Power BI Preview concepts

Power BI Preview concepts

The 3 major building blocks of Power BI Preview are: dashboards, reports, and datasets. You can’t have dashboards or reports without data (well, you can have empty dashboards and empty reports, but they’re not very useful until they have data.)


A dataset is something that you connect to. Use Power BI Preview to bring all of your data together. See it all in one place and access it from all of your devices.

In the navigation pane, the datasets you’ve connected to are listed under the Datasets heading. Each listed dataset represents a single source of data, for example, an Excel workbook on OneDrive, or an on-premises SSAS tabular dataset, or a Salesforce database, etc. See the list of dataset types that can be used with Power BI Preview.

ONE dataset…

  • can be used over and over.
  • can be used in many different reports.
  • Visualizations from that one dataset can display on many different dashboards.

To connect to a dataset, click Get Data (at the top of the navigation pane) or click the plus sign (next to the Datasetsheading). The work you do in Power BI Preview does not change the underlying dataset.


A dashboard is something you create or something a coworker creates and shares with you. It is a single canvas that contains one or more tiles. Each tile displays a single visualization that was created from the data in the underlying dataset(s). To create and add a tile, you must be in report Editing View or in Q&A.

In the navigation pane, your dashboards are listed under the Dashboards heading. Each listed dashboard represents a customized view of some subset of the underlying datasets.  What this means is that someone (you or a coworker) created the dashboard and then navigated to Editing View where s/he explored the data and created visualizations and then picked some of those visualizations to display on the dashboard.

ONE dashboard…

  • can display visualizations from many different datasets
  • can display visualizations from many different reports

A dashboard can be created from scratch — create a new blank dashboard and then get some data.

You, or a coworker, can create a dashboard and share it –  when you accept the invitation, the shared dashboard (and associated report and dataset) is added to your navigation pane.

Sometimes dashboards are imported with the dataset or are created as you connect to the dataset. For example, the Get Data wizard for Salesforce asks you if you’d like a dashboard and/or report to be created from the dataset.

Why do people create dashboards?  Here are just some of the reasons:

  • to see, in one glance, all the information needed to make decisions
  • to monitor the most-important information about their business
  • to ensure all coworkers are on the same page, viewing and using the same information
  • to monitor the health of a business or product or business unit or marketing campaign, etc.
  • to create a personalized view of a larger dashboard — all the metrics that matter to me


A Power BI Preview report is one or more pages of visualizations (charts and graphs).  Reports can be created from scratch within Power BI Preview or can be imported with datasets and with shared dashboards. This doesn’t mean that you can create a Power BI Preview report outside of Power BI Preview.  What it means is that Power BI Preview takes a look at data you’re connecting to and, if it can, creates a report based on some or all of the data.  For example, when you connect to an Excel workbook that contains Power View sheets, Power BI Preview creates a report based on those sheets.

In the navigation pane, your reports are listed under the Reports heading. Each listed report represents 1 or more pages of visualizations based on 1 or more of the underlying datasets.

There are 2 ways to view and interact with reports: Reading View and Editing View.  Only the report creator can open Editing View for a report. Use Editing View to create and modify and explore your report. Reading View offers more-limited interaction; you can interact with filters (if the report owner created any), dig down into visualizations, do page-level filtering and highlighting, and temporarily pin visualizations to the dashboard (the pinned tiles will not be saved when you close and reopen Power BI Preview).

NOTE: If a shared dashboard has reports, you will NOT see the report listed in the navigation pane.  To open the report, from the shared dashboard, click one of the tiles. If the report owner created the tile from a report, the report opens.  If the report owner created the tile from Q&A, the Q&A page opens.

ONE report…

  • can be associated with multiple dashboards (tiles pinned from different reports can appear on the same dashboard).
  • can be created using data from one dataset. (the slight exception to this is that Power BI Designer can combine more than 1 dataset into a single report and that report can be imported into Power BI Preview)

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