Comparing Power BI Desktop to the Power BI Service

The different versions and configurations of Power BI can be confusing. In this blog, we are comparing Power BI Desktop to Power BI Service. This will shed light on how to use each of these apps.

Power BI
Power BI Report
Power BI Desktop

Power BI Desktop is a free application you can download and install on your local PC. You can use Power BI Desktop to connect to, transform, and visualize your data. Furthermore, you can analyse your data and develop reports. The Query Editor in Power BI Desktop manages the connections to the data sources. It can structure, clean, merge, and append data. You are then able to combine the data into a relational data model. From the data model, you can design reports using the visualisation tools in Power BI Desktop. Power BI Desktop is the only app of the two which allows the creation of DAX (Data analysis eXpressions) measures, calculations, and column calculations. You can set up role level security (RLS). You can use RLS to manage the data each person in the audience has access to in a published report.

the Power BI Service

The Power BI Service is known as Software as a Service (SaaS), which is a cloud-based service. You can edit reports, share the reports with your audience, and collaborate with teams and organizations. You can connect to certain data sources, but its modelling capability is limited. The Power BI Service cannot perform DAX measures, calculations, or column calculations. However, you can create dashboards from multiple reports using Power BI service. Furthermore, it is possible to create and distribute apps, reveal business insights, and much more.

Power BI Desktop versus the Power BI service – diagram


The diagram above compares Power BI Desktop and the Power BI Service. As you can see, there are features common to both tools. However, certain tasks are unique to one app. The diagram also shows which features are only available in either Power BI Desktop or in Power BI Service.

Best practice is to do all the development work in Power BI Desktop, because of all the limitations you have in Power BI Service. The Query Editor is not available in Power BI Service. This means that you cannot shape, clean, merge, append, or group the data. Neither can you create data models, measures or column calculations.

Keep your activities strictly separated when using both apps. Do all development, updates, and changes to reports in Power BI Desktop. Save these changes in locally stored Power BI files. After the changes, simply publish the reports again. This will overwrite the old reports on Power BI Service. You can change the reports in Power BI Service and add more visuals, but this will not update your locally stored Power BI files.

Editing Power BI Reports

In both Power BI Desktop and Power BI Service, you can build and edit Power BI reports. A report can have one or more pages, with visuals and collections of visuals. You can also add bookmarks, buttons, filters, and drill-throughs to improve navigation in your reports.

Working in the Power BI service – Collaborating

Having created your datasets and reports, you can save them to workspaces in the Power BI Service, where you and your colleagues can collaborate. You can build dashboards on top of those reports. This enables you to share the dashboards and reports with consumers inside and outside your organization. In the Power BI Service, users can view reports in Reading view only, not in Editing view. Users do not have access to all the features accessible to report designers. You can, however, share your datasets and let others build their own reports from them.

Self-service data preparation with dataflows

Dataflows help organizations unify data from different data sources and organise it for modelling. Analysts can easily create dataflows, using self-service tools. They can also use dataflows to consume, convert, combine, and improve large data sets by defining data source connections, ETL logic, refreshing schedules, and more.


In  summary, when comparing Power BI Desktop to Power BI Service, best practice is to use Power BI desktop for developing reports and Power BI Service to publish, share, and collaborate with others.

STL has four Power BI courses. All four courses are based on developing in Power BI Desktop. On our Power BI Reporting and Power BI Modelling, Visualisation and Publishing courses, we include Power BI Service in the course.

Create Field Parameters in Power BI

Why is Power BI taking over the world? Why are so many organisations currently implementing Power BI? Power BI is the most efficient tool to manage business intelligence in a world where the data sets are getting bigger and bigger. The importance of making quick and correct decisions is a key factor in running a successful business. Microsoft constantly improves Power BI.  In this blog, we will show you how to create Field Parameters in Power BI.


The ‘Creating a Field Parameter’ tool can create a dynamic visual in few seconds, increasing your productivity. This gives the audience interactive options to choose which information they want the visual to display. In the past, we needed to write DAX expressions to achieve this.

In the following example you will see how this is done by creating a table and writing DAX expressions. DAX (Data Analysis epression) is essential to all Power BI reporting and data modelling developers. STL has a one day DAX course for all who need to write DAX in Power BI desktop.

Field Parameters done with DAX

Firstly, you need to create a table. Click Enter Data from the Home tab. In the first column, enter the names of the measures you want to be able to select from a slicer. The slicer will change the visual. Add a second column to create an index (see image below). Name the table at the bottom of this dialog box.

Create Field Parameters in Power BI

Create a Slicer visual and add the Measure column from the created table to the field (see image below).

Create Field Parameters in Power BI

Now it is time to run the DAX measure. You can use the logical Switch function to return the measure selected from the slicer.

Create Field Parameters in Power BI

The logic in the DAX measure is in the image below. The Switch function will test the value selected from the slicer. If the index value is 1 (Sales), it returns the Sales measure, if the index value is 2 (Profit) it returns the Profit measure. Index value 3 (Sales Cost) returns the Sales Cost measure.

Create Field Parameters in Power BI
Creating a visual to show the selected measure from the slicer

The visual (a line chart here) header will not show the selected measure from the slicer, but you can create one by writing another DAX measure.

Visual Name=SelectedValue(slicer1[measure],”Sales”)

This measure will get the selected value (measure name) from the slicer. If nothing is selected from the slicer, it will return the alternate result ‘Sales’ by default.

Now you can use the measure to create a dynamic title for the visual. With the visual selected, you will find the title under the formatting options. Next to the title there is an fx button. When you press the fx button, you can use the measure to create a dynamic title.

Create Field Parameters in Power BI


Clicking fx will open the dialog box where you can select the measure which creates the dynamic visual header.

Create Field Parameters in Power BI

The visual will now display the selected value from the slicer as a title!

Create Field Parameters in Power BI

Now to do something similar with the new tool – Creating a field parameter

The new tool we got in the May version of Power BI is a preview feature but will soon be a permanent tool.

Firstly, you will have to enable the tool called Field parameters:

Create Field Parameters in Power BI

Then, to create a new field parameter, you will need to navigate to Modeling > New parameter > Fields

Create Field Parameters in Power BI

To build the parameter, you need to provide a name for the parameter and select the fields you want to use. You can select different dimensions (fields from different tables across your data model) or different measures. The example below starts with different dimensions.

Create Field Parameters in Power BI

From a slicer, select the fields you would like to filter on the visual. If you keep the tick in the bottom left corner, you will create a slicer with the dimensions.

The Field parameters feature will write DAX code to make the slicer and the data model understand what you want.

The DAX code for this example

Filter by dimensions = {

(“ClientName”, NAMEOF(‘tblClients'[ClientName]), 0),

(“Category”, NAMEOF(‘tblProducts'[Category]), 1),

(“SalesRep”, NAMEOF(‘tblSalesRep'[SalesRep]), 2)


The slicer will display the field names from your data model. If you want more user-friendly names from the slicer, you can amend the code.

Filter by dimensions = {

(“Client”, NAMEOF(‘tblClients'[ClientName]), 0),

(“Product Category”, NAMEOF(‘tblProducts'[Category]), 1),

(“Sales Rep”, NAMEOF(‘tblSalesRep'[SalesRep]), 2)


Adding or removing fields after creating the Field Parameters slicer

Filter by dimensions = {

(“Sales Rep”, NAMEOF(‘tblSalesRep’[SalesRep]), 0),

(“Product Category”, NAMEOF(‘tblProducts’[Category]), 1),

(“Client”, NAMEOF(‘tblClients’[ClientName]), 2),

(“Month”,NAMEOF(Dates[Month Number]),3)


In the example above, the Month Number field has been added by amending the DAX code. The slicer will now give the report’s audience the option to break down the visual by month.

Create Field Parameters in Power BI

Using the Field Parameter tool to break down visuals by measures

You can mix and match different measures and dimensions within the same parameter. For example, you can use this feature to create a dynamic table where the columns can be either measures or dimensions.

As shown below, when you use the new Field Parameter feature, the title of the visual will display the selected fields from the slicer. Again, you will not have to write a DAX measure to do this. It can be this easy to create Field Parameters in Power BI.

Create Field Parameters in Power BI

Using a field parameter to control visual properties

Once you have created the field parameters, you can use them to control the measures or dimensions used in a visual.

You can use the parameter in the field drop zones for a visual.

Create Field Parameters in Power BI


The new Field Parameter feature is an efficient way of creating very dynamic visuals. It reduces the number of pages needed for the report to give the audience proper business intelligence. This is, then, how to create Field Parameters in Power BI for your reports.

For more information, please see STL’s two-day Power BI Modelling, Visualisation and Publishing course.