Paginated Reports in Power BI – How to Get Started
Nick Hilton | 08 December 22 | 4 min read
Welcome back to the blog! For our last post of 2022 we are going to take a further look at Paginated Reports and how you can get started with utilising them...
What are Paginated Reports and why do we need them?
Paginated reports are designed for when you need reports to be pixel-perfect and never change. Well, you probably want every report to be perfect but pixel-perfect design is its own thing entirely. These reports are ideal for exporting to PDF or printing, especially when the data presented in the report goes over multiple pages, for example a table with hundreds of rows. The real utility with paginated reporting software is that you can design the report over multiple pages for example you can set page headers and footers and categorize them so that certain information goes into certain report pages. Just to clarify, perfect for printing doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to print it just that the data report would display as you want it to if it was printed, which traditionally things usually were.
Scenario: You’re a teacher at a school and need to review each students progress. You have a table with all the students in and all their marks and results for their academic year. However, for your upcoming parents evening you need a report which has each student and their marks split from all the other students. With paginated reports you could do exactly that. Student 1 has just a few results and as such page 1 is just that student and the table of results. Student 2 has so many results the table spills over to another page. Not to worry though with paginated reports we can still make sure that each page only looks at one student, even if one student needs multiple pages.
Sometimes I feel like I make a mess of explaining things even if it’s as clear as day in my own head, but I hope that makes sense!
What do I need to get started with Paginated Reports in Power BI?
Up until the end of 2022 the big barrier for most people getting into paginated reports in Power BI was that unlike normal reports that need a pro licence to share, paginated reports require either a premium per user licence or premium capacity. That’s either doubling your cost or in the case of capacity it’s a huge operational expenditure. However, if you’re reading this in the magical future world of 2023 then good news because they can now be shared through the usual pro licence. Truly we will enter a golden age of paginated wonder.
What you’ll need:
· A Power BI account (you probably have this) for uploading your reports
· Pro licences for the users you want to share the report with
· Power BI report builder: the paginated version of PBI Desktop – Download here
This is Power BI report builder:
Like any software it can be a bit daunting on first glance but if you have experience with Power BI then getting started with report builder is going to be quite straight forward.
Before this paginated reports in the Microsoft world were (and in many cases still are) produced and shared using SSRS but that’s now slowly being replaced in favour of Power BI Report Builder. Report Builder is built to be a part of the Power BI family and as such a huge amount of the functions and terminology used to utilise and navigate the software is exactly the same as in Power BI desktop.
The first thing you’ll likely want to do is import some data. So, navigate to the ribbon at the top and select data at which point you’ll be presented with these options:
You might notice that there’s not quite the selection of connectors that you get in the main PBI but you can connect to a Power BI dataset which essentially negates that issue entirely. If you can connect to it in Power BI desktop and then publish it to the service, then you’re good to go.
Alternatively, when you load up the software the splash screen will present you with a few wizards that will walk you through connecting to data and producing a report. In my experience though when I was first building a report from scratch, I found the wizard had made certain assumptions which later I had to undo to make it perform properly.
Once you’re done, you’re able to publish the report to a workspace in the service in pretty much the same way you would in Desktop. Once you’re in the service it will show up alongside your other reports with the only obvious difference being the logo.
In the picture above the paginated report is the bottom one. I can see this being made clearer now that paginated reporting is being made available on the pro licence.
Personally, I don’t think the Power BI team have quite got the user experience of the service right just yet, it’s pretty good but I’d like to see a few more options available to workspace admins that let them customise the default view. But that rant is for another day, maybe even another year!
I hope you’ve all had a successful 2022 and that you’ll join us in 2023 for more Power BI tips, tricks and discussion, I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be a big year for data! Thank you for reading.