1. Overview of Visualizations in Power BI

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Introduction to Visualizations in Power BI

12 lessons , 3 exercises , 1 exam

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In this lesson, we’ll learn the principles behind creating charts in Power BI Desktop. We’ll see how charts are built up by adding fields to various wells.

Lesson Notes

Creating a New Chart

  • Charts can be created by dragging a field onto the canvas, or by selecting the field’s checkbox in the field list
  • Power BI automatically selects a chart type based on the data type of the field used to create the chart

Modifying Charts

  • The fields used in a chart are displayed in a series of wells below the visualization pane
  • You can build charts, or change them, by dragging fields to or from these wells
  • You can change the type of chart by selecting the chart you want from the visualizations pane
  • Several options are available by selecting the three dots in the top right corner of the chart



The main strength of Power BI is its ability to quickly and easily create insightful visualizations.

In the first course, we created a few simple visuals based on data from an accounting firm.

In the next two courses, we'll cover the different type of visualizations available in Power BI in more detail.

We'll also explore how to add custom visuals which expand the range of visual types to include almost anything you might need.

Finally, we'll look at the various options provided by Power BI for formatting and modifying your visuals.

Note that as with our first course, we'll be using Power BI desktop. That being said, the Power BI online service actually has mot of the functionality that we'll cover.

In this course, we'll use the sales data set from a software company in the US.

The data comes from an Excel file so to import it, we'll navigate to the home tab, select get data, Excel, and then we'll navigate to the correct file.

The data we need is in the sheet 2016 sales, so we'll select it and look at the preview to get a feel for the data set.

We can see that each row represents a company.

Each company has a certain number of users and a total for revenue.

We also have the addresses of the company divided into various fields.

Furthermore, this sheet details the date of sale, and the salesperson involved.

Note that each company appears only once, and there are 1 000 companies in the data set.

We'll click load to add the data set to the data model.

In the previous course, we saw how to create visualizations by dragging a field onto the canvas, or simply selecting the associated checkbox.

In this case, we'll start by selecting the checkbox for revenue.

Note that Power BI automatically selects an appropriate visual based on the type of data. In this case, numeric data produces a column chart. Let's create a few more charts.

We'll click a blank area of the canvas to deselect our column chart, then select company name which is a text field.

We can see that Power BI creates a table. Let's deselect company name to remove this table, and select state. This is a geographic field so Power BI creates a map. Note that the automatic selection of the visual is always based on the first field used to create it.

Power BI won't automatically change a type of a visual after you've added new fields. However, you can change the type of visualization yourself. Let's remove this map and add another field to our column chart. We'll select the column chart and then select the salesperson field to add it.

Note that we could've also added this field by dragging it onto the visual.

You may have noticed that the fields we used now appear in the field section of the visualizations pane.

These areas are called wells and they represent various features that you can use to built your chart. Here we can that the revenue field is in the values well, as revenue is the field we're measuring. Meanwhile, the salesperson field is in the axis well and these values are represented along the X-axis of the chart.

The exact wells that we'll see vary between chart types.

Wells provide another method of adding fields to your chart. You can simply add a field by dragging it from the field list to the specified well.

To change the visual, we can simply select the type we want from the visualizations pane.

I could make this a bar chart, a table, or even a line chart.

I'll leave it as a bar chart for now. We can further customize our visual by selecting the three dots at the top right corner of the chart. For example, we can change the sort order to sort this chart by salesperson. The export data option allows us to create a CSV file from this visual. Show data will display two windows, one with the chart and another with a matrix of salespeople and revenue.

The spotlight feature highlights a selected chart. This can be useful if you have a report page with many charts and you want to focus on a single one. We've now covered some of the basic functionality that goes along with creating a visual in Power BI. Over the next two courses, we'll look at the different types of visuals available. We'll begin in the next lesson by focusing on the bar and column charts.