Power BI and Paginated Reports – beyond usual use

A lot of customers are asking me what are the differences between Power BI and Paginated Reports, why should they use one OR the other. My answer is mostly: It’s not one OR the other, why not combine and get the most out of both worlds?! I suggest in many cases that Power BI can be used as interactive dashboard “entry-tool” for end users to analyze dynamically their data. But once a pixel-perfect report should be created as PDF (it’s mostly PDF so we’re going to focus on this format) Paginated Reports are simply better. So why not creating a button within your Power BI report to take all the selected filters automatically and create out-of-the-box a Paginated Report PDF print-out? Most customers are first wondering that this kind of scenarios are possible and of course wondering how it can be done. Let me walk you through how to add such a button within a Power BI report in this blog post.

Prerequisites

  • Power BI Report
  • Paginated Report
  • Power BI Desktop
  • Power BI Report Builder (recommended)
  • Power BI Premium / Power BI Premium per User / Power BI Embedded
  • Basic understanding of both worlds

I already have a Power BI and a Paginated Report ready to combine it. If you’re not familiar how to create a Paginated Report or from where to get a simple demo file I can highly recommend the Power BI Paginated Reports in a Day Course. In this course you’ll learn the differences between Power BI and Paginated Reports, how to start and build your first report, and how to publish it afterwards to Power BI.

Further Paginated Reports are only supported with Premium. Therefore you will need a Power BI Premium capacity, Premium per Use license, or Power BI Embedded.

How to

The very first thing we need to do is to publish our Paginated Report to Power BI to get the unique ID of the report from the Service. In my case I open the RDL file with Power BI Report Builder and publish it to a workspace backed up with a PPU license. I name it Sales Analysis.

Once done the report will be available in Power BI Service. If we open it we’ll see the URL pointing to our specific workspace with a unique ID (1a8b6910-c4a2-4611-ae75-5d0b968eb6d3) and pointing to our Sales Analysis Paginated Report which has as well a unique ID (66a1a70a-89cf-4d48-80c1-39d766f9892b). This means we can use this URL to get to our just published Paginated Report.

If we check the Microsoft Documentation about Power BI and how the URL is build (see https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-bi/paginated-reports/report-builder-url-parameters) we see that the URL can be enhanced to provide values for parameters, to provide commands to get a specific format, and many more. So before building something in our Power BI report let’s try the URL to understand what’s possible.

Let’s first try to give a value to the parameter. To initialize a parameter we have to add “?rp:parametername=value”. In our case the internal parameter name of the Paginated Report is called DateFiscalYear and can be checked in Power BI Report Builder. Checking the properties we also see that the parameter is a data type text.

If we’re looking for possible values we can check the “Available Values” and see if a query is used or something is hardcoded within the parameter settings. Alternatively we can also open the Report in Power BI Service and check the drop down list of the Parameter. If we do so we can see that following values are expected.

Let’s try to build the URL now with what we got so far:

URL to Reporthttps://msit.powerbi.com/groups/1a8b6910-c4a2-4611-ae75-5d0b968eb6d3/rdlreports/66a1a70a-89cf-4d48-80c1-39d766f9892b
Initializing Parameter?rp:
Parameter NameDateFiscalYear
Parameter ValueFY2019
Whole URLhttps://msit.powerbi.com/groups/1a8b6910-c4a2-4611-ae75-5d0b968eb6d3/rdlreports/66a1a70a-89cf-4d48-80c1-39d766f9892b?rp:DateFiscalYear=FY2019

If we call the URL now the parameter is automatically set to FY2019 and the report is loaded.

Let’s go further and try to get a PDF automatically. To do so we only need to add “&rdl:format=PDF” at the end of our URL. The “&” symbol combines different commands and to get a PDF automatically the rdl:format=PDF is necessary. Therefore our whole URL looks now as following:

https://msit.powerbi.com/groups/1a8b6910-c4a2-4611-ae75-5d0b968eb6d3/rdlreports/66a1a70a-89cf-4d48-80c1-39d766f9892b?rp:DateFiscalYear=FY2019&rdl:format=PDF

If we call this URL Power BI will automatically generate a PDF.

So far so good! Now that we understand how the URL of a Paginated Report works and how we can modify it let’s try to implement it in our Power BI Report.

After opening the Power BI Report in Power BI Desktop we can add a simply DAX measure with our hardcoded URL to call the Paginated Report.

Paginated Report URL = “https://msit.powerbi.com/groups/1a8b6910-c4a2-4611-ae75-5d0b968eb6d3/rdlreports/66a1a70a-89cf-4d48-80c1-39d766f9892b?rp:DateFiscalYear=FY2019&rdl:format=PDF”

Once added make sure to mark it as Data Category Web URL.

If we add now the measure to our report we see our hardcoded URL. If we click on it the Paginated Report will open. Unfortunately it’s not “connected” with our Power BI Report so far. Meaning if I change the Slicer for example to FY2020 the URL will still point to FY2019. Let’s fix this with some DAX magic.

I add a new Measure to get the selected value of the slicer. In this case I use following formula:

Selected Fiscal Year = SELECTEDVALUE(‘Date'[Fiscal Year])

Now I just replace the hardcoded FY2019 from the first Measure with my second Measure. The DAX Measure looks now as following:

Paginated Report URL = “https://msit.powerbi.com/groups/1a8b6910-c4a2-4611-ae75-5d0b968eb6d3/rdlreports/66a1a70a-89cf-4d48-80c1-39d766f9892b?rp:DateFiscalYear=” & KPIs[Selected Fiscal Year] & “&rdl:format=PDF”

Now every time I select another FY my URL will automatically adopt. That’s very simple with a single selection but what if I wish to have a multi selection, will it still work? Let’s try it out. But before testing the URL we need to make sure the Slicer is enabled for Multi Selection as well as the Parameter in our Paginated Report. Therefore I change the settings of both.

Don’t forget to republish the Paginated Report once the Property has been modified.

Let’s test our URL now in Power BI if we select two FY. I added the Paginated Report URL Measure into a Table visual to see it and select two different FY. Unfortunately the URL do not show both years, even worse it just disappeared. The reason behind is that the SELECTEDVALUE function expects one value.

Luckily we can also give an alternative to the SELECTEDVALUE function in which we can concatenate multiple values. To make sure we got the each value just once we need to use the DISTINCT function as well. Our Selected Fiscal Year Measure looks now as following.

Selected Fiscal Year = SELECTEDVALUE(‘Date'[Fiscal Year], CONCATENATEX(DISTINCT(‘Date'[Fiscal Year]), ‘Date'[Fiscal Year]))

Unfortunately it combines now FY2019 and FY2020 into one string and the URL contains now FY2019FY2020 which will not work. Even if we separate the two fiscal years with a comma or something else it will still not work as Paginated Report will recognize it as one value (e.g. “FY2019, FY2020” is one value and the report will not load). Therefore we need to add for each value the parameter again like in the Documentation described (see https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-bi/paginated-reports/report-builder-url-parameters#url-access-syntax). The syntax looks as following:

powerbiserviceurl?rp:parametername=value&rp:parametername=value

In our case this means we have to have rp:DateFiscalYear=FY2019&rp:DateFiscalYear=FY2020 after the question mark. Let’s adjust our Selected Fiscal Year Measure to get the right URL needed. If we closely look to the syntax we see that the Delimiter can be specified. We’re going to use this and add “&rp:DateFiscalYear=”. In this case every time two ore more values are selected the values will be separated with the right expression. Our final DAX measure looks now as following:

Selected Fiscal Year = SELECTEDVALUE(‘Date'[Fiscal Year], CONCATENATEX(DISTINCT(‘Date'[Fiscal Year]), ‘Date'[Fiscal Year], “&rp:DateFiscalYear=”))

We can also see that the URL is changing dynamically based on the FY selection. If we click now on the URL the Paginated Report will open with the two FY selected and print out a PDF automatically.

Our last step is now to create a button in our Power BI Report and publish it afterwards.

In my case I choose the Pentagon Row shape and add it into my report. Of course you can modify it as wished or even use a visual instead of a shape / button to achieve the same result (open the paginated report).

Position the shape and configure it as needed. Lastly modify the Action property, set the Type to Web URL and configure our DAX Measure to be used as Web URL.

Now just publish the Power BI Report and use the button to open the Paginated Report based on your Slicer selection in Power BI.

Conclusion

As we see we can use Power BI as entry point and use it to set filters to open a Paginated Report afterwards. Due to the flexibility of the Paginated Report URL we can also specify in which format the report should be exported. This could also be a dynamic selection in Power BI. There are further integration possibilities thanks to the Paginated Report Visual in Power BI to display a Paginated Report directly in Power BI.

Please let me know if this post was helpful and give me some feedback. Also feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

If you’re interested in the files used in this blog check out my GitHub repo https://github.com/PBI-Guy/blog This time I’ll provide only the PBIT file not containing the data as well not providing the User and Password. Thanks for understanding.

Show “secured” Images in Power BI

Use Case

From time to time I got asked how you can display images in Power BI. The answer is pretty simple and straight forward (see https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-bi/create-reports/power-bi-images-tables) if the image is publicly available. But customers can’t expose their internal pictures to the public and still want to display them in Power BI. The issue is with “secured” images that the Power BI visual can’t log in with an account to be able to display it. So how can you still save your images in a secured environment and still display them in Power BI? Let’s check it out.

I tried different ways and found two that work. One would be to get the binaries of each image, transform it to a text field and display afterwards with a custom visual the image. This solution has a big “but” from my point of view. Because the text field has a 32766 character limit you would either have to resize your image or you have to do some Power Query and DAX magic to split the field into multiple ones and add them afterwards together again. Chris Webb wrote a blog how this could be done here: https://blog.crossjoin.co.uk/2019/05/19/storing-large-images-in-power-bi-datasets/

As good as this solution might be I would like to find an easy, low-code / no-code way to achieve the same. And luckily there is one!

Power Apps & Power BI – Better Together

Because Power BI is part of the Power Platform and Microsoft offers a seamless integration into the other Services (and vice versa) let’s leverage the benefits of it and try to display our images through a Power Apps app in Power BI.

Prerequisites

To be able to implement the solution you would need a few things:

  • Power BI Desktop
  • Power BI Service Account (optionally)
  • Power Apps Account
  • SharePoint Document Library with pictures

The Power BI Desktop can be downloaded for free through the Power BI website. Power Apps is included in different licensing options like E3 or E5. In our case we’re going to use a SharePoint Connector which is a Standard Power Apps connector meaning no additional licensing is needed. If you don’t have a Power Apps license yet you can sign up for a Developer Plan and use to for development purpose. Keep in mind that you can’t share your apps created with a Dev. Plan nor can you show Power Apps apps in Power BI coming from this specific environment.

How to

We start in Power BI Desktop and connect to our SharePoint list to get a few basic details. I’ll not guide you through how to connect to a SharePoint Document Library. These details can be found here. In my case I have a simple Document Library with some Star Wars picture.

In Power BI I connect to the Document Library and get only the ID, Notes, Created, Modified, and ServerRelativeURL fields. You can of course select more or less fields but make sure you get the ID which will be needed later on in the Power Apps app.

Once loaded I create a simple Table visual with the three fields ID, Notes, and ServerRelativeURL to display some data. As a next step I add the Power Apps Visual to my canvas and position it to the right. Once you added the Power Apps Visual you’ll see the necessary steps how to get started.

So let’s do our first step and add our wished fields to the data section of the visual. This fields can be accessed later on through Power Apps. Make sure to add the Id field and also check that it doesn’t summarize! The behavior (Sum, Count, etc.) will be provided to Power Apps and we don’t want to summarize our Ids. As soon as you add your first field the Power Apps visual will change where you can choose and existing app or create a new one. In our case we’re going to create a new one. A window will pop up asking if it’s ok to open your browser with the Power Apps URL. Hit OK.

Tip: If you’re facing some issues while opening Power Apps or you can’t choose your environment through the Visual, open Power Apps in your default browser, choose your environment in the browser, switch back to Power BI and try to hit the “Create New” button again.

Once Power Apps is loaded you’ll see an object call “PowerBIIntegration” (besides some others). This object has been automatically created through Power BI and makes sure that Power BI and Power Apps can interactive with each other. This means for example if you select now a specific image to filter the same filter will also apply in Power Apps. That’s the reason why you have to start from Power BI and create an App from there. Otherwise the “PowerBIIntegration” object will not be created.

Let’s quickly test if the integration really works. I select the Baby Yoda picture in Power BI and the list is automatically filtered in Power Apps – great!

Our next goal is now to show the Images from SharePoint in our Power Apps app and make sure the integration still works (filter on a specific image in Power BI should also filter the Image in our app). Therefore we first have to create a connection to our SharePoint list. To do so go to the Data Tab in Power Apps and add SharePoint as data source.

If you haven’t created a connection yet hit the “Add a connection” button. In my case I can choose an existing one.

Afterwards choose your Site and Document Library in which you stored your pictures. In my case I have a Doc Library called PBI Guy Pictures. I select it and hit “Connect”.

Now that we’re connected to our Doc Library we can display the images out of it. To do so insert a Gallery. I choose a vertical one but the layout can be modified afterwards as well.

Once inserted I adjust the two Galleries so that our freshly inserted one is at the top and at the bottom I display the first Gallery. Per default our new Gallery shows default text and images. We have to connect our Gallery to our SharePoint Doc Library and than decide what we wish to display. So let’s connect it by selecting the Gallery and set the Data source through the Properties pane.

Our next step is to display the right image. Select the first image object in the Gallery and choose the “Items” property either on top left of the screen or find it in the properties pane in the Advanced section.

Replace “SampleImage” with ThisItem.’Link to item’ to create the link to our needed image.

You can also modify the view of the Gallery, add new fields into it, etc. but in my case I just want to display my notes with the ID together. Therefore I select the ID Text Box and change the code in the function window from ThisItem.ID to ThisItem.ID & ” ” & ThisItem.Notes

Our last step is to create a connection between our SharePoint Gallery and the “Power BI Gallery” from the beginning so that filters from Power BI will effect our SharePoint Gallery as well. The best way to do so is to filter the new Gallery by an ID to make sure we got that one specific image we’re looking for. That’s the reason why we need our ID field from the beginning! 🙂

To filter the new Gallery select it and choose the Items property. In my case I see ‘PBI Guy Pictures’. This is the whole table we have to filter and making sure that only the selected ID is showing up. Therefore we wrap our Table with a Filter() statement. Our first argument in the filter statement is the ‘PBI Guy Pictures’ table. Our second argument is the filter condition which should point the ID field from Power BI to the ID field of SharePoint. Therefore we use the PowerBIIntegration object to grab the necessary data. Unfortunately this is a Table Data Type and we can’t match Table with a single Number Data Type. To get a single value I extract just the first value of the whole table with the First() statement followed with the column I’m looking for (ID in this case). Our whole function looks now as following: Filter(‘PBI Guy Pictures’, First([@PowerBIIntegration].Data).Id = ID) And I immediately see that it works! Previously I selected Baby Yoda and now only this picture is showing up.

As a last step I want to make sure the first Gallery is not visible in my app. So I select the first Gallery and set the Visible property to false.

Of course you can now modify your app and make it more shiny but just for the demo purpose I save it as it is now through File, Save. Once done the App is ready to be used in Power BI as well and the cross-filter works!

If you wish to share the report make sure all users have also access to the Power Apps app and the SharePoint Library. Otherwise people won’t be able to see the pictures in their report.

Please let me know if this post was helpful and give me some feedback. Also feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

If you’re interested in the files used in this blog check out my GitHub repo https://github.com/PBI-Guy/blog This time I’ll provide only the PBIT file not containing the data as well not providing the User and Password. Thanks for understanding.