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John Paul Cook

BI Beginner: Simple X-Y Plot

When I worked for Microsoft giving presentations on data platform products, it was a common occurrence to have people tell me that they didn’t know how to use Power BI. This is the first in a series of posts showing how to do simple, useful tasks in Power BI Desktop. Power BI Desktop is free. Download the Power BI Desktop from here.

You can either create a simple Excel file such as the one shown below or download the attached file to follow this tutorial. This tutorial begins with the steps to create a simple X-Y plot in Excel. Later the Excel file is used as input to Power BI.


Figure 1. Sales data for simple X-Y plot.

It’s easy to create an X-Y plot in Excel as shown below.


Figure 2. Sample data saved in Excel to be loaded into Power BI.


Figure 3. Steps to create a simple X-Y plot in Excel.


Figure 4. Simple X-Y plot created by Excel.

What follows is my answer to the question of how to do the same thing in Power BI. As you will see, it’s actually pretty easy. It will take you longer to read these instructions than it will take to actually do the work.

Begin by loading your Excel file into Power BI Desktop.


Figure 5. Loading data into Power BI Desktop.

You’ll be prompted to select your worksheet.


Figure 6. Select your worksheet and click Load.

After your data is loaded, Power BI appears in Report View. It’s not like Excel where you’d immediately see your data values in a grid. You can see your data in a grid by clicking on Data, but that’s not what we need to do now.


Figure 7. Report View in Power BI Desktop.

Move your mouse under Visualizations and click on the Line chart icon. This is the part where people tell me they have trouble. What to do next, what goes where?

The Axis is the X-axis. So where to the Y-axis value belong? Under Values – where else, now that you think about it!


Figure 8. Line chart parameters.


Figure 9. Drag the Year to the spot just under Axis.


Figure 10. Drag Units Sold to the spot just under Values.



Figure 11. Finished line chart.


Figure 12. Line chart resized.

It’s really easy to change the visualization type. You should experiment by clicking on various visualization to see what they look like.


Figure 13. Click on Stacked column chart to change how it looks.

You probably want to do some formatting. Click the icon for the paint roller brush to explore the formatting options. Your formatting changes remain intact even if you change your visualization.


Figure 14. Click on the Format icon to expose the formatting properties.


Figure 15. Use the Title properties to change the title.


Figure 16. Extensive formatting just to show what is possible.


Figure 17. Notice that the formatting changes carry across different visualizations.

Save your Power BI model when you’re done!

The next post in this series is here where you can learn how to make stacked charts.

Published Wednesday, May 17, 2017 5:54 PM by John Paul Cook
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About John Paul Cook

John Paul Cook is a database and Azure specialist in Houston. He previously worked as a Data Platform Solution Architect in Microsoft's Houston office. Prior to joining Microsoft, he was a SQL Server MVP. He is experienced in SQL Server and Oracle database application design, development, and implementation. He has spoken at many conferences including Microsoft TechEd and the SQL PASS Summit. He has worked in oil and gas, financial, manufacturing, and healthcare industries. John is also a Registered Nurse currently studying to be a psychiatric nurse practitioner. Contributing author to SQL Server MVP Deep Dives and SQL Server MVP Deep Dives Volume 2. Connect on LinkedIn

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