Demystifying Power BI — User Applications & Interfaces
A summary and overview of client applications available in the Power BI ecosystem to access Power BI content
Power BI offers several client applications and flexible options to business users and developers to consume Power BI content in applications and platforms of their choice.
In this article, we will discuss the client applications and how their availability varies by the Power BI back-end platform. We will also briefly examine Power BI's content sharing and embedding options.
This article is a part of the multipart series on the Power BI ecosystem and continues the concepts introduced in the introduction article and refers heavily to the Power BI back-end platforms. We recommend reading through both articles for a complete understanding.
Demystifying Power BI — Understanding Power BI Ecosystem and Landscape
A dummy’s guide to simplifying and understanding the Power BI Ecosystem
After a user has been given access to Power BI content, the next question is to decide through which medium to consume the content: via a web browser, mobile apps, office apps, and so on. Furthermore, there is a wide variety of ways that end users can consume and share content that they may not be aware of all the available options. Similarly, Power BI offers a variety of APIs for developers to leverage Power BI in all sorts of applications.
For the sake of simplicity, we can categorize available tools and interfaces into two broad classes: tools for everyone and APIs for developers, including embedded analytics. In addition, multiple sharing options are available to share Power BI content with colleagues.
Applications for Everyone
Power BI service: Power BI service is the default and most popular client for accessing Power BI content and has the most significant number of features. Power BI portal supports all advanced AI capabilities and provides developers and business users exclusive features.
Power BI service, Power BI online, and Power BI portal is the SaaS (Software as a Service) part of Power BI. These terms refer to the same entity (app.powerbi.com) and are used interchangeably.
Power BI service provides some exclusive features, such as:
- Distributing reports and dashboards to large numbers of users
- Managing access to external data sources
- Applying row-level security both to reports and the underlying data
- Generating alerts
- Setting up subscriptions to inform users that new content is ready to be viewed by email
- Connecting to published data from other tools, such as Excel
- Performing centralized administration and governance activities
Getting around in the Power BI service - Power BI
Now that you know the basics of Power BI, let's take a look around the Power BI service. As mentioned in the previous…
Microsoft Excel: Excel promotes data reusability for an organization by bringing Power BI datasets for analysis within business users' reach. With the "Analyze in Excel" feature, business users can use their traditional and familiar Excel to dig deep and build ad-hoc solutions. In addition, excel offers PivotTables, charts, and slicers, among other excel features, to view and interact with the Power BI datasets.
For Excel to connect with the Power BI dataset, the dataset must be in a Premium workspace, or the user should have a Power BI Pro or PPU license. Users also need permissions for the underlying datasets. Excel honors the Row-level security (RLS) by enforcing it at the data-model level. Lastly, the user must have Build permission for the dataset.
Connect Excel to Power BI datasets - Power BI
Microsoft Excel is the most common data analysis tool for information workers and organizations across the globe. Part…
Power BI Mobile Apps: Power BI offers mobile apps for iOS, Android, and Windows devices to enable viewing of reports on small form-factor devices and are for users who need access to Power BI content on the go. The mobile apps work with cloud and on-premises back-end platforms to access the Power BI content.
The mobile apps also have exclusive features like converting a picture of a data table into actual data for analysis. However, the mobile apps are designed for consumption only, as they cannot currently create and publish reports, so any work performed on the mobile device is lost. Mobile apps also offer real-world applications like
- Augmented Reality based data in space
- barcode & QR code scanning to open reports
- location-based report filtering
Get real-world data with the Power BI mobile apps - Power BI
The Power BI mobile apps can connect the real world directly to related BI information. The features described below…
Power BI App for Microsoft Teams, Outlook, and Office: The Power BI App for Microsoft Teams resides in a Teams tab and displays the user's Power BI Home screen. It allows users to view and interact with reports without accessing the Power BI portal, providing the same level of interactive features. However, there are some differences in interactions and limitations compared to the Power BI service.
The Power BI App for Teams offers exclusive features, such as analyzing the user's Teams activity usage and Power BI notifications in the team's activity feed. The user requires an Office 365 or Microsoft 365 subscription and appropriate Power BI licensing. A similar app is in preview for Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Office.
Analyze Teams usage in the Power BI app for Teams - Power BI
This article describes how you automatically generate a Power BI report to analyze your Microsoft Teams activity, in…
Power BI Report Server Web Portal: Power BI Report Server Web Portal is the equivalent of the Power BI portal for the Power BI Report Server on-premises deployments. The portal is based on SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS). Power BI Report Server features are a superset of SSRS: everything you can do in SSRS, you can do with Power BI Report Server, along with support for Power BI reports.
Report Server Web Portal and the Power BI Portal have many similarities and key differences. For instance, the Report Server Web Portal does not have the Power BI portal's advanced self-service capabilities or AI features. Refer to the following link for a detailed comparison between the two.
Comparing Power BI Report Server and the Power BI service - Power BI
This article compares the features of Power BI Report Server and the Power BI service.
Power BI App for HoloLens 2: Power BI App for HoloLens 2 (in preview) blends Power BI reports and dashboards with the user's physical environment to create a 3D, immersive, hands-free experience. The Power BI App for HoloLens 2 functions in tandem with the Power BI service or the Power BI mobile apps to mark the content as a favorite. Only the favorite content is available in the Power BI virtual toolbelt in HoloLens 2. Alternatively, users can open a report by looking at the QR code of the report.
Users can interact with Power BI content using HoloLens 2 hand gestures and eye-tracking to resize and place the content in the physical world. HoloLens 2 remembers the location of the Power BI content in the environment. When a user next visits the same place, the user will find the item in the exact location.
Power BI for HoloLens 2 (preview) - Power BI
The Power BI app for HoloLens 2 blends your Power BI reports and dashboards with your physical environment to create a…
The following table summarizes the availability and applicability of the client applications by the back-end platform and license.
Collaboration is a critical aspect of Power BI as an enterprise reporting tool. Power BI offers multiple sharing options to collaborate with colleagues to make the best use of data and derive insights to make informed decisions. The vast range of sharing options ensures that every user finds the optimal method for them and their teams.
The following article summarizes the content sharing and exporting options available to end-users in Power BI.
Demystifying Power BI — Sharing Options for End-users
A summary and overview of content sharing and exporting options in the Power BI ecosystem
APIs and Embedded Analytics
This article won't be complete unless we talk about the APIs and embedded analytics capabilities of Power BI. The APIs and embedded analytics are prominently aimed toward the developers and administrators and require some technical proficiency.
APIs allow the automation of routine maintenance, monitoring, and governance tasks. At the same time, embedding allows developers to create custom applications and interfaces to consume Power BI content.
Demystifying Power BI — APIs and Embedded Analytics for Developers
A summary and overview of APIs and Embedded Analytics in the Power BI ecosystem
That's all about the client applications and methods to consume content in Power BI.
Power BI offers multiple client tools to meet users where they are and on a platform of their choice. In addition, the tight integration of Power BI and Microsoft 365 apps allows users to access content without clicking away from their favorite tool.
This article examined the client applications available in the Power BI ecosystem. We also briefly discussed the exclusive features of the client applications and back-end platforms.
Other articles in this series
In another article, we talked about the data management capabilities of Power BI. We will discuss the types of data models, storage modes, connectivity modes, data cleansing, and refresh options in Power BI.
Demystifying Power BI — Data Management
A summary and overview of data management and supporting components in the Power BI ecosystem
We have another article about report types, report design, and data modeling tools in Power BI.