Microsoft Squeezes Power BI Reports Into Smartphone Screens

Close that laptop and stow the tablet. Microsoft is making it easier to author Power BI reports that render well in the tight confines of phone displays.

Power BI

Power BI reports are getting a mobile makeover.

What looks good on a desktop browser doesn't always translate well to mobile displays, particularly the 4.7- and 5.5-inch screens on the latest Apple iPhone 7s. Web developers adapted by adopting responsive designs and other mobile optimizations that help content shine despite the cramped quarters.

Microsoft is following suit with a preview of a new mobile viewing mode for reports authored on the company's cloud-powered business intelligence platform, Power BI. The move follows this summer's release of customizable phone dashboards for the analytics service.

"With the new phone-optimized reports feature, you can specifically tailor a portrait view of your existing report on Power BI Desktop for mobile viewers. Once you publish your report to the Power BI service, it will be available to all mobile users on any screen size," blogged Microsoft Power BI Program Manager Romi Koifman on Oct. 3.

Once a user publishes a report using the Power BI Desktop client, the service automatically scales and resizes its various elements, enabling them to render properly on a variety of mobile screen sizes. The new, mobile-enhanced layout can be seen holding the phone in portrait mode; flipping the phone to landscape mode will generate the traditional web layout.

In another move to upgrade the Power BI mobile report experience, Microsoft has introduced a touch-screen-friendly feature called focus mode. "Open this mode easily by double tapping the visual or using the (…) menu," instructed Koifman. "This mode expands the visual to full screen and makes data interaction easier." A similar feature is available in the report slicer function, allowing users to view a few values while still providing access to all the values associated with a slicer.

Microsoft has also made a number of navigation tweaks to the Power BI apps, a move the company said will help users jump between multiple reports and dashboards. The apps now include breadcrumb menus, helping users return to previous items if they conduct a search, follow a link or dig deeper into their Power BI insights. As part of the change, Microsoft transferred the iOS action menu to the bottom of the screen.

The Android version of the app catches up to iOS by gaining the ability to scan QR codes that link to specific report pages, rather than the entire report. Likewise, the Windows 10 Power BI mobile app gets a new manual tile refresh option, a feature already available in the Apple iOS version. Organizations that use Microsoft's Intune mobile application management capabilities can now bring Power BI into the fold, further reducing the potential of data leaks involving sensitive business information.

Finally, Microsoft introduced new data-driven alerts to the iPad flavor of the app. "Now you can use your iPad to set alerts for KPI, gauge, and card tiles," wrote Koifman in her roundup of the latest Power BI mobile updates. "We also improved the formatting of the data driven alerts, so that the number you set as your threshold will display in a standard numeric abbreviation, such as using '2M' instead of '2,000,000.'"

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...