Power BI Monthly Digest February 2019

Power BI Monthly

Welcome to Power BI Monthly Digest for February 2019! We’ve got some fun, new things to share in this February release, including one that doesn’t happen very often, but you’ll have to keep reading to find out about that one!

Remember to check out the video included here for brief demos of all the features and enhancements we discuss. Let’s begin in the report view:

1. The Filter Pane – A new representation of the Filter Pane was previously released, which I really like, as it’s an expandable, detachable item with an Office feel to it. We currently see 2 Filter Panes, but the goal of the Power BI team is to make it just the one newer pane in the future.

They’ve done some enhancements under the Format area for the Filter Pane and Filter Card. There are new properties that you can adjust in there such as the title and header size text and the font family.

You can even choose a background color and that will apply and fill in the whole Filter Pane. This can help ensure that it’s clearly visible to your users, as even when you minimize the pane, it will appear as a tab or strip of that color and users can then click to expand that tab.

These properties (font family, color and text size) have also been added to the Filter Card, so you can make that stand out more as well.

2. Word Wrapping – Also in the visuals Format area is something that was available within the table and the matrix but is now extended to titles. When we’ve created something in the past, there may be a battle for space, and we’d get the old ellipsis (…) at the end instead of the whole title. Now you can set up word wrap, and the title will go to that second line.

This is as simple as selecting the visual and going into the Format Pane and under Title, just turn on the Word Wrap property. This is great for making the most of the space we have.

3. Bordering – We’ve had the ability for bordering but a new enhancement allows us to make these borders that we enable softer by rounding the edges. We can do this simply by adjusting the radius under the Border/Format area.

4. Interactive Filtering – One of the coolest features of Power BI is that we can select a column in a chart and then do interactive filtering across to our other visuals. If we go in the other direction and choose a table or matrix, our column chart has two options for filtering. We have the filter that was always a choice and the choice for cross highlighting.

In the past you would go into interactive filtering and toggle it on, pick one and see how it’s going to interact, then pick another and do the same thing. Since you had to do this for each individual piece, it was a bit of a monotonous process.

Right now, the default is cross highlighting. The change made has added more capability in the report settings, so if you want a different default behavior to happen, you set it to do that. If you know you’re always going to use filter, then you can set it so default will always be filter.

What’s neat is that if you have quite a few visuals and you know you want to change one, any manual changes you made when you switched this will remain. Take a peek at our demo; we’ll show you how to manually change for individual visuals and how the new change works.

5. Key Influencers Visual – Here’s the one I mentioned that we don’t see often. The custom visual marketplace is always growing, we don’t often see native built in visuals – but now we’ve got one in Preview!

With this Key Influencers Visual we’ll have two mappable areas, one will be for a metric we want to analyze and the other will be for categories which impact the metric. We can choose something that we would like to analyze by categories and select fields that could impact the metric and see the actual values.

Here’s a run-down of what we did in our demo:

  • You’ll find this new visual in the bottom left in the Visualization section. We start by dropping this Key Influencers visual into our report.

 

  • Then we can add in what we want to analyze.
  • For our demo, we added a dataset called Shark Attacks and we want to look at what influences whether a shark attack is fatal.
  • So, we click and drag my fatal (Y/N) fields over to analyze.
    • A couple important things to keep in mind for these fields you’re analyzing:

 

  • This is a field that you cannot leverage calculated measures in. That’s why in our case we used a simple Yes/No measure.

 

  • You should only have about 10 or less unique values to analyze, otherwise you’re trying to predict something that influences on 100s or 1000s of values.
  • Next in our example, we bring in things we think may influence a fatality in a shark attack into the Explain By field, such as type of attack, the activity the person was doing when the attack occurred, the species of shark and the sex of the person attacked.
  • Now on the Key Influencers section of our dashboard, we see two visuals, a column chart and a visual stating analysis such as ‘When the sex is male fatality is 1.21x more likely’.
  • There is also a drop down that will list the values, so in our case we can call up Y or N to see how what we chose influences a shark attack fatality.
  • At the top you’ll also see ‘Top Segments’ and this will bucket things together for you which will open up a couple new visuals to look at things a little more in depth.
  • So, a very cool visual that you can build into your report and a neat way to see what’s influencing your data that you may not even be thinking about. Check out our video to see this demoed with more detail.

    6. Q&A Explorer – We’ve already had the ability to create our own questions which will be available for our users to take advantage of. This new feature will pre-populate suggested questions for us.

    When we click on our Q&A Explorer button, on the bottom left you’ll now see a list of questions to get you started that are determined by what may interest you. You can click on one of these to pull in and adjust as you want, save them or click ask a related question for it.

    Of course, some may make sense, and some may not, but you may find a pre-suggested question that you may not have thought of! And we’re still in control of adding our own created questions on top of that.

    7. Python and R Integration – There have been some improvements made on the visual side for Python and R integration where there’s some IntelliSense added and a better editor for working with the Python and R visuals. Who doesn’t love the assistance of IntelliSense? A big win here.

    8. Live Connection and Direct Query – Lastly, there were some changes to Live Connection and Direct Query. We’ve seen some exciting changes recently around Direct Query. This one is more on the forward-facing error message that we receive.

    Should you have any error messages like the SQL Server can’t be connected or an authentication issue for instance, this will now be much more pronounced and clearer for you to understand.

    That wraps it up for February. This update was a little on the smaller side but still some very cool features and enhancements. Hope you’re as excited as I am to put some of these new features to use.

    As always, continue to follow us on our You Tube channel and be sure to subscribe to us. Also, please share anything you’ve tried out with any recent new features; we’d love to hear about it. We’ll see you in March with our next edition of Power BI Monthly Digest!

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Power BI Monthly Digest–December 2018

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Welcome to our last Power BI Monthly Digest of 2018! This release is a bit lighter than last month which was a huge one but still everyone is excited when the new Power BI features come out. If you happened to miss our November edition, be sure to check it out – some have said it was the largest feature update since Power BI’s release!

As usual, we’ll start with some reporting features:

1. Smart Guides – These have to do with making sure all your visuals are aligned correctly and being able to see them all together. The new feature may be lightweight in nature, but I feel there will be much appreciation from the community of this addition to the tool-set.

In the View tab, we’ve already had the capability of enabling ‘show grid lines’ and ‘snap objects to grid’ which gave people some control over where their visuals landed. This new feature falls in that same line. Just like you manipulate images or text boxes in Power Point, we now have that capability when we’re dragging, moving or resizing a visual.

We get red line indicators showing when we have any sort of alignment with other objects on the same page. This adds another way that Power BI has that Microsoft Office look and feel that allows you to more efficiently and effectively leverage the space given to us in our report pages.

2. Accessibility – Many new updates have been added to make things, like keyboard shortcuts, more accessible to the people that need or just want to have them. They’ve made some enhancements to those and added even more to the keyboard shortcuts that were there.

Over the past few releases there have been some additions to keyboard enhancement, screen reader accessibility, high contrast and such. This continues this month for those who need those accessibility options in Power BI; it’s already robust in this but with the direction they’re going we believe it’s going to be completely accessibly in all forms and fashions in the near future.

So, new this month is the addition of a shortcut to display the shortcuts. As more elements for accessibility get added, this will be important because having a quick list of shortcuts and the capability they bring will make things easier. There’s also a hyperlink in there which will take you right to their website that will show and describe all the features that are there.

Simply use the ‘Shift + ?’ shortcut in the report view and a pop up will appear with a list of keyboard shortcuts and where they work across the product, broken down specific to the certain areas like pane navigation or on a visual. Plus, the hyperlink I spoke of at the bottom of the pop up is an easy one stop shop to find all the keyboard shortcuts available to you.

Be sure to check out the video included here to see a few of these in action.

3. Buttons – This has been a big feature request from the community. Now you can have Tool Tips on buttons or images to include details of what the button does or really whatever you want! Let’s say I want to create a button that my users can click on and it will take them to a bookmark or launch the Q&A Explorer for example.

I want to have the ability for my users to know what it’s going to do before they click on it. In these times of digital storytelling, bookmarks and drillthroughs have become extremely popular for building effective reports and adding tooltips to buttons and images make them much more effective as a tool.

This enhancement is simple but effective. Not only can you import a picture that says, ‘click me’, you can also add a tooltip that says, ‘By clicking this you’ll reset all the filters’ or whatever that button does. It provides transparency and clarity for the end user.

While you have the button or image selected, simply expand the ‘Tool Tip’ option under the Visualizations pane and add the text you want, maybe ‘click me now for more!’ When users hover over that button, they’ll see that text that you’ve added.

4. DAX Editor – We showed some DAX editor changes a few releases ago which we thought may be the just the beginning of some new changes and indeed it was. This new item will help if you need accessibility features, as well as for people who do presentations on DAX for user groups.

You now have the capability of zooming in and making the text larger for that formula you’re writing out. All you need to do is hit the Control key and the + or – to, use a keyboard shortcut, or hold Control and scroll the mouse wheel up and down. A great feature for presentations and showcasing your DAX to others.

5. Live Connection – This next one is currently in preview. There’s been much talk recently around DirectQuery. With Composite Models going generally available last month and all the goodness that comes with it for DirectQuery, you may be thinking, what about my analysis services connection. Specifically, the ‘Connect Live’ option?

This new feature does not go to the full scale of what we have with DirectQuery but it’s a step in the right direction. If you don’t know what I’m talking about here, check out our November edition about the huge feature known as composite models.

This new feature is about giving live connections to SSAS the capability to support Q&A. There are some specifics to point out. It doesn’t work for multi-dimensional on-premise instances of SSAS. Also, this will only work for versions on Tabular SSAS 2016 RTM V 13.0.1601.5 and above. It is safe to assume that all future versions of Tabular SSAS will support this as well.

Turning this feature on will give users all Q&A functionality which includes creating visuals and the Q&A explorer. This feature is in preview for this release, but it’s sure to get some conversations started. Since this is only just appearing as a preview feature many things can change. The important thing is that the Power BI team is listening to the conversations the community is having, and we will definitely see more conversation on this feature. Hopefully we will see this feature go down the same path as DirectQuery and eventually have the capability to combine our ‘Live Connection’ analysis services sources with imported sources.

That’s it for this month. Definitely a smaller release than last month but still some interesting updates and features. Hope you enjoyed this edition of Power BI Monthly Digest and remember to subscribe and hit the notification button to be alerted on all our great content.

Please take a minute to let us hear what feature you’re excited about or what you’d like to see in the future. Plus, go to the Power BI ideas forum to post things you’d like to see – the Button Tool Tip feature I showed here was based on an idea someone posted in the forum.

See you back here in 2019 with Power BI Monthly Digest – Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

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Power BI Monthly Digest–November 2018

Power BI Monthly
Welcome back to the Power BI Monthly Digest for November! We’ve got a big update this month – some are saying the largest to date! Some things that we featured in previous months are becoming generally available this month, as well as some awesome new features (some in Preview).

Either way, there’s a lot of good stuff, so let’s jump in! We’ll start on the data visualization side of things:

1. The Matrix – It’s all about ease and functionality when we talk about Power BI and there are always enhancements. As report creators, we create items, so users know what features they have at their disposal to consume it.

Well, the Matrix got little face-lift this month, making it easier for users to navigate through hierarchies. We all know and love hierarchies and the default behavior is you move and drill down into the next level of the hierarchy. You can choose to go to the next level on its own or include the parent. But something was missing for those that still use Power Pivot tables.

Instead of expanding the entire next level, let’s say I only want to expand one selected item, kind of like Excel Pivot Table functionality. In our demo, you’ll see we now have options to do this.

You’ll see the usual hierarchy buttons on your matrix but now we can right-click a selection and we get an expand option, which gives us the choice of expanding the selection only, not the entire level or ‘all’ as we’re used to having.

We all want to create and design reports for the users that are going to consume them. Some users may not know that this feature is there for them or know they need to right-click to use it. Another way we can enhance this is we can add an expand and collapse button to this by simply going into the Format area and under Row Headers, we can turn on +/- icons, so users can clearly see the option on each selection.

2. Filters – This one is a game changer that will affect both the appearance of the developers experience and the users that will consume on the cloud service, specifically within the Scope Filter area. On the right-hand side within that pane, at the bottom where you have the report page, the visual, page and visual level and drill throughs, there’s a new presentation layer so there’s a change in how that appears.

This is in preview and it won’t be on by default, but you’ll have to enable this option in the report setting if you have a pre-existing report that may have been built in an older version of Power BI. So, be sure to enable this ‘New Filter Experience’ preview feature and under Report Settings enable the ‘Update Filter Pane’; for old reports this will be off but new reports it will be on.

It’s important to note that this will be taking over eventually and we’re going to lose the old area where we used to set up these filters; all will be done in the new selection area. For now, when turned on you’ll see a new Filters tab that can be expanded. It’s more easily presented to users and you can choose and modify your filters within this new bar/tab.

For developers, note that if you need to add more filters at the page level, you currently can’t do that in this new filter pane. You still must go to the Page Level Filters in the old pane, then it will present itself in the new pane and you can interact with it there.

There’s also a filter icon added under the visual that when you hover over it will tell which slicers and filters are affecting this visual. Keep an eye on this over the next few months for changes or enhancements as it is in preview. Be sure to check out our demo here to see more details on this one.

3. Accessibility Features – Power BI is making it easier for people with disabilities. A couple months ago, we covered the high contrast mode. One of the biggest new features is access for screen reader support for pieces of the report side, Q&A and the modeling side. Also, accessibility for keyboard shortcuts and maneuverability through these options.

This now extends all the awesome features that we use to a much broader group of individuals to leverage. We love to see Microsoft’s investment of new enhancements for accessibility that have come out over the past few releases.

4. Color Saturation on Visuals – We all know and love conditional formatting and we’ve had some recent amendments to that. Now any visuals (bars, columns, pies) that have the option for color saturation, you can go in and hit the advanced options and you can do conditional formatting for the color saturation.

In the Formatting section under Data Colors, we go to Advanced Controls and once selected we get a box to easily make our color saturation choices. A simple but great addition that makes it easy to take advantage of for charts which we would have previously had to write some DAX to make this happen.

5. Q&A Explorer – They’ve made some additions to the Q&A Explorer and Q&A in general in how you can ask questions of your data and then have additional relative questions if you want to dig deeper. So, we can ask a question, get what we’re looking for, then save it and add more to build upon that initial question.

There are some pre-programmed expressions to use and reserved keywords to take note of, but the idea is we can start with something, build on it, swap out filters, change out values, etc. – effectively doing a building block so we can get to a more complex example.

So, under Buttons, go to Q&A, then enter the Explorer and you can type in a question to ask about your data. It will store your first question to reference and build upon this by typing other related questions to get more specific on our saved query in the Ask a Related Question field. When you scroll down you can see all the previous queries you’ve built upon; all this making it much easier to build the Q&A out when you want to dig further.

Next, let’s look at some big changes on the data modeling side:

1. Modeling – some new options added here (still in Preview). When we select this option in Preview, this will add in a new Icon on the left for relationships. We open it and we’ll see a new pane on the right-hand side. With this new option, we can create different diagrams of our tables. Instead of just having the relationships and tables we brought in, if we have a very complex model, we can create a model around specific objects and the related tables to one table to simplify the view.

We’ve had customers that had 50+ tables in their relationships view. The idea here is if you have different subsets of that data model that you want to highlight, you can have different views and you do this like you would create a new report page.

You click on the layout and set it up with what you want to bring in by dragging it. Then you can click on Options. One option being ‘Add Related Tables’ which will add in the items that are related to that.

Here’s another change. When we’re cleaning up a data model, we often hide key columns that we know we’re not going to have in the report view. In the past, we couldn’t multi-select across tables. Now you can do that using the Control key and turning on the ‘is hidden’ toggle under Properties and these items are now hidden in the report view.

We also have a new Display Folder option under Properties. Now within a table itself, we can create a display folder. With this we can select anything on our table to focus on and then add criteria in the display folder field.

I’m throwing a lot at you on this one, so be sure to watch our demo here for more about these new modeling formatting and features.

2. Composite Models – A few months ago we discussed a big new feature where you can combine both direct query and imported data model together – a much awaited feature. This month the ability to do this, as well as to publish to the Power BI service will become generally available.

3. DAX – Some new DAX functions are available this month. There are 4 new expressions that all relate to hierarchal data – looking at elements like evaluating percentage of the child value as compared to its parent for example. There’s also non-visual and drill down features. These are all in the DAX intellisense, so when you start typing, you’ll see the description and syntax come up, all around hierarchal data.

4. Copy/Paste – This last big feature has been a major request for copy/pasting between different PBIx files. We’ve been able to do this within report pages within a Power BI report, but now you can do this across multiple report files. It’s taking the field names that are mapped to that visual, so that needs to be mimicked in the new report, so this is situational to a couple reports based on the same data model. So, keep this in mind.

That wraps it up for November. Lots of fun stuff in our eyes. We’d like to know what you’re most excited about in the new release. Please take a minute and tell us in the comment section below or give us some cool examples of how you’ve used some previous month’s updates. See you next month with the December edition of Power BI Monthly Digest!

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Power BI Monthly Digest–October 2018

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It’s October and we’re back again with our Power BI Monthly Digest to tell you about our favorite picks from the Power BI new features release. This release is not as big as some previous ones, but there are some cool user enhancements and interface changes that we’re excited to share. Be sure to watch the video included for demos on the features I highlight below.

1. Search in Filters – Starting on the report side of things, take a look at the section in the right-hand corner of Power BI where we find the various scopes of filters – visual, page and report level filters. The Power BI Team has added an enhancement where we now have the capability to search within these.

So, when you have a lot of distinct values in that filter area, instead of having to scroll through them to select a filter, you can now search. It’s contextual so when you begin to type it will find and list all the filters that have that word in it. A quick, time saving element.

2. The DAX Editor – This change is something many have been waiting for, mainly those keyboard aficionados who love coding. With this new feature the Power BI Team has added a ton of keyboard commands that allow us to quickly and easily design and develop our desk code. If you love DAX, these keyboard shortcuts will be incredibly helpful when you’re working within your code, giving you better navigation and mobility.

Be sure to check out our video demo here to see some examples of these in action!

3. Column Quality and Column Distribution – In our demo, you may notice one simple change with a line under the columns; that line is not there for decoration but is pretty cool and powerful, but I’ll get back to that in a second.

The new enhancement here allows us to dive into a column and get additional details, things like distinct counts, unique values or how many nulls or errors there are. Let’s say you did a data type change, but a few values return invalid results because they could not be converted to the new type. With this new feature you can see this error clearly in the header section.

It’s important to note that the features in this section do work within the preview of the data, so if you’ve got a million rows it’s not going to give you a list of all your errors. You’ll only get that encounter when you close and apply but it does give us a bit extra here, such as seeing the distribution which is nice.

Another part of this new feature is the Column Quality feature which will show you the percentage of values that are valid, have errors or are empty/null. And remember that line under the columns I mentioned? Without clicking Column Quality, that line or bar will give you a representation of the percentage of valid, errors or empty columns at a quick glance. These features are still in Preview – check out the demo to see these in use.

4. Fuzzy Matching – We’ve saved the most robust element of this release for last and this is a technology we’ve seen in other tools like Integration Services called Fuzzy Matching, and in this case, we’ve got Fuzzy Merge which uses fuzzy logic to match values. So, if you have data quality issues, the idea here is to use this to look up similar values during a join.

In our demo example we have two tables, one of all the states in our dataset and another of tradeshow contacts which has a state column containing some misspelled states, a.k.a. bad data. When we go to load that into our dataset, it’s going to create a relationship for these and with the bad data in there, some rows will be excluded from the data set.

Next, we go under the Merge Queries on our Home Screen and select ‘Merge Queries as New’ and merge our Trade Show Contacts with our State Table and base it off the state column. This would alert us of the number of columns that matched, which because of the bad data would be off.

To fix this, we can now check off ‘Use Fuzzy Matching to Compare the Merge’. This will use Fuzzy Matching to compare the merge and it will be able to find matches and use some logic – plus you can turn on additional settings to adjust the thresholds and choose the join kind. In our case we chose inner join (only matching rows), and it brought back the correct state name in our State Table to match those incorrect column rows in our Tradeshow Contacts table, thus addressing the data quality problem and doing the heavy lifting of a quality check for us.

That’s it for this month. If you’re a DAX enthusiast and a keyboard person, you may feel like the new feature winner here with those keyboard shortcuts. But there are still some other cool enhancements and features to check out.

As always, we’d love for you to tell us which new feature you like in the comment section below or let us know what you’re hoping to see come out soon. Thanks for checking us out and be sure to watch for us next month for the Power BI Monthly Digest for November!

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Power BI Monthly Digest–September

Power BI Monthly

Welcome to the September edition of our Power BI Monthly Digest, where we tell you about our top picks with the most immediate impact of the newly added features and updates in Power BI. As always, check out the video included in this blog for brief demos of the features we discuss.

We’ll start this month by looking at what’s new on the report/visualization side:

1. Scatter Chart – One of the strengths of Scatter Chart is you can have multiple measures and metrics all together in your view with cool features like Play Access. The big change that’s been made is the option of changing your Scatter Chart into a Dot Plot.

Traditionally we’d have our X and Y axis and we had to put our metrics on these, but now we can use more categorical data. We simply bring in our Scatter Chart, choose the fields we want and then the metrics by which we want to look at.

This will now give you a dot plot that you can interact with by selecting and filtering just like in the past, plus you can also drill in to see more detail of the fields you’ve selected. You do lose the Play Access functionality with this route, but it’s a good visualization of your metrics with multiple points of interest represented, giving you more mobility in how you can display the data.

2. Tables and Matrix – Another oldie but goody with a simple change that many have been asking for has to do with the Table and Matrix visual. There was a previous facelift which gave us more interactivity in tables and matrix and now we have even more. Now, we can right-click on a selection or cell in a table or matrix and copy that data out. You can choose to copy just a value or a selection and then paste it into an Excel spreadsheet, text file or where ever you want it to go.

3. Themes – Themes allow you to standardize your reports by creating a centralized theme file for your organization and then apply it and all your visuals inherit that for a streamlined look and feel to your reports. Newly added are some pre-created themes that can be easily selected from the drop down. Also added is a quick access button to the themes library where you can see a gallery of themes launched on the Power BI community page created by other users which you can download and import.

4. Report Page Tooltips is now generally available, so anyone can leverage these to do some digital storytelling and show off your data more effectively. Report Page Tooltips allow you to create a tooltip, maybe with a report page, and when users go to a report that you’ve chosen the tooltip to go under, they can hover over a visual on a report and the report that you’ve created the tooltip for will pop open.

In effect, it’s like leveraging the drill through filter in that whatever we hover over it effectively passes those filters to the report page tooltip. In my opinion, a very cool new feature. There are so many great things you can do with tooltips so be sure to take advantage of them.

Now let’s move over to the modeling side of things:

1. Aggregations – A big change in July was the addition of Composite Model, which is the ability to have imported sources and direct query in the same model. The new feature this month uses this to now build aggregations in your model.

If you’re not aware of the concept of aggregations, the concept has existed for a long time for more IT driven BI tools like Analysis Services – well now you can build out your own aggregations in Power BI.

The idea here is to have pre-stored or pre-cached results, so when someone goes to query a large table (maybe with billions of rows), you obviously don’t want to bring billions of rows into your data model, so you might do something like direct query against that. The problem there is doing a direct query against that can often lead to slow performance on the visualization of that.

The new feature offsets that latency performance element by limiting the number of queries sent to the data source using direct query. This is done by creating two tables: one being your direct query source and the other you’ll create an aggregate table that summarizes that data in some way. Now when someone goes to query a table or info in Power BI, they can choose from a pre-aggregated and imported table instead of going back to the data source, thus bringing the results back much faster and more efficiently.

This is a bit of an advanced feature but well worth it if you’re dealing with a direct query source and lots of data. Again, check out our video for a demo of this.

2. Import from PDF – Last month we talked about the exciting addition of export to PDF (still in Preview). New this month is there is now a connector that you can access where you can point to a PDF file and like the connect to web element, it will go through and detect what data it sees in that file that you may want to import into Power BI. Using the Navigator Pane within the Get Data section, you’ll see all the regions where it found data. Then you simply select what data you want, a table for instance, and bring it into Query Editor to clean it up as needed.

3. Our last feature has to do with M or the Mash up Language – We always tell people starting out with Power BI to get familiar with reading M because that’s the code that’s being written behind the curtain. You can do this by hitting the Advanced Editor in the GUI and see what it looks like.

One thing missing in Power BI, for DAX for instance, is that it would check out syntax and tell us if it’s right or wrong, but it ended there. But they’ve added IntelliSense which is incredibly helpful. When it comes to all the different functions in DAX, it will now tell us exactly what the function does and what its syntax is – it basically holds your hand and follows along with you.

This is certainly helpful with M as that’s not the first thing you go in and learn when starting in Power BI but it’s very extensive on what you can leverage. So, in the Advanced Editor within Query Editor, the IntelliSense will recognize as you start to type and walk you through if you want some programmatic capability instead of using the GUI. Or for things you just can’t do with the GUI like parameterizing a URL to do pagination or looping. You’ll need M for this and this will help you to do that as you start to learn and write it.

Those are our favorite new features for the month of September. Take a look at the Power BI team blog for all the features released this month. Please take a moment and comment below and let us know what new feature you’re excited about and be sure to check out our Power BI Monthly Digest again next month – see you then!

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Power BI Monthly Digest-August 2018

Power BI Monthly

If you’ve been following this series, you know that each month we dive into the new releases from Power BI and we like to focus on the things we think will make the most impact. This month we’ll include the release of the #1 requested feature! Be sure to watch the video for a quick demo of each new feature we discuss here.

OK, here’s what’s new and exciting:

1. Bookmarking Groups – When creating bookmarks, there are basically two approaches – navigational bookmarks where we have an image, for example, that links you to something else – it navigates you within the report. Then we have other bookmarks that are meant for more of a storytelling perspective.

Up to now, although we can divide bookmarks into these 2 categories, when we look at the bookmark pane, we’ve had to put all the bookmarks into one bin. Wouldn’t it be good to store these different approaches in different places? Now we can do just that, giving you a better way to organize your bookmarks by navigational and storytelling.

2. Next is the #1 requested feature (drumroll please) – exporting reports to a PDF. Many of you may work with or for people who love to have reports printed and put in their hands, but there has not been a great way to do this. Now from the Power BI Desktop, we can export reports to a PDF and print them, quickly and easily. And when doing this, it will not print your wallpaper, only the report pages and if any of your report pages are marked are hidden, these will be excluded.

3. Themes are now generally available – The purpose of themes is to standardize your design process. These have been in Preview for quite a while but are now generally available. Again, check out our video for a quick look at themes. A cool thing to point out here is they’ve added a Theme file (an advanced file I’d call it) where you can literally define every asset of every single visual type, so you can specify colors or fonts for maps, bar charts, or whatever. So, you can standardize your report process across the entire enterprise.

4. Slicer restatement – A simple addition to an ‘oldie but goody’ here. If you have a slicer with a drop-down slicer style, when you select something from the drop down we can readily see it, so we can easily understand what filter has been applied. But if we click on List, we just got a list. What has been added is the ability to visibly list what has been applied in this filter.

In the past we’d have to scroll through the whole list to see what has been selected. Now we can go into the properties of the slicer and under Format/Slicer Header, we can go to Filter Restatement. When this is turned on, we can see above our list which ones have been selected instead of having to scroll through the list.

5. Conditional Formatting by Values – These are more enhancements added since we talked about this a few months ago. This new feature is conditional formatting by field value. With conditional formatting, we’re using some coloration and metric or form of evaluation to decide about performance or a KPI to easily display this. So, if we’re evaluating based on profits, for instance, we can use coloration to easily see if performance is good or bad.

What’s been added is we can leverage some conditional logic and look at a column and format it by the column value, basically a color from a field – so the field value will return back a color name or text color, either a literal string value, blue for example, or the hex representation of a color and that dictates how it should be colored. This will also be updated as data gets refreshed or surpasses or goes below the thresholds you’ve set. Check out the video of how to use this new feature.

6. Python integration is now in Preview. Another widely requested feature for those that write a lot of R code. Under Options you’ll see Python Scripting (or you can follow the same course as R set up) where you list the directories and the IDE that needs to open. With this little initial set up, it’s on and in place. You’ll now see under the Visualization section a Python visuals icon and you can leverage this using things like ggplot and all these types of libraries that allow for these data visualizations, so you can take advantage of this directly inside of Power BI.

You can also use this when bringing in data. Simply click on Get Data and Python script and you can easily put in Python script. If you haven’t been using Python, this language is frequently used for data science and analysis, so we can now do data cleansing and statistical analysis with some strong functionality done with Python that is not natively available inside Power BI. You can also use Python in the Query Editor to do Transforms in Python for data cleansing and data replacement.

7. Q&A inside the Power BI Desktop is now generally available. This allows you to ask questions of your data interactively within your reports just like you can in the Power BI Service.

8. Last but certainly not least, Data Categories on Measures. You’ve likely worked with Data Categories if you’ve worked with geography fields or links that need to be marked as a URL. We can now leverage calculated measures, so if you have a measure value that’s effectively populating a URL, you can actually have that link to click on inside your Power BI Report, instead of it showing up simply as text in the past. Plus, not only can you click on it in your report on the desktop, but that clickable link will also be on your exported PDF when using the feature we talked about earlier.

Hope you enjoyed our top August Power BI updates. Please take a moment to comment below and tell us what you like about the new updates and what you’re excited about. And remember to share with us any great use cases or cool examples you’ve tried, and we may showcase them in our monthly digest. See you next month!

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Power BI Monthly Digest-July 2018

Power BI Monthly

Last month’s digest was a bit on the lighter side, but not this month! The Power BI team is great at listening to the community and July is packed with new updates to share with you. Be sure to watch the video included here for demos of all these new features and updates.

1. Let’s begin with something we’re excited about and have been waiting for; this Composite Model update comes with a few parts so let’s dig in. With this update we can now use Direct Query with Imported sources (insert celebration horn here!).

For those of you unfamiliar with Direct Query, it gives you the ability to connect directly (direct query) to a SQL Server database for instance, without having to import the data from any source and bring it in. Previously, if you were leveraging this feature, you couldn’t then also import data from another source, or even do direct query to another source.

This is a huge feature that we’ve been waiting on, but they didn’t stop there. Not only can we have an imported source along with a direct query source, but to use our demo example where we had 4 different tables as part of our direct query source, they created a ‘hybrid’ situation with your direct queries called Dual. You now have 3 different storage modes: Import, Direct Query and Dual.

2. Dual Mode , along with Composite Model,  is still in preview but is available to anyone, not just premium users. Before, if you wanted to do Direct Query, it was all or nothing. If I’m connecting to a SQL Data Warehouse, for example, and I know I wanted some of the performance elements for Direct Query for only a couple of tables, I would still have to bring all the necessary tables in the source connection. But let’s say we have a more static, reference table that is less dynamic within that set, but those fields will potentially be part of the visuals, now you can choose to Import only those static tables while still using Direct Query for the larger tables that are constantly changing

With Direct Query if my visual is using a field from a table that is part of Direct Query, it sends the query out to the source server and comes back with the response. From a performance perspective, you’re putting more workload on the SQL Server side.

But let’s say we have a list, countries or companies for instance, that we’re using as legends within our visuals, something that’s not changing often, we can change the table which is using these columns into “Dual” which will Import the data and help in rendering the visuals quicker because we are not waiting on a response from the server.

So, what Dual does is allows you to choose, let’s say 1 of the 4 tables in our demo, to have that import behavior. This definitely has impact from a performance perspective.

3. Another part of these new capabilities that is an element that comes into play for those doing data modeling, is called Many to Many Relationship. Now we all know when you’re in the relationship view that there was a section under cardinality that says Many to Many.

This new update is an answer to a work around that we’ve done whenever we have 2 tables that had non-unique values and that there was a relationship there, we had to create a bridge table (connecting them and using cross filtering) that would contain all the unique values. The update eliminates that need. We can connect 2 tables and create a relationship between columns that are non-unique.

This may be especially helpful to new Power BI users, as it’s common to see new users bring in 2 tables not realizing one of those tables must have a unique value that you’ll be relating them on. Now you can relate 2 tables where neither have a unique value and be able to connect to them.

You do need to realize this impacts the data you present when creating a visual based on Many to Many, but it’s a great add on and there’s still a message alerting you of this impact when you create this type of relationship.

Now let’s move from the modeling side of things to the reporting side.

1. Header changes –Under Report Settings you now have an option to select ‘Use the modern visual header with updated styling options’. With this on, the header is more compact, and they’ve added some additional setting and styling options. These changes impact the report creators, not so much the users/readers.

Under the Format section/Visual Headers, there are quite a few settings with this feature and many are fairly impactful from the report development side. A key note is when you select/deselect these options, you won’t see most of these changes until you deploy it to the service in Read mode.

2. It’s important to appreciate the smaller things, right? Some may have noticed in our demo that there are now little animations when working within the visualization pane, such as small animation of shifting from the Field section to the Format section and when expanding options. Also, within the Options, the Property label and Property value are listed above each other instead of the toggle being off to the side next to it – a cleaner, easier to read look. Keep an eye out for these in the remainder of our demo.

3. Another aesthetic change is Wallpaper. You’ll notice on the reporting canvas, the Wallpaper feature gives us a dotted line around our canvas. In the past, this area around our design area was grey, but now that area beyond our report design surface can have Wallpaper.

The purpose of this is to extend the theme shown throughout what you have on the screen, especially when deploying to the service and people can see the continued theme beyond your report. This is great for people who put images for those backgrounds that you can underlay, Wallpaper will show in an even greater space. You can make the Wallpaper a color as a bordering element, as well as making the background of the report transparent so readers will see the Wallpaper, not the background.

4. Tool Tips – we know everyone loves Tool Tips. In a past digest post we introduced the Report Page Tool Tips and the great functionality it brought, but sadly, two visuals had been left out – the table and the matrix – and not just on the Report Page, but with Tool Tips in general. Many asked about Report Page Tool Tips for the Table and Matrix, and our answer – they don’t even have regular Tool Tips! Well, they’ve finally brought them both to us; something we’re excited to see.

5. We previously talked about a feature in the Line or Combo Chart where we could control the width of the line or make it go away and have just dots. Another visual element has been added to this under the Format/Shapes Section, where we can move from a gradient line to a stepped appearance. This may be a great option for specific use cases with a Line or Combo Chart.

6. Lastly, some Sorting changes have been made for visuals. They have taken the options that we are used to and broken them out into individual options. Now there are separate options for choosing Ascending or Descending as well as separate are on selecting the field that should be used for sorting. There are more options now that need to be configured but it definitely has added a layer of clarity that was missing.

Believe it or not, there are more updates that came out in July; we just picked some of our favorites to share. If you want to learn about them all, check out the Power BI Blog.

That’s it for this month’s update. We hope you can get in and start trying some of these new features and updates right away. We’ll be back next month with Power BI Updates for August—see you then!

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