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Announcing public preview of external tools in Power BI Desktop

Headshot of article author Christian Wade

Organizations embracing a data culture create semantic models to serve as the single source of truth for the enterprise. With the sophisticated data modeling capabilities in Power BI, customers build enterprise-grade semantic models directly into Power BI datasets, which are then visualized on Power BI reports and dashboards.

With the announcement of read/write XMLA endpoints in Power BI Premium, Analysis Services tools and processes now work with datasets in the Power BI service. Power BI has inherited a large ecosystem of developers, partners, BI tools, and solutions built up over many decades. Today, we are further enabling external tools to work with Power BI datasets, this time from within the Power BI Desktop authoring experience.

We are excited to announce the public preview of external tool support in Power BI Desktop providing the following benefits.

  • BI professionals can enjoy a range of additional semantic modeling features, DAX query/expression optimization and authoring, and application lifecycle management (ALM) capabilities.
  • An extensibility model is introduced for Power BI Desktop. Customers are empowered to build their own tools to extend the core functionality of Power BI Desktop for their own needs.

The External Tools ribbon contains buttons for external tools installed on the machine and registered with Power BI Desktop.

External tools ribbon

Please see this document for details on how set up external tools on your environment, supported write operations, and even how to register your own tools!

The following open-source, community tools work as external tools with Power BI Desktop. Each tool’s respective installer registers it with Power BI Desktop.


Tabular Editor

Visit the Tabular Editor website to download the installer.

Tabular Editor enables BI professionals to easily build, maintain and manage tabular models using an intuitive, lightweight editor. A hierarchical view shows all objects in your tabular model. They are organized by display folders, with support for multi-select property editing and DAX syntax highlighting.

Tabular Editor

Source code:

Primary tool author: Daniel Otykier


DAX Studio

Visit the DAX Studio website to download the installer.

DAX Studio is widely respected as the most complete tool for DAX authoring, diagnosis, performance tuning and analysis. Features include object browsing, integrated tracing, query execution breakdowns with detailed statistics, DAX syntax highlighting and formatting.

DAX Studio

Source code:

Primary tool author: Darren Gosbell


ALM Toolkit

Visit the ALM Toolkit website to download the installer.

ALM Toolkit is a schema compare tool for Power BI datasets used for application lifecycle management (ALM) scenarios. Perform easy deployment across environments and retain incremental refresh historical data. Diff and merge metadata files, branches and repos. Reuse common definitions between datasets.

ALM Toolkit

Source code:

Primary tool author: Christian Wade


In addition, Power BI Report Builder is also planned to soon make an appearance on the External Tools ribbon, so pixel perfect paginated reports can be authored without having to deploy datasets to the Power BI service.

The Power BI group is grateful to Daniel Otykier who created the external tools ribbon as part of the Power BI Contributor Program. We are amazed at the quality of Daniel’s work and his unwavering determination to empower the Power BI community to achieve more. If you see Daniel, please thank him yourself!

Daniel Otykier

Lastly, this recording of the Microsoft Business Applications Summit 2020 Power BI keynote on Modern Enterprise BI discusses the benefits external tools in Power BI Desktop and includes a demonstration of Tabular Editor and ALM Toolkit starting at 5 minutes, 40 seconds.  Enjoy!

Modern Enterprise BI - MBAS 2020