Power BI Apps are easy to create from existing reports and have several key advantages over workspaces such as the ability to consolidate reports for different audiences, ability to deploy outside of workspaces, and more user friendly than the traditional list of report links available on a workspace.
Power BI Apps let users integrating multiple reports and dashboards into a single cohesive experience by packaging them together. Once packaged, you can further curate the experience by creating different views for different audiences making them easier to manage and share. Apps are a great compliment to the traditional workspace experience.
Let’s dive in!
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Why You Should Consider Using Power BI Apps
The first thing to be aware of is that Apps are completely optional to deploy. There are many organizations that choose to control data access at the Workspace level of the Power BI Service. Reports are published from Power BI Desktop to a Workspace, and users are added to the Workspace.
However, as organizations grow audiences can become more niche. It’s not always practical or desirable to give people access to every report that’s been published to a Workspace, and there may even be people outside of a workspace that still have a need to view data.
In these scenarios, Power BI Apps can be utilized to improve the amount of control you have over who sees which reports, and also improves end user experience by giving them a single place to see the information that’s relevant to them.
Before we go into how to build an App, let’s backup a moment and quickly explain the difference between a Power BI Report, Workspace and App.
What is a Power BI Workspace?
A Power BI Workspace is a collaborative environment within Microsoft’s Power BI Service AKA PowerBI.com where users create, manage, and share business different Power BI reports, datasets, and dashboards. The workspace is a shared space that allows teams to work together.
The following is an example of a Workspace on PowerBI.com
Users or User Groups can be added to the Workspace and once they’re added they can access all of the reports, dashboards, and datasets that are available. Security roles are assigned to each user that determine whether they can add, modify, or only view the reports and dashboards on the workspace.
What is a Power BI App?
A Power BI App is a packaged collection of dashboards and reports that is published from a workspace in the Power BI service. Designed for easy consumption, apps provide end-users with a simplified and focused experience of data analysis, allowing for effective sharing and controlled access within and across teams.
Power BI Workspaces Can Only Have One App
Each Power BI Workspace is designed to be associated with a single Power BI App. This means that any reports or dashboards that you want to have displayed inside of your Power BI App have to already be published to a workspace. The one key difference is that App viewers do not necessarily have to have access to your workspace.
How to Create a Power BI App Step by Step
Creating a Power BI App involves a series of steps designed to package your reports and dashboards into a shareable and user-friendly application. By following these steps, you can ensure that your Power BI App is accessible, intuitive, and valuable to your intended audience.
- Create a New App – Starting from a workspace, click on Create App.
- Choose Workspace Content – Select the reports and dashboards you wish to include.
- App Configuration – Set up the app’s details, such as name, description, and navigation options.
- Permission Settings – Decide who in your organization will have access to the app.
- Publish – Once configured and reviewed, publish the app for your audience.
Here’s how in more detail:
Creating a New Power BI App
To create a new app, first navigate to a workspace containing the reports and dashboards you want to package. From the workspace on PowerBI.com click on Create App above the list of reports and datasets.
Note: Not everyone who has access to a workspace will have access to create an app.
Select the Reports and Dashboards to Include in the App
After choosing to create an App, you will be prompted to fill out some information such as a description of the app, add a custom App Icon and adjust a few other settings. Then you will be able to add content. The content that’s available will be the reports and dashboards that have already been published to the workspace.
The reports and dashboards you add make them available in the App. However, in the next step you will curate the audiences and assign the user groups of who is able to see the specific reports.
Adjust the Audience Visibility of Each Report
After adding reports and dashboards to your app, the next step is setting the visibility. By default, all reports will be visible to anybody that the app is shared with. You can toggle visibility on and off by clicking on the eye icon to the right of each report or dashboard name.
Note: As of writing you can only control visibility at the report or dashboard level. If you enable visibility then the audience will be able to see all of the pages. Ther is no capability to control who can see individual pages, it is either all or nothing.
Managing Power BI App Audiences and Assign Users
To further curate the Power BI App experience, you can add additional audiences. Click the Add Audience button at the top, then assign people to the audience. When you have the audience selected you can check or uncheck visibility settings to control who sees which reports and dashboards.
Managing Power BI App audiences is critical for ensuring that the right people have access to the right business intelligence content. By controlling who can see and interact with your app, you maintain data security and relevance.
Microsoft also publishes more detail on how to publish Power BI Apps and Manage Audiences. It’s worth a read for some of the nuanced detail and niche settings that are available.
Publish the New Power BI App
When you are finished setting up the Power BI app and audiences, click on publish. A screen will appear giving you the ability to publish an app based on a URL. This step is optional but can be a convenient way to send an e-mail notifying users that a new app is available.
Once published, the app will be available for you to review.
Review the App
After the app is published, you will be taken to a version of the published app. You can also click on the App button from the Power BI Service on the left side of the screen to add it to your available apps, or you can navigate back to the workspace and view the app from there.
In our example above, we have multiple reports and dashboards assigned to the app along with a custom color theme.
Note: The Power BI App theme colors are customizable and selected during the creation process, and can later be edited from the workspace as well.
How to Give Power BI Apps a Custom Icon
To enhance recognition and branding, Power BI allows publishers to assign custom icons to their apps. This visual customization helps users quickly identify the app and can align with the company’s branding. Custom icons are assigned when creating an app, or you can edit an existing app from the workspace.
Images must be less than 45kb and will automatically be reduced in size.
Once you save the settings, the logo will propagate throughout the Power BI Service. We recommend assigning a logo to most apps as it makes them easier to see in a list that can get crowded as you gain access to more Power BI apps.
How to Add Power BI Apps
To add apps to your instance of Power BI, navigate to the Apps button on the left side of PowerBI.com after logging in. The apps icon looks like four small squares. Once selected, press the Get Apps button in the upper right corner.
You’ll then be brought to a screen where you can select apps to be visible in your Apps list. Organizational Apps are ones that are specific to your company that have been published, which you have access to. However, there are also a number of public apps that have been created by companies which can be useful, and also can give you some good ideas of app and dashboard layouts to use in your own report development.
After adding apps, they will be available in your Apps section. Each Apps list is curated to only show the apps that you have access to.
When viewing a Power BI App, it is not strictly necessary for users to have access to the underlying reports. Power BI Apps package the content in a way that allows users to interact with the information presented within the app without the need to access individual reports or datasets directly.
How to Install Power BI Apps Automatically
For an organization-wide adoption of Power BI Apps, administrators can set up apps to be installed automatically for the intended users. This feature ensures that all relevant personnel have immediate and hassle-free access to the business intelligence content they need. If this setting is enabled on the Power BI Tenant level and turned on in the App report settings, users will have Apps pushed to them instead of having to manually add them to their App page.
How to Edit an Existing Power BI App
If you need to adjust a previously published Power BI App, go to the workspace that the App was published from and click on the Update App button at the top of the page. Once clicked, Power BI will launch the App editor, the same wizard used to create the app.
Power BI App updates are automatically pushed out to the audience, there is no need for them to refresh the app after changes have been made.
How to Delete Power BI Apps
To delete a Power BI App after it has been published, navigate to the Workspace that the Power BI App was published from. The click the three dots … on the top navigation bar of the workspace. A drop down menu will appear where you can select Unpublish App which effectively deletes it.
Because each workspace can only have one app at a time, you can either create one, edit one, or unpublish one. If an app is unpublished, it resets to the default state of the workspace, meaning that you cannot undo it and would have to create the app again from the beginning.
Opening Power BI Apps in Power BI Desktop
Power BI Apps can only be created, edited and shared from PowerBI.com. Because they are based on content previously published to a workspace, there is no method to open a Power BI App and edit it in Power BI Desktop. To edit underlying App content, developers would need to update the report or dashboard that is linked to the app.
Power BI Apps are an incredibly useful addition to the Power BI ecosystem. Apps are built off of reports and dashboards that have previously been published to a Power BI workspace and give you a way to combine them into a single package. You can further curate that package by creating different audiences that have access to different underlying reports.
Once an App is published, it can be shared outside of the traditional workspace. Meaning that you can give people access to individual reports, or groups of reports without giving them access to an entire workspace allowing Power BI developers to create once and re-use a report many times.