I’ve previously written about what Power BI is and why it’s such a useful tool but I’m now going to look in more detail about connecting the data in other applications into Power BI so you can then work with it.
Notice that the data is not copied or imported but connected. This means that the data in Power BI is linking back to the original source. If the original source data changes the data in Power BI will too (with a quick refresh) and also anything that is built on this will in turn update. This is really powerful. No more issues of getting your data out of sync because it has been copied and forgetting to update it.
Where the data can be connected to is constantly growing with each monthly update of the software. Most common sources are now available as well as many that are more specific. Commonly used options include:
- SQL (Various options)
In total there are well over 120 at the time of writing. Some of these are beta so are still in testing.
How to connect
Either from the main screen when you first go into Power BI or from the icon on the ribbon choose Get Data. The option you select will determine the choices you have.
For example, if you are getting data from Excel it asks what sheet tab or range name you using. From csv/text you will need to choose the delimiter.
Copying data into Power BI
If the option to enter data is used you would think this is hard coded but it isn’t!! A connection is still created back to the original data.
The only way this can be overridden is to choose the option to enter data and manually type it in. The data still can’t be edited directly in the table but when you edit the query it can be. This cannot be done with any of the other methods previously mentioned.
The connection way of working prevents a lot of the issues that occur when data is repeatedly copied and when the original data is changed not all the copies are updated consistently. You can end up not know which set of data is the correct one.