Power BI Ecosystem Report Authoring Tools Demystified

Power BI Reporting Tools Confusion

There are a lot of discussions these days around Power BI tools to create reports and for sure many of you may have already downloaded and worked with some of them if not all of them. You may also already thought that some of the tools’ names are confusingly similar. I recently had an interesting conversation with fellow who has a lot of SSRS report writing background. I was talking about Paginated reports and said, I downloaded the latest version of Power BI Report Builder… that he immidiately said, wait a second…

  • John: Power BI Report Builder? Oh I see, that’s the one that you can create paginated reports with then you can deploy those reports into an SSRS instance.
  • me: NOPE! That’s not the case I’m afraid.
  • John: Oh I know, I meant Power BI Report Server, you can deploy the reports to an instance of Power BI Report Server. I knew it!
  • me: NO! That’s not what I’m talking about…
  • John: What the…?

I bet some of you had similar conversation with a friend or a customer. OK, in this post I explain a little bit about report authoring tools available to you and your organisation to get the most out of your Power BI ecosystem.

Here is a list of all reporting tools currently available to you:

  • Power BI Service: It is a SaaS (Software as a Service) offering from Microsoft in the cloud. The users in an organisation, based on their access rights, may be able to create and publish data, reports, dashboards in Power BI Service. The users can also schedule data refreshes on the published data as well as securely sharing and distributing the contents. While creating or editing reports is possible in Power BI Service, it is strongly recommended to avoid this method for several reasons. The most obvious one is that the changes you make in a report may be soon get overwritten by someone else that republishes the same report from Power BI Desktop. Check this blog post from SQLChick to see why you should avoid creating or editing reports directly from Power BI Service. The reports are downloadable in PBIX format. Use Power BI Service here.
  • Power BI Desktop: It is a desktop report authoring tool that can be used to connect to, or loading data from, varies types of data sources, preparing, transforming and cleansing that data and at last visualising the data. Power BI Desktop is the predominant report authoring tool with a lot more functionalities and flexibility than Power BI Service. For instance, setting up Role Level Security (RLS) is NOT available in Power BI Service. The format of the report file is PBIX. Download Power BI Desktop from here.
  • Power BI Report Builder (Paginated): Paginated reports aka “pixel perfect reports”, as the name resembles, are formatted in a way to fit perfectly on a page. That report page might later be printed. You have exact control over the page formatting to display your data in tables or charts. The reports are not as interactive as Power BI Desktop reports are. Paginated reports are based on RDL technology which is standard report format in SQL Server Reporting Services. The tool for developing paginated report in Power BI ecosystem is Power BI Report Builder. The reports file type is RDL. You can currently publish Paginated reports only to a Workspace that is backed with a premium capacity. Download Power BI Report Builder from here.
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What is Power BI Documenter

Power BI Documenter Logo (Small)

On Saturday, 9th June 2018, we announced the existence of Power BI Documenter. As the name resembles, Power BI Documenter is a tool to help individuals and businesses to document their Power BI Desktop models. Everyone who already have several Power BI Desktop reports probably realized that documenting the solutions is not as easy as how creating a report in Power BI Desktop is. The issue is more visible in larger organisations with several Power BI Developers who are busy enough with a big list of tasks that are assigned to them on a day to day basis. Therefore, there is no time left to take care of the documentation. Every IT expert knows how important is to have proper documentation. We at Data Vizioner decided to do something tangible about this issue. So we started the project several months ago with the vision of creating web app to help individuals and businesses to keep their Power BI documentation on track. In this post I’m not going to explain how you can easily start documenting your Power BI Desktop reports using Power BI Documenter. You can learn more about Power BI Documenter and how to use it here. Despite the fact that the current version of Power BI Documenter is the very first version of the app with lots of limitations, it indeed can help users with their Power BI documentation tasks. All you need to do is to export the Power BI Desktop files (PBIX) to Power BI Template format (PBIT) and upload it to Power BI Documenter web app. Continue reading “What is Power BI Documenter”

Import Power BI Desktop Model to SSAS Tabular 2017 Using Azure Analysis Services

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NOTE: This method is no longer available (from 1st March 2019) as Microsoft discontinued supporting Web Designer in Azure portal. Microsoft is working on an alternative solution, but there is no timeframes or details to announce yet. Read more here. In the meantime, you still can import your Power BI Desktop Models to SSAS Tabular following the method described here

A while ago I wrote a blog post on how to import you currently existing Power BI Desktop models to SSAS Tabular 2016. However, the method I explained is NOT supported by official Microsoft BI tools like SSDT, so you may consider it as a WORKAROUND only until Microsoft supports imploring Power BI models in SSDT. In this post, I show you how to import Power BI Desktop Model to SSAS Tabular 2017 using Azure Analysis Services. It is easy and hassle free.

Requirements

Notes:

  • In this post I do NOT explain how to install Azure Analysis Services
  • This method works only for SQL Server Analysis Services 2017 Tabular

How it works

As mentioned earlier it is really easy in compare with other methods I explained in my previous post. Azure Analysis Services is capable of importing Power BI Desktop files creating a Tabular model version of your Power BI model in the cloud. Then you can simply download Visual Studio project file and redeploy it in your on-premises instance of SSAS Tabular 2017. Let’s go through the steps…

  • Open Power BI Desktop
  • Import data from WorldWideImportersDW from any desired combination of fact tables and dimensions. I imported
  • Create some simple Measures like:

Total Sales = SUMX(‘Fact Sale’, ‘Fact Sale'[Unit Price] * ‘Fact Sale'[Quantity])

  • Save your Power BI Model and close the file
  • Login to your Azure PortalBrowse to your instance of Azure Analysis Services
  • Click on “Open” under “Web designer—preview”

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  • This opens a new page for fabulous “Azure Analysis Services Web Designer”. You’re right, a web designer for tabular models. How cool is that? Smile
  • Click “Add” button under “Models” section
  • Yes, you got it, enter a name for your model and click “Power BI Desktop” button
  • Click “Browse” and select the Power BI file you saved earlier then click “Import”

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