Compare Power BI Desktop and the Power BI service
Use this article to get a basic overview of Power BI Desktop and the Power BI service. Then use the links within and below the article to expand your knowledge.
Power BI Desktop is an application that you download and install for free on your local computer. Desktop is a complete data analysis and report creation tool that is used to connect to, transform, visualize, and analyze your data. It includes the Query Editor, in which you can connect to many different sources of data, and combine them (often called modeling) into a data model. Then you design a report based on that data model. Reports can be shared with others directly or by publishing to the Power BI service. Sharing reports requires a Power BI Pro license. The Power BI Desktop getting started guide walks through the process.
The Power BI service is a cloud-based service, or software as a service (SaaS). It supports report editing and collaboration for teams and organizations. You can connect to data sources in the Power BI service, too, but modeling is limited. The Power BI service is used to do things such as creating dashboards, creating and sharing apps, analyzing and exploring your data to uncover business insights, and much more. What is the Power BI service details many of the capabilities of the Power BI service. Your license determines what you can do in the Power BI service. For more information about licenses, see Power BI licenses and subscriptions
The following Venn diagram compares Power BI Desktop and the Power BI service. The middle shows some of the areas where they overlap. Some tasks you can do in either Power BI Desktop or the service. The two outer sides of the Venn diagram show the features that are unique to either the Desktop application or to the Power BI service.
The report editors in Power BI Desktop and in the service are similar. They're made up of three sections:
- The top nav panes, different in Power BI Desktop and the service
- The report canvas
- The Fields, Visualizations, and Filters panes
The following video shows the report editor in Power BI Desktop.
This video might use earlier versions of Power BI Desktop or the Power BI service.
Work in the Power BI service
After you've created your reports, you can save them to a workspace in the Power BI service, where you and your colleagues collaborate. You can build dashboards on top of those reports or add them to apps. Then, if you have a Power BI Pro license, you can share those dashboards, reports and apps with others inside and outside your organization. When you share, you assign permissions that determine what the recipient can do with the dashboards, reports, apps, and underlying datasets. Sharing requires you to have a Power BI Pro license. Viewing shared reports requires a Pro license or for the report to be saved in Premium capacity. Consumers granted access to your report can view them in the Power BI service in Reading view, not Editing view. Consumers don't have access to all the features available to report creators. You can also share your datasets and let others build their own reports from them. Read more about collaborating in the Power BI service.
Self-service data prep with dataflows
Dataflows help organizations unify data from different sources and prepare it for modeling. Analysts can easily create dataflows using familiar self-service tools. Analysts use dataflows to ingest, transform, integrate, and enrich big data by defining data source connections, ETL logic, refresh schedules, and more. Read more about self-service data prep with dataflows.
Create a report in the Power BI service
Basic concepts for report designers
More questions? Try the Power BI Community
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