How to Create a Power BI App

We all know that Microsoft Power BI is a robust tool. But did you know that you can create your own Power BI App either for your own use or your end-users? And I’m not talking about the Power BI mobile application. A Power BI app is effectively a distributable UI for a workspace’s reports and dashboards packaged together in one screen and is available to anyone with a shared workspace.

I know this definition sounds very similar to a Workspace so let’s make the distinction here:

  • a Workspace is a collaborative repository for all of your Power BI content including reports, dashboards, datasets, and data flows. Workspaces are also used to provision user access privileges.
  • an App is used to solely distribute reports and dashboards from the workspace in a single bundled UI.

Workspace View

Power BI App View

In this blog, I’ll first provide step-by-step directions on how to create your own Power BI App (like the one pictured above). Then explain how to distribute and access the app. I’ll finish by summarizing the benefits and limitations of Power BI apps.

Creating and Accessing Your Power BI App

Creating a Power BI App may be the easiest task available to a Power BI developer. After logging in to Power BI service and navigating to the shared Workspace, follow the steps below to create and publish an app.

1.Toggle the Include in App button from the workspace view for the reports and dashboards you want to include in the app. If you change your mind and want to add or exclude one in the future, no big deal you can just switch the toggle button back at any time!

2. Click the Create app button in the top right corner of the workspace (this step may take a few moments).

3. Fill out the Setup screen.

    1. The App name will be displayed to the end-user and is how they will search for it.
    2. The description is a required field and may provide context for users unfamiliar with the reports and dashboards you are publishing.
    3. The support site is not a required field although if you have one you can paste a URL to it here – for example, a team Sharepoint.
    4. Customize the app with a team logo and select a color.
    5. Select the appropriate contact information – Show app publisher is the default and will be the email address of the one associated with the Power BI account for whoever is logged in and creating the app.

4. Complete the Navigation screen – this is how you will customize the side panel of the app used for navigation.

    1. Leave the New navigation builder toggle to On as this is a new app.
    2. In the Navigation section of this screen, select the order that the reports and/or dashboards should be displayed by clicking the up/down arrows, or hide them by clicking the eye icon. You can also add a Section by clicking + New. A section is just a way to structure the items in the app, much like a folder on a desktop.
    3. In the Report details section, with a report or dashboard selected, rename the item or leave it as is. If you created a Section you can place the selected report or dashboard in the Section here. 

5. The last screen is the Permissions screen where you can provision access to the app.

    1. Anyone with access to the shared workspace where the reports and/or dashboards are stored will have access to the app. If you want to provide additional users with access, input their name or email. If your company allows it, you can also provide access to the entire organization, however, this is not recommended.
    2. Check the appropriate user access settings for the 3 check-boxes for your particular use case.

6. Finalize the creation of the app by clicking the Publish app button in the bottom right corner.

7. Click the Update app button in the top right corner to publish a new version.

Distribute and Access Your Power BI App

Anyone with access to the shared workspace where the app content is stored, or any additional users who were provided access in the setup process will be able to use the app. To access the app, complete the following steps after logging in to the Power BI service.

1. Navigate to the Apps page from the side panel.

2. Click the Get apps button in the top right corner.

3. After the previous step, a window will appear with a library of Power BI apps. Search for your app by name. Click Get it now (in blue) underneath your app. This will automatically navigate you to the app and add it to your apps list. Confirm that the app is in your list by going back to the apps screen.

4. Optional – add the app to your Favorites list (accessible via the side panel) by clicking the star in the Apps list window or directly in the app itself.

Benefits of a Power BI App

The benefit that creating a Power BI app has over distributing individual reports and dashboards directly from the workspace is that it creates a one-stop-shop for users to access the published content. This means that it’s easier for the end user to find, access, and use all of the relevant reports and dashboards in one place, instead of needing to remember the individual names of each report or dashboard.

Limitations of a Power BI App

Although Power BI Apps is an incredibly useful feature, it is not without its limitations. Two big limitations come to mind.

  • Only one app can be created per workspace. This means that if you want one report to exist in an app, and another report in a different app, you will need to create two workspaces and store the two reports separately.
  • You cannot filter or slice data across reports and/or dashboards within an app. This really shouldn’t be too much of a shock to most people because you cannot slice data from one report to another in a workspace. However, because a Power BI app may appear to some users to look like one report, they may be confused when the data doesn’t slice or filter from one report or dashboard to another within the same app.
Want to Learn More?

Have any questions, comments, or curiosities? Feel free to reach out to us about Power BI app creation on Twitter at @AskTessellation.

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