Pin Excel Objects in Power BI Dashboards

Excel and Power BI are now working closer together. With the (preview) release of the Power BI publisher for Excel users are now able to publish parts of their Excel workbook (pivot tables, charts or cell ranges) to Power BI (as dasboard tiles).

On January 15th, the Preview of the Power BI publisher for Excel was released. Currently, snapshots (i.e. images of the selected Excel objects) can be published to Power BI dashboards.

The start-page of the Power BI publisher can be found at: https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/excel-dashboard-publisher

In order to try this new Excel add-in download the installer (check your Office version – you need Office 2010 with SP1 and later). You also need to download the appropriate one for either 32- or 64 bit! If you are not sure which version you’ve installed, start Excel, choose Account and then “About Excel”!

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If you’ve downloaded the right version, just start the setup (which is another instance of a next-next-next kind of setup).

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When you start Excel the first time after the installation the following dialog is shown. It’s main purpose is direct you to the Power BI sign-in page (and link your add-in to your Power BI account).

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That’s all you need to start working with the Power BI Publisher for Excel. The add-in itself is represented in a ribbon menu in Excel.

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In order to always work with the most recent version, you can check the exact version string in the menu “About” and (if an update will be available in the future) you can download the add-in directly within Excel.

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You can check you account / profile status with the menu action “Profile”. If you’ve already signed into Power BI you will see a similar dialog like the one below.

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But now let’s start working with Excel and publish some Excel objects to Power BI.

I’ve created a simple table with sales figures for different regions per year.

Test 1 – Pin Excel Content

To begin with, I just selected one cell in the table and hit the “Pin” action in the Power BI ribbon tab. The preview in the dialog previews the generated picture and after clicking “Pin” the dashboard tile is added to the selected dashboard (see the second picture for the result).

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If you select a cell range the workflow is the same – hit “Pin” and publish the selected content to Power BI.

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The same is possible with Pivot tables or Pivot charts. The resulting dashboard (and its tiles) can be customized like any other dashboard tiles (edit, remove and re-sizing). If you do not like the headers of the tiles just change them!

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Test 2 – Update Excel Content

Data changes and therefore also Excel content changes. The Power BI Publisher for Excel (Preview) allows you to easily update the already pinned Excel objects. In order to do that the ribbon action “Pin Manager” comes into action.

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The Pin Manager lists all the pinned objects (cell ranges, charts etc) in the current Excel file. For each pinned object the type (either a NamedRange, Table or Chart), the target Dashboard and the last updated timestamp is displayed. If you select a line the referenced Excel content is highlighted.

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Two actions are provided – you can either Update or Remove a pinned Excel object. I’ve updated the content of the first test case (single cell) and if you hit update (while the appropriate line is selected) the Power BI dashboard tile gets updated immediately (in just a matter of seconds).

Dashboard after the update of the first pin action (only single cell):

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Conclusion:

The current Preview release of the Power BI Publisher for Excel provides an easy way of pinning Excel objects into Power BI Dashboards. But – it’s a preview and there are some points that should be changed in future version (i.e. in the release version?):

  • The actual version only pins images to the Power BI dasboard – it would be great if Excel objects could be pinned to the Power BI dasboard.
  • Currently you can only update the pinned objects manually – maybe there will be some automatic refresh mechanism in the future?
    • Not an easy option – just think about the update trigger (when you open the Excel file, after a file save, every x minutes, …) –> the update will only work when Excel is running and the Excel workbook itself is opened?

But.. as we know the Power BI team.. there will be – for sure – more enhancements before the release of the Publisher!

Happy Excel&Power BI working,

Wolfgang

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One Response to Pin Excel Objects in Power BI Dashboards

  1. Pingback: Microsoft Data Insights Summit 2016–Tag 1 | workingondata

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