Introduction to dashboards for Power BI designers

APPLIES TO: ❌ Power BI Desktop ✔️ Power BI service

A Power BI dashboard is a single page, often called a canvas, that tells a story through visualizations. Because it's limited to one page, a well-designed dashboard contains only the highlights of that story. Readers can view related reports for the details.


Dashboards are a feature of the Power BI service only. They're not available in Power BI Desktop. Although you can't create dashboards on mobile devices, you can view and share them there.

Dashboard basics

The visualizations you see on the dashboard are called tiles. You pin tiles to a dashboard from reports. If you're new to Power BI, you can get a good foundation by reading Basic concepts for designers in the Power BI service.

The visualizations on a dashboard originate from reports and each report is based on a dataset. One way to think of a dashboard is as an entryway to the underlying reports and datasets. Selecting a visualization takes you to the report (and dataset) that it's based on.

Diagram showing relationship between dashboards, reports, datasets

Advantages of dashboards

Dashboards are a wonderful way to monitor your business and see all of your most important metrics at a glance. The visualizations on a dashboard can come from one underlying dataset or many, and from one underlying report or many. A dashboard combines on-premises and cloud data, providing a consolidated view regardless of where the data lives.

A dashboard isn't just a pretty picture. It's highly interactive and the tiles update as the underlying data changes.

Who can create a dashboard?

The ability to create a dashboard is considered a creator feature and requires edit permissions on the report. Edit permissions are available to report creators and to those colleagues the creator grants access. For example, if David creates a report in workspace ABC and adds you as a member of that workspace, you and David both have edit permissions. On the other hand, if a report has been shared with you directly or as part of a Power BI app, you're consuming the report. You may not be able to pin tiles to a dashboard.


You need a Power BI Pro or Premium Per User (PPU) license to create dashboards in workspaces. You can create dashboards in your own My Workspace without a Power BI Pro or Premium Per User (PPU) license.

Dashboards versus reports

Reports and dashboards seem similar because they're both canvases filled with visualizations. But there are major differences, as you can see in the following table.

Capability Dashboards Reports
Pages One page One or more pages
Data sources One or more reports and one or more datasets per dashboard. A single dataset per report
Drilling down in visuals Only if you pin an entire report page to a dashboard. Yes
Available in Power BI Desktop No Yes. Can build and view reports in Power BI Desktop.
Filtering No. Can't filter or slice a dashboard. Can filter a dashboard tile in focus mode, but can't save the filter. Yes. Many different ways to filter, highlight, and slice.
Feature content on colleagues' Home page Yes Yes
Favorite Yes. Can set multiple dashboards as favorites. Yes. Can set multiple reports as favorites.
Natural language queries (Q&A) Yes Yes, provided you have edit permissions for the report and underlying dataset.
Set alerts Yes. Available for dashboard tiles in certain circumstances. No
Subscribe Yes. Can subscribe to a dashboard. Yes. Can subscribe to a report page.
Can see underlying dataset tables and fields No. Can export data but can't see tables and fields in the dashboard itself. Yes

Next steps

  • Get comfortable with dashboards by taking a tour of one of our sample dashboards.
  • Learn about dashboard tiles.
  • Want to track an individual dashboard tile and receive an email when it reaches a certain threshold? Create an alert on a tile.
  • Learn how to use Power BI Q&A to ask a question about your data and get the answer in the form of a visualization.