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Free data visualization with Microsoft Power BI: Your step-by-step guide

Sharon Machlis | July 12, 2016
We'll show you how to analyze a file with more than two million records of U.S. airline flight delays in this hands-on tutorial with video.

To go back up to larger time groups, click the up arrow at the top left of the graph. Note that while you're drilling up and down, you'll no longer be affecting other visuals on the page, so data on the table won't change.

The date drilldowns are automated for date fields, but you can set up drilldowns for any hierarchy. Activate the graph on the first page, then drag FL_NUM onto the Axis field, making sure it ends up below Airline. Nothing will appear to change on the graph except that drilldown icons appear.

Click on the down arrow at the top right to activate drilldown, click on an airline's bar, and you'll see all the data for that airline's individual flights. Again, because drilldown is active, you won't see any changes on the table. If you want to be able to manually filter the table for a specific airline while this is going on, you can either temporarily add Airline as a page-level filter or add a third slicer for Airline.

Click the up arrow at the top left to get back to the original graph, click the down arrow again to deactivate drilldown capabilities if it's still selected, and the graphic will work as it did before.

If you want to change the headline for the graph on this page, make the graph active once again, click the brush icon on the Visualizations panel and then click on Title.

For a final step, you may want to rename the page tabs from "Page 1" and "Duplicate of Page 1" to something more meaningful. This doesn't currently work the same way as in Excel -- instead of right-clicking a tab, you need to double-click on the tab name.

There are a lot more visualizations you can generate within Power BI. In addition to all the icons in the Visualizations panel, including tree maps and actual geographic maps, there are other graphics available for import from the Custom Visuals Gallery. If you find one you like, download it from the gallery and then import it using the ellipsis next to the last icon in the Visualizations panel. You've got to import it separately into any report where you want to use it. (You can find an example of one of the more recent custom visuals created by Microsoft Research here.)

There are a lot of other ways to visualize this data, such as looking at the columns with reasons for delays, but for now I'll move on.

12 important Power BI visualization concepts

If you'd like to give Microsoft's Power BI platform a try for analyzing and visualizing your data, there are a few key ideas that will help you master the software.


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