Would you like to use Power BI, but don't know where to start? In this tutorial, you'll learn how to use Microsoft's Business Intelligence platform and its various functions: install the software, create dashboards, connect data sources and much more.
Microsoft’s Power BI platform is one of the most widely used data visualization and business intelligence tools. It brings together a collection of applications, connectors and software services used to collect data from different sources, transform data or produce reports.
It’s a powerful tool, offering many possibilities. However, it can be a complex tool for beginners. In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to use Power BI’s main functions.
Download and install Power BI Desktop
To download and install Power BI Desktop, you first need to meet a number of prerequisites. The machine on which the software is installed must be running Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Window 10, or Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2.
The Internet Explorer 9 or higher must be installed. However, Power BI Desktop is compatible with both 32-bit and 64-bit platforms.
First, download Power BI Desktop from the official website. Click on the “Free Download” button. You will be redirected to the Microsoft Store, from where you can obtain the application.
Then click on the “Install” button to start installation. You can follow the installation process on-screen. At the end of the process, a welcome screen appears. You can now register and start using the tool.
How do I create dashboards and reports?
A Power BI dashboard is a single page, also known as a canvas. It presents data in the form of visualizations, to provide a consolidated overview.
The different visualizations displayed on the dashboard are called “tiles”. They are derived from reports, and each report is based on a set of data. It is possible to combine data from both onsite and cloud sources.
Knowing that a dashboard is limited to a single page, it’s important to design it to display only the essential elements. Here’s how to go about it.
The first step is to import a dataset into Power BI and use it to create a dashboard. First open Power BI Desktop and click on the “File” menu. Go to the “Import” option, and choose the dataset file (Excel or other) to import.
After selecting the file, click on the “Open” button. Click the “Start” button if prompted. The file is imported, and a report is automatically created. When the import is complete, click on the “Close” button to confirm.
Alongside Dashboards, a Power BI report offers several perspectives on a data set. Visualizations represent different insights and discoveries from the dataset.
A report can offer a single visualization, or multiple visualizations. The objective is different from that of Dashboards. These visualizations are not static: they are highly interactive and customizable.
They are also updated whenever data changes. Data can be added or deleted, visualization types can be changed, and filters can be applied to the model to uncover insights.
How do I connect data sources?
Many data sources are compatible with Power BI Desktop and Power BI Service. To review all available data connections, simply click on the “Get Data” button.
The tool can be connected to various Flat files, the Azure Cloud, a SQL database or web platforms such as Google Analytics, Facebook or Salesforce. An ODBC connection can also be used to connect to other ODBC data sources.
Similarly, Power BI can be connected to an OData stream, or to Oracle, IBM Db2, IBM Netezza, and IBM Informix databases. Other sources such as Exchange and Hadoop are also supported.
To connect data sources to Power BI Desktop, first click on the “Get Data” button on the main menu. You’ll then see a list of the most common data sources. By clicking on the “More” button, you can see the complete list of available data sources.
On the left-hand side of the screen, you can see the different categories of data sources. An option at the top of the screen also allows you to perform a search.
In the “all” category, you can view all Power BI Desktop-compatible data sources. This category gives you an overview.
By clicking on the “File” option, you can review all flat files supported by the platform. You can choose any file type from the list, and click on the “Connect” button to connect it to Power BI.
The “Database” option lists all available database connections. To establish a connection, you need to enter the server name, user name and password. It is also possible to connect via a direct SQL query using the “Advanced” option.
You can also choose between two connectivity modes: Import or DirectQuery. The “Import” method is used for data transformation and manipulation. When data is published to the PBI service, it is consumed and transferred to the Power BI backend. Data can be refreshed up to 8 times a day, with scheduling available.
The second DirectQuery method limits options in terms of data manipulation. What’s more, the data remains in the SQL database. The advantage of this live method is that there’s no need to schedule refreshes as with the import method.
With the Azure option, Power BI can be connected to a database on Microsoft’s Azure Cloud. For its part, the “Online Services” option lets you connect Power BI to various online services such as Exchange, Salesforce, Google Analytics or Facebook. Finally, the “Other” category includes all other data sources compatible with the platform.
How do I learn to use Power BI?
Now you know the basics of Power BI. To learn how to use this Business Intelligence tool in greater depth, there are a number of options available to you.
Firstly, Microsoft offers a number of guides and tutorials. These are a simple and effective way of discovering Power BI’s various functionalities.
There are also numerous videos on YouTube, enabling you to learn how to master all facets of the platform. You can also register on various forums to exchange ideas and receive advice from the vast community of users.
To truly master Power BI, you can opt for a DataScientest training courses. We just launched our new training course on Power BI. Become an expert within 5 days.