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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.

1. One way to make a new visualization in Power BI is to click on the visualization type you want under Visualizations on the right-hand panel. You'll see icons for various types of bar charts plus options like scatter plot, tree maps, geographical maps, line charts and a few more. That puts a blank visualization on your canvas.

Next, you can drag fields from your data tables onto Axis, Value, Legend and other choices in the right-side panel; or you can just check boxes next to the fields and Power BI will try to determine how to use them.

Another way to make a new visualization is to simply click the check boxes next to fields without first picking a visualization type, and Power BI will try to guess the type of data visualization that will work best. If it's not what you want, you can then click a Visualizations icon to change the type.

2. If you want to work on an existing visualization, make sure you've clicked on it so it's active -- you can tell that it's active if there's a bounding box with draggable corners visible. If you want to create a new visualization, make sure none of your existing visualizations on the page show that bounding box before checking boxes next to your fields (clicking on an empty part of your canvas will deactivate any existing visualizations). Or you can just start dragging fields onto an empty area of your canvas.

3. To change a field's calculation from, say, Sum to Average or Count, click the triangle next to that field under Value in the Visualizations panel and pick what you want. As of this writing there were nine options for numerical fields.

4. To change design options such as title, fonts and colors, click on the pen icon under the visualization choices. The three-bar bar-chart icon lets you go back to working with your data.

5. You can narrow down the amount of data that shows up in a single visualization, on a page or on an entire report by adding filters. Drag a field onto the "Visual level filters," "Page level filters" or "Report level filters" area. The basic filtering options will let you select one, several or all options in a category; advanced filtering gives you options such as contains or starts with. (Alas, still no regular expression filtering here and none planned.)

Any fields you add to a particular graph will also automatically show up as visual-level filters. So if you only want a subset of your data to show on one specific visualization, click that visualization to make it active. Then click on it under "Visual level filters" under the Filters heading in the right-hand Visualizations panel to get your filtering options.


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