PowerBI Robots 101: everything you need to get started

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Whether this is your first contact with PowerBI Robots or you already know what it does, this 101 guide will hopefully provide all you need to get started with little to no trouble.

What is PowerBI Robots?

PowerBI Robots is a brand new tool for Microsoft® Power BI™ that uses Robot Process Automation (RPA) to automatically and recurrently take screenshots of dashboards and reports and deliver them to a recipient. The screenshots are saved as an image or PDF file and instantly sent to an email, a SharePoint™ library or a file system. This flexibility allows Microsoft® Power BI™ data to, effectively, be displayed on virtually any device connected to the internet and running a browser.

PowerBI Robots may be used for free without any limitations, but all images and PDF files will display a red watermark. An annual license that grants unlimited company-wide use and removes the watermark can be purchased for 899€ at the DevScope store.

Display your Power BI visuals on a TV

Who should use PowerBI Robots?

PowerBI Robots is especially useful to professionals who:

  • need to send or receive regular updates on the most recent business intelligence data wherever they are;
  • need to broadcast BI data on a large screen without a dedicated computer, such as a smart TV or video wall;
  • need to share data from the Power BI™ account they manage with several other users;
  • manage a business with several areas and need to recurrently send diverse Power BI™ metrics to different middle managers;

Send your Power BI reports and dashboards by email, to the web or to a SharePoint library

1 – Creating a new playlist on PowerBI Robots

In order to schedule automatic screenshots with PowerBI Robots, go to the web agent and click “Playlist” on the side menu (the default choice). From here, you will be able to create new automation playlists, as well as search and access previous ones.

PowerBI Robots 101: Send your Power BI reports and dashboards by email, to the web or to a SharePoint library

To create a new automation playlist, simply click the green “Create” button. On the first tab (“General”) you must name the playlist, choose the screenshot output format (an image, or single or multiple PDF files), set the screen size, the screen-captures recurrence (i.e. your data’s refresh rate) and how you want your data delivered (“Send to”).

PowerBI Robots 101: Send your Power BI reports and dashboards by email, to the web or to a SharePoint library

Currently, PowerBI Robots supports the following sending methods:

  • Email: deliver your Microsoft® Power BI™ reports and dashboards as high screen images or PDF files by email to as many recipients as you wish to add on the “Recipients” tab. The subject and email message must be filled in the “General” tab;
  • File System: send your Microsoft® Power BI™ reports and dashboards as high screen images or PDF files to a file system of your choice. You must enter the path to it on the “Recipients” tab;
  • SharePoint: send your Microsoft® Power BI™ reports and dashboards as high screen images or PDF files to a Microsoft® SharePoint™ library. In order to have your data delivered, you must enter the SharePoint™ URL and Listname on the “Recipients” tab;
  • PowerBI Robots Cloud: display your Microsoft® Power BI™ reports and dashboards as high screen images on any web browser. If you choose PowerBI Robots Cloud as your delivery method, you don’t need to fill in any recipients – a URL will be generated, which you can then enter on any web browser in order to watch your playlist;

After choosing your sending method, click the “Recipients” tab fill in your data recipients:

PowerBI Robots 101: Send your Power BI reports and dashboards by email, to the web or to a SharePoint library

After you’re done, click “next” and proceed to the “Visuals” tab. Click “Add Power BI account” and a screen displaying your Microsoft® Power BI™ workspaces will pop-up. You may see all reports and dashboards contained on each by clicking the plus sign. Check the boxes to select which report pages and individual tiles you wish to send (alternatively, select them all). Select which data you wish to send and what filters you want to apply (for further instructions on how to do this, check section “3 – Personalizing a playlist on PowerBI Robots”).

PowerBI Robots 101: Send your Power BI reports and dashboards by email, to the web or to a SharePoint library

All selected dashboards and reports are displayed on the left of the screen, under the “Search” bar. You can change their title, set their size and apply report and page level filters to any reports by clicking the icon next to the PBI Url field of each. After selecting which Power BI™ dashboards and reports you wish to add to your playlist, click “Create” to finish creating your playlist.

PowerBI Robots 101: finish setting up your Power BI report playlist

You must now proceed to install and configure the PowerBI Robots agent in order to synchronize the playlists you’ve created. You must now proceed to install and configure the PowerBI Robots agent in order to synchronize the playlists you’ve created.

2- Downloading, Installing and Configuring the PowerBI Robots desktop agent

After setting up your playlists, you must install and configure the PowerBI Robots desktop agent. If you don’t do it, PowerBI Robots simply won’t work. This agent is used to set things up and synchronize your playlists. It does not collect any information – everything is stored locally, on the user’s infrastructure. The PowerBI Robots desktop agent can be downloaded on the website or by clicking this link.

After downloading the PowerBI Robots desktop agent, extract the file, click it and follow the steps on the installer. Once the installation process is over, open PowerBI Robots Config and follow these steps:

1- On the “General” tab:

PowerBI Robots 101: Send your Power BI reports and dashboards by email, to the web or to a SharePoint library

  •  add your PowerBI Robots account ID (you can find it on the top right corner of the web agent) and click “Synchronize” (IMPORTANT: every time you add, edit or remove a playlist from PowerBI Robots, you must open the agent and click “Synchronize” for the changes to take place);
  • Log in to your Microsoft® Power BI™ Account;
  • Check the Service Configuration;

If you wish to, you can also test your playlists here. Click the “Test PBIRobots Playlist Execution” button, and the following window will pop up:

PowerBI Robots 101: testing a playlist in the desktop agent

Select the playlist you want to test and its rendering defaults. Your images or PDF files are stored at the location of your choice if “Override Target Delivery of Playlist” is checked.

2- On the “Providers” tab:

PowerBI Robots 101: Send your Power BI reports and dashboards by email, to the web or to a SharePoint library

If an email or a SharePoint™ library is your playlist’s recipient, you can configure them here or ask your IT manager to do it.

If you wish to use your Office 365 account, you must ensure you have the following configuration:

  • SMTP Host: smtp.office365.com;
  • SMTP port: 587;
  • SMTP security box has to be checked;

If you wish to use your Gmail account, you must ensure you have the following configuration:

  • SMTP Host: smtp.gmail.com
  • SMTP port: 587
  • SMTP security box has to be checked

If “The SMTP server requires a secure connection, or the client was not authenticated” message is displayed, that means your Gmail account is blocking the access. Check your inbox for an email from Gmail Security Center and follow the instructions to allow the access.

3- On the “Service” tab:

You can choose between using a built-in Local System user or a Specific user. For the latter, make sure that specified user has read and write permissions to the installation folder (by default, C:\Program Files\DevScope\PBIRobots).

PowerBI Robots 101: setting up the service in the desktop agent

Save all changes and close PowerBI Robots Config.
And voila, your PowerBI Robots agent’s configuration is complete! Your playlists can now be sent.

3- Personalizing a playlist on PowerBI Robots

One of the biggest advantages of PowerBI Robots is the ability to send different data screenshots to different recipients from the same Microsoft® Power BI™ account.

In order to illustrate how you can take full advantage of this function, we will use a retail chain as an example. Let’s imagine you’re the general manager and need to send the “Annual Sales Report” to 3 of your stores, but don’t want to show each store manager how well their counterparts did. In order to do so, select the third tab (“Visuals”), add your Microsoft® Power BI™ account and select all reports and dashboards you wish to send. This is where we would gather our total sales data. Add whatever reports and dashboards you wish and hit the close button.

Send your Power BI reports and dashboards by email, to the web or to a SharePoint library

You can now apply any page level filters to the reports by clicking the filter icon next to the PBI Url on each. All of your recipients will receive the same data filtered this way unless you make some changes on the next tab.

PowerBI Robots 101: Send your Power BI reports and dashboards by email, to the web or to a SharePoint library

On the fourth tab (“Filters”) you can further personalize your data by setting additional filters to each recipient of your reports. This is where we filter your “Annual Sales” data according to each store so each manager won’t be able to access the others’ results.

To filter data individually, select one of the reports under the search bar on the left and click the filter icon alongside the recipient you wish to send personalized data to, on the right. Apply any filters as you see fit.

PowerBI Robots 101: applying individual filters to a Power BI report

Although dashboards can’t be changed, your Power BI™ reports can be fully personalized by selecting which data is shown to each recipient.

4- Displaying a PowerBI Robots playlist on any screen connected to the internet

One neat feature of PowerBI Robots is the ability to display screenshots with data from Microsoft® Power BI™ on virtually any screen connected to the internet. This is especially useful to those who need their data presented on large screens, such as smart TVs or video walls – but taking away the necessity of wasting resources connecting a computer running Microsoft® Power BI™ to them. In order to do this,  select PowerBI Robots Cloud as the delivery system (next to “Send to”) on the “General” tab.

PowerBI Robots 101: Send your Power BI reports and dashboards by email, to the web or to a SharePoint library

As with all delivery systems on PowerBI Robots, you can set the screen size and data recurrence (on the “General” tab) and apply any filters to your reports (“Visuals” and “Filters” tabs). After you’re finished, click update and you’ll be back on the default “Playlist” screen. Search for the playlists to be delivered to PowerBI Robots Cloud, click the collapsible button “Actions” and then “View Slideshow”.

PowerBI Robots 101: selecting slideshow in PowerBI Robots

A window with the URL will pop up.

PowerBI Robots 101: cloud URL

Copy and paste it into any browser to view your PowerBI Robots playlist running. You can also set the interval between images from this screen.

Send your Power BI reports and dashboards by email, to the web or to a SharePoint library

Thank you for using our product and making it through this (extensive) PowerBI Robots 101 guide.

If you still have any questions regarding PowerBI Robots, please check the product’s FAQs, the helper on the web agent or contact us by email.

Send Emails, PDFs or broadcast from Power BI with PowerBI Robots

59 comments

  1. Hi, I have above all setup. However I was not able to see if the tasks have been run or not as there is no log to see if the tasks is running successfully or failure. I did not receive email from the Power BI robot, neither receive any PDF file in my sharePoint site.

  2. Hi there. I am loving PBI robots except I am having problems where my reports are saying “Oops!! We’re sorry.. But there was a timeout while rendering this PBI visual”. It says about increasing the delay render setting but I can’t find this anywhere?
    My clients are really frustrated by this so would be great to be able to have it fixed ASAP!

    1. Hi, Jake.

      Sorry to hear that. That’s indeed a known bug, and we’re planning on deploying a fix later today or next Monday. We’ll send an email to all current clients, but also get back at you in this comment thread.

      Best regards,

      The DevScope team

      1. Hi DevScope team,
        thank you for developing and improving the tool – recent versions are stable & more user friendly!
        To come to the Rendering issue (with “Oops!!” message) here before => with the extended timeout / rendering time these problems appear less often, however they still do.
        Do you plan to add an option which blocks the delivery of emails with timeout errors? We are using your tool for external clients and such ‘Oops!’ messages are not acceptable => it will be much better to block the email so we can regenerate it later ?
        Thanks,
        Dimitar

        1. Hi, Dimitar.
          Thank you for your feedback. We’re indeed working on that situation, and expect to have it fixed soon in the next update. We’ll update everyone by email then.

          Best regards,
          The DevScope support team

  3. Hello! I’ve installed and successfully setup playlists using Power BI robots for about a week. Now I’m getting a InvalidHardwareID as my license status and it is leaving the watermark on the reports going out. Haven’t received a response from support.

    1. Hi, Dustin.

      Our support team is currently on top of your issue and will get back to you soon.

      Best regards,
      The DevScope Marketing team

  4. Hi Team,

    I have all above set up but I am not receiving email nor showing that its running on View History. anyone that can assist? tried it with Gmail and company email still nothing on both sides. your help will be really appreciated.

    regards
    Benathi

    1. Hi, Nathi.

      Did you configure and test the desktop agent?
      Gmail has some quirks we covered in the product’s FAQ:

      If you are trying to access through Gmai: In order to get the playlists running you must ensure that you have the following configurations:
      – SMTP Host: smtp.gmail.com
      – SMTP port: 587
      – SMTP security box has to be checked
      If after this change the following message is displayed “The SMTP server requires a secure connection, or the client was not authenticated”, it means your Gmail account is blocking the access. Check your Inbox for an email from Gmail Security Center and follow the instructions to allow the access.

      Let us know if this worked or if you’re still having some trouble.

      Best regards,
      The DevScope team

  5. Hi
    I am getting an error message under providers tab stating Error restarting service. Help would be appreciated.

    Thanks
    Shri

  6. Hi, I have a report by manager with multi-pages (tabs).
    Is it be possible to have a single pdf for each manager in one email?

    1. Hi, KB.
      You can do that by selecting “Single PDF” as the output format in your playlist’s “General” tab.
      If you have any more questions, we suggest using powerbi@devscope.net so we answer them quicker.

      Best regards,

      The DevScope support team

  7. Hi,

    Some people in our organization are interested in your tool. However one question surfaced.about the desktop agent. Is it correct that this agent needs to be installed on the users PC and not on a centralized server, shared by many users?

    Please clarify.

    Thanks!

    1. Hi, Steve.

      The desktop agent only needs to be installed in one place. We recommend it to be the machine of whoever is in charge of distributing the Power BI reports. Through the web agent, you can determine who is going to receive which reports, but those people don’t need to install anything on their machines in order to receive them.

      Hope this answers your question. If you need any more help, feel free to ask.

      Best regards,
      The DevScope team

    1. Hi, Peter.

      You don’t need to be logged in. PowerBI Robots’ agent runs as a Windows Service so you must have a computer running it, but don’t need to be logged in for it to do so.
      If you have any more questions, feel free to ask.

      Best regards,
      The DevScope team

      1. Hi Team,

        thanks for the response. may be i ll elaborate the question bit more.

        we plan to use the common user id to work with power bi robots.

        Assume the common user id has access to power bi reports/dashboards. Please clarify the below question.

        1. Do we need the internet connection to install and create playlist/schedule or send an email using PBI Robots ?

        In other words, Is this setup will work only with intranet connection ?

        Regards,
        Peter I

        1. PowerBI Robots doesn’t work solely on an intranet connection. It needs to be connected to the internet in order to use the following websites:

          http://www.powerbitiles.com:443 – to configure playlists;
          • login.microsoftonline.com:443 – to login your Power BI account;
          • app.powerbi.com:443 – to access Microsoft’s API in order to render;

          Best regards,
          The DevScope Team

  8. I tried with trial version & completed all the configuration in Power bi Robot agent.

    Anyhow, getting “failed” message under status column. Please support & let me know if you need any additional info from my end.
    Sent a mail to support as well. Please provide your feedback

  9. Hi team,

    2 more questions.

    1. Is it possible to paste as a screenshot instead of image attachment ?

    2. i applied the filter via Power bi slicer & it’s not working properly, please confirm

    Thanks & Regards,
    Peter I

      1. Thanks Again.. tested the above inputs & works fine.

        We don’t have any common user id with internet connection. So we plan to buy 2 license, for backup purpose.

        Is it possible, to sync or share the play list with another user ? Assume that the other user has the same level of power bi access.
        Also, i am trying the send mail from some common id like no_reply@domain.com ( from address) & it’s throwing error.

        Please suggest.

  10. Hello, my organization is trying out the trial version and we have everything properly setup, however, the playlist rendering is timing out and it is making it impossible to get past that stage.

    1. Hi,

      Thank you for contacting us.

      Microsoft Power BI API has been presenting some issues in the last couple of days and that may be causing problems to some playlist by showing timeouts while rendering.
      Microsoft is already working on a fix and they expect to be resolved until March 12th (Today)

      You can see more information at https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/support/

      We advise you to test it again tomorrow. If you still face an issue by then, please send us an email to support@devscope.net to look into it.

      Best regards,

      The DevScope support team

  11. Hi,
    So far I like your product. We will propably start using it to send out monthly reports, when we are done reconciling the numbers. Due to holidays and other factors we cannot have a schedule that corresponds to for instance “the 5th of every month”. It would be great if we could set up a schedule for the next X months, in which we can put hard dates in as input.
    Kind regards,
    Guust

    1. Thank you, Guust.
      We passed your suggestion to our development team. Hopefully, they’ll add this feature in a future version.

  12. Hi, I am evaluating the version, it works for me when I test, but I can not get it sent automatically with recurrence.
    I need to configure something additional?

  13. Hi, we are using your solution since last year and we are very satisfied!
    We have a few suggestions regarding UX that we want to share / request :
    – we have reports with many users in some cases, and the maintenance is a little complicated. Could you please add a new column “Nb Recipients” in the main page “Playlists – view and edit your playlists” => showing the number of customised Recipients can help identifying if missing/too many without entering in every individual task.
    – We have already quite several Playlists => do you plan to create some sub-folders in that same page to make it easier to find the right ones?
    – The functionality you implemented to avoid distributing not well rendered reports is GREAT ! (it would be even worst last week when there were the rendering issues to distribute all those empty reports). Would it be possible to receive an email alert every time when we have a report in ‘not sent’ / rendering issue status?

    Thanks and I am looking for the future evolutions of your platform.
    Dimitar

    1. Hi, Dimitar.

      Thank you for your feedback! Our team really appreciates it.

      The next version of PowerBI Robots will introduce a new feature that we’re confident will answer your first point. As for the other two, we’ve forward them to our development team to take them into account in future versions.

      Once again, thank you for the feedback and keep it coming. We aim to grow PowerBI Robots according to our customers’ needs.

      The DevScope PowerBI team

  14. Dear Devscope,
    There was an Power BI issue with exporting to .PDF from the service this week. This also resulted in some reports that were exported through your tool that were not full page. The issue in Power BI seems to be over now, but I´m still getting half report pages (sometimes even less) using the export functionality to Single .PDF. Are there issues on your side, or should I still give it more time?
    Kind regards,
    Guust

    1. Hi, Guust,

      We have detected another issue with PowerBI Online that is affecting PowerBI Robots.
      If you try to Print a report as seen in the linked image, some of them will appear cut off: https://imgur.com/a/yCxoZ6Z

      We are already in contact with Microsoft to overcome this issue as soon as possible.
      At the moment, we don’t have any workaround except to check visual by visual manually on Power BI and see which ones are not working.
      When we have more information, we will inform you.
      Best Regards,
      Support Team

      1. Ok. This is good to know. I will stop “stalking” you for now and hope that this issue gets resolved soon. I would think that more people would run into these issues though. I think it´s fairly quiet on this forum and also in the Power BI community…
        Thanks for the fast reply and please keep me updated. As soon as this works I can “sell” your product here internally and can finally start implementing this. Keep up the good work!

        1. We have had a few complaints regarding this issue. Unfortunately, since this isn’t related to our product but to Power BI itself, all we can do is report it and hope it gets solved soon.
          Thank you once again, Guust.

          Best regards,
          The DevScope Support team

      2. Dear Devscope,
        Do you have any news on the printing issue? I´m still getting half print outs and my ticket at Microsoft has been set to “resolved”. Since you´ve also been in contact with them I was wondering if you know if they are actually working on it. In my opinion this is a key requirement to be able to work with your software (although I realize this is not your fault).
        Kind regards,
        Guust

          1. Hi Devscope,
            I’ve been in contact with the support desk. They have been very helpful, but can´t help me any further… Do you have any idea how long this will still last? I´m not asking for a specific date here, but just an educated guess.
            Kind regards,
            Guust

          2. Hi again, Guust.

            Our team managed to find a workaround for this issue and will email you and other clients the solution.

            Best regards,
            The DevScope team

  15. Hi Team,

    Our objective is to take the print out of the pdf file that we received in eMail via Power bi robots.

    PDF/Print output is not in proper format due to the page setup i think. Is it possible, to change the page setup becuse.

    1. report page covers only 50-60% of the pdf page and it looks very small/difficult to read the numbers
    2. Some scenario, we want to split the one report page into two pdf pages ( top contains charts/graphs and bottom of the reports contains table format output)

    Regards,
    Peter I

    1. Hi, Guust!

      We don’t have plans at the moment to export to PowerPoint from PowerBI Robots. That being said, we have a solution called PowerBI Tiles Pro that connects Power BI to PowerPoint, Word and Outlook, allowing you to insert high quality screenshots of reports in presentations, documents and emails. Data refresh is manual, but all the reports in the presentation are updated with a single click. You should check it out: https://www.powerbitiles.com/?app=Pro

      Best regards,
      The DevScope team

      1. Hi!
        Thanks for the fast response. I´m now a bit confused as to what tool would be best, so hereby my business case;

        I need to create 1 PowerPoint file that contains the same report page from Power BI multiple times, depending on my filters. So for instance “France”, “USA” etc. There are about 15 of these pages, but there are many more reports that I want to use in the same way. Ideally I would like to refresh all the reports in one go, but I don´t think that is possible.
        What would be the best tool for me?
        Can I refresh each Powerpoint in one click or do I have to refresh each page in my Powerpoint individually?
        Kind regards,
        Guust

        1. Hi again, Guust. With PowerBI Tiles Pro you just need to add each of those filtered reports to PowerPoint once. They can be in the same page or different pages, whatever you prefer. The refresh button updates all of those filtered reports in the presentation in one click, regardless of page (you also have the option to update only a few, if you want).
          If you have any more questions, feel free to ask.

          Best regards,
          The DevScope team

  16. Hi! Thanks again for the fast response. This sounds really good and exactly what I need. I will play around with this a bit more and decide If we will take the license.

  17. Hi Support Team
    I used trail version but when setting complted. I don’t receive email from robot task.

    Pls help me to solv it.

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