Use Outlook Shortcuts to organize your favorite Power BI Reports and Dashboards

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I haven’t written in awhile, but wanted to get this up while it was still fresh in my mind (and had some time left at lunch).

Did you know Outlook had a shortcuts feature?  I didn’t (or at least I didn’t remember I did), and this video was the only one I could easily find on the topic.  Ostensibly, it’s used to create shortcuts to folders in Microsoft Outlook that you can quickly jump to.  However, as I found out, you can also use it to jump to web content, including content in Power BI!  Just follow these simple steps –

1. In Outlook (I’m using Outlook 2016), head to the shortcuts pane by finding the ellipsis at the bottom of your left-hand navigation area and choose “Shortcuts”
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2. By default, you’ll see two shortcuts

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To start adding web pages as shortcuts, I want to have them organized, so I’m going to right-click on the “Shortcuts” top menu option and create a new shortcut group called “Power BI”.

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3. Once I’ve done that, it should look like this –

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I can now add a web address as a shortcut, but I need to do this in a slightly different way than you might expect.  To do this, I’ll highlight the url in my browser that’s open like the following –

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I’ll then drag this address under my new shortcut group in Outlook and give it a friendlier name (using my right-click menu option to rename the shortcut) so it looks like the following –

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Now when I click the link, it looks like this in Outlook –

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Not only that, it’s fully interactive and I can (seemingly) do all the same things with my dashboard or report I’d do in a separate browser

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I have to be honest – I’m surprised this works as well as it does, and it’s much better than almost any other web page you might pull in there in my limited testing.  And maybe this isn’t that helpful to some folks, but I worked with a lot of former execs who would’ve LOVED to have been to simply to do everything right in Outlook.

Thanks for reading!

Using Power Update to refresh Excel Workbooks in Power BI Report Server

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Happy Holidays!

With the latest release of Power BI Report Server, we introduced the ability to share and view Excel Workbooks in a web browser (assuming you Office Online Server setup for your server farm).  This included workbooks that had Power Pivot models embedded in them with external data connections that might need to be kept up to date.  However, there isn’t currently a way to automatically refresh the data for those workbooks on the server currently like you can in SharePoint.  Today, I’m excited to show you a way to get around that limitation using a tool called Power Update from a Power BI partner called PowerOn.

First announced on Rob Collie’s blog a couple years ago, Power Update is a standalone program that allows you to automatically refresh Excel files and load them to several destinations, including SharePoint, OneDrive, and Power BI Report Server.  Let me walk you through how simple it is to get started and use with PBIRS –

1. When you first start Power Update, you’ll want to create a new task.  Click “New” to get started –

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2. Give your task a name and click Next –

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3. You can decide how often you’d like to refresh your Excel workbook.  I chose to do it every hour on a daily basis

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4. I can choose to either refresh a single file, or all the files in a particular folder.  I just need one workbook refreshed, so I choose that and proceed

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5. For my publish location, I want to publish to Power BI, and then select the “Power BI Report Server” option.

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6. I finish setting up the options for my server location and I’m done! (There are some optional items I can also choose in the last two screens, but I didn’t change anything on those for this exercise)

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After I’ve set everything up, you’ll see the first task in my list is now populated.  As a test, I clicked the “Run Now” button to see if it works.  Everything was setup properly, so it’ll refresh the workbook, publish it to the server and then let me know it was successful.  I can even setup e-mail notifications to tell me this after each time it runs!

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That’s it – it’s very simple to set up and manage your Excel Workbooks in Power BI Report Server and make sure they always have the latest data for your users.  And yes, anyone can use the public REST API’s for Power BI Report Server to do something like this on their own if they’d like.  Power Update just makes it easy to enable this functionality for their organization.

Power Update offers users both a free and paid version of their product – the free version offers all the functionality of the paid version, but is limited to only one workbook you can schedule and use.

Thanks for reading!

Tips when upgrading from the August preview to the October release of Power BI Report Server

Happy Thursday!

Many of you probably saw my blog post yesterday regarding the new release of Power BI Report Server.  I wanted to bring to your attention a couple additional items as it relates to that release, specifically when you’re upgrading from the August preview.  I am covering these in my session at PASS later today, but wanted to have something out before that time.

1. You must use the October 2017 version of Power BI Desktop that is optimized for Report Server with this release. You can download that October version directly here – https://www.microsoft.com/download/details.aspx?id=56136

2. If you have upgraded from August, any Power BI report that you used imported/embedded data in must be re-published. The simplest way to do this would be to download the file locally, open it using the October 2017 version Power BI Desktop for RS, and then save it back to the server.  You should then have no issues viewing the reports on your server.

While most folks won’t be affected by this scenario, some of our most passionate users (like those attending PASS Smile) will be, so please remember these tips as you upgrade.

If you’ll be at my session later today, I look forward to seeing you there!

Adventure Works brand package now available!

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Super short post today.

With the release of an updated test/demo Azure VM for Power BI Report Server on Monday, we thought it made sense to provide a new Adventure Works brand package for everyone to use in their demos/presentations to go along with it.  Feel free to download and use with Reporting Services 2016/2017 or Power BI Report Server – https://1drv.ms/u/s!Au6-0xX27UdgnOIapntXPaoPcqqOWQ

Thanks!

Updated demo VM for Power BI Report Server now available!

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For those of you who enjoy using the test/dev/demo VM template the team has in Azure for Power BI Report Server, we’ve gone ahead and updated it with the latest preview we released a few weeks back.  With that update, we’ve made a few additional changes to the template as well –

– Office Online Server is now automatically installed and configured for you when you spin up a new environment.  There is also an Excel workbook available as one of the sample reports. (Please note – we do NOT currently setup an Analysis Services instance running in PowerPivot mode for you to use with the VM.  You can do that manually if you’d like by using the SQL install media already on the VM.)

– We now deploy two VM’s and setup a sample domain for them to allow you to use Office Online Server.  They will both be the same size you select in the VM setup process initially – you may re-size them if you’d like through the Azure portal at any time.  We did this to allow the widest number of regions access to the VM template, since not every VM size is available in every region.  This should help make sure you don’t accidentally select a VM that isn’t available in your region, and have the deployment fail for you. 

– We’ve added additional sample RDL reports with the VM for your use.

You can get started with the template in Azure here –http://bit.ly/2f2aWyn

I hope you find the latest updates valuable, and thanks for reading as always!

Ten tips for the August Preview of Power BI Report Server

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Happy Friday all!

Last week, we announced the latest preview of Power BI Report Server, which included new functionality like additional data source support and support for viewing Excel Workbooks.  As you’re trying these new features out, I wanted to highlight some items you might find useful as you get started testing –

1. Keep in mind Office Online Server requires you be part of a domain when you set it up on a server, or else installation will fail.  This is additional requirement beyond what Power BI Report Server requires on its own, where it can run on a server that isn’t domain-joined.  Keep that in mind if your demo environment is your personal laptop.

2. If you’re setting up an environment for test/dev/demo purposes, you can install both Office Online Server and Power BI Report Server on the same machine if you’d like.  This isn’t a supported scenario for production purposes, obviously, but might simplify the setup of your test/demo environment.

3. You can embed Excel Workbooks into other applications using the simple embed functionality at the end of your report URL – for example, I embedded the following live Excel workbook into a PowerPoint slide using the web viewer app from the Office Store, so I can interact with the report during presentations.

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4. When installing the version of Power BI Desktop (August 2017) we shipped with the preview, it will normally upgrade the June 2017 version of Power BI Desktop for Report Server if you have that installed.  For some people, they’d like to run it side-by-side with the GA version of desktop for PBI Report Server and not upgrade it.  You can do that – just install the “x64” version if you are running the 32-bit version of desktop on your machine, or vice versa.  This should leave you with both versions (in addition to the version for the service if you have that installed as well).  Please note – this should only be done on machines you are using for testing or development purposes, as this isn’t an officially supported configuration.

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5. If you have multiple versions of Power BI desktop installed, the behavior is designed to always default to the last version you installed when you double-click on a Power BI Desktop file to open it.  If you’d like to use a different version of the desktop you have installed on your machine with a particular report, make sure you open that first, then open the file you’d like to work with.

6. Have you tried the comments feature yet?  You can add comments to any report in Power BI Report Server (including Excel Workbooks) by clicking the comments icon on the right hand part of the screen and then add your comments, along with an attachment file if you’d like.

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7. If you want to use a live Analysis Services connection with an Excel Workbook in Power BI Report Server, you’ll need to make sure the machine running PBI RS is an administrator on the Analysis Services instance for this to work, since we’re using EffectiveUserName in Office Online Server to make the connection.  John White talks more about this in his blog for SharePoint 2016 and OOS setup as well.

8. If for some reason you need to access the more advanced settings for Power BI Report Server via SQL Server Management Studio, you’ll need to connect using the reportserver endpoint, like in the following example –

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9. One item you can turn on via Management Studio in Power BI Report Server is the “My Reports” functionality.  This is a simple way to enable access for your organization to a personalized area where users can store and author content in and have immediate access to the report server as long as they exist in Active Directory.  It’s a little different than “Favorites”, where users can tag reports that they want to see in a single view.  Definitely check out it if you haven’t already and see if it makes sense for you and your organizational needs.

10. Don’t forget to apply a brand package to your report server if you’d like to personalize it with your company/team/personal logo and colors!

With that, I’m happy to wish you a great Labor Day weekend (here in the USA, anyways), and thanks as always for reading!

Learn more about Power BI Report Server at SQL Saturday Vancouver

Quick blog post today to let you all know I’ll be presenting at SQL Saturday Vancouver next Saturday, August 26th about Power BI Report Server.  This will be a chance to hear more about exactly what it is, how it can help you and your business AND discuss what new features and functionality will be coming soon.  And if you decide to attend, there’s probably a good chance you’ll see demos of the latest functionality we have planned for the next product update coming later this year!

If you’d like to attend SQL Saturday next week to see me or many other more talented presenters, you can learn more at the link here – http://www.sqlsaturday.com/635/EventHome.aspx

Look forward to seeing you there and being as confused by the funny looking money in Canada as I am.  See you next weekend!