What is the Difference Between Power BI Desktop and Power BI Service (Online)?

Power BI Desktop and Service
19 Aug 2021


What is Microsoft Power BI?

Power BI is a group of apps, software services, and connectors that work together to turn your irrelevant sources of data into comprehensible, visually immersive, and interactive insights. These data could be either an Excel spreadsheet or a compilation of cloud-based and hybrid on-premises data warehouses. Power BI implementation allows you effortlessly to connect to data sources, visualize and understand what is important, and share that with anyone you want.

Power BI consists of various elements that work together, starting with these two basics:

A Windows desktop application called Power BI Desktop.

An online SaaS service is called the Power BI service.

Microsoft continues to rapidly develop and deploy tools within the Power BI application stack. In this article, we will describe in detail the difference between Power BI Desktop and Microsoft Power Bi Service (Online.)

What is Power BI Desktop?

Power BI Desktop is a comprehensive data analysis and reports creation tool that you can download and install on your work computer for free. With Power BI desktop you can transform, connect, visualize as well as analyze your data on your system. The Query Editor, which is a part of the Power BI Desktop, assists you to connect several different sources of data and combine these data into a single data model and design a report based on that data model. Additionally, these reports can be published directly to the Power BI service or can be shared easily with others.

Common uses for Power BI Desktop are as follows:

  1. Connect to data
  2. Create a data model, by transforming and cleaning that data.
  3. Provide a visual representation of the data by creating visuals like – graphs and charts.
  4. Create reports that are a compilation of visuals, on one or more report pages.

Transform, Clean create a Data Model

Power BI Desktop, enables you to transform and clean data using the built-in Power Query Editor. This Power Query Editor, allows you to execute changes to your data, like, changing a data type, removing columns, or even combining data from various sources. 

What is Power BI Service? 

The Power BI service also referred to as Power BI Online, is a SaaS (Software as a service) and is a collection of software services, applications, and connectors that operate together to support you in creating, sharing, and consuming business data in the way that helps both you and your business most efficiently. This cloud-based Power BI service helps teams and businesses with collaboration and report editing and allows you to connect to data sources, however, data modeling is limited. 

The Power Bi service enables you to access dashboards to help you retain a finger on the pulse of your business. Dashboards showcase tiles, which you can select to open reports for exploring further. Dashboards and reports connect to datasets that bring all of the relevant data together in one place. You can perform tasks such as creating and sharing apps, creating dashboards, as well as exploring and analyzing data to uncover business insights. 


Workspace in the Power BI service is where you collaborate and develop dashboards that compile your reports and share them within your team or organization. While viewers have only a reading view, and cannot edit reports, you can share your datasets and let others create their reports from them if you choose to do so.

Power BI report designers working on business intelligence plans often use BI Desktop to develop reports and utilize BI service to collaborate and share these reports. 

Power BI Service Banner

Features of Power BI Desktop: 

  1. Multiple Data Sources 
  2. Transformation Capacities 
  3. Shaping & Modeling 
  4. Measures 
  5. Calculated Columns 
  6. Python
  7. Themes 
  8. RLS Creation 

Features of Power BI Service:

  1. Limited Data Sources 
  2. Dashboards
  3. Apps & Workspaces 
  4. Sharing 
  5. Dataflow Creation
  6. Paginated Reports
  7. RLS Management 
  8. Gateway Connections 

Combined Features of Both BI Desktop and Online:

  1. Reports
  2. Visualizations
  3. Enhanced Security
  4. Filters
  6. Q&A
  7. R Visuals

When you use Power BI Desktop to create Power BI reports, and then use the Power BI service to collaborate and distribute the reports, is the way to get most of both platforms.

The use of Power BI tools in either version, Services or Desktop, is a great way of improving your data reporting. You can also use some equipped BI platforms to have your marketing data well structured, within available templates, and given AI insights, which you can also easily customize.

Related Readings:

Power BI License Types: Power BI Free Vs Pro Vs Premium Plan Comparison

Power BI vs. Tableau | Which is the Best Data Visualization Tool?

Categories: Power BI