SQL On The Edge #5 – Custom Visualizations in PowerBi

 

Have you ever used Microsoft’s PowerBi service? If you have, have you used it within the last year? The reason I ask is that the current PowerBi service is so radically different from the initial release that pretty much only the name is what they have in common. Today I’m going to do a short summary of how we got here, where the service is, where it’s going and the actual topic for my video, the new awesome custom visualization functionality!

A Short History Lesson

A few years ago, Microsoft went on the direction of empowering business analysts on what is one of the most common business applications in the world: Excel. With this push, they started releasing some amazing plugins for Excel: PowerPivot, PowerQuery, PowerView, PowerMap. Suddenly we could import millions of rows from all kinds of sources into Excel! And transform them! And visualize them! Then with the release of Office 365 and Sharepoint Online, a service was created to make it easy to share and consume all these Excel-born reports. And thus PowerBi was born but it required all these other tools and subscriptions. It didn’t catch on.

Fast Forward To Today

This initial offering of PowerBi had too many external dependencies. You needed Excel with all the bells and whistles to do the reports and then all these other satellite cloud services. Thankfully someone saw and executed on a clearer vision: one service, no dependencies, no cost of entry, fully mobile friendly. It’s been a very interesting journey from a market perspective to see how MS released something, course corrected and then went head-on with their improved vision.

The PowerBi desktop designer is free. The mobile apps (all major mobile OS’es AND Windows Phone), free as well. The service itself also has a free fully functional tier, it’s only limited by the amount of data and the enterprise sharing capabilities. Add the ease of use of the tools and the natural language query capabilities and this is now a strong tool that can finally become a contender with the Tableau and Qlikviews of the world.

No, it’s not perfect but it is growing and an insane amount of new features are getting added constantly. New vendors are adding content packs and now custom visualizations have made an appearance.

Community Involvement

The idea behind the first batch of custom visuals was great. MS opened a contest for people to submit their best custom visuals and the community responded with amazing creativity and participation. Not only do these immediately provide more value to every current user of PowerBi but they also serve as examples for further development of more custom visuals.

The full gallery of custom visuals can be found in the PowerBi Visual Gallery.

And if you don’t have your PowerBi account, try it out, it’s free! Head over to the official PowerBi site.

Demo Time

For the demo of working with a PowerBi project on the desktop, online and importing a custom visual, let’s check out the video! Enjoy!

 



Warner Chaves
Author: Warner Chaves
SQL Server Certified Master and MVP. DBA for MS technologies for over 10 years.

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