1. Publishing to the Online Service

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The Power BI Online Service

11 lessons , 2 exercises

Preview Course


In this lesson, we’ll introduce the Power BI service. We’ll discuss the main functions of the service, and outline the course. Finally, we’ll upload a dataset from Power BI Desktop to the service.


Functions of the Power BI service

  • The Power BI service is used for three main purposes:
  • Create dashboards
  • Obtain insights
  • Share dashboards and content

Create dashboards

  • Dashboards can be created in the service by pinning visuals from reports
  • We can publish data from Power BI Desktop or Get Data directly in the service
  • Multiple reports can provide data for a single dashboard

Obtain insights

  • Natural Language Q&A answers your questions with charts and numbers
  • Quick Insights scans a dataset and automatically generates charts that may be of interest
  • The Power BI Mobile app lets you view dashboards and reports on-the-go

Share dashboards and content

  • Dashboards can be shared with other people by email through the service
  • App workspaces let you create content in collaboration with others
  • Apps let you distribute that content across your organization

Power BI Updates

  • Power BI service updates do not necessarily follow a regular schedule
  • As a cloud service, updates are forced on users
  • Old features can be removed as part of the update process


In previous courses, we focused on developing reports in Power BI Desktop. In this course, we'll learn how to work with the Power BI Online Service. The Online Service is officially called Power BI. However, this can cause confusion with the general family of products, so you may prefer to think of it as the Power BI Service or the Power BI Online Service.

In addressing this topic, the first question we should consider is what we can do in the Online Service.

In our first course, we learned about the most common workflow in a Power BI project.

In this workflow, we create a report in Power BI Desktop, upload it to the service and share it from there throughout the company. The Power BI Service is generally used to create dashboards, obtain insights from them and then share those dashboards and insights throughout your company.

Throughout this course, we'll look at features in each of these three areas.

Note that there are some functions that are available in both the desktop and Online Service.

For example, we have the ability of creating reports in both the Online Service and Power BI Desktop.

However, it's best practice to create reports in Power BI Desktop, so we won't consider how to create reports in the Online Service in this course.

In the first few lessons, we'll learn about creating dashboards.

We'll look at how to import data directly into Power BI and create dashboards from multiple reports. Next, we'll look at how to analyze a dashboard and obtain insights from it using the Q and A and Quick Insight features. Finally, we'll look at the various sharing and collaboration options including how to share dashboards as well as creating apps and app workspaces.

Note that while the online service is updated frequently, it does not follow the same fixed monthly schedule as Power BI Desktop.

While most of these updates are rather small, some do introduce significant new features.

In fact, sometimes new features will replace existing ones.

For example, the apps that we'll discuss later in this course replaced a previous feature called Organizational Content Packs.

It's important to understand that there's no guarantee that older features will be supported in the future. When using the Power BI Service you need to be willing adopt new features as Microsoft adds them.

In the visualization courses, we created two reports containing a wide variety of visualizations.

We'll upload both of those reports to Power BI, create a dashboard that combines visuals from both reports, and demonstrate the capabilities of Power BI using that dashboard.

We'll start by uploading those two reports to Power BI.

In a previous course, we briefly discussed how to upload a report to the online service but we'll run through it again right now. Note that in order to use the online service, you'll need to create an account at powerbi.com.

If you haven't done so previously, you might wanna do it now.

To upload a report, we'll navigate to the Home tab, and click the Publish button. You'll be prompted to sign into your Power BI account if you haven't already done so.

Once signed in, we're prompted to specify the workspace and finish the upload.

We've now uploaded the first of our two reports to Power BI. In the next lesson, we'll learn how to directly import a report into the Power BI Online Service.