am going to visualize sales and profits on Y-axis and date on X-axis. Since you are using Power BI, you don’t have to worry about choosing the axis. You just choose the fields and it is exhibited in the graph. Refer to the picture below.

Choosing the Field

What Else Can You Do?

  • You can also drag and drop fields on the visualization and the changes would be mirrored immediately.
  • You can change the size of these visualizations by just dragging the borders. You can also drag the image and place it anywhere in the working area.
  • You can choose graphics by just clicking based on timelines.

Below the visualization pane, you have fields and format tabs. You can perform statistical manipulations like calculating mean, median, sum and also filter data for numerous parameters by using fields tab. You can use distinctive coloring schemes to make your visualization more beautiful and insightful by using the format tab. The picture below shows how you can adjust the color of the fields used in the visualization.

Alter Color Schemes


We have successfully conceived a visualization. Conceiving visualizations in Power BI is as simple as this. I hope by now, you are quite comfortable to make visualizations on your own. What are you waiting for? Go ahead and publish your reports on the web! The picture below shows how to publish a report in Power BI.

Publish a report in Power BI


Photo Credits: Microsoft Support Page

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