Printing a Paginated Report in Power BI

By Nick Church, 24/02/2022

What does Power BI not do?!

We at Dolphin IT Solutions are big fans of Power BI. It’s affordable, scalable, works with just about anything, and has a huge community of developers who can help you when you get stuck. Even a fairly simple set of data can allow you to explore and understand your business in ways you've not considered, leading you to ask questions you just wouldn't think about today. Added to that, Power BI is consistently rated as one of the top business intelligence reporting tools and integrates seamlessly with the Microsoft 365 suite, there are a lot of reasons you might want to start using it.

While we could go on and on about the benefits that Power BI will bring to your business, it's also fair to say that there are some things it doesn't do so well. Physical printing is one such complaint we hear a lot - and with good reason. If you want to do anything other than print a high level dashboard snapshot, then you're in trouble. There are ways around the printing problem (i.e. you can export data and print from there), but if you want a highly structured report that is built to the specific requirement and works at the click of a button, Power BI is not really the answer - to do that job you need a different tool.

Fortunately, there is an answer for you in the form of Microsoft Power BI Report Builder, which is a tool that allows you to build what are known as paginated reports. While paginated reports are nothing new, they've been around as long as we've been building reports, paginated reports in conjunction with Power BI is quite new.

The journey towards paginated reports started back in 2019 (although the technology that underpins it is a lot older than that!) when Microsoft released Report Builder. This seemed like the answer to a lot of questions, but there was a catch. When it was initially released, it was only available through a Premium subscription, which meant that while you could use it on your PC, if you wanted to make your reports available for other people, you needed to be spending a fortune on a Premium to get access. Much to people's frustration, this took paginated reports running in the Power BI service away from the average user because they were unable to justify the cost.

Obviously Microsoft were listening to their users though because fast forward two years and they released a new licensing tier called Power BI Premium Per User (PPU). As the name suggests, this license gives you almost all the benefits of Premium but at a fraction of the cost (because its licensed at a user level!). One of those benefits was to finally unlock Paginated Reports for the average user, enabling you use to the PBI service to deploy Paginated Reports at a reasonable cost! All of a sudden, you were able to actually print your reports - and everyone could party like it was 1999!

It's worth pointing out that Report Builder isn't just about printing reports. It’s a stand-alone product that is very definitely fills a niche that PBI doesn't and can be extremely useful for certain types of report. For example, you wanted to build an invoice report, Report Builder is superb for the pre-formatted structure required and can be set up to iterate through everything you need produced. You can also ensure the correct insightful report is produced by building dynamic parameters that cascade against themselves and guide the users through the selections that they need to make.

PPU doesn't just open the door to Report Builder either. It means you can implement Premium workspaces in the Power BI service, which gives you further benefits. One of those is the ability to automate the emailing of reports and actually attach content to the mail. That might seem a pretty basic requirement, but is still something that is locked away from Power BI Pro users!

Together, Power BI and Power BI Report Builder provide you with a powerful toolset for report building. Whether it be analytical or operational, these tools will enable you to create reports you need and through the Power BI service share them with your users. If you'd like help exploring how you can use these tools to grow your business, please don't hesitate to reach out and contact us for an informal chat.

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