Examine Power BI functionality


Microsoft Power BI consists of the following basic building blocks:

  • Datasets. A dataset is a collection of data that Power BI uses to create its visualizations. A dataset can be based on a single table from a Microsoft Excel workbook. A dataset can also be created from a combination of many different data sources. These data sources can then be filtered and combined to provide a unique collection of data for use in Power BI.
  • Visualizations. A visualization (also referred to as a visual) is a visual representation of the data in a dataset, like a chart or a color-coded map. Power BI has all sorts of visualization types. The goal of a visual is to present data in a way that provides context and insights. These attributes would be difficult to discern from a raw table of numbers or text.
  • Reports. A report is a collection of visualizations, based on a given dataset, that appears together on one or more pages.
  • Dashboards. A Power BI dashboard is a selected group of visuals that originate from one or more reports and provide quick insight into the data or story being presented. A dashboard must fit on a single page, often called a canvas. One way to think of a dashboard is as an entryway to the underlying reports and datasets. Dashboards are a feature of the Power BI service.
  • Tiles. A tile is a single visualization on a report or dashboard. It's the rectangular box that holds an individual visual.

Digital transformation has enabled organizations to collect extensive amounts of data relating to their business. However, this data is only as good as an organization’s ability to interpret and communicate its meaning. It's in this scenario where Power BI excels. Power BI provides the following benefits to organizations:

  • Lets users easily connect to their data sources.
  • Clean and model the data without affecting the underlying source.
  • Visualize (or discover) what's important by building queries and reports based on that data.
  • Share the results as needed.

Power BI components

Power BI consists of the following components:

  • A Microsoft Windows desktop application called Power BI Desktop.
  • An online SaaS (Software as a Service) service called the Power BI service.
  • Mobile Power BI apps that are available on Windows phones and tablets, and Apple iOS and Google Android devices.

A common flow of work in Power BI begins in Power BI Desktop, where a report is created. That report is then published to the Power BI service and finally shared, so that users of Power BI Mobile apps can consume the information.

diagram showing the flow of how a Power BI report is created, from the Power BI Desktop  then published to the Power BI service and then shared in Power BI mobile apps

The following list takes a deeper look at each of these Power BI components:

  • Power BI Desktop. The Power BI Desktop is a free application that users can install on their local computers that lets them connect to, transform, and visualize their data. With Power BI Desktop, users can connect to multiple sources of data and combine them (often called modeling) into a data model. This data model is used to build visuals and collections of visuals that can be shared as reports with other people inside their organization.
  • Power BI service. The Power BI service is the SaaS (Software as a Service) part of Power BI. The Power BI service (app.powerbi.com) is a cloud-based suite of business analytics tools. It lets users connect to, visualize, and analyze data with greater speed, efficiency, and understanding. It also connects users to a broad range of live data through easy-to-use dashboards, provides interactive reports, delivers compelling visualizations that bring data to life, and enables users to share those visualizations with others. Most users who work on business intelligence projects use Power BI Desktop to create reports, and then use the Power BI service to share their reports with others.
  • Mobile apps. Power BI offers a set of mobile apps for iOS, Android, and Windows 10 mobile devices. These apps enable users to connect to and interact with their cloud and on-premises data. Also, users to which reports and dashboards have been shared can view and interact with those reports and dashboards in the Power BI mobile app. It doesn't matter whether they're on premises or in the cloud.

In a typical workflow, report designers use Power BI Desktop to create reports, and then use the Power BI service to distribute their reports with others. Some tasks, however, can be done in either Power BI Desktop or the service. In the following graphic, the two sides of the Venn diagram show the features that are unique to the application and the service.

Venn diagram showing the features that are unique to Power BI Desktop and Power BI Service, and the features shared by each.

Knowledge check

Choose the best response for the following question. Then select “Check your answers.”

Check your knowledge


Which Power BI component is a cloud-based suite of business analytics tools that lets users connect to, visualize, and analyze data with greater speed, efficiency, and understanding?