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What is Power BI Desktop?

Power BI Desktop is the crucial component of Microsoft Business Intelligence. It enables a user to import, analyze, and create reports out of complex information, streaming in from multiple data sources. The free version of Power BI allows the user to analyze data, create live reports, and publish them on the Internet.

With the Pro version of Power BI, the user can share those reports or dashboards with other users and stakeholders and provide advanced analytics without consuming much time. It also supports Power Query and Power Editor, which gives it an edge over other Business Intelligence Tools.

So, let’s get into the topic and create a report using the free version.

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What is Power BI?

Microsoft Power BI is a collection of software services, tools, processes, and connectors that enables users to create custom reports and dashboards based on complex information, streaming in from multiple data sources.

On Power BI, users can visualize raw business data in the form of graphs and charts based on different constraints and attach them as tiles on live dashboards. A tile is a single visualization of any dataset embedded on the dashboard.

Power BI architecture bridges the gap between data and decision-making with the help of Power BI Components such as Power Query, Power View, and Power Map. These components provide accurate answers to business questions using AI algorithms and Natural Language Processing.

What is Power BI Desktop?

Microsoft Power BI Desktop is a data analysis and reporting application that a user can install on a computer to create dashboards and live reports. Integrated with Power BI Service, the user can also share these reports with decision-makers and stakeholders to help them understand the current state of the business.

It brings all the components and analytics features on a single platform. Power BI has a simple and easy-to-use interface that allows even a non-technical user to build compelling reports, data models, and custom dashboards.

Now, let’s learn how Power Desktop works.

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How does Power BI Desktop work?

The process of creating a report has four main steps or stages. Let’s briefly discuss these steps in this section.

How do Power BI Desktop works


Connect with Data Sources

Power BI Desktop data sources include Excel spreadsheets, CSV files, Q-data feed, online services, and data on the cloud. This data could be structured, semi-structured, or unstructured, depending on the business type.

The first step in the process is connecting with the above data sources to import data. After importing the data from different sources, you can move forward with transforming and filtering the data based on various constraints. However, you cannot import more than 10 GB of data into the software. If your data is bigger than 10 GB, you either have to go for the Power BI Pro version or run direct queries on different data sources.

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Transform Data & Create Models

Using Power Query Editor, you can extract valuable information, remove anomalies, and add some conditions for a better understanding of the data. It is similar to sculpting a block of wood by cutting the edges, removing extra wood, shaving off the projections, and adding other ingredients to make it look as intended.

You can also change columns and data types and add default values into the columns with null values. If you do Business Analytics on Tableau, the transformation of data would be exhausting. However, Power BI components convert it into a drag-n-drop play for data modeling.

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Create Visuals

Visuals are the graphical representations of the data you stored in a model. Microsoft Power BI Desktop provides drag-n-drop features through which you can visualize the raw business data in the form of charts, graphs, maps, and KPIs.

After creating the visuals, they can be attached to the dashboards or live reports in the form of tiles. Custom visuals also help you identify the problems in various departments and the market behavior and make better decisions based on them.

Also, check out the blog on KPI dashboard in Tableau.

Create & Share Reports

A report in a collection of visuals created from different data models. A report might consist of multiple dashboards with custom visualizations. Live reports, on the other hand, show real-time analysis of the data, streaming in from multiple sources.

These visually rich reports, analyzing complex data, can be shared with other people in your organization with the help of Power BI Desktop online.

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How to install Power BI Desktop?

Microsoft Power BI Desktop is available in both 32-bit (x86) and 64-bit (x64) platforms and requires Internet Explorer 10 or an advanced version. It supports Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, Windows Server 2008, and Windows Server 2012.

Follow the steps given below to install the on your computer:

  • Go to the Download page of Microsoft, select the language, and click on the Download button
How to install Power BI Desktop
  • From the resulting page, choose the download type based on your system, 32-bit or 64-bit, and then click on the Next button
  • Downloading will start automatically in a few seconds
  • Once your selected Power BI Desktop download completes, launch the setup file and walk through the standard installation process as you do for any other application

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  • Click on the check box to accept the license agreement to move on to the next step
  • Once the installation is completed, launch it from the shortcut on your home screen. Your interface might look a bit different from the below one based on the version and the platform (32-bit or 64-bit) you are using

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Getting Started with Power BI Desktop

To get started, you need to first connect the data with the interface. For this tutorial, an Excel Spreadsheet is taken as the sample data source. You can download the spreadsheet from Microsoft documents or use any other data source of your choice.

Now, let’s start with the tutorial, and build our first report in Power BI.

  • Open Microsoft Power BI Desktop, and you will see various sources from which you can import data. If you are using an Excel sheet, then select Excel from the toolbar. If you want to load the data from an on-cloud server or data warehouse, then you have to use Power BI Service.
  • Once the data gets imported from the desired data source(s), a Navigator window will show all the data you have imported. Here, you can clean or transform your data as per the requirements or move forward by pressing the Load button
  • On the right-hand side of the BI Desktop interface, all the columns from different datasets will be displayed with an icon representing their data type. For example, the date column will be represented by the calendar icon, and the columns such as Sales, Profit, Gross Sales, and Discounts having a numerical value will be represented by sigma

Moving on to the next step of data visualization, Power BI provides AI features to interact with the data by executing your queries in natural language.

  • To do so, double-click on the interface of the BI page. Then, a small dialog box will appear with the search bar where you can write your query
  • To create the visual, type in the names of the columns and the type of graph or chart you want, and you will get it done in seconds. For example, if you want to create a pie chart for Sales in different countries, type in sales country pie, and click on Turn this Q&A into a standard visual

Similarly, you can create multiple visuals with the help of Power Q&A.

  • Now, filter these visuals for the details based on specific constraints. Like in the image below, when selected Gross Sales of Canada in Maps, the other two visuals highlighted the sales for that particular region
  • Once all the visuals are added, export the report as a Power BI template or a PDF file

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How to update Power BI Desktop?

Microsoft Power BI Desktop is used by millions of users for Data Analytics and visualization, and Microsoft pushes new features, connectors, and updates for the users almost every month.

If you have downloaded the software using the guide mentioned in the above section, you have to manually update the software. You can also install It from the Microsoft Store, and if you do so, the software will be updated automatically. However, with this method, you might see a few bugs in some of the software.

Now, let’s see how to upgrade Power BI Desktop manually:

  • Open the software and go to File > Options and Settings > Options
  • In the Options dialog box, select Updates, and click on the checkbox to get the updates.
  • Now, click on OK, and Microsoft will send you notifications to get all the updates on your computer.


In this tutorial, we learned about Power BI Desktop, how it works, and how to make your first report using the Power Q&A feature. The software is fairly easy to use compared to other BI software. Not just creating visuals, you can also filter them for specific constraints and estimate the performance of your business in a better and easy way.

For more information on Power BI, visit our Business Intelligence Community.

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