Q&A for Power BI consumers

Note

Power BI is moving to a new look, and some images in the documentation may not match what you see in the service. Learn more about the new look and try it for yourself.

What is Q&A?

Sometimes the fastest way to get an answer from your data is to ask a question using natural language. For example, "what were total sales last year."

Use Q&A to explore your data using intuitive, natural language capabilities and receive answers in the form of charts and graphs. Q&A is different from a search engine -- Q&A only provides results about the data in Power BI.

Which visualization does Q&A use?

Q&A picks the best visualization based on the data being displayed. Sometimes data in the underlying dataset is defined as a certain type or category and this helps Q&A know how to display it. For example, if data is defined as a date type, it is more likely to be displayed as a line chart. Data that is categorized as a city is more likely to be displayed as a map.

You can also tell Q&A which visual to use by adding it to your question. But keep in mind that it may not always be possible for Q&A to display the data in the visual type you requested. Q&A will prompt you with a list of workable visual types.

Where can I use Q&A?

You'll find Q&A on dashboards in the Power BI service, and at the bottom of the dashboard in Power BI mobile. Unless the designer has given you edit permissions, you'll be able to use Q&A to explore data but won't be able to save any visualizations created with Q&A.

question box

You'll also find Q&A on reports, if the report designer added a Q&A visual.

Q&A visual

Q&A on dashboards

Power BI Q&A is available with a Pro or Premium license. Q&A in the Power BI mobile apps and Q&A with Power BI Embedded are covered in separate articles. At the current time, Power BI Q&A only supports answering natural language queries asked in English, although there is a preview available for Spanish that can be enabled by your Power BI administrator.

q&a created treemap

Asking the question is just the beginning. Have fun traveling through your data refining or expanding your question, uncovering trust-worthy new information, zeroing in on details and zooming out for a broader view. You’ll be delighted by the insights and discoveries you make.

The experience is truly interactive…and fast! Powered by an in-memory storage, response is almost instantaneous.

Use Q&A on a dashboard in the Power BI service

In the Power BI service (app.powerbi.com), a dashboard contains tiles pinned from one or more datasets, so you can ask questions about any of the data contained in any of those datasets. To see what reports and datasets were used to create the dashboard, select View related from the More actions dropdown.

view related from the menu bar

How do I start?

First, get familiar with the content. Take a look at the visuals on the dashboard and in the report. Get a feel for the type and range of data that is available to you.

For example:

  • If a visual's axis labels and values include "sales", "account", "month", and "opportunities", then you can confidently ask questions such as: "Which account has the highest opportunity, or show sales by month as a bar chart."

  • If you have website performance data in Google Analytics, you can ask Q&A about time spent on a web page, number of unique page visits, and user engagement rates. Or, if you’re querying demographic data, you might ask questions about age and household income by location.

Once you're familiar with the data, head back to the dashboard and place your cursor in the question box. This opens the Q&A screen.

Q&A screen

Even before you start typing, Q&A displays a new screen with suggestions to help you form your question. You see phrases and questions containing the names of the tables in the underlying datasets and may even see featured questions created by the dataset owner.

You can select any of these to add them to the question box and then refine them to find a specific answer.

Q&A screen

Another way Power BI helps you ask questions is with features such as: prompts, autocomplete, and visual cues. Power BI provides this help for Q&A on dashboards, Q&A in reports, and with the Q&A visual. We'll discuss these features in detail below, in the section Create a Q&A visual by typing a natural language query

The Q&A visual in Power BI reports

The Q&A visual allows you to ask natural language questions and get answers in the form of a visual. The Q&A visual behaves like any other visual in a report, it can be cross-filtered/cross-highlighted and also supports bookmarks and comments.

You can identify a Q&A visual by its question box across the top. This is where you'll enter or type questions using natural language. The Q&A visual can be used over and over again to ask questions about your data. When you leave the report, the Q&A visual resets to its default.

Screenshot of default Q&A visual

Use Q&A

To use Q&A on a dashboard or to use the Q&A visual in a report, select one of the suggested questions or type your own natural language question.

Create a Q&A visual by using a suggested question

Here, we've selected top geo states by total units. Power BI does its best to select which visual type to use. In this case, it's a map.

Q&A visual map

But you can tell Power BI which visual type to use by adding it to your natural language query. Keep in mind that not all visual types will work or make sense with your data. For example, this data wouldn't produce a meaningful scatter chart. But it works as a filled map.

Q&A visual as a filled map

Create a Q&A visual by typing a natural language query

If you're unsure what type of questions to ask or terminology to use, expand Show all suggestions or look through the other visuals in the report. This will get you familiar with the terms and content of the dataset.

  1. Type your question into the Q&A field using natural language. As you type your question, Power BI helps you with autocomplete, visual cues, and feedback.

    Autocomplete - as you type your question, Power BI Q&A shows relevant and contextual suggestions to help you quickly become productive with natural language. As you type, you get immediate feedback and results. The experience is similar to typing in a search engine.

    In this example, the suggestion we want is the last one.

    Q&A with a blue underlined word

    Red/Blue underlines- Power BI Q&A shows words with underlines to help you see which words Power BI did or did not recognize. A solid blue underline indicates that Power BI recognized the word. The example below shows that Q&A recognized the word store.

    Q&A with dropdown suggestions for completing the question

    Select a blue underlined word to display a dropdown of suggested questions.

    Dropdown with You could also try suggestions

    Often when you type a word into Q&A, it's marked with a red underline. A red underline can indicate one of two potential issues. The first type of issue is categorized as low confidence. If you type a vague or ambiguous word, the field is underlined in red. An example could be the word 'Location'. Multiple fields could contain the word 'Location', so the system uses a red underline to prompt you to choose the field you meant. In this example, Power BI prompts you to select the field you want to use for 'VanArsdel'.

    Red underlined term in the Q&A question box

    Another example of low confidence could be if you type the word 'area', but the column it matches is 'district'. Power BI Q&A recognizes words that mean the same thing, thanks to the integration with Bing and Office. Q&A underlines the word in red so you know it's not a direct match

    Q&A rewords the question using a synonym

    The second type of issue is when Q&A doesn't recognize the word at all. An example could be using the word 'geography' though it doesn't exist anywhere in the data. The word is in the English dictionary, but Q&A marks this term with a red underline. Power BI Q&A cannot create a visualization and suggests that you ask the report designer to add the term.

    Q&A with suggestion that you ask designer to add the word geography

    Suggestions - as you type more of the question, Power BI lets you know if it doesn't understand the question, and tries to help. In the example below, Power BI asks you "Did you mean..." and suggests a different way to word your question using terminology from your dataset.

    Q&A visual offering suggested corrections

    After selecting Power BI's correction, your results display as a line chart.

    Q&A visual results as a line chart

    But, you can change the line chart to another visual type.

    Q&A visual with "as a column chart" added to the question

Considerations and troubleshooting

Question: I don't see Q&A on this dashboard.
Answer 1: If you don't see a question box, first check your settings. To do this, select the cog icon in the upper right corner of your Power BI toolbar.
cog icon

Then choose Settings > Dashboards. Make sure there is a checkmark next to Show the Q&A search box on this dashboard.
Q&A settings for dashboard

Answer 2: Sometimes you won't have access to the settings. If the dashboard designer or your administrator turned Q&A off, check with them to see if it's OK to turn it back on.

Question: I'm not getting the results I'd like to see when I type a question.
Answer: Select the option to contact the report or dashboard owner. You can do this directly from the Q&A dashboard page or the Q&A visual. Or, you can look up the owner from the Power BI header. There are many things the designer can do to improve the Q&A results. For example, the designer can rename columns in the dataset to use terms that are easily understood (CustomerFirstName instead of CustFN). Since the designer knows the dataset really well, the designer can also come up with helpful questions and add them to the Q&A suggested questions.

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Next steps

To learn how a Q&A visual is created and managed by a report designer, see Q&A visual type.