Tutorial: Get started with the Power BI service

This tutorial is an introduction to some of the features of the Power BI service. In it, you connect to data, create a report and a dashboard, and ask questions of your data. You can do much more in the Power BI service; this tutorial is just to whet your appetite. For an understanding of how the Power BI service fits in with the other Power BI offerings, we recommend reading What is Power BI.

Power BI service home

In this tutorial, you complete the following steps:

  • Sign in to your Power BI online account, or sign up, if you don't have an account yet.
  • Open the Power BI service.
  • Get some data and open it in report view.
  • Use that data to create visualizations and save it as a report.
  • Create a dashboard by pinning tiles from the report.
  • Add other visualizations to your dashboard by using the Q&A natural-language tool.
  • Resize, rearrange, and interact with the tiles on the dashboard.
  • Clean up resources by deleting the dataset, report, and dashboard.

Tip

Prefer a free self-paced training course instead? Enroll in our Analyzing and Visualizing Data course on EdX.

Sign up for the Power BI service

If you don't have a Power BI account, sign up for a free Power BI Pro trial before you begin.

After you have an account, enter app.powerbi.com in your browser to open the Power BI service.

Step 1: Get data

Often when you want to create a Power BI report, you start in Power BI Desktop. This time, we're going to start from scratch creating a report in the Power BI service.

In this tutorial, we get data from a CSV file. Want to follow along? Download the Financial Sample CSV file.

  1. Sign in to Power BI. Don’t have an account? No worries, you can sign up for a free trial.

  2. Power BI opens in your browser. Select Get data at the bottom of the nav pane.

    The Get Data page opens.

  3. Under the Create new content section, select Files.

    Get files

  4. Select Local file.

    Get Data > Files screen

  5. Browse to the file on your computer, and choose Open.

  6. For this tutorial, we select Import to add the Excel file as a dataset, which we can then use to create reports and dashboards. If you select Upload, the entire Excel workbook is uploaded to Power BI, where you can open and edit it in Excel online.

    Choose Import

  7. When your dataset is ready, select Datasets, then select Create report next to the dataset Financial sample to open the report editor.

    Datasets list

    The report canvas is blank. We see the Filters, Visualizations, and Fields panes on the right.

    Blank report canvas

  8. Notice there's an option for Reading view on the top nav pane. Because you have this option, that means you're currently in Editing view. A great way to get familiar with the report editor is to take a tour.

    Reading view option

    While in Editing view, you can create and modify your reports, because you're the owner of the report. That is, you're a creator. When you share your report with colleagues, they can only interact with the report in Reading view; your colleagues are consumers. Learn more about Reading view and Editing view.

Step 2: Create a chart in a report

Now that you've connected to data, start exploring. When you've found something interesting, you can create a dashboard to monitor it and see how it changes over time. Let's see how that works.

  1. In the report editor, we start in the Fields pane on the right side of the page to build a visualization. Select the Gross Sales and Date checkboxes.

    Fields list

    Power BI analyzes the data and creates a visualization. If you selected Date first, you see a table. If you selected Gross Sales first, you see a column chart.

  2. Switch to a different way of displaying your data. Let's see this data as a line chart. Select the line chart icon from the Visualizations pane.

    Report editor with line chart selected

  3. This chart looks interesting, so let's pin it to a dashboard. Hover over the visualization and select the pin icon. When you pin this visualization, it's stored on your dashboard and kept up-to-date so you can track the latest value at a glance.

    Pin icon

  4. Because this report is new, you're prompted to save it before you can pin a visualization to a dashboard. Give your report a name (for example, Sales over time), and then select Save.

  5. Select New dashboard and name it Financial sample for tutorial.

    Name the report

  6. Select Pin.

    A success message (near the top-right corner) lets you know the visualization was added as a tile to your dashboard.

    Pinned to dashboard dialog

  7. Select Go to dashboard to see your new dashboard with the line chart that you pinned to it as a tile.

    Dashboard with visualization pinned

  8. Select the new tile on your dashboard to return to the report. Power BI returns you to the report in Reading view.

  9. To switch back to Editing view, select More options (...) in the top nav pane > Edit. Back in Editing view, you can continue to explore and pin tiles.

    Select Edit to edit the report

Step 3: Explore with Q&A

For a quick exploration of your data, try asking a question in the Q&A question box. Q&A creates natural-language queries about your data. In a dashboard, the Q&A box is at the top (Ask a question about your data). In a report, it's in the top nav pane (Ask a question).

  1. To go back to the dashboard, select My workspace in the black Power BI bar.

    Go back to My workspace

  2. On the Dashboards tab, select your dashboard.

    Select your dashboard

  3. Select Ask a question about your data. Q&A automatically offers a number of suggestions.

    Q&A canvas

    Note

    If you don't see the suggestions, turn on New Q&A experience.

  4. Some of the suggestions return a single value. For example, select maximum sale.

    Q&A searches for an answer and presents it in the form of a card visualization.

    Maximum sale card

  5. Select the pin icon Pin icon to show this visualization on the Financial sample for tutorial dashboard.

  6. Scroll down in the Questions to get you started list and select average cog for each month.

    Average COG for each month

  7. Pin the bar chart to the Financial Sample for tutorial dashboard, too.

  8. Place the cursor after by month in the Q&A box and type as line. Select line (Visualization Type).

    Chart as line visualization

  9. Select Exit Q&A to return to your dashboard, where you see the new tiles you created.

    Dashboard with chart pinned

    You see that even though you changed the chart to a line chart, the tile remained a bar chart because that's what it was when you pinned it.

Step 4: Reposition tiles

The dashboard is wide. We can rearrange the tiles to make better use of the dashboard space.

  1. Drag the lower-right corner of the Gross Sales line chart tile upward, until it snaps at the same height as the Sales tile, then release it.

    Resize the tile

    Now the two tiles are the same height.

    Resized tile

  2. Drag the Average of COGS bar chart tile until it fits under the Gross Sales line chart.

    That looks better.

    Rearranged dashboard

Step 5: Interact with tiles

Here's one last interaction to observe, before you start making your own dashboards and reports. Selecting the different tiles delivers different results.

  1. First select the Gross Sales line chart tile you pinned from the report.

    Power BI opens the report in Reading view.

  2. Select the browser back button.

  3. Now select the Average of COGS bar chart tile you created in Q&A.

    Power BI doesn't open the report. Q&A opens instead, because you created this chart there.

Clean up resources

Now that you've finished the tutorial, you can delete the dataset, report, and dashboard.

  1. In the nav pane, make sure you're in My Workspace.

  2. Select the Datasets tab and locate the dataset you imported for this tutorial.

  3. Select More options (...) > Delete.

    Delete the dataset

    When you delete the dataset, you see a warning that All reports and dashboard tiles containing data from this dataset will also be deleted.

  4. Select Delete.

Next steps

Make dashboards even better by adding more visualization tiles and renaming, resizing, linking, and repositioning them.