What is the difference between Power BI desktop and Power Query editor?

In the dynamic world of business intelligence, Microsoft Power BI stands tall as a versatile tool empowering organizations with data visualization, analytics, and interactive reporting capabilities. Two key components of Power BI, often source of confusion for users, are Power BI Desktop and Power Query Editor. In this blog post, we will navigate through the intricacies of these tools, elucidating their differences, use cases, and how they collectively contribute to the robust Power BI ecosystem.

Understanding Power BI Desktop:

Key Features and Functionality:

1. Data Modeling:

  • Power BI Desktop serves as the hub for data modeling. It allows users to import, transform, and model data from various sources, creating relationships and measures to build a comprehensive data model.

2. Report Creation:

  • The tool facilitates the creation of interactive reports and dashboards. Users can design visualizations, add calculated fields, and craft compelling narratives to convey insights effectively.

3. Query Editor Integration:

  • Power BI Desktop seamlessly integrates with Power Query Editor, providing a unified environment for both data modeling and transformation.

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Understanding Power Query Editor:

Key Features and Functionality:

1. Data Transformation:

  • Power Query Editor is dedicated to data transformation. It allows users to connect to various data sources, apply transformations, clean data, and shape it before it is loaded into the Power BI data model.

2. M Query Language:

  • Power Query Editor uses M Query Language, a functional language, to define data transformations. Users can create custom queries and manipulate data using a step-by-step approach.

3. Advanced Transformations:

  • Unlike Power BI Desktop, Power Query Editor provides more advanced data transformation capabilities, including conditional columns, custom functions, and complex data shaping operations.

Differences Between Power BI Desktop and Power Query Editor:

1. Primary Function:

  • Power BI Desktop is primarily focused on data modeling, report creation, and visualization. Power Query Editor, on the other hand, is specialized for data transformation and shaping.

2. User Interface:

  • Power BI Desktop features a user-friendly interface for designing reports and dashboards. Power Query Editor has a dedicated interface for data transformation tasks, presenting a step-by-step view of applied transformations.

3. Transformations Complexity:

  • Power Query Editor supports more complex and granular data transformations compared to Power BI Desktop. It is designed for users who require in-depth control over data shaping operations.

4. Query Language:

  • Power Query Editor uses the M Query Language for defining transformations, while Power BI Desktop utilizes DAX (Data Analysis Expressions) for creating calculated columns and measures.

External Resources for In-Depth Understanding:

  1. Microsoft Power BI Documentation: Explore the official Power BI documentation for comprehensive guides, tutorials, and best practices on using Power BI Desktop and Power Query Editor.
  2. Power Query M Language Reference: Dive into the official M Language reference to understand the syntax, functions, and capabilities of the M Query Language used in Power Query Editor.

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FAQs: Power BI Desktop vs. Power Query Editor

1. Can I perform data transformations in Power BI Desktop?

  • While Power BI Desktop allows for basic data transformations, Power Query Editor is the dedicated tool for advanced and detailed data shaping operations.

2. Are changes made in Power Query Editor reflected in Power BI Desktop?

  • Yes, changes made in Power Query Editor are reflected in Power BI Desktop. The two tools work seamlessly together, with Power Query Editor providing a pre-processing stage for data before it enters the data model.

3. Can I create calculated columns and measures in Power Query Editor?

  • No, calculated columns and measures are created in Power BI Desktop using DAX (Data Analysis Expressions). Power Query Editor focuses on data transformations before the data enters the data model.

4. Is M Query Language difficult to learn for data transformations?

  • While M Query Language may have a learning curve, it provides powerful capabilities for data transformations. Users familiar with programming concepts may find it intuitive.


In the realm of Power BI, understanding the roles of Power BI Desktop and Power Query Editor is crucial for maximizing the potential of this robust business intelligence platform. Power BI Desktop serves as the creative space for designing reports and visualizations, while Power Query Editor excels in data transformation and shaping. By seamlessly integrating these tools, Power BI provides a comprehensive environment for end-to-end data analysis and reporting. Delve into the external resources and FAQs provided to deepen your understanding, enhancing your proficiency in leveraging Power BI Desktop and Power Query Editor for transformative data insights.