Microsoft is finally making the Power Query Editor available online as part of the Power BI Service at PowerBI.com. We look at the pre-requisites and current state of the Power Query Online Editor and explore what Microsoft has in planned for the future of Power Query.
Initially announced to little fanfare in the July 2023 Power BI Blog. It was briefly noted that Power Query was coming to the Power BI Service soon, but provided little detail as to which features will be included and when it would generally be available.
Fortunately, it’s available now as part of the Microsoft Fabric Preview.
The screenshot below is Microsoft’s initial implementation of Power Query Online. It’s available as part of the Microsoft Fabric Preview, which at the moment requires a couple of pre-requisites
Before diving in, it’s important to note that this is currently a preview feature. With all things Microsoft and Power BI everything is subject to change without notice.
How to Enable Microsoft Fabric and the Power Query Online Editor
To use the Power Query Online Editor, you first have to enable a Microsoft Fabric Trial Account. It’s currently free to try for the first 60 days.
Step 1.) Log Into PowerBI.com with your Microsoft Account.
Navigate to your personal account settings in the top right corner of PowerBI.com
Step 2.) When you click on it, a menu will appear where you can start a Fabric Trial.
If this option is not available to you, you may need to contact your Power BI admin and ask them to enable it for you.
Step 3.) Create a New Fabric Workspace
If you select Workspaces on the left side of PowerBI.com you can click a + New Workspace Button
Half way down the page click on advanced
This expands the different workspace and capacity types that you can create.
For the moment, you will have to choose Trial. In the future, you will choose Fabric Capacity or one will be created by your Power BI Administrator.
After this step, it will take a few moments for the new workspace to be created and for it to propgagate.
While you’re waiting for it to finish setting up, let’s briefly explore what Microsoft Fabric is.
What is Microsoft Fabric for Power BI?
Microsoft Fabric is an all-encompassing analytics platform designed to streamline data integration, engineering, and business intelligence by combining them into a single product. With a SaaS back-end, it provides Power BI developers with an integrated experience whether they are building pipelines, data flows, or reporting dashboards.
Fabric blends existing components from Power BI, Azure Synapse, Azure Data Lakehouses and Azure Data Factory into a single environment.
Key components of Microsoft Fabric beneficial for Power BI developers include:
- Data Engineering – Provides a robust Spark platform, enabling large scale, hyper fast data transformations
- Data Factory – Combines the simplicity of Power Query, familiar to Power BI developers, with Azure Data Factory’s power for a broad data source connectivity.
- Data Warehouse – Offers traditional SQL solutions and scalability
- Real-Time Analytics: Equips Power BI developers with the ability to analyze fast-growing observational data.
- Power BI: Developers can leverage Microsoft Fabric’s capabilities for efficient and easy access to data with centralized data governance policies to base reports and dashboards off of.
In a very simple way, Fabric combines a bunch of data engineering technologies that were historically only available in Azure and makes them available in the Power BI Workspace along with an updated online version of Power Query.
How to Launch Power Query Online for Power BI
To find Power Query Online in PowerBI.com there are a few steps that you have to take to navigate to it. We imagine that this will change over time and become easier to get to when the product comes out of preview mode.
Step 1.) Click On Create from the left side of the Power BI Service
Step 2. Click On “See All” under Other Items You Can Create with Microsoft Fabric
Step 3. Click On Dataflow Gen2 (Preview)
While this is a very confusing name, it will bring up a screen that looks like the Power Query editor available in Power BI Desktop.
The view of the Power Query Online Editor
In this screenshot we also have the Power Query Diagram View enabled which is only available in Power Query Online. It is a more modern view than the step by step list in Power BI Desktop and gives Power BI a feature that competes more directly with Tableau Prep.
What is the Future of Power Query Online?
Microsoft has provided minimal information regarding Power Query Online other than some notes that show up in various release wave plans or the Power BI blog.
Our expectation is that Microsoft will eventually discontinue Power BI Desktop.
With the ability to build reports and dashboards in the Power BI service based on existing datasets, adding in Power Query Online is a natural progression.
Microsoft also recently announced the availability of Power BI Paginated Reports for PowerBI.com as part of Microsoft Fabric.
All of these feature additions point to PowerBI.com being the future and the platform will completely operate under a SaaS model in the near future.
It’s likely a massive undertaking to convert all of the features of Power BI Desktop and Paginated Reports into an online service requiring massive re-writes of code. The Online Power Query editor also overlaps a decent amount with other technologies such as Azure Data Factory. By moving services online, Microsoft can save money by consolidating back-end technologies and eventually make it easier to deploy new features across business intelligence and data engineering use cases.
The convergence of Azure Synapse, Azure Data Factory, and Power BI under the Fabric umbrella sets Microsoft up for providing cutting edge business intelligence solutions for decades to come. While their nearest competitor, Tableau seems to have stopped most major developments on the platform after being purchased by Salesforce, Microsoft will have a fully integrated tech stack that enables central data governance from storage of the data, ETL pipelines, Power BI data sources, and ultimately end user reports.
Ultimately the consolidation should make it easier for developers to create reports quicker and the upgraded back-end will ensure that they load extremely fast.
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