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Power BI Desktop - Part one

Power BI Desktop offers new ways to visualise and present data. In part one of his guide, Simon Hurst uses Facebook posts to demonstrate some of its capabilities.

From the 2010 version, a series of add-ins significantly extended Excel’s data analysis and visualisation capabilities. Power Pivot, Power View, Power Map and Power Query became the Power BI
suite, enabling Excel to deliver what Microsoft called “selfservice business intelligence”. However, despite nominally grouping these add-ins into a suite, some were integrated into Excel as standard, while others remained as add-ins, some only available in certain editions of Microsoft Office and Excel.

Microsoft Power BI brought all the BI features together into a dedicated application that is available for free as Power BI Desktop, and also available in a paid-for, Power BI Premium, edition. We will use a practical example to show what Power BI is capable of and how it relates to the BI features in Excel. Although Power BI shares many capabilities with Excel, there are some significant differences, particularly when it comes to visualising and presenting the data. To demonstrate this, we will use some of the visualisation types in Power BI that are not available as a built-in part of Excel.

We will also work with data that is less structured than the familiar tables of rows and columns. For those used to the three-year Microsoft Office update cycle, Power BI Desktop is much more dynamic with significant changes and enhancements being introduced monthly. Accordingly, by the time you read this, some of the features and techniques that we cover may well have changed. In the event of any particularly significant changes, we will aim to include details on the IT Counts blog (ion.icaew.com/itcounts/). Power BI Desktop can be downloaded from powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/.

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