Quickstart: learn about the Power BI capabilities for business users
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In this quickstart, you'll learn how to interact with Power BI to discover data-driven business insights. This article isn't intended to be a deep dive, but rather a quick trip through many of the actions available for Power BI business users.
If you're not signed up for Power BI, sign up for a free trial before you begin.
What is Power BI?
Power BI is a collection of software services, apps, and connectors that work together to turn your unrelated sources of data into coherent, visually immersive, and interactive insights. Whether your data is a simple Excel spreadsheet, or a collection of data from different data sources, Power BI lets you easily connect to your data sources, visualize (or discover) what's important, and share that with anyone or everyone you want.
Open the Power BI service, in a browser or on a mobile device. You and your colleagues work from the same trusted apps, dashboards, and reports, that update and refresh automatically, so you're always working with the freshest content.
There are two modes for interacting with reports in the Power BI service: Editing view and Reading view. If you are a business user, then you are more likely to use Reading view to consume reports created by others. Editing view is used by report designers, who create the reports and share them with you. Reading view is your way to explore and interact with reports created by colleagues.
Even in Reading view, the content isn't static. You can dig in, looking for trends, insights, and other business intelligence. Slice and dice the content, and even ask it questions using your own words. Or, sit back and let your data discover interesting insights for you; send you alerts when data changes, and email reports to you on a schedule you set. All your data, any time, in the cloud or on-premises, from any device.
Read on to learn about these and more.
Power BI content
When we use the term "content" in Power BI, we're referring to reports, dashboards, and apps. These are the building blocks you'll use to explore your data and make business decisions.
Dashboards, reports, and apps can be viewed and shared on mobile devices, too.
An app is a Power BI content type that combines related dashboards and reports, all in one place. An app can have one or more dashboards and one or more reports, all bundled together. Apps are created by Power BI designers who distribute and share the apps with business users like you.
One way to view your apps is to select Apps from the nav pane and choose an app to open.
To learn more about viewing apps, see Power BI apps
A Power BI report is a multi-perspective view into a dataset, with visuals that represent different findings and insights from that dataset. A report can have a single visual or pages full of visuals. Reports are created by Power BI designers who distribute and share the reports with business users like you.
To learn how to view reports, see Power BI reports
A Power BI dashboard is a single page, often called a canvas, that uses visualizations to tell a story. Because it is limited to one page, a well-designed dashboard contains only the most-important elements of that story.
The visualizations you see on the dashboard are called tiles and are pinned to the dashboard by report designers. In most cases, selecting a tile takes you to the report page where the visualization was created.
To learn how to view dashboards, see Power BI dashboards
Interact in the Power BI service
Collaborate with colleagues
Skip the email. Add a personal comment or start a conversation with colleagues about a dashboard, right there on that dashboard. The comment feature is just one of the ways you can collaborate with others.
Learn more about commenting
Sit back and let Power BI work for you
Two of the ways that the Power BI service does the work for you is with subscriptions and alerts.
Subscribe to a dashboard (or report)
It's not necessary to open Power BI to monitor a dashboard. You can subscribe instead, and Power BI will email you a snapshot of that dashboard on a schedule you set.
Learn more about Power BI subscriptions
Get alerts when your data reaches a threshold
Your data is live, and your visuals update automatically to reflect this. If you want to get notified when data changes above or below a threshold you set, use data alerts. Alerts work on gauges, KPIs, and cards.
Power BI sends you an email when the value increases or decreases past the limit you set.
Learn more about Power BI alerts
Use Q&A to ask questions using natural language
Sometimes the fastest way to get an answer from your data is to ask a question using natural language. The Q&A question box is available at the top of your dashboard. For example, "show me count of large opportunities by sales stage as a funnel."
Learn more about Power BI Q&A
Display details on a visualization
Visuals are made up of datapoints, and by hovering over a datapoint, you can view the details.
Favorite a dashboard
When you make content a favorite, you'll be able to access it from Home and from the nav pane. The nav pane is visible from just about every area of the Power BI service. Favorites are typically the dashboards, report pages, and apps that you visit most often.
To save content as a favorite, from the upper right corner of the Power BI service, select the star icon.
To see your favorites, select Favorites from the nav pane.
Take a look at the other actions available in the menu bar. We don't cover all of them in this article, but we do cover them in other articles. Learn more by using the Power BI table of contents or Search field.
Learn more about favorites and featured
Adjust the display dimensions
Reports are viewed on many different devices, with varying screen sizes and aspect ratios. The default rendering may not be what you want to see on your device.
To adjust, from the upper right menu bar select the View icon and choose one of the display options.
See how all the visuals on a page are interconnected
Cross-highlight and cross-filter the related visualizations on a report page. The visualizations on a single report page are all "connected" to each other. What this means is that if you select one or more values in one visualization, other visualizations that use that same value will change based on your selection.
Learn more about visual interactions
Zoom in on individual visuals
Hover over a visual and select the Focus mode icon . When you view a visualization in Focus mode, it expands to fill the entire report canvas as shown below.
To display that same visualization without the distraction of menu bars, filter pane, and other chrome -- select Full screen from the View dropdown.
Learn more about focus mode and full screen mode
Sort a visualization
Visuals on a report page can be sorted and saved with your changes applied.
Hover over a visual to make it active, and select More options (...) to open sorting options.
Learn more about sorting visuals
Show the data used to create a visualization
A Power BI visualization is constructed using data from underlying datasets. If you're interested in seeing behind-the-scenes, Power BI lets you display the data that is being used to create the visual. When you select Show as a table, Power BI displays the data below (or next to) the visualization.
With a visual active, select More options (...) and choose Show as a table.
Export data to Excel
In addition to showing the data that is used to create a visual, you can also export that data and view it in Microsoft Excel. When you export to Excel, you're creating a separate document, a spreadsheet that isn't part of Power BI. Any changes that you make in the Excel file won't impact the data in Power BI. Whether you want to take a closer look at the data, or you want to use the data in another application or for another purpose, Power BI gives you that flexibility.
This has been a quick overview of just some of the things business users can do with the Power BI service.
Clean up resources
If you connected to an app, from the nav pane, select Apps to open the Apps content list. Hover over the app to delete, and select the trashcan icon.
If you imported or connected to a Power BI sample report, from the nav pane, open My workspace. Using the tabs at the top, locate the dashboard, report, and dataset, and select the trashcan icon for each.