External Tools In Power BI Desktop & Their Use Cases


Planning to learn Microsoft Analytics & Visualization tool, Power BI? Then, you are at the right place. Today we will discuss External Tools in Power BI Desktop. This blog would really help you understand the external tools. We have also added Use cases for the best explanation.

Introduction to External Tools in Power BI Desktop

There is a lot of buzz around External Tools in the analytics market. The market is very up & everyone wants to learn various tools. Everyone wants to get that edge in their career.

But for that, one should have enough knowledge like which is the next tool in the list now.

What are External Tools in Power BI Desktop

Since July 2020, External Tools have become better integrated with Power BI Desktop. These external tools are third-party tools (not supported by Microsoft). These tools are based on Microsoft-supported .NET libraries.

The libraries are provided by Microsoft and can modify the Power BI model.

After January 2021 Power BI update, external tools have enough capability to deploy and edit models published on Power BI Premium through XMLA endpoints. These tools are more suitable for large and complex enterprise-level projects.

How to get External Tools in Power BI Desktop

Let’s about Power BI Desktop Environment. Apart from the 6 options available in the ribbon, one more option is External Tools.

External tools are installed locally and registered with Power BI Desktop. We can launch them through the External Tools ribbon in the Power BI Desktop. The tool then automatically connects and provides a seamless connection experience.

List of External Tools in Power BI Desktop

The list of these external tools is very long. Look at the list divided into some of the categories here.

a) Tools used for Semantic Modeling

DAX Studio, ALM Toolkit, Tabular Editor, Metadata Translator.

b) Tools used for Data Analysis

Power BI Report Builder, Excel, and tools that launch Python in Power BI Desktop.

c) Tools used for Miscellaneous purposes

PBI.tips tutorials, DAX Guide from sqlbi.com, and the PowerBI.tips Product Business Ops community tool.

d) Custom Tools

These include custom-made external tools and scripts that are integrated into Power BI Desktop.

Important External Tools in Power Bi Desktop along with Use Cases

1) Business Ops

There are a lot of challenges with respect to installing each external tool. So, you can download this installer. Then, you can add all the best External Tools directly into Power BI Desktop. It enables you to have a one-stop shop for all the latest versions of External Tools.

2) DAX Studio

DAX Studio is a free tool. This is used to write, execute, and analyze DAX queries in all the tools whichever are using DAX formula language. For example, Power BI Designer, Power Pivot for Excel, and Analysis Services Tabular.

It helps with Object Browser, query editing and execution, formula, and measures editing. This also helps with syntax highlighting and formatting, integrated tracing, and query execution breakdowns.

Launch: December 2016.

Let’s discuss the Use Cases.

Learn DAX Language

DAX Studio helps you write DAX queries and analyze the performance of your data models. It also helps in learning the DAX language in a better manner.

Optimize the Model Performance

We have the VertiPaq Analyzer tool integrated with DAX Studio. This tool allows us to easily optimize the model performance. It provides an immediate report for the data distribution and memory consumption. Hence, helps you resolve the issues.

We can also run a measure in DAX studio and leverage the Server Timings tool to see how the formula is being interpreted.

Visualize the result of DAX “table” Functions

In DAX Studio, we can easily visualize the result of measures that contain a table function in DAX. This allows us to see the result of a table to check if the desired table is being produced or not.

This feature is not available in Power BI Desktop. We can only see the final output of a measure. Also, it would be very helpful if we could really see the in-between results of a measure to check stepwise calculations.

Extract the measures into a Spreadsheet

We can easily extract a list of the measures from the DAX Studio data model into a Spreadsheet. This will make it easy for you to document and reuse them.

3) ALM Toolkit

ALM (application lifecycle management) Toolkit is a free and open-source tool. This tool helps to manage Microsoft Power BI datasets as Database compares. It also helps in Code merging, Easy deployment, Source-control integration, Reuse definitions, and Self-service to corporate BI.

ALM is based on the source code of BISM Normalizer, which carries similar features to Tabular models.

Launch: December 2019.

Talking about the use cases, how do schema changes to the model without refreshing the entire model? Have you ever thought about it?

This is especially required for large models that are using the incremental refresh features of Power BI. Refreshing the entire data set puts a lot of load on the engine. It takes a long time to process. The ALM toolkit really helps to solve this problem.

4) Power BI Report Builder

Power BI Report Builder is a free tool. The tool creates paginated reports which you can publish to the Power BI cloud. We print (hard copy) or share the paginated reports.

Paginates reports fit well on a page, so they are called paginated reports. They display all the data in a table, even if a table is present across multiple pages. 

Launch: July 2019.

5) Tabular Editor

The Editor is a paid tool that makes the work with the Power BI Desktop data model more effective. Using Tabular Editor, we can directly write to Power BI Desktop file. So if we change something in Tabular Editor, we can save it in Tabular Editor. Hence, the change appears in Power BI. The same works vice versa.

We can easily manipulate and manage measures and calculated columns. We can also try to work on display folders, perspectives, and translations in Analysis Services Tabular and Power BI Models using this tool. 

Launch: 2016

Let’s Quickly understand the use cases below.

  1. Quick and friendly User Interface
  2. Calculation Groups
  3. Scripting
  4. Best Practices Analyzer
  5. Create Custom KPI
  6. Object Level Security

Final Words

These external tools help in one way or the other. These tools enhance the use of Power BI Desktop as a Business Intelligence development tool. Hence, learners who already know Power BI Desktop can start using these tools. Learners should always enhance their skills.

Let’s quickly check the takeaways here:

1) If you know Power BI already then you know the next tool in the list now.

2) If you don’t know Power BI then we suggest you learn Power BI. You can grow fast in your career.

We hope you are quite serious about learning Power BI Course. Why don’t you read other blogs related to Power BI? We suggest you check ways to optimize DAX queries & Power BI Report.

Happy Learning!

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A learner, dreamer, and passionate about modern tools and technology like Excel 365, Power BI, SQL, HR Analytics, Six Sigma, WordPress and Visuals to name a few. Total Experience 15+ years including more than a decade of experience in S&P Global and ongoing 4+ years of experience with fast-growing startups & few MNCs. Clients served: Startups, MSMEs to a few of the Big 4 Consulting firms. Trained more than 2500 professionals in the last 4 years on various skills (Analytics, Content, WordPress, Finance, Entrepreneurship, etc). Last but the most important - mother of an awesome kid!


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