How to add Comments to Power BI Reports

Adding comments to published Power BI reports is a great way to collaborate between report viewers, developers and people who are generating the source information. Once a Power BI report is published to PowerBI.com readers can add comments, tag users, and get answers about the reports while interacting with and viewing them.

Adding comments to a Power BI report can be done with the comments panel on the Power BI Service

Microsoft has made a significant push in recent years to improve integration between different parts of the Microsoft ecosystem. When adding comments to a Power BI report, viewers have the ability to tag users who are notified of the comments in Microsoft Teams or you can fully integrate low-code Power Apps directly into a report for advanced write-back and data capture. We’ll explain how both methods work.

Let’s jump in!

Pre-Requisites for Adding Comments to Power BI

It’s important to recognize that comments can only be added to published Power BI Reports. This means that a report has to be pushed from Power BI Desktop, where reports are created to PowerBI.com and assigned to a workspace. Workspaces are collaborate environments within PowerBI.com that typically have multiple reports assigned to them along with team members, or groups of people.

Once people have access to the workspace, they can open the report and add comments. One of the implications of this is also that users who view the report, and want to add comments will at least need to have a Power BI Pro license or an enterprise account that utilizes Power BI Premium Capacity.

Adding Comments to Power BI Reports

To add comments to a published Power BI report, open the report from the Power BI Service, at PowerBI.com. Navigate to the page in question and click on the Comment Button in the top right corner. A comment panel will appear where you can add notes and tag people with questions.

The comment panel is enabled or disabled with the comment icon in the top right corner of a Power BI Report.

Screenshot of the comments button in a published Power BI Report

Comments can be added by typing into the comment box that appears. These notes are saved to the Power BI report and can later be referenced by others. Use the @ symbol and a person’s name to tag them into the conversation.

Close up of the comments panel on the Power BI Service

When a comment is created, Power BI automatically takes a snapshot called a bookmark to save the specific filters, slicers, and view of the report when you are looking at it. This allows other users to view the data in the same view that you are asking questions or adding comments about it.

Adding Comments to Specific Visuals

As an alternative to adding comments to a report page in Power BI, you can click on the three dots when you hover over a visual with your mouse and select “Add a Comment”. This automatically launches the comments panel and ties the comment to a specific visual.

Example of adding a comment directly to a specific visual in Power BI

Tagging functionality, comments, threads and posts work the same as with adding comments to a page of a report.

Tagging People and Notifications

When adding a comment with the syntax @UserName in a Power BI report, the person will receive a notification to their e-mail. This alerts them that you have questions or there is an action item related to a Power BI report. If you have ever tagged someone in an e-mail using Outlook, the process is very similar and a way to keep track of action items.

Enabling Write Back with Power Apps

To write data back to a Power BI Report in a way that is more robust than adding comments, Power BI developers can embed a Power App into their report. PowerApps are a low-code platform for building advanced web forms and mobile apps connected to Excel, SharePoint Lists or other data sources.

Embedding PowerApps into Power BI Reports is a two-step process as they’re typically stand alone pieces of software from Microsoft with their own licensing requirements even though they’re part of the Power Platform which also includes Power Automate, a process automation tool.

First, you have to build a Power BI Report. Second, you have to build a Power App each independent of each other. Then you bring them together by placing the Power App inside of a Power BI Report.

The following video from Guy in a Cube goes into more detail about using Power Apps and Power BI together.

Power App integration can be a great way to give people a way to ask questions or collect other forms of data at the same time they’re viewing a report.

Limitations of Power Apps and Power BI Integration

Integrating a Power App with a Power BI report can enable write-back to a Power BI dataset directly from the Power BI interface which is typically a read only environment. However, there are a number of limitations you should be aware of before investing a lot of time into Power App deployment.

Power BI won’t immediately refresh with new data.

Reports published to PowerBI.com are typically set to refresh based on a schedule or specific time of day when using Import mode. This means that any data written to a data set using a Power App won’t be available until Power BI has its next scheduled refresh. Direct Import mode can be used, but there can be additional licensing costs with Power Apps connected to a SQL database or other common live source of data.

Power Apps must be connected to a data source that is shared with Power BI

Users will need the ability to write to a data set, such as a SharePoint list or Excel spreadsheet saved to OneDrive. This can be managed with groups or through other methods, but it is another part of a report to manage access to above the regular Power BI workspace or Row Level Security (RLS)

Power Apps require an additional license for viewers to use above a Power BI Premium license.

Because Power Apps are a separate product from Power BI the apps have to be licensed separately from a Power BI report. Power Apps allow writing to Excel, SharePoint and the Dataverse without additional licensing costs but SQL server connections typically require premium connectors that have costs associated with them.

Power Apps development is not user friendly or intuitive.

The biggest drawback to using the Power App platform is how difficult they are to create. The app builder is not intuitive, apps are generally bad at scaling between different screen sizes, and formatting an app to your liking can be a frustrating time-consuming process.

Power Apps are still worth trying.

Even with the limitations of the product, we still recommend people give it a try. We have seen experienced Power Apps developers create beautiful solutions that work quite well. However, we would caution people new to the platform to set aside a decent amount of time to learn it, utilize premade templates whenever possible, and start with modest expectations.

Add Notes to Reports to Avoid Comments

Sometimes the best comment is no comment at all. When developing Power BI reports, invest time in adding information to commonly asked questions directly into the report.

For reports where there are many viewers across departments or in large organizations it can be beneficial to add notes, disclaimers, and instructions directly into published reports so they know who to contact with questions. It’s fairly common that the report developer and the people generating the data behind the report who are best suited to explain it are not in the same department. For example, a Business Intelligence Developer might work in IT and build reports based on data generated by the Accounting Department.

Conclusion

Adding comments to a Power BI report is quick and easy using the comments panel with a published report. Use the @ symbol and a person’s name to tag them into the conversation. They’ll receive a notification in their e-mail as a prompt to follow-up.

A common solution to collect data from a Power BI Report is to embed a Power App. Power Apps are a low-code app development platform from Microsoft that supports direct embedding into Power BI. They can be extremely useful, but we caution people new to Power Apps to have modest expectations and start with a simple form due to the complexity of the platform.

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