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!

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!

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!