Power BI - Art.1 : Introduction

Oct 15, 2015 - by Vivian Lejeune

About this article

The aim of this set of articles is to introduce “Power BI”, the self-service BI suite of Microsoft. Each article will guide you through the steps to create a dashboard that can be used to analyze the data related to the events organized by a Microsoft User Group. By following all the articles, you will have a good understanding of “Power BI”, what it is, how it works and how you can use it.

The articles are:

  • Power BI – Introduction
  • Power BI – Collect and transform the data
  • Power BI – Build the analytical model
  • Power BI – Present the data
  • Power BI – Publish and use the dashboard



“Power BI” is composed of two different parts:

  • The designer tools

The designer tools are used to create the content that will than be published on the “Power BI” portal. They currently exist in two different forms. There is the “Power BI Desktop” application which is a standalone application containing all the functionality required to create “Power BI” content from scratch (these articles are based on this tool). There is a set of Excel add ins. Some of them are built-in in Excel (like Power Pivot or Power View from Office 2013) and others that can be installed separately like Power Query or Power Map.

The articles 1 to 4 are dedicated to this designer tool.

  • The “Power BI” portal

This portal is used to publish the content created through the designer tools and share it with the people that can access the portal. In addition, the portal offer some functionalities to automatically refresh the published content or query it through natural language questions.

The last article from the series is dedicated to this portal.

As already said, “Power BI Desktop” is a standalone application that can be used to create “Power BI” content without using Excel. The exposed functionalities is nearly the same as the one available through the different Excel add ins meaning that the way to realize an operation could be different depending of the tool you use. Sometimes, they are even better than the one existing in the add ins (like the presentation capabilities of Power View).


Designer Tool Installation

“Power BI” is free and the “Power BI” desktop application can be downloaded the “Power BI” portal by following these steps:

  1. We need to have an active subscription to “Power BI”. A new, free subscription can be created from here.
  2. Once we have an active subscription, we need to sign in into the portal.
  3. The “Power BI Desktop” application can then be download “Download” button located at top right corner of the portal.


Power BI Desktop

When launching the “Power BI Desktop” application, the user interface is presented in this way:

The different part of the UI are:

  1. The toolbar that enables the end user to quickly access the main functionalities of the application.
  2. The visualizations panel that enables the end user to quickly change the layout of a presentation object when designing a report.
  3. The fields’ panel that enables the end user to see the different objects that he can use to create a presentation object.
  4. The filters panel that enables the end user to control the filters applied on the fields and the elements used by a presentation object.
  5. The designers panel that enables the end user to access
    • The presentation designer (Power View)
    • The data modeling designer (Power Pivot)
    • The data model viewer (Power Pivot)
  6. The designer design surface which will be different depending of the designer the end user is using.



In this article, we introduce quickly the different tool of the “Power BI” suite. In the next articles, we will focus deeply on the different designers and functionalities available in “Power BI Desktop” and we will start creating our first “Power BI” content.

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