Power BI: Paginated Reports

One of the most valuable, yet less used functionalities of Power BI is ‘Paginated Reports’. This article will explain what they are, when you need to use them and how they can benefit your organisation. At the end, some samples can be downloaded that demo the functionality. 

Starting-Off with an Example

As you can see in the GIF below, ‘Power BI Paginated Reporting’ provides pixel perfect and printfriendly reporting. There is a large discrepancy with the standard Power BI reports which offer lots of flexibility but are not printfriendly. The way of interacting with filters is fundamentally different, as is the interaction with visuals. Selecting a category in a bar chart does not filter or highlight other visuals in the report.  

Pixel-Perfect Reporting Throughout Time

Before the rise of Power BI, Microsoft provided another tool for reporting: ‘SQL Server Reporting Services’ (= SSRS). SSRS provided reports to business users on the IT premises of the customer. Most reports first prompted you for the parameters to run before even showing a result. Once these parameters have been filled in, the report was generated by issuing pre-made queries (= SSRS datasets). Often, the design of these reports was limited to long lists and matrices of numbers and statistics. The typical goal of such reports are mass distribution of a PDF variant or exports to Excel. This pre-made exporting/rendering functionality is often referred to as ‘pixel perfect’. Only a more experienced developer could implement features such as cascading filters, drill through actions and groupings. Nevertheless, these reports always did exactly what was expected of them and allowed great trustworthiness and stability.

Developing a Paginated Report

Creating a paginated report is completely different from creating a Power BI desktop model. This is already demonstrated by the fact that you need to install another software called ‘Power BI Report Builder’. Some terminology might be confusing; a dataset serves a totally different purpose in Power BI desktop than in it does in Paginated Reports. There’s nearly no drag-and-drop experience of creating the perfect dataset and you should know upfront how you want things visualized. Therefore, we often recommend creating a Paginated Report by someone who has experience with SSRS or has a more technical background. Thus, creating Paginated Reports doesn’t provide the same self-service capabilities as standard Power BI reports. 

Export Examples

The ‘image gallery’ below shows the different ways of exporting Power BI. Typically, such an export is distributed via mail to a long list of recipients, often referred to as mail bursting. But these reports can also be optimized for CSV exports and integrations. Do you want to experience the difference yourself?

Word Paginated Report

CSV Paginated Report

PDF Paginated Report

PowerPoint Paginated Report

Excel Paginated Report


Paginated Reports can only be created if you make use of any of these licenses:
– Power BI Premium.
– Power BI Embedded.
– Power BI Premium per User.
Hence, you will not be able to work with Paginated Reports if you only have a Pro license. 

Other Tips and Tricks

– If you can’t find the correct documentation or walkthroughs for Paginated Reports, try your luck and add the keyword ‘SSRS’ to it.

– The use cases where Paginated Reports shine are the following: long multi-page lists (such as price lists), pixel-perfect rendering (such as Profit and Loss statements) and mass distribution of PDFs or flat files.

– Paginated Reports use the same extension (.rdl) as SSRS reports. This way SSRS reports can easily be converted into Paginated Reports.

– Better together: You can create links between Power BI and Paginated Reports. As such, you could start on a standard Power BI report and when users click a button, then a Paginated Report can generate a print-friendly report. 

Sander Allert

Sander Allert is an experienced BI architect with a passion for following new trends. Sander is passionate about data in all of its aspects (Big Data, Data Science, Self-Service BI, Master Data, …) and loves to share his knowledge. Do you need help on architectural decisions, do not hesitate to invite Sander over for a coffee to share some ideas.