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How to Create Content for a Power BI App Workspace

Scott Hietpas Scott Hietpas  |  
Feb 12, 2019
In each Power BI app workspace, you may have reports and data sets. If you want to create additional Power BI reports, then you can create them directly in the service. This is not recommended, as there are limitations to this approach. One of the larger limitations is that you won’t be able to export the report definition. If a report is created directly in the Power BI service, then the download option is disabled. Unfortunately, there's no way to get a copy of that report. If somebody edited the report in the service and deleted a bunch of things and saved it, then the old version is gone.
Therefore, a best practice for Power BI content creation is to always do your content creation in Power BI Desktop. If you are using Windows 10, the best way to get Power BI Desktop is to go to the Windows Store and search for Power BI Desktop. If you do that and install that version, then it will automatically stay up-to-date.

Managing Power BI Desktop files

As we just stated above, we want to do our work in Power BI Desktop. For those that have done custom software development, we know (as developers) there are many best practices around version control and where we keep the development files. With Power BI being self-service oriented, a lot of our business users may not have some of the same tools that developers do. If I had some local Power BI Desktop clouds on my local file system, then I could potentially take these individual files and check them in and out of version control. If I was disciplined enough to do that, that is a viable option.
However, I find that to be a little bit clunky, and it doesn't really apply to many business users. The best practice that we recommend as we train our clients is to leverage the OneDrive area that corresponds to the app workspace.

Utilizing OneDrive to Manage Power BI Desktop Files

If I click on my currently active workspace on the left side of the screen, I get a list of content that exists in this workspace. I can also view the other app workspaces I have access to. If I hover my mouse over one of the other app workspaces, I see an ellipsis to the right of the workspace’s name. Clicking this ellipsis, I can see some additional menu options.
The top four options in this menu take us to locations in the workspace’s corresponding Office 365 group. The option that I'm going to show you today is the Files area in that group. Clicking on Files takes me into the Office 365 files area for the group. Depending on what license you have, it may say Office 365, SharePoint, or OneDrive. At a minimum, you do need the most basic level of OneDrive to be able to leverage this capability. I believe the license is a minimal monthly fee. I highly recommend adding on the OneDrive functionality just for this purpose. By default, this would be empty.

Syncing the Directory

As a best practice, whenever I use this area to store files, I recommend syncing this directory to my local computer. By syncing the directory, I can now work with these files locally and access them with File Explorer. I open the files locally, save my changes when I’m done, and the changes are automatically synced with OneDrive. When I store my files here, any other content creators for the app workspace will also have access to these files. I can create a reports folder, and in this reports folder I can have the various Power BI Desktop files that I'm working with. Without syncing, if I were to attempt to work with these files directly in OneDrive, I would instead download the file, which goes to my downloads folder. If I make changes to the downloaded file and save my changes, technically I'm saving them in my local downloads folder. No one else can see my changes unless I re-upload the file to OneDrive.
If everybody in the app workspace goes to that corresponding file in OneDrive, and they sync it locally, then each of us can work locally and as we save changes, those changes will automatically sync to the other person’s local copy. It's a very effective way for us to collaborate and quickly build reports together. They can see all the content we are publishing to that app workspace. They don't have to manually download those reports. The other benefit, of course, is that we get built-in version control. As we collaborate, if we accidentally step on each other's toes, we can go back to a prior version and restore it. Now we can confidently make changes to any Power BI report.
If we follow this approach for all our app workspaces, then it's very easy to add new people to a workspace and have them quickly start contributing additional content.

Check out my other articles in this series:
  1. How Content Consumers Can Use Apps and Workspaces in Power BI
  2. How to Create Content for a Power BI App Workspace
  3. How to Retrieve Data from Excel Files and Other Data Sources in Power BI
  4. Useful Tips for Power BI Desktop
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