12 Great Resources for Power BI Development
Guest Author: George Squillace, Technical Instructor
These past few months I’ve been captured by Power BI. It is amazing to me how much Microsoft has invested in the Power BI ecosystem; many other developers have responded by investing much in the development of Power BI solutions.
Listed below, in no particular order, are resources that (especially new) Power BI developers may find very useful, as I have. Many of them are great to help you get started with Power BI and some are others can help further your education and understanding of it.
1. Power BI Data Stories Gallery
Part of learning Power BI is getting acquainted with an overwhelming amount of terminology and architecture such as understanding the relationship between the Power BI Desktop application and what can be accomplished within the Power BI Service (website). Also, understanding the relationship of a visualization to a report, and a report to a dashboard, etc. The first resource is the Power BI - Data Stories Gallery, which hosts a great variety of Power BI solutions. These solutions can cast a vision as to the capabilities of Power BI.
2. Power BI Architectural Diagrams
To help both myself and my students I created a Power BI architecture poster (on the left). Don’t laugh, but about the day after I finished my (humble) diagram, which still took a lot of effort, I stumbled upon a fantastic and more thorough diagram (on the right) found at Melissa Coates’ (SQLChick) website.
3. Power BI eBooks
The next resource is a 189 page free ebook by two of the world’s Microsoft BI stack subject matter experts, Marco Russo and Alberto Ferrari called “Introducing Power BI”. The book download location also includes links to some Excel and Power BI Desktop sample files used in the book.
I recently stumbled upon another free ebook (1,095 pp.) from author Reza Rad entitled “Power BI from Rookie to Rock Star”.
4. Weekly & Monthly Updates
One fact about Power BI is that there are updates to the Power BI Service weekly, and updates (entirely new downloads) to Power BI Desktop monthly! Keeping track of what changes in Power BI Desktop is not trivial, but keeping up is made much more easy with the monthly history of changes and added features, listed month by month.
When using visualizations in a BI tool set you may find “The Right Visual Reference” useful as it describes which type of visual (pie chart, column chart, line graph, etc.) best communicate the story you’re trying to tell.
6. Dax Editor
Another resource I’ll mention is actually a collection called "Tools for DAX and Tabular Developers", which is a blog post from Marco Russo, mentioned earlier. These tools, such as the DAX Editor, are mostly free. The list of tools is as follows:
- DAX Studio
- DAX Formatter
- DAX Editor
- DAX Patterns
- SSAS Tabular Translator
- Vertipaq Analyzer
- BIDS Helper
- BISM Normalizer (trial edition)
- OLAP PivotTable Extensions
- Power Pivot Utilities
- Workbook Size Optimizer
7. Power BI Dashboard Customiztions: Blog & Videos
In addition to the standard visualizations, over seventy custom visualizations have been made freely available for download. Some of these are truly amazing and could bring a lot of life to a Power BI Dashboard.
It’s not always straight forward knowing where to get started with a custom visual, how to leverage it’s available properties. To the rescue is one of the Pragmatic Works co-founders, Devin Knight. He has undertaken a custom visualization blog (and video) series.
8. Power BI - R Script Gallery
Those developers which want to lever the “R Script” language and tool set within Power BI will find the Power BI – R Script Gallery useful. The gallery has a rich amount of examples.
9. Power BI Preview Features
Microsoft experiments with features in Power BI and implements them as preview features. Preview features can be turned on using the Options dialog box as seen in the screenshot. One such preview feature is “Custom Report Themes”. This enables the developer to import a JSON file assigning a collection of colors that comprise the color theme. Rather than creating the JSON file by hand one can use the Format Painter tool to visually create a collection of them colors and then have the tool write and export the related JSON code.
10. Power Query M Features
The Power Query / M / Get & Transform features available within Excel and Power BI are very powerful for creating query mashups with little or no code at all. I’m still amazed at the programming effort that went into this feature set. The “Power Query M Reference” documentation gives in depth description of the different parts of Power Query M and how you can use it.
11. SQL Server User Group
I’m a big promoter of involvement in the SQL Server and data communities such as in my local SQL Server user group called GLASS, which I attend pretty much monthly and from time-to-time am the presenter. There are also Power BI user groups and communities such as the Motor City Power BI User Group. Strongly consider participation in such groups.
12. Power BI Training Courses
As for other learning sources, let’s not overlook the obvious, taking a Power BI course through your local New Horizons. Our current Power BI offering is a three day Microsoft course, 20778 – Analyzing Data with Power BI. This is a course that covers the creation of visualizations, Power BI services and Power BI Mobile App. Taking a course is especially a great solution when you need to learn a large amount of information and have large product exposure in a short period of time. Make sure you review the course outline to ensure your learning objectives and background match those found in the course.
There are tons of resources available to help you get the best out of Power BI. Leave a comment below if you find any of the above resources particularly useful. Also let me know if there are any outstanding Power BI learning and development resources not listed in this post. Reach me at george.squillace@NHLS.com.
George’s exuberance for technology goes far beyond the classroom. He was asked by Microsoft to deliver at the Virtual Academy in October 2013. He is a co-founder and regularly participates in the Lansing GLASS SQL Server user group. Additionally, he has been a speaker, volunteer and attendee at multiple SQL Saturday events. He has learned, mastered and taught a huge variety of software titles, including client and network operating systems, many graphics applications, and various Microsoft Office applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Project. In more recent years, George focuses almost exclusively on Microsoft SQL Server technologies. George brings over 23 years of tenure with New Horizons, over 30 years in the IT industry and a ton of enthusiasm to his role as senior technical trainer.
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