Tutorial: Get started creating in the Power BI service

APPLIES TO: Power BI Desktop Power BI service

This tutorial is an introduction to some of the features of the Power BI service. In it, you connect to data, create a report and a dashboard, and ask questions of your data. You can do much more in the Power BI service; this tutorial is just to whet your appetite. For an understanding of how the Power BI service fits in with the other Power BI offerings, we recommend reading What is Power BI.

Are you a report reader rather than a creator? Getting around in the Power BI service is a good starting place for you.

Screenshot of Financial Sample dashboard.

In this tutorial, you complete the following steps:

  • Sign in to your Power BI online account, or sign up, if you don't have an account yet.
  • Open the Power BI service.
  • Get some data and open it in report view.
  • Use that data to create visualizations and save it as a report.
  • Create a dashboard by pinning tiles from the report.
  • Add other visualizations to your dashboard by using the Q&A natural-language tool.
  • Resize, rearrange, and edit details for the tiles on the dashboard.
  • Clean up resources by deleting the dataset, report, and dashboard.

Sign up for the Power BI service

You need a Power BI Pro or Premium Per User (PPU) license to create content in Power BI. If you don't have a Power BI account, and plan on creating content, sign up for a free Power BI Premium Per User 60 day trial before you begin. Complete the wizard to get a free license, open the Power BI service (app.powerbi.com), select the Me icon and choose either Buy Pro now or Try paid features for free.

Screenshot of choosing Buy or Try.

Step 1: Get data

Often, when you want to create a Power BI report, you start in Power BI Desktop. Power BI Desktop offers more power. You can transform, shape, and model data, before you start designing reports. This time though, we're going to start from scratch creating a report in the Power BI service.

In this tutorial, we get data from a simple Microsoft Excel file. Want to follow along? Download the Financial Sample file.

  1. To begin, open the Power BI service (app.powerbi.com) in your browser.

    Don’t have an account? No worries, you can sign up for a free Power BI Premium Per User 60 day trial

  2. Select My workspace in the navigation pane.

  3. In My workspace, select New > Upload a file.

    The Get Data page opens.

  4. Under the Create new content section, select Files > Local File, then select the location where you saved the Excel file.

    Screenshot of Create new content > Files.

  5. Browse to the file on your computer, and choose Open.

  6. For this tutorial, we select Import to add the Excel file as a dataset, which we can then use to create reports and dashboards. If you select Upload, the entire Excel workbook is uploaded to Power BI, where you can open and edit it in Excel Online.

    Screenshot of choosing Import.

  7. When your dataset is ready, select More options (...) next to your Financial Sample dataset, then select Create report to open the report editor.

    Screenshot of All content > Create report.

    The report canvas is blank. We see the Filters, Visualizations, and Fields panes on the right.

    Screenshot of blank report canvas.


    Select the global navigation button in the upper-left corner to collapse the navigation pane. That way your canvas has more room.

    Global navigation button.

  8. You're currently in Editing view. Notice the Reading view option in the menu bar.

    Screenshot of Reading view option.

    While in Editing view, you can modify reports, because you're the owner and creator of the report. When you share your report with colleagues, often they can only interact with the report in Reading view. They are consumers of reports in your My workspace.

Step 2: Create a chart in a report

Now that you've connected to data, start exploring. When you've found something interesting, you can save it on the report canvas. Then you can pin it to a dashboard to monitor it and see how it changes over time. But first things first

  1. In the report editor, start in the Fields pane on the right side of the page to build a visualization. Select the Gross Sales field, then the Date field.

    Screenshot of Fields list.

    Power BI analyzes the data and creates a column chart visualization.


    If you selected the Date field first instead of Gross Sales, you see a table. No worries! We're going to change the visualization in the next step.

    Some fields have sigma symbols next to them because Power BI detected that they contain numeric values.

    Fields with sigma symbols.

  2. Let's switch to a different way of displaying this data. Line charts are good visuals for displaying values over time. Select the Line chart icon from the Visualizations pane.

    Screenshot of Report editor with line chart selected.

  3. This chart looks interesting, so let's pin it to a dashboard. Hover over the visualization and select the pin icon that appears either above or below it.

    Screenshot of Pin icon.

  4. Because this report is new, you're prompted to save it before you can pin a visualization to a dashboard. Give your report a name (for example, Financial Sample report), then Save.

    Now you're looking at the report in Reading view.

  5. Select the Pin icon again.

  6. Select New dashboard and name it Financial Sample dashboard, for example.

    Screenshot of Name the dashboard.

    A success message (near the top-right corner) lets you know the visualization was added as a tile to your dashboard.

  7. Select Go to dashboard to see your new dashboard with the line chart that you pinned to it as a tile.

    Screenshot of Pinned to dashboard dialog.

    Now that you've pinned this visualization, it's stored on your dashboard. The data stays up-to-date so you can track the latest value at a glance. However, if you change the visualization type in the report, the visualization on the dashboard doesn't change.

    Screenshot of dashboard with visualization pinned.

  8. Select the new tile on your dashboard. Power BI returns you to the report in Reading view.

  9. To switch back to Editing view, select More options (...) in the menu bar > Edit.

    Screenshot of select Edit to edit the report.

    Back in Editing view, you can continue to explore and pin tiles.

Step 3: Explore with Q&A

For a quick exploration of your data, try asking a question in the Q&A question box. Q&A lets you ask natural-language queries about your data. In a dashboard, the Q&A box is at the top (Ask a question about your data) under the menu bar. In a report, it's in the top menu bar (Ask a question).

  1. To go back to the dashboard, select My workspace in the black Power BI header bar.

    Screenshot of Go back to My workspace.

  2. In My workspace, select your dashboard.

    Screenshot of select your dashboard.

  3. Select Ask a question about your data. Q&A automatically offers a number of suggestions.

    Screenshot of Q&A canvas.

  4. Some suggestions return a single value. For example, select what is the average sale.

    Q&A searches for an answer and presents it in the form of a card visualization.

  5. Select Pin visual and pin this visualization to the Financial Sample dashboard.

    Screenshot of pinning the visual.

  6. Go back to Q&A and type total profit by country.

    Screenshot of total profit by country/region.

  7. Pin the map to the Financial Sample dashboard, too.

  8. On the dashboard, select the map you just pinned. See how it opens Q&A again?

  9. Place the cursor after by country in the Q&A box and type as bar. Power BI creates a bar chart with the results.

    Screenshot of bar chart visualization.

  10. Pin the bar chart to your Financial Sample dashboard, too.

  11. Select Exit Q&A to return to your dashboard, where you see the new tiles you created.

    You see that even though you changed the map to a bar chart in Q&A, that tile remained a map because it was a map when you pinned it.

    Screenshot of dashboard with Q&A visuals pinned.

Step 4: Reposition tiles

We can rearrange the tiles to make better use of the dashboard space.

  1. Drag the lower-right corner of the Gross Sales line chart tile upward, until it snaps at the same height as the Average of Sales tile, then release it.

    Screenshot of resizing the tile.

    Now the two tiles are the same height.

  2. Select More options (...) for the Average of Sales tile > Edit details.

    Screenshot of More options menu for a tile.

  3. In the Title box, type Sales Average > Apply.

    Screenshot of Edit details dialog box.

  4. Rearrange the other visuals to fit together.

    That looks better.

    Screenshot of rearranged dashboard.

Clean up resources

Now that you've finished the tutorial, you can delete the dataset, report, and dashboard.

  1. Select My workspace in the black Power BI header bar.

  2. Select More options (...) next to the Financial Sample dataset > Delete.

    Screenshot of deleting the dataset.

    You see a warning that All reports and dashboard tiles containing data from this dataset will also be deleted.

  3. Select Delete.

Next steps

Quickly create a report by pasting data into the Power BI service

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