How to Create a Power BI App

We know that Microsoft Power BI is a robust tool. But did you know that you can create your own Power BI App for you and your audience to use? And I’m not talking about the Power BI mobile application or mobile layout. A Power BI App is effectively a distributable user interface for a workspace’s reports that are packaged together in one screen that you can make available to anyone you want. 

What is a Power BI App?

A Power BI App is an interface where those with access can interact with reports in the same workspace. To most Power BI developers, the definition can sound very similar to what a workspace is. That said, let’s make the distinction between the two 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 solely to distribute reports from a single workspace in a single bundled UI.
Power BI Workspace screenshot

View of a Power BI Workspace

A screenshot of a Power BI App for 2019 regional sales report

View of a Power BI App

How to Create & Publish a 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 workspace that you want to create the app from, follow these steps. 

1. Toggle the Include in App button (located to the right of the report name) for the reports that you would like to include in the Power BI App. If you change your mind and want to add or exclude one in the future, you can easily come back to this view and re-toggle the button.

2. Click the Create App button in the top right corner of the workspace.

3. Fill out the Setup screen.

  • The App name will be displayed to the end-users and is how they will search for it.
  • The description is a required field and may provide context for users unfamiliar with the reports you are publishing.
  • The support site is not a required field, although if you have one you can paste a URL link to it here – for example, a team SharePoint.
  • Customize the app with a team logo and select a color if you want.
  • 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 being used to create the app.
a screenshot of the setup of a Power BI app
4. Complete the Navigation screen (get to this screen by clicking Navigation on the top) – this is how the side panel of the app which is used for navigating between the included reports is customized.
  • Leave the New Navigation Builder toggle to On as this is a new app.
  • In the Navigation section of this screen, select the order that the reports that 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 a way to structure the items in the app, much like a folder hierarchy on a desktop.
  • In the Reports Detail section, with a report selected, rename the item or leave it as is. If you created a Section, you can place the selected report into that section here.
a screenshot of the navigation screen of building a Power BI App
5. The last screen is the Permissions screen where access to the app is provisioned.
  • Anyone with access to the shared workspace where the reports are stored will have access to the app. If you want to provide additional users with access, input their name or email. If your organization allows it, you can also provide access to the entire organization, however, this is not recommended.
  • Check the appropriate user access settings for the 3 check-boxes for your particular use case.
A screenshot of the permissions window in building a Power BI App

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

7. To update the app by adding or removing reports or editing any of the settings, click the Update app button in the top right corner of the workspace view.

How to Distribute & Access Your Power BI App

Anyone with access to the shared workspace where the app content is stored, as well as any additional users that were given access in the app setup process will be able to use the app. To access the app, complete the following steps after logging in to 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. Search for your app by name in the popup window. 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 this is done 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.
gif showing how to search for an app in Power BI

Limitations of Power BI Apps

Although publishing a Power BI app can be incredibly useful, 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 and provision two separate workspaces and store the reports separately.
  • You cannot filter or slice data across reports 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 to another within the same app.

Closing

Power BI apps offer a one-stop-shop for users to access published content without needing to flip back and forth between multiple tabs or backtracking in a workspace to open a different report than they were initially on. This means that it’s easier for the end-user to find, access, and sue all of the relevant reports in a single location, instead of needing to remember the individual names and locations of all of the reports they use.

FAQs

Yes. Your Power BI app will automatically inherit the access privileges from the workspace. However, if there is an additional Azure Active Directory group you would like to give access to, simply add that group’s name to the Specific Individuals or Groups section of the Permissions screen.

Yes, from the workspace view, toggle the Include in App button associated with the dashboard to include it in your app.

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