How to Create a Power BI Report (Step-by-Step & Examples)

Written by co-founder Kasper Langmann, Microsoft Office Specialist.

A Power BI report is the “Power BI way” of showing findings and insights from a dataset. 

This is one of the things that differentiate Power BI from Excel where data is presented in rows and columns right off the bat.

But how do you create Power BI reports? Is it easy?

In this article, you’ll learn the step-by-step process of creating Power BI reports.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

Ready? Let’s get into it! 👨‍🎨

*This tutorial is for Power BI Online (also called "Power BI Service"). If you have Power BI Desktop, then click here and go to the online version.

Introduction to Power BI Reports

Microsoft has a good definition of what Power BI reports are:

“…a multi-perspective view into a dataset, with visuals that represent different findings and insights from that dataset.”

Simply, Power BI reports are visuals that explain your dataset better. A report could just be a single visual or pages of visuals.

These reports came from a dataset. The visuals could then be pinned on dashboards.

Here’s a graph that explains the relationship of reports with dashboards and datasets:

A diagram that illustrates the relationship between dashboards, reports, and datasets in Power BI

Now that it’s clear what Power BI reports are, let’s proceed into the steps needed to make these reports.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

Preparing Your Data

Before you can create any reports in Power BI, you need a dataset and a blank report canvas.

For this exercise, we’ll be using the “Retail Analysis Sample” prepared by Microsoft and Obvience.

If you don’t know how to get sample data, check out this tutorial: How to Use the Included Sample Data in Power BI (+Examples).

Once you have your dataset, go to the “Datasets” section in your workspace and click the ‘Create report’ icon.

In our example, the available dataset is the “Retail Analysis Sample”:

The retail analysis sample dataset from the workspace

After clicking that, Power BI will bring you to the report builder or editor where most of the action takes place.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

The Power BI Report Builder

The steps you took from the previous section will bring you to the reports builder:

The Power BI report builder

There are three primary sections you have to know:

  • Canvas
  • Fields pane
  • Visualizations pane

Obviously, the canvas is the empty white space at the center where the visuals will be made.

The fields pane contains the different fields of your dataset (think of it as the columns of your dataset).

The visualizations pane is where you can edit and modify your visualizations like the type of visualization, the format, and specific options for the values of your visual.

Creating Your First Power BI Report

If you have tried creating charts and graphs for your data in Excel, then creating reports in Power BI is even easier.

Because Power BI is a tool to generate insights and findings of your data, one of the most effective approaches in creating a report is by asking a question.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

The retail analysis sample is composed of data about retail sales of items sold across multiple stores and districts. There’s also data about this year’s performance, last year’s sales, units, gross margin, variance, and others.

Now, you want to know and make a report about the total sales this year per item category.

Now, there are 2 ways to achieve that. You can either:

  • Select the fields first then visualizations after
  • Or if you have the specific visualization in mind, select the type of visual first then the fields after

We’ll go with the first method.

To start, focus your attention on the fields pane.

Select “Sales” and then “Total Units This Year”:

Select “Item” and then “Category”:

The item “Category” field

While clicking those fields, a visual will appear on the canvas:

Selecting the “Total Units This Year” and “Category” fields

Cool, right? Creating a report has never been this easy.

But now, you think that a pie chart is a better visual for your data.

To change the type of visual, just head over to the visualizations pane and click the pie chart icon:

The pie chart visualization button

Now you got your report in the visual type you preferred.

Modifying Your First Power BI Report

The problem is:

You think your visual and all its text is too small for your eyes.

No worries! You can edit your report however you like.

For example, feel free to enlarge your visual to the size you want. Simply click on the visual and drag its corners:

The next part is enlarging the texts — legend, detail labels, and title — of your report.

On the visualizations pane, go to the ‘Format’ section:

The format button on the visualization pane

Here, you can change the format of your visuals. Each type of visual has different sets of options so an option on another might not be available on another.

To enlarge the text, simply go through the ‘Legend’, ‘Detail labels’, and ‘Title’ and then adjust the text size:

Of course, you can change and format your visual however you like. Feel free to experiment with each option to see how each affects the visual.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

Saving Your First Power BI Report

If you move out of the report builder without saving your report, the work you did would be for nothing.

To save your report, click ‘File’ from the tab list and select ‘Save’:

How to save your first Power BI report

Power BI will then ask you to name your report.

Let’s name this report “First Power BI Report” and save:

The “First Power BI Report” saved on Power BI

After that, Power BI will inform you that your report has been saved.

Conclusion

If you’re serious about using Power BI, then you should learn and become efficient in creating Power BI reports. Without them, there will be no dashboards as the visuals on the dashboards came from reports.

Now that you know how to make reports, you can now proceed into making Power BI dashboards by pinning these reports.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto