Glossary for Power BI developers

Power BI may introduce terminology that is unfamiliar or confusing. This glossary is a great place to look up terminology, you might even want to keep it bookmarked. Other great resources for learning about the building blocks that make up Power BI are Power BI service basic Concepts and Basic concepts for designers. These articles give a high-level overview of the Power BI pieces and how they're connected.

This glossary is a community effort. Don't see a word here? Ask us to add it (you can use the documentation feedback button at the bottom of this article).

A

Account

Use your work or school account to sign in to Power BI. Administrators manage work or school accounts in Azure Active Directory. Your level of access is determined by the Power BI license associated with that account and the capacity type where content is stored. See license and Premium, below.

Admin portal

The location where Power BI admins manage users, features, and settings for Power BI in their organization. (Note: Microsoft 365, Azure, and PowerApps use admin center.)

Aggregates

When the values of multiple rows are grouped together as input on criteria to form a single value of more significant meaning or measurement. Only implicit measures (see definition below) can be aggregated.

Aggregation

The reduction of rows in underlying data sources to fit in a model. The result is an aggregate.

Alert, alerts

A feature that notifies users of changes in the data based on limits they set. Alerts can be set on tiles pinned from report visuals. Users receive alerts on the service and on their mobile app.

Annotate

To write lines, text, or stamps on a snapshot copy of a tile, report, or visual on the Power BI mobile app for iOS and Android devices.

App, apps

A bundle of dashboards, reports, and datasets. It also refers to the mobile apps for consuming content, such as Power BI app for iOS.

AppSource

Centralized online repository where you can browse and discover dashboards, reports, datasets, and apps to download.

ArcGIS for Power BI

ArcGIS is a mapping and analytics platform created by the company ESRI. The name of the visual included in the Power BI visuals library is called ArcGIS for Power BI.

Artifacts

See item

Auto Insights

Auto insights are now called Quick Insights.

Azure AD, Azure Active Directory

The identity service in Microsoft Azure that provides identity management and access control capabilities through a REST-based API.

Azure Key Vault

The pay-as-you-go security solution that uses a single location (the vault) in Azure to store, secure and manage cryptographic keys and secrets that can then be invoked by URI and used by applications for small, high-value security data, such as authentication keys, storage account keys, data encryption keys, .pfx files, and passwords.

B

BI, business intelligence

Bookmark

A view of data captured in the Bookmarks pane of a report in Power BI Desktop or service. In Desktop, the bookmarks are saved in the .pbix report file for sharing on the Power BI service

The navigation at the top left to quickly navigate between reports and dashboards.

C

Capacity

A capacity is a dedicated set of resources reserved for exclusive use. It offers dependable, consistent performance for your content.

Card (visual type)

A Power BI visual type.

Card (Power BI Home)

Power BI Home displays rectangular and square pictures that represent dashboards, reports, apps, and more. These pictures are referred to as cards.

Certified custom visual

A Power BI custom visual that has met requirements and passed strict security testing.

Connect live

A method of connecting to SQL Server Analysis Services data models. Also called a live connection.

Connector

Power BI Desktop includes an ever-growing collection of data connectors that are built to connect to a specific data source. Examples include: GitHub, MailChimp, Power BI dataflows, Google Analytics, Python, SQL Server, Zendesk, and more than 100 other data sources.

Container

The areas on the navigation pane are containers. In the nav pane you'll find containers for: Favorites, Recent, Apps, Shared with me, and Home.

Content

Content for the Power BI service is generally dashboards, reports, and apps. It can also include workbooks and datasets.

Content list

The content index for an app.

Content view

The view in Windows Explorer that displays the most relevant content for each item based on its file name extension or Kind association.

Continuous variable

A continuous variable can be any value between its minimum and maximum limits, otherwise it's a discrete variable. Examples are temperature, weight, age, and time. Continuous variables can include fractions or portions of the value. The total number of blue skateboards sold is a discrete variable since we can't sell half a skateboard.

Correlation

A correlation tells us how the behaviors of things are related. If their patterns of increase and decrease are similar, then they're positively correlated. And if their patterns are opposite, then they're negatively correlated. For example, if sales of our red skateboard increase each time we run a tv marketing campaign, then sales of the red skateboard and the tv campaign are positively correlated.

Cross-filter

Applies to visual interactions. Cross-filtering removes data that doesn't apply. For example, selecting Moderation in the doughnut chart cross-filters the line chart. The line chart now only displays data points that apply to the Moderation segment.

Cross-highlight

Applies to visual interactions. Cross-highlighting retains all the original data points but dims the portion that doesn't apply to your selection. For example, selecting Moderation in the doughnut chart cross-highlights the column chart. The column chart dims all the data that doesn't apply to the Moderation segment, and highlights all the data that does apply to the Moderation segment.

Custom visual

Visuals that are created by the community and Microsoft. They can be downloaded from the Office store for use in Power BI reports. You can also develop your own personalized custom visual.

D

Dashboard

In the Power BI service, a dashboard is a single page, often called a canvas, that uses visualizations to tell a story. Because it's limited to one page, a well-designed dashboard contains only the most important elements of that story. Dashboards can only be created and viewed in the Power BI service, not in Power BI Desktop. For more information, see basic concepts, dashboards.

Data connector

See connectors

Data model, Excel Data Model

In Power BI content, a data model refers to a map of data structures in a table format. The data model shows the relationships that are being used to build databases. Report designers, administrators, and developers create and work with data models to create Power BI content.

Dataflow

Dataflows ingest, transform, integrate, and enrich big data by defining data source connections, ETL logic, refresh schedules, and more. Formerly data pool.

Dataset

A collection of data used to create visualizations and reports.

DAX expression

Data Analysis Expressions. A Microsoft formula language used to build formulas and expressions in Power BI Desktop, Azure Analysis Services, SQL Server Analysis Services, and Power Pivot in Excel.

Desktop or Power BI Desktop

Free Power BI tool used primarily be report designers, admins, and developers.

Diamond

Power BI Premium. The shape of the icon that signifies a workspace is a Premium capacity workspace.

Dimension

Dimensions are categorical (text) data. A dimension describes a person, object, item, products, place, and time. In a dataset, dimensions are a way to group measures into useful categories. For our skateboard company, some dimensions might include looking at sales (a measure) by model, color, country/region, or marketing campaign.

Drill up, drill down, drill through

In Power BI, "drill down" and "drill up" refer to the ability to explore the next level of detail in a report or visual. "Drill through" refers to the ability to select a part of a visual and be taken to another page in the report, filtered to the data that relates to the part of the visual you selected on the original page. Drill to details commonly means to show the underlying records.

E

Editing View

The mode in which report designers can explore, design, build, and share a report.

Effective identity

The identity used by the generate token API to generate a token for an individual user, depending on that user's credentials in the app. It could be a master user or service principal.

Ellipsis

Three dots - ... Selecting an ellipsis displays more menu options. Also referred to as the More actions menu.

Embed code

A common standard across the internet. In Power BI, the customer can generate an embed code and copy it to place content such as a report visual on a website or blog.

Embed token

A string of encrypted characters that is used for authentication, which specifies the content the web app user can access and the user’s access level.

Embedded

See Power BI Embedded.

Embedding

In the Power BI developer offering, the process of integrating analytics into apps using the Power BI REST APIs and the Power BI SDK.

Environment

[Power BI Desktop, Power BI Mobile, the Power BI service, etc.] Another way to refer to one of the Power BI tools. It's okay to use Power BI environment (tenant) in documentation where it may help business analysts who are familiar with the term tenant to know it's the same thing.

Explicit measures

Power BI uses explicit measures and implicit measures (see definition below). Explicit measures are created by report designers and saved with the dataset. They're displayed in Power BI as fields, and can therefore be used over and over. For example, a report designer creates an explicit measure TotalInvoice that sums all invoice amounts. Colleagues who use that dataset and who have edit access to the report, can select and use that field to create a visual. When an explicit measure is added or dragged onto a report canvas, Power BI doesn't apply an aggregation. Creating explicit measures requires edit access to the dataset.

F

Favorite, unfavorite

Verb meaning to add to the Favorites list for quick access to frequently visited dashboards and reports in Power BI. When you no longer want them as a favorite, you unfavorite them.

Filter versus highlight

A filter removes data that doesn't apply. A highlight grays out the data that doesn't apply.

Focus mode

Use focus mode to pop out a visual or tile to see more detail. You can still interact with the visual or tile while in focus mode.

Free account

See account

Full screen, full-screen mode

Use full screen mode to view Power BI content without the distraction of menus and navigation panes. Full screen mode is sometimes referred to as TV mode.

G

Gateways or on-premises data gateways

A bridge to underlying data sources. It provides quick and secure data transfer between the Power BI service and on-premises data sources that support refresh. Managed by IT.

H

High-density visuals

Visuals with more data points than Power BI can render. Power BI samples the data to show the shape and outliers.

Home

The default landing page for Power BI service users. Doesn't modify anything. Can be called Power BI Home or simply Home.

I

Inline frame, IFrame

An IFrame is component of an HTML element that allows you to embed reports and other items inside your app. It's essentially a way to display a secondary webpage inside the main page.

Implicit measures

Power BI uses implicit measures and explicit measures (see definition above). Implicit measures are created dynamically. For example, when you drag a field onto the report canvas to create a visual. Power BI automatically aggregates the value using one of the built-in standard aggregations (SUM, COUNT, MIN, AVG, etc.). Creating implicit measures requires edit access to the report.

Independent Software Vendor, ISV

A third-party software developer. An ISV can be an individual or an organization that independently creates computer software.

Insights

See quick insights.

Item

A component type of the Power BI workspace that includes dashboards, reports, datasets, and data flows. Formerly known as artifacts.

J

K

KPIs

Key performance indicators. A type of visual.

L

Left navigation (left nav)

The controls along the left edge of Power BI service.

License

Your level of access is determined by the Power BI license associated with your account and the capacity type where content is stored. For example, in shared capacity, a user with a Power BI Pro license can collaborate only with users who are also assigned a Pro license. In shared capacity, a free license enables access to only the user’s personal workspace. However, when content is in Premium capacity, users with a Pro license can share that content with users who are assigned a free license.

A license is assigned to a user and can be a free or Pro license. Depending on how the license was acquired, it may be paid or unpaid. The accounts are either: per-user or organizational. Per-user accounts are available as free or Pro. A Power BI free user is either using stand-alone Power BI Desktop or is using Power BI service stand-alone or is using Power BI service within an organization that has a Premium organizational subscription. The Power BI per-user Pro account is a paid monthly subscription that allows for collaboration and sharing of content with other Pro users.

The organizational Premium (also known as Premium capacity) subscription adds a layer of features on top of per-user licenses. For example, free per-user account holders within an organization that has a Premium subscription, are able to do much more with Power BI than free users without Premium. For example, free users in Premium organizational accounts, can collaborate with colleagues and can view content that's hosted on Power BI Premium capacity.

List page or content list

One of the section pages for the elements in the nav pane. For example, Favorites, Recents, My workspace, etc.

M

Measure

A measure is a quantitative (numeric) field that can be used to do calculations. Common calculations are sum, average, and minimum. For example, if our company makes and sells skateboards, our measures might be number of skateboards sold and average profit per year.

Mobile app

Apps that allow you to run Power BI on iOS, Android, and Windows devices.

Modeling

[Power BI Desktop] Getting the data you've connected to ready for use in Power BI. Modeling includes creating relationships between tables in multiple data sources, creating measures, and assigning metrics.

My workspace

The workspace for each Power BI customer to use to create content. If a customer wants to bundle anything created here into an app, and they have designer permissions, they upload it to the appropriate workspace or create a new one.

N

Native

Included with the product. For example, Power BI comes with a set of native visualization types. But you can also import other types, such as Power BI visuals.

The controls along the left edge of the Power BI service.

Notification

Messages sent by and to the Power BI Notification Center.

Notification Center

The location in the service where messages are delivered to users, such as notice of sunsetting certain features.

O

OneDrive for work or school vs OneDrive

OneDrive is a personal account and OneDrive for work or school is for work accounts.

On-premises

The term used to distinguish local computing (in which computing resources are located on a customer's own facilities) from cloud computing.

P

PaaS

PaaS stands for platform as a service. For example, Power BI Embedded.

Page

Reports have one or more pages. Each tab on the report canvas represents a page.

Paginated reports

Paginated reports are designed to be printed or shared. They're called paginated because they're formatted to fit well on a page. They display all the data in a table, even if the table spans multiple pages. You can control their report page layout exactly. Power BI Report Builder is the standalone tool for authoring paginated reports.

PBIVIZ

The file extension for a Power BI custom visual.

PBIX

The file extension for a Power BI Desktop file.

Permissions

What a user can and can't do in Power BI is based on permissions. As a consumer you won't have the same permissions as a designer, administrator, or developer.

Phone report

The name for a Power BI report that's been formatted for viewing on the phone.

Phone view

The user interface in the Power BI service for laying out a phone report.

Pin, unpin

The action a report designer takes of placing a visual, usually from a report, onto a dashboard.

Power BI Desktop

Also referred to as Desktop. The free Windows application of Power BI you can install on your local computer that lets you connect to, transform, and visualize your data. Used by report designers and admins. For more information, see What is Power BI.

Power BI Embedded

A product used by developers to embed Power BI dashboards and reports into their own apps, sites, and tools.

Power BI Premium

An add-on to the Power BI Pro license that enables organizations to predictably scale BI solutions through the purchasing of reserved hardware in the Microsoft cloud. See account.

Power BI Pro

A monthly per-user license that provides the ability to build reports and dashboards, collaborate on shared data, keep data up-to date automatically, audit and govern how data is accessed and used, and the ability to package content to distribute (Power BI apps). See account.

Power BI Report Builder

A free, standalone Windows Desktop application used for authoring paginated reports. Used by report designers. For more information, see Power BI Report Builder. Power BI Report Builder can be downloaded from the Power BI site.

Power BI Report Server

An on-premises report server with a web portal in which you display and manage reports and KPIs. It allows organizations to build distributed, hybrid BI systems (a mix of cloud and on-premises deployments).

Power BI service

An online SaaS (Software as a service) service. For more information, see What is Power BI.

Power BI tenant

A Power BI account for an organization which has its data stored separately from other organizations but which is accessed through a shared service.

Premium workspace

A workspace running in a capacity, signified to customers by a diamond icon.

Pro license or Pro account

See account.

Publish

Power BI service report designers bundle the contents of a Power BI workspace to make it available to others as a Power BI app. Power BI Desktop report designers use publish to refer to sending a Power BI Desktop report in .pbix format to the Power BI service so that they can build dashboards from it and easily share it with others.

Q

Q&A

The ability to type natural language questions about a dataset and get responses in the form of visualizations. Appears in the Power BI service and Desktop.

Q&A virtual analyst

[Power BI Mobile] For iOS, the conversational UI for Q&A.

QR codes

[Power BI Mobile] A matrix barcode that can be generated for dashboards or tiles in the Power BI service to identify products. QR codes can be scanned with a QR code reader, or with the Power BI Mobile app on iOS or Android, to link directly to the dashboard or tile.

Query string parameter

Add to a URL to pre-filter the results seen in a Power BI report. In the broadest sense, a query string recovers information from a database.

Quick Insights

Quick Insights refer to automatically generated insights that reveal trends and patterns in data.

R

R, Microsoft R

A programming language and software environment for statistical computing and graphics.

Reading View

Read-only view for reports (as opposed to Editing View).

Real-time streaming

The ability to stream data and update dashboards in real time from sources such as sensors, social media, usage metrics, and anything else from which time-sensitive data can be collected or transmitted.

Recent

The container in the nav pane that holds all the individual items (reports, dashboards, etc.) that were accessed last.

Shows the individual pieces of content that contribute to the current content. For example, for a dashboard, you can see the reports and datasets providing the data and visualizations on the dashboard.

Links from dashboard tiles to other dashboards and reports that have been shared directly or distributed through a Power BI app. This enables richer dashboards that support drill through.

Report

A multi-perspective view into a single dataset, with visualizations that represent different findings and insights from that dataset. It can have a single visualization or many, a single page or many pages.

Report editor

The report editor is where new reports are created and changes are made to existing reports by report designers.

Report measures

Also called custom calculations. Excel calls these calculated fields. See also measures.

Responsive visuals

Visuals that change dynamically to display the maximum amount of data and insights, no matter the screen size.

Row-level security, RLS

Power BI feature that enables database administrators to control access to rows in a database table based on the characteristics of the user executing a query (for example, group membership).

Administrators can configure RLS for data models imported into Power BI with Power BI Desktop.

S

SaaS

Software as a service (or SaaS) is a way of delivering applications over the internet—as a web-based service. Also referred to as: web-based software, on-demand software, or hosted software.

Scalability

The capability of a piece of hardware or software or network to expand or shrink to meet future needs and circumstances.

Screenshot

Simple screenshots of a report can be emailed using the send a screenshot feature.

Service

See Power BI service A standalone resource available to customers by subscription or license. A service is a product offering delivered exclusively via the cloud.

Service principal

An identity created for use with applications, hosted services, and automated tools to access Azure resources. The service principal tokens can be used to authenticate and grant access to specific Azure resources from a user-app, service or automation tool, when an organization is using Azure Active Directory.

It can sometimes replace the master user to authenticate with Power BI.

Settings

The location for Power BI users to manage their own general settings, such as whether to preview new features, set the default language, close their account, etc. Also, users manage individual settings for content assets, alerts, and subscriptions. Represented by a cog icon.

Share, sharing

In Power BI, sharing typically means directly sharing an individual item (a dashboard or report) with one or more people by using their email address. Requires a Power BI Pro license for sender and recipient. On mobile devices, share can refer to native OS share functionality, such as "annotate and share."

Shared with me

The container in the nav pane that holds all the individual items that were directly shared by another Power BI user.

Single sign-on, SSO

An authentication process that permits a user to log on to a system once with a single set of credentials to access multiple applications or services.

Snapshot

In Power BI, a snapshot is a static image vs. a live image of a tile, dashboard, or report.

SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS)

An online analytical data engine used in decision support and business analytics, providing the analytical data for business reports and client applications such as Power BI, Excel, Reporting Services reports, and other data visualization tools.

SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS)

A set of on-premises tools and services to create, deploy, and manage report servers and paginated reports.

Streaming data

See real-time streaming.

Subscriptions, Subscribe

You can subscribe to report pages, apps, and dashboards and receive emails containing a snapshot. Requires a Power BI Pro license.

Summarization

[Power BI Desktop] The operation being applied to the values in one column.

T

Tenant

A client organization that is served from a web service (SaaS) which also serves other client organizations, and each organization’s data is stored in a separate database.

Tiles

A tile is a snapshot of your data, pinned to the dashboard. A tile can be created from a report, dataset, dashboard, the Q&A box, Excel, SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) reports, and more.

Time series

A time series is a way of displaying time as successive data points. Those data points could be increments such as seconds, hours, months, or years.

U

User Principal Name (UPN)

A format used to specify an internet-style name, such as User.Name@example.microsoft.com. The format consists of a login name and domain separated by the @ symbol.

V

Value, values

Numerical data to be visualized.

Visual, visualization

A chart. Some visuals are: bar chart, treemap, doughnut chart, map.

Visual interaction

One of the great features of Power BI is the way all visuals on a report page are interconnected. If you select a data point on one of the visuals, all the other visuals on the page that contain that data change, based on that selection.

Visualizations pane

Name for the visualization templates that ship in the shared report canvas for Power BI Desktop and the Power BI service. Contains small templates, also called icons, for each native visualization type.

W

Workbook

An Excel workbook to be used as a data source. Workbooks can contain a data model with one or more tables of data loaded into it by using linked tables, Power Query, or Power Pivot.

Workspace

Containers for dashboards, reports, and datasets in Power BI. Users can collaborate on the content in any workspace except My workspace. The contents can be bundled into a Power BI app. Those stored in Premium capacity can be shared with Free users. Personal workspaces (under My workspace) can be hosted in Premium capacity.

X

X-axis

The axis along the bottom, the horizontal axis.

Y

Y-axis

The axis along the side, the vertical axis.

Z

Next steps