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Community and third-party tools for developing enterprise-level Power BI and Analysis Services models

By Marco Russo (SQLBI) and Amir Netz (Microsoft)

Over the past few years, along with the high adoption rate of Power BI, also came the development of new tools by the Power BI community. Customers, partners, and individual users are contributing tools that improve the productivity of users creating models and reports in Power BI. It’s an evolution of a trend that started several years ago with tools that support developers using Analysis Services as a backend platform for their enterprise Business Intelligence solutions.

The Microsoft Power BI team supports tool development by providing robust APIs, client libraries, documentation, and by collaborating in forums and events. In fact, this collaboration has been so fruitful that it has allowed us to alter our own tool development priorities. Increasing the reach of the Power BI platform requires huge investments into features that simplify its adoption by new users. With community developed tools that satisfy the requirements of more advanced solution developers allows us to prioritize our own efforts on those new features that reach a much broader scope of Power BI users; for example, we’re now working on a web-based modeling experience for Power BI, so users who don’t have a Windows OS computer to run Power BI Desktop can still create BI solutions for their organization. While in the long-term we do want to provide more advanced development tools for Power BI and Analysis Services, our short-term priority is to extend availability of the amazing collection of community tools for the professional BI developer.

Creating enterprise-level models for Power BI often requires advanced features that just aren’t available in Power BI Desktop, and Visual Studio also has some limitations. The SQLBI team, a leading team of Microsoft BI MVPs, has published Development tools for Tabular models in 2021. This detailed article describes scenarios where using external third-party tools not only improves developer productivity, but may even be necessary. Indeed, many of the leading Microsoft BI solution developers already use external tools like Tabular Editor, DAX Studio, and ALM Toolkit to create, deploy, and manage advanced reporting solutions.

These tools are also supported as external tools within the Power BI Desktop authoring experience. The Power BI Desktop team recently released the External tools ribbon feature thanks to the Power BI Contributor Program. The latter is another initiative that accelerated the development of new features requested by customers and partners.

We’ve seen countless success stories in large enterprises, including here at Microsoft, where using these tools has significantly improved and accelerated solution development. The message is clear, community and third-party tools are here to stay. They have become an essential part of the Power BI solution developer toolbelt and the Microsoft Power BI team will continue to support and invest in these tools. To learn more, be sure to check out External tools in Power BI Desktop.