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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.

6. If a chart or graph isn't sorted the way you want, click the ellipsis at the top right while the visualization is active and then choose Sort By. You'll get choices to sort by fields, ascending or descending.

7. Allow your users (and yourself) to interact with data in a graph by adding a slicer visualization for data categories.

8. Don't overlook the desktop software's Quick Access toolbar -- the icons above the ribbon listings that include a smiley face (which lets you send feedback to Microsoft). Just as in Excel, you can add your own most-used icons up there by right-clicking any menu item. The Query Editor has its own, separate Quick Access toolbar.

9. If you think you'll need to tweak your data in any way -- even just rename columns -- work in Power BI Desktop until you're ready to share. (And remember that to share, you need to first publish to Power BI cloud.) You can't do any data wrangling using the cloud service, but you can publish multiple project changes from your desktop to the cloud as you're working. Publish currently only works one way, though; you can't send changes back from the cloud to Desktop.

10. To share your work privately among other Power BI users, create a dashboard in the cloud service and share. To share your work publicly, create a report in the cloud service and share to the web. If you want to share a report page with colleagues privately, pin the entire report page to a dashboard and then share the dashboard.

11. Microsoft has fairly robust Power BI documentation online.

12. If there's a way you think Power BI should be improved -- new feature, change how something works -- head over to the Power BI Ideas forum. Someone else may have already posted the idea and you can vote for it, or you can add a new one. Microsoft officials say they pay close attention to this user community when deciding what to include in Power BI updates.

Sharing your work

After you've done some exploratory visualizations, you might want to share some of your analyses with co-workers. To do this, you first need to publish your data and report to the Power BI cloud service. Save your work, then go to Home > Publish. You'll need to sign into your Power BI account if you're not currently logged in (or create one if you don't yet have one).

After data is published to the Power BI cloud service, you'll be offered the chance to "Get Quick Insights" from your data. This is Microsoft's automated look through various data points in order to highlight things like outliers and correlations. Unfortunately, Quick Insights doesn't know that it shouldn't add together all the delay times -- it needs to average them to be meaningful. (I expect the default would work a lot better for files of data like sales and profits, where sums by region or store over time could make sense.)


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