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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.

Another choice is to add an interactive slicer. With slicers, if you later share your work with others, they can interactively filter data and add it back in.

Let's try both.

Personal vs. Enterprise gateways

Power BI has two different "gateways" that allow you to automatically refresh data from local data sources: personal and enterprise.

If you'd like to automatically refresh local files residing on your system, you can use the personal gateway. It requires a paid Power BI Pro account and 64-bit Windows on your PC. For scheduled data refreshes, your system needs to be on and not asleep for the refresh to take place.

As you might imagine, the enterprise gateway is designed to be installed on a server (although it can also be installed locally) and, like personal, requires a Power BI Pro account. With the enterprise version, IT professionals can manage access for multiple accounts.

To automatically update data that's elsewhere in your organization, such as an in-house database server, you can use either the personal gateway or the enterprise gateway.

If you want to refresh data from an R source, you currently need the personal gateway, although adding that capability to the enterprise gateway is on Microsoft's roadmap.

Note that if you're connecting to an external online data source such as Salesforce, you don't need a gateway.

Filtering your data

When I started working with Power BI in March, a major drawback was that you couldn't add a text search box to a report, table or slicer. If you were analyzing information with a lot different categories, such as U.S. flight data, it was pretty annoying to have to scroll through hundreds of cities on a list in order, say, to find St. Louis.

As of the June 30 Power BI Desktop software update, you can add a text-searchable slicer to your reports, making it easier to hone in on one item amidst hundreds (or thousands). More on that in a bit. But it's also possible that you know there are only a few items of interest among the hundreds in your list, and you'd like to create a report with just a subset of the data.

One way to do this is to filter a report down to a few key categories -- in this case, perhaps showing only some cities that are of known interest, such as where your company has offices.

To do this, click on an empty area of the canvas and then drag DEST_CITY_NAME onto the Report level filters (where you see the "Drag data fields here" area). Pick a few cities. If you're following along, I chose Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle and Washington, D.C.


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