PowerBI Is A Powerful, Easy Tool For Your Data Visualisation Arsenal

For those looking for data visualisation solutions that aren’t Plotly or something similar, PowerBI is a neat little app that can assist not only with data vis, but making your presentations interactive.

The standard services like Plotly have also been moving towards interactivity, but after having played around with PowerBI, it’s the best I’ve seen in terms of multiple charts updating with a click.

When it works, you simply select a data set, and then start playing with different visualisations. Normally it’s recommended for you to sketch out a few options before playing around in software, but I actually felt like it was okay to spend some time prototyping in PowerBI. Select a chart, decide which column you want to assign to which axis, select any appropriate filters, and off you go.

It’s not perfect but if the data was laid out correctly, often PowerBI would automatically detect the top row as a descriptor of each column. It’s a bummer when it doesn’t work, but when it does it’s magic — allowing you to basically paste the spreadsheet in and jump straight into selecting which kind of visualisation you want.

Right-clicking on a piece of data will give you more options. You can either exclude that entry (perhaps it’s an outlier or irrelevant), or if that entry is itself a category of data, you can dive into that to see only that category.

Multiple charts based on the same data set will all update according to how you play with the others. If you have a bar graph to the side showing how a different spreadsheet column stacks up over the same time period, the bar graph will follow your lead when you dive deeper into other sets of data.

It’s currently for PC only. But hey — WINE is a thing, and there’s also a web version of the app, with what seems like even more functionality. Once you’re logged in you can use the app in your browser, and there are more options for things like publishing to the web. PowerBI will host your data and give you an embed code, checking every hour to see if the data has changed and updating any embeds live if needed.

One neat trick I was recently shown was creating data vis templates for your business. If you have spreadsheets that automatically update through various means, and PowerBI constantly interprets those spreadsheets with your templates, then you can just open PowerBI every now and then to get valuable information with very little effort.

Check it out here.

Log in to comment on this story!