Microsoft adds R data visualizations without R to Power BI

correlation plot
Screenshot by Sharon Machlis of Microsoft Power BI software

Microsoft has added R data visualizations to its Power BI data analysis cloud service -- options which no longer require either knowledge of R or having R on a local system.

These new custom visualizations work in Power BI desktop as well as the cloud service (but the desktop software does require a local R installation, although not knowledge of R).

I, of course, find it difficult to imagine why you wouldn't want to know R :-) . But, yes, I am aware that there are people out there who are interested in getting insights from data without learning a programming language like R or Python. Power BI is Microsoft's entry into a market that also includes players like Tableau and Qlik. And as Microsoft has became increasingly interested in leveraging the power of R for its users, making R easier to use within its desktop business intelligence software makes sense (you can already run many types of R scripts within Power BI).

As when using other Power BI custom visuals, Power BI users can look for R visuals in the Visuals Library, download a file with the desired dataviz type, and then import it into a Power BI data set.

I tried out the R correlation plot, and it was indeed as simple to use as any other Power BI visualization. After downloading the visual's file and adding it to my data set, I selected tht visual and my desired fields and the visualization was created.

Customizing the visualization was also fairly simple, although you're out of luck if those options don't include the tweaks you want. In my case, I wanted to add numbers to the correlation circles, as I do when creating these in R. However, currently, the correlation plot can be circlesor numbers, but not both.

There were half a dozen R custom visualizations available this morning in the Power BI Visuals Library including forecasting and clustering as well as correlations.

If you don't see what you need in the library, Microsoft has also posted a tutorial on how to build your own Power BI custom R visual . This involves installing NodeJS and local SSL certificates as well as working with R.

Available R-powered visuals

Available R-powered custom visuals for Power BI

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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