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Michele_Zanoni Frequent Visitor
Frequent Visitor

Switching to Power BI, feasible?

Hello all,


I write to ask a few questions about switching from a current product we develop in Visual Basic to Power BI.


We work on data generated by an automatic inspection machine. Every time a product passes through, the data are stored in a dedicated database. What we offer right now is this: at a certain time of the day a pdf report is generated and sent via mail, with information concerning the previous day of production. The software is right now written in Visual Basic but we would like to switch to Power BI. These are the three main topics:

  1. Automatically generate the report. From what we have seen, it’s not possible to generate automatically a report/dashboard, but if the refresh of data is scheduled daily, if new data are present, those subscribed to the report/dashboard will receive notification. Is it correct? We would like the data to be relative to only the prior day. Time and day are fields of the database so we can use them to filter. Can this be obtained using a slicer? Can the filtering be dynamic with the report having the concept of “now”, or will it need to be done manually every time?
  2. Sharing the report. From what we have seen, if all those that are supposed to receive the report subscribe to the report/dashboard and have an account of Power BI Pro, they will receive notification when the data are refreshed with a link. That is comparable to what we have now. Are there better solutions? Is it possible to have a notification sent not only when the data are refreshed but also when some events occur, like an user clicking a button?
  3. We tried to print out a report/dashboard but we couldn’t figure out the best way. We can actually print the report but we are not sure our clients will be able to do so when they receive a dashboard update notification. Is it possible to share reports with the clients and ease their printing of it? What’s the best practice in this case?
ibarrau Established Member
Established Member

Re: Switching to Power BI, feasible?

Hi there. Let's see, there is a lot to answer. Hope i can help on all the questions.


1- There no way to generate dinamically a report. The correct way is to make one, schedule refresh and share with users. You can suscribe to receive a notification on the first update of the day. That is not really needed if the business know there are schedule because they know the time they have data updated. If the requirement is the pdf or png of the mail you can go to the report or dashboard and print like pdf.

    The date can have relative filters in order to fullfill your requirement on getting the concept of today (i don't think will work on hours, the relative filters can get to day). The filter is set one time, you don't need to get it manually everytime.


2- My suggets is that the best solution to small cases is to buy pro accounts. When your organization is growing to, let's say, 500 licences, then you can check Power Bi Premium solutions. Yes and No. No you can't capture button event, but yes you can have notifications of other things like getting a number > 500 on a label. Some tiles on the Dashboards can configure notifications on several conditions.


3- I think that if the customer receive a notification is because they have a pro account. If so, then I wouldn't recommend printing unless is extremely necessary, because Power BI Service is so much confortable to check information for customers having the data quickly on pc, mobile, etc. If the papper is mandatory, the nicest and easiest visual to "print" is the png of the suscription you get on mail. I think is more pretty than the dashboard print. 



Chas2002 Member

Re: Switching to Power BI, feasible?

Hi Michele,


Power BI is free to try so it’s worth the effort to test your product for design and functionality.


I’m new to PowerBI, I’ve been working with it since January and I’ll list Power Bi constraints that have caused me headaches.


  1. Power BI does not support export to .pdf. From what I can tell, Power BI’s reports and dashboards are meant to be visually consumed. You can print but you only print 1 page at a time (basically, you’re printing what you see). You can export to excel/csv but if you’re sub or grand totaling within the Power BI report, those sub or grand totals do not export.
  2. Power BI does not allow TEXT on dashboard tiles.
  3. Power BI doesn’t work well with TEXT on tooltips.
  4. Power BI doesn’t natively work with duration/time, i.e., hh:mm:ss. If you’re dealing with seconds and duration, you have to convert seconds to hh:mm:ss using your vb code and dumping the result into a new field or you have to create a DAX measure to convert seconds to hh:mm:ss. If you’re aggregating hh:mm:ss you have to write DAX measures to accomplish the task.

Having said all the above, I finally got everything (except .pdf/printing) to work the way I wanted. It required a deep dive into DAX, measures, conditional columns but it was worth it as I’ve learned a lot in a short amount of time.


With respect to your questions:


Answer to Q1: It’s not that Power BI generates a report – It imports data into a ready-made report that you would design in Power BI Desktop. As far as email notification – notifications are triggered via a dashboard alert – I don’t think there’s a native ‘new data present’ alert – so you would have to create a trigger of some sort to aggregate when new data is present.  Date fields are easy to slice on your reports.  Time fields are tricky as slicers have difficulty working with Before, Between, After with TIME fields.  You can use the concept of NOW using Date for a slicer, but you have to create conditional columns to apply to the slicer.


Answer to Q2: You can share your report with users via a link sent via email.  However, as far as I know (again I’m new to this) there isn’t a native ‘new data present’ link sent when the dataset is refreshed.  My users simply open the report and manually refresh when needed.


Answer to Q3: My project allows for some awesome filtering to quickly analyze data in the report – however I’ve never found a good solution for printing the report.