Register an external tool

Some tools must be manually registered with Power BI Desktop. To register an external tool, create a JSON file with the following example code:

    "name": "<tool name>",
    "description": "<tool description>",
    "path": "<tool executable path>",
    "arguments": "<optional command line arguments>",
    "iconData": "image/png;base64,<encoded png icon data>"

The pbitool.json file includes the following elements:

  • name: Provide a name for the tool, which will appear as a button caption in the External Tools ribbon within Power BI Desktop.
  • description: (optional) Provide a description, which will appear as a tooltip on the External Tools ribbon button within Power BI Desktop.
  • path: Provide the fully qualified path to the tool executable.
  • arguments: (optional) Provide a string of command-line arguments that the tool executable should be launched with. You can use any of the following placeholders:
    • %server%: Replaced with the server name and portnumber of the local instance of Analysis Services Tabular for imported/DirectQuery data models.
    • %database%: Replaced with the database name of the model hosted in the local instance of Analysis Services Tabular for imported/DirectQuery data models.
  • iconData: Provide image data, which will be rendered as a button icon in the External Tools ribbon within Power BI Desktop. The string should be formatted according to the syntax for Data URIs without the "data:" prefix.

Name the file "<tool name>.pbitool.json" and place it in the following folder:

  • %commonprogramfiles%\Microsoft Shared\Power BI Desktop\External Tools

For 64-bit environments, place the files in the following folder:

  • Program Files (x86)\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Power BI Desktop\External Tools

Files in that specified location with the .pbitool.json extension are loaded by Power BI Desktop upon startup.


The following *.pbitool.json file launches powershell.exe from the External Tools ribbon and runs a script called pbiToolsDemo.ps1. The script passes the server name and port number in the -Server parameter and the dataset name in the -Database parameter.

    "version": "1.0.0", 
    "name": "External Tools Demo", 
    "description": "Launches PowerShell and runs a script that outputs server and database parameters. (Requires elevated PowerShell permissions.)", 
    "path": "C:\\Windows\\System32\\WindowsPowerShell\\v1.0\\powershell.exe", 
    "arguments": "C:\\pbiToolsDemo.ps1 -Server \"%server%\" -Database \"%database%\"", 

The corresponding pbiToolsDemo.ps1 script outputs the Server and Database parameters to the console.

        [Parameter(Mandatory = $true)]         
[string] $Server, 
        [Parameter(Mandatory = $true)]         
[string] $Database  
Write-Host "" 
Write-Host "Analysis Services instance: " -NoNewline 
Write-Host "$Server" -ForegroundColor Yellow 
Write-Host "Dataset name: " -NoNewline 
Write-Host "$Database" -ForegroundColor Green 
Write-Host "" 
Read-Host -Prompt 'Press [Enter] to close this window'  

Screenshot of PowerShell console output created from the example external tool.

Icon data URIs

To include an icon in the External Tools ribbon, the pbitool.json registration file must include an iconData element.

Screenshot of the external tools ribbon with the tool icons.

The iconData element takes a data URI without the data: prefix. For example, the data URI of a one pixel magenta png image is:


Be sure to remove the data: prefix, as shown in the pbitool.json preceding example.

To convert a .png or other image file type to a data URI, use an online tool or a custom tool such as the one shown in the following C# code snippet:

string ImageDataUri; 
OpenFileDialog openFileDialog1 = new OpenFileDialog(); 
openFileDialog1.Filter = "PNG Files (.png)|*.png|All Files (*.*)|*.*"; 
openFileDialog1.FilterIndex = 1; 
openFileDialog1.Multiselect = false; 
openFileDialog1.CheckFileExists = true; 
bool? userClickedOK = openFileDialog1.ShowDialog(); 
if (userClickedOK == true) 
    var fileName = openFileDialog1.FileName; 
    var sb = new StringBuilder(); 
        .Append((System.IO.Path.GetExtension(fileName) ?? "png").Replace(".", "")) 
    ImageDataUri = sb.ToString(); 

See also

External tools in Power BI Desktop
Analysis Services client libraries
Tabular Object Model (TOM)