Disseminating information derived from business intelligence data does not have to be a dry and uninspired exercise. In fact, in some cases, effective communication is going to take some unconventional outside-the-box thinking. So even though the standard data visualization tools found in Microsoft Power BI are adequate for many audiences, those tools are not your only resource.
Power BI developers looking for more interesting and compellng ways to communicate their message may find what they seek in the Custom Visuals section of the Microsoft Office Store. Finding, downloading, and inserting Power BI custom visuals is not difficult, but there are several caveats to consider.
This tutorial shows you how to find insightful and innovative custom visuals for your Power BI reports and then apply them to your data.
The first step is to point your web browser to the Microsoft Office Store and then click the Power BI item in the left navigation menu. As you can see in Figure A, the list of vetted and approved Power BI custom visuals is extensive and varied.
However, before you start downloading you should take a moment to consider your data. Downloading a custom visual dependent on tracking events over time for a dataset with no time-related variables just doesn't make sense and certainly won't help communicate your message.
Thoughtfully scan through the list of custom visuals to find the one, or perhaps two, you feel will be most helpful for the dataset in question. Keep in mind, these custom visualizations were created by the Power BI community and new entries will populate the list from time to time. You never know—next week you may discover a better visualization, so check the list often.
For this example, we will download the colorful Word Cloud custom visualization. Click the link to the app description and then click the Add button to start the download. You will be asked to save a file that looks similar to this:
Be sure to save it to a folder you can reach with the Power BI application. I saved my version of the file in a folder on One Drive For Business.To use the downloaded custom visual, click the ellipsis in the Power BI Data Visualization Tools palette, as shown in Figure B, and then clickImport A Custom Visual in the list.
Navigate to the location of your custom visual and open the file. You should get a dialog box confirming that your visualization was successfully imported. A new icon should appear in your data visualization tools palette, as shown in Figure C.
Click the new icon and then enter the fields you want to include in your new visualization. As mentioned before, each Power BI custom visual will require a specific set of data points to prove effective. Figure D uses the Word Cloud visual to show the relationship of each stock's gain to the rest of the stocks in the portfolio. As you can see, Facebook is the dominant stock in this example.
Expand the toolset
Once you download a custom visual you can insert it into other projects that may come across your desk. Depending on the data involved and the message you are trying to convey, there may be a Power BI custom visual that can make the difference between highly effective communication and not-so-effective communication. The community-driven custom visuals found in the Microsoft Office Store are a great resource you can't afford to ignore.
More Power BI tutorials
This tutorial is part of a series of tips and tricks to help you master Power BI and data visualization. Here's what we've covered so far:
- How to configure an Excel file for use in Power BI
- How to create your first Microsoft Power BI dashboard
- How to harness OneDrive to keep your Power BI dashboard fresh
- How to share your Power BI dashboards and reports
- How to download and install Microsoft Power BI Desktop
- How to change default visualization formats in Microsoft Power BI
- How to jazz up your reports by adding a background image in Microsoft Power BI
- Hiring kit: Microsoft Power BI developer (Tech Pro Research)
- Microsoft wants to bring better data visualization to your enterprise
- Tech leaders: it's time to stop shadow reporting and provide intelligent data
- 7 tools to help your company get started with big data
- Dell Canvas: The smart person's guide
Was your last report or presentation as effective as it should have been? Are you looking for some better alternatives? Share your thoughts and opinions with your peers at TechRepublic in the discussion thread below.
Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.