Happy birthday, Paginated Report Bear!

20190606_022241354_iOSpadgie

Paginated Report Bear turns 1 year old today.  He wasn’t expected to last more than a few weeks.

20190405_043319215_iOS

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Paginated Report Bear, my friend Chris Webb described him as follows – “Well, he’s the breakout social media star of 2019, a furry YouTube sensation whose incisive interviews of members of the Power BI development team have become renowned for their deep technical content and insights into the Power BI roadmap. If you’re not watching his videos on YouTube, you’re missing out.”

20190609_152624000_iOS

If you watch the very first video that “Padgie” did 1 year ago today, Chris’s description seems EXTREMELY generous.  The production quality was very low, and Mr. Matthew (my son) couldn’t even say “Paginated Reports”.  Why even do videos with a bear in the first place?  You see, my son had for some time wanted to do a YouTube video series with me where his stuffed animals would be included.  They had been granted various personalities and voices throughout the years by yours truly, and these characteristics have carried over to the videos.  I decided to rename “Mickey” to “Paginated Report Bear” because he was the lovable but dumb one, and I thought the name sounded ridiculous.  And since my (naïve) assumption was we’d do a few of these videos during my vacation, and my son would get tired of doing them, that would be that.  And that almost happened – there wasn’t any videos for a month from December to January, and I figured that was the end of it.

20181127_162925342_iOS20190722_160008289_iOS

Then something strange happened – not only did my son want to do more, but some members of the Power BI community seemed to actually ENJOY the videos.  He was featured on Guy in a Cube, he was mentioned on the BiFocal podcast, and he was a hit at the MVP Conference in March (he even got an MVP pin!).  It was then that we decided to have him start interviewing members of the product team, starting with Lukasz back in April, and the rest is history.

20190609_212520198_iOS20190610_141332035_iOS

But the biggest achievement of Paginated Report Bear is the one he’s taught my kids as they’ve watched their dad carry a cheap stuffed bear purchased from EBay to conferences across the country just so people can take a selfie with him – you can do something different, or be different, and be successful in your career and in life.  That means a lot, and shows the broad Power BI community can have an impact outside of the day to day product details.

20190610_122939172_iOS20190610_194931190_iOS

So thank you, and I look forward to what the future has in store for Paginated Report Bear in the year ahead!

20190612_024209056_iOS20190703_173803591_iOS

Free sample Power BI paginated report – Ultimate Export Report available for download

I recently came across an interesting article on MSSQLTips for SQL Server Reporting Services that showed how you could use a T-SQL query as the parameter value, and have it return a table of data as the result set from that query.  (The original article is here, and I will fully admit that all I did was take this author’s idea (and that of one of the commenters) and stick it into this sample report  – https://www.mssqltips.com/sqlservertip/5757/create-dynamic-ssrs-reports-using-a-query-as-an-input-parameter/ ). I wanted to see if this worked for Paginated Reports in Power BI, and of course it does!  So once I put in my connection string information for my Azure SQL database (the original article was against a traditional SQL Server database), I can write just about any select query against that database as a parameter at runtime and get back results in a nice table that can be exported out to Microsoft Excel.  I created a short video to show you how it works in practice –

Now there’s little chance I’d use this report as is in production – it’s really just a way for me to test some things, dump out data quickly, and it demos nicely.  But there are some ways you could potentially change this to make it more production friendly – have a list of dropdown values that represent the queries that you update on an ongoing basis, or even allow users to submit queries through a workflow you approve that updates the parameter list.

If you’d like to try it out yourself, feel free to download the sample report –

Ultimate Export Report

Once downloaded, you’ll need to update the data source with your connection string to whatever database you’ll use this against in Power BI Report Builder before you can use it in the service, but once you do that, you should be good to go.

image

Thanks for reading!

Use Outlook, Microsoft Flow and Paginated Reports to create Power BI Report and Dashboard E-Mail Subscriptions with PDF attachments

image

I hear this ask quite a bit these days – I want to be able to create e-mail subscriptions with PDF (or other file format) attachments of my full Power BI report or dashboard.  Well, you can actually do this already, thanks to Microsoft Flow and Paginated Reports in Power BI Premium or SQL Server Reporting Services/Power BI Report Server if you chose to do so.

If you read my blog post last week, I showed you how to use Flow to take your e-mail attachments and save them to a OneDrive for Business folder.  While I did it for PDF’s in that example, you can do it for any attachment type, including images, which is what you get today as an attachment when you subscribe to a Power BI Report or Dashboard.  The challenge is if you want an attachment of a full Power BI report, you only get one report page image per subscription.  However, you can stitch those items together into a paginated report that’s hosted either in Power BI Premium or SSRS and set that up as a subscription with a full report attachment.  Here’s how –

Let’s say I have four report pages total in my Power BI report.  I’ll create four subscriptions, 1 for each page.

image

Next, I’m going to create a paginated report where I show each of those images on a different page.  Since they are optimized for landscape, I am going to change my report properties to landscape in Power BI Report Builder.

image

With paginated reports, you can surface images one of three ways in your report.  You can do it either as an embedded image, an external image, or from a Database. 

image

Embedded images are what I used for the Paginated Report Bear sample report – I literally just saved the image files in the rdl you could download.  That doesn’t help in this use case. 

If I want to use an external images for each of the files, which is a URL image I point to, than I can create a Flow where I save the e-mail attachments from my Power BI subscriptions to a folder in OneDrive (personal), and then use the embed URL from each of those images as external sources for my report.  Each time I save a new image with the same name, my embed URL doesn’t change, so I can update the images as often as I like using Flow and my report will always show the latest.  I just need to add four images to my paginated report, each with a link to one of the report page URLs, and I’m done!

Anyone who cares about security is going bonkers right now, since sticking them in my personal OneDrive means they’re publicly available to anyone in the world.  A better (and safer) solution I’m using is saving them to an Azure SQL database, and then surfacing them as “Database” images in my paginated report.  My flow looks like this for that scenario –

image

What I did here was create a table in an Azure SQL database with three fields, and the Attachment field is an Image field.  (This is an admittedly sloppy table written for a blog post vs. production use.)  I also narrowed down the scope of the attachments by limiting the flow to those e-mails from the following address (I could be even more precise, but dinner is waiting in the other room) –

image

Now when my Flow is triggered (it checks my inbox every minute), if it finds a new item matching that rule, I see a new entry in my SQL table like so. 

image 

With them saved to a SQL database, I have a few different options how to surface them in my report.  Either I do them as standalone items with a page break in between (Check out these two pages when I export out the report out to Word) –

image

With this method, I’m setting my SQL query to always show the most recent image for each page of my report.

Or perhaps in a table as a collection showing different report states over time if I want to show all the report images

image

Now, with my images saved in a paginated report, I can load it to either the Power BI service OR SQL Server Reporting Services, setup my subscription, choose the output format (PDF, Word, etc.) and there you have it – full report attachments of my Power BI reports sent as e-mail subscriptions!

Thanks for reading!

Ten reasons why you should download and learn to use Power BI Paginated Report Builder

Happy weekend all!

Yesterday was a big day for the Power BI team, as we released the first edition of Power BI Paginated Report Builder.  Why is this such a big deal?  Well, while Report Builder has been around for years, many Power BI users have not only never used the product, they’ve never tried to build a paginated report, period.  Now they can do just that, and I’m going to cover the top ten reasons why, if you use Power BI, you should download and learn to use Power BI Paginated Report Builder.

Download Power BI Paginated Report Builder

1. It’s Free.

It’s completely free to download and use.  Who doesn’t like free?

2. It doesn’t require Power BI Premium (or even Pro) to use it.

As many in the community know, Paginated Reports are available in Premium workspaces only (Here’s a link to up vote making this feature more widely available in Power BI – Paginated Reports in Pro and Premium).  However, just like Power BI Desktop, there’s no Power BI license required to use it locally.  So not only can you author reports, you can render and view them like you would in the service.  Take a look at the sample report Paginated Report Bear created back in November in the tool –

image

I have a similar experience as I would as a consumer in Power BI, including several key items I’ll cover shortly.

3. You can use it to connect to any Power BI dataset in Premium to build reports

As my colleague Christian Wade announced last week, you can now use the XMLA endpoint to access your Power BI datasets in Premium.  Paginated Report Builder supports this connectivity option as well, and it’s super easy to do.  Simply copy the connection string from the “Settings” tab of your dataset in the Power BI service –

image

Then create a new “SQL Server Analysis Services” data source in Power BI Report Builder.  Type the phrase “Data Source =” in the Connection string dialog, paste the copied string from Power BI in there and hit “Test Connection”.  You’ll be asked to sign into Power BI, and assuming you’ve followed these simple steps, it’ll connect successfully and you can start building paginated reports with it!

image

4. You can connect to any Power BI dataset via XMLA, even if that capacity or workspace doesn’t also support Paginated Reports

While Paginated Reports are only available in a P1 SKU and above (or A4 SKU and above), the XMLA endpoint is available in every SKU, including down to A1 or EM1.  So you can create and use Power BI datasets from any workspace that supports the XMLA endpoint when authoring your reports.  The only restriction is that when we support publishing reports with Power BI datasets to the service later this month, you just need to publish it back to a workspace that does support Paginated Reports.  Don’t worry that your dataset might be sitting in a different capacity or workspace – we’ll explain more when we announce support in the official blogpost.

5. With the ability to use the same Power BI datasets used for your interactive reports, you can easily create basic paginated reports for scenarios as simple as exporting tables of data, or a print-friendly view of your Power BI Desktop report.

I’ll be the first to admit many things in Paginated Report Builder are harder for report authors to achieve than they are in Power BI Desktop.  But for many basic scenarios, like creating a simple table I know users will want to export out large amount of data from, Paginated Report Builder makes that very, very simple and is often times a better option.  I’ll have a walk through in a follow-up post where I can show you how to do either of these scenarios with your Power BI datasets, in some cases in a matter of minutes.

6. Paginated Reports published back to Power BI don’t have any data export limitations

I covered this in an earlier blogpost – Yes, you can export unlimited** rows of data from Paginated Reports in Power BI, but if your organization has Premium workspaces that support Paginated Reports, this is worth keeping in mind.  Now that you can create paginated reports against your datasets in Power BI Premium, having a simple paginated report for export scenarios might help unlock certain scenarios you couldn’t before for your users.

7. You can print your reports right from Paginated Report Builder

You probably noticed in the earlier screenshot there was a print option for a report you’re viewing in the tool.  You weren’t imaging it – you can print out your report right from the toolbar, and can even look at a Print Layout view of your report while interacting with it.  This option isn’t even available in SQL Server Reporting Services (!), and is a great way to see how your report will look once you do print it out.

image

8. You can export your report from Paginated Report Builder to several different formats, including PDF, Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

In addition to the ability to Print, you can also export to several different formats right from the toolbar when viewing your report.  This is a powerful capability that few tools have in their authoring environment right out of the box.

9. In a future update, we’ll have support to connect to Power BI datasets in non-Premium workspaces when authoring reports. 

This will make this even more of a no-brainer, as it’ll open up all the scenarios we’ve discussed in this post to any Power BI dataset.  Look for more details on this in the coming weeks.

10. There’s a lot of material to help you get started

A great place to start is with Patrick LeBlanc from the Guy in a Cube channel, who I work closely with.  He has put together several videos around Paginated Reports to help get you going.  Additionally, you should see several more in the coming weeks as more and more functionality is announced, plus the blog posts I’ll be adding as well.  I’ve added the playlist from YouTube below.

Paginated Reports playlist

I could keep going, but ten feels like a good place to stop on a lazy Saturday.  If you’ve never tried paginated reports before, now is your chance!  Go download Power BI Paginated Report Builder today and learn what all the fuss is about.

Thanks for reading!

Yes, you can export unlimited** rows of data from Paginated Reports in Power BI

image

This question has come up more than I can count, so I am doing a super quick blog post to answer it for folks.

Many people are well aware of the limitations around exporting data in Power BI today.  The biggest one I hear about is you can’t export more than 150,000 rows to Excel from a Power BI Report visual.  Since people always want to export data, the question came to me immediately when we released the paginated report capabilities in Power BI if we had the same restriction.  I know from several customers I’ve worked with in the past that many of their SSRS reports are/were nothing more than a single table with some parameters that users visit to dump out the data they need to an Excel or CSV file, so I wasn’t that surprised it came up.

The answer is no, we don’t put any cap on the number of rows you can export from a paginated report in Power BI to Excel, CSV, or any of the formats we support.  The only limitation is the amount of memory that’s available for Paginated Reports in your Premium capacity.  Hence the asterisk in the blog title – eventually you’ll run out of memory if you try to export too much at one time, so if you try to export a table of 1 trillion rows and 40 columns to a CSV file, I’m fairly sure you’re out of luck and will fail.  But as you can see by the picture, I exported one of my reports with over 240,000 rows out to a CSV file without a hitch.

There’s much, much more you can do with Paginated Reports in Power BI (and Patrick LeBlanc has done some awesome videos about a number of those items on the Guy in a Cube YouTube channel), but for those folks who want to use paginated reports to help them with this use case, you absolutely can do so.

Thanks for reading!

Ask Me Anything Unanswered Chat Questions Answered

Last week, I participated in an “Ask Me Anything” session where I answered questions around both Paginated Reports in Power BI, as well as questions around SQL Server Reporting Services and Power BI Report Server.

As I wasn’t able to get to all the questions posted in the chat, I said I’d answer those I didn’t get to in a follow-up post on my personal blog.  So, without further adieu, here’s a recap of the related unanswered questions with my responses.  I’ve broken them into sections focused on Paginated Reports in the cloud, as well as the on-prem offerings (SSRS/PBIRS).

Paginated Reports in Power BI

“any update on parameters? right now they are only on the page header, any chance that this area will get a makeover?”

– You’ll see us doing work to rationalize the toolbar in paginated reports with Power BI reports to the extent it makes sense.  There are certain patterns for paginated reports authors prefer in terms of parameter layout/grouping that we don’t want to disrupt, but the idea is to make the chrome around the reports look/feel similar across both report types.

Will the RLS will be available in paginated reports too?”

– Yes, when paginated reports support connecting to Power BI datasets, we will respect RLS.  We’ll also support it against other data sources when we support user-based authentication for them.

“Is there a recommended resource for testing / exploring paginated reports – i.e., a sample paginated report that can be used as a template?”

– Great question.  I’ll put together a list of resources in a follow-up post, but at a minimum recommend you download Report Builder and follow the tutorial.

“Is printing of multi-page table the main advantage of SSRS reports over Power BI tables/matrix?”

This is another good question – it isn’t an either/or, but rather which is the best tool for what you need to accomplish.  I’m going to cover this in a separate post as well.

“Is there plan to allow embedding Paginated report in SharePoint Online as we can today with PowerBI Report?”

– Yes, this is planned.

“power BI service will we get subscriptions for paginated reports in the same way we have now in SSRS? Also will this be extended to Power Bi reports and dashboards in Power Bi service. Including Data Driven Subscriptions?”

Yes!  You’ll see the current subscriptions in Power BI evolving to give you the options you have with SSRS today for both report types.  This includes scheduling, the ability to send with specific filters/parameters applied, attachment support, etc.

“for now I’m not able to find paginated reports using the search function on the Home page. Any timing when/if this is coming?”

This is a known bug that we’re working with other teams to get resolved.  You should see this fixed in the next couple months.

Power BI Report Server/SSRS

“can we share a .pbix report through emails?”

We aren’t planning to add subscription support for Power BI Reports in Power BI Report Server in the short term.

“Would love to hear about how RLS will be implemented to PBIRS.”

This work is well underway for the January 2019 release of Power BI Report Server.  It will be similar to what you do in the service today, where you set the roles in the desktop and assign users to those roles in the server through the web browser.

“And along the same lines, what about standard templates, such as headers/footers?”

This is an improvement we’d like to look at for the Power BI service as it relates to Paginated Reports, so we’d also look to bring it back to the on-prem product as well.

Looks like the other questions related these areas were all addressed either in the session or in the chat itself.  If you have additional questions, feel free to check the existing FAQ, or leave a comment in the blog comments below!

Download Paginated Report Bear’s sample paginated report for Power BI

image

Hi everyone, it’s guest blogger Paginated Report Bear!

Well, actually, Mr. Chris agreed to type for me since I don’t have fingers.  Anyways, if you watched my intro video, I promised you all I’d make a sample report and share it by the end of the week.  Since I always keep my promises (EDITOR NOTE: no he doesn’t), here is my first paginated report that you’re free to download and try out in Power BI!  It uses the Enter Data feature that was introduced a few months ago, so you can upload it as is into your Power BI (Premium) workspace and give it a try.  If you don’t have Premium capacity, use the steps in Mr. Chris’s last blog post to spin up a capacity and try it out yourself.  The report sample has a couple cool tricks in it, like dynamic images based on the parameter you select, so it might be a nice reference for you in the future.

I’ll be creating more samples and talking more about paginated reports in the future (or not, depending if my son gets tired of doing this).

Thanks for reading!

Paginated Report Bear Sample Report