Power BI Monthly Digest July 2019

Power BI Monthly

Welcome back to another edition of Power BI Monthly Digest! As always, we’ll highlight the new features and updates for Power BI in the month of July 2019. A bit of a smaller release this month but good things often come in small packages, right? Be sure to check out our video included in this blog for demos of many of the new features discussed.

We typically start on the reporting side of things, so here we go:

1. Conditional Formatting (Icon Sets) – Conditional formatting is a fairly old feature and some changes and new elements have been added to this continuously since its release. Looking back, it was very traditional conditional formatting on a measure value and/or background. What’s new this month is we can apply conditional formatting to a table or matrix and use Icons like we would for stop light reporting.

  • In our demo we show a simple table where we can showcase the new conditional formatting capabilities. I begin by selecting that table and under the Visualizations section you’ll see a have a measure of Sales Amount under the Value field. Here I can simply click the pull down to add conditional formatting.
  • You’ll see the options we’ve had previously (background color, font colors and data bars), but the new option here is icons. You can now bring icons into your table or matrix. When you click on icons, it will open a new window which is set to format by rules, but you can change that to format by field value.
  • You can specify where you want the icons to appear, which icon layout you would like and icon alignment. It also gives you some defaults as to how to measure those thresholds as well. Another new thing here is when you’re doing conditional formatting, you can now choose to base that on a percent. Previously you could only do this on a hard-coded number, now you can select either way. This percentage option falls in line with KPIs.
  • You also have many options to change the indicators and there are options to create your own customized indicators. You can learn more about this by checking out the documentation of this update on the Power BI website.

2. Key Influencers Visual – This feature has been around for a few months but is still in preview. Another small but important capability has been added to it. When you first started using this visual, you may have immediately tried to go in and put in a measure, but you were getting blocked from leveraging that. But now that is available to you.

So, if you have a measure, maybe you’re trying to analyze profit margin for instance, you will be able to use those measures inside of the Key Influencers Visual.

  • On my desktop I bring in Key Influencers Visual from the Visualizations section.
  • Then under Fields, I go into Internet Sales and bring in my Sales Amount measure. I can now analyze what influenced the sales amount increases.
  • I can bring in other product attributes like color and see what product colors were more popular or more likely to be purchased over another color.
  • You can also check the box to focus on only values that are influencers or uncheck it to see all values.

3. Power Query Editor Transform – There’s something new here on the M side of things. Be sure to watch our demo on this one as it’s easier to see it in action. The key is in looking for how it is read; it’s a new way to split a column up.

The official name is Split by Positions (the plural of positions being key here). With this you get to use a comma separated list of numeric values with the zero-start index and say where we want various splits to occur. So, depending on the data you’re working with or the scenario this can be very impactful for numeric columns.

If you have a delimiter and you know it’s always going to be hyphens or forward/back slashes, then it’s better to go the traditional route as that can move positions. But if you know the front four numbers is something you’ll need, this new option will be great, and you can split it up. Again, watch our demo to see exactly how this works.

4. General Availability – a couple things went into GA this month:

  • The new Filter Pane – When this first came out you had the Filter Pane in two areas, but we’ve been preparing you by letting you know that the traditional one was going away and now it has. If you haven’t been keeping up with our Monthly Digest, you may want to look back over the past few months as we’ve been leveraging this in preview to get you used to the new Filter Pane, which I personally think is fantastic.
  • Aggregations – If you’ve been using this in preview to do aggregations on your models where you have a separate table defined with an aggregate, this is now officially GA.
  • Connectors – A couple connectors to mention:
  • One I’m excited about is the Azure Data Lake Storage Gen 2 which is in beta right now and it will be available for testing purposes.
  • Office 365 customer insights. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more around the dynamics platform as a lot more is being introduced into Power BI.

That’s it for the month of July. A little smaller release but a few cool new things. Please comment below on what new features you are excited about or what you’d like to see in the future. And be sure to follow our YouTube channel and our blog to keep up to date. We’ll be back in August with what’s new and exciting!

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Power BI Monthly Digest June 2019

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Welcome back to the Power BI Monthly Digest! We’re here with our June edition, coming at you a little later than usual but we promise our July update will be more timely so you’ll be up to date with all current Power BI updates and new features.

There are a lot of fun things that came out in the June update; some new visual capabilities, a little bit of DAX, as well as some extensions of some items or trends we’ve been following in the past that are pretty impactful. As always, be sure to check out the video included on this blog for demos of the updates introduced here.

1. Slicers – This first one is something Devin’s often seen requested when doing classes and it’s around filtering the values in slicers. For example, let’s say you have a slicer but there’s a blank or null value showing up; basically, something showing up in your slicer that you don’t want to appear there.

Now you can apply filters on those slicers. As we jump into our demo, you may have noticed a different look and feel to the entire Power BI product with a lighter undertone. Different developer tools have different tones and feels, lighter or darker. For now, this lighter theme is what Power BI offers but it has been stated that in the future we’re going to have options so you can move between different themes or feel of the application.

But back to our demo… our demo shows a slicer with the problem we pointed out. We have a slicer on the top that shows sales territories and in it you’ll see we have the N/A in there. In the past, people would have to go through some creative routes, maybe a calculated column, to exclude or remove this element from the selection area.

Now we have the capability of leveraging visual level filters for slicers. Simply select the slicer and go into the filter pane and you’ll see a new section ‘Filters on this visual’ available to us. To remove the N/A we just need to figure out some context in which a filter would remove only N/A. We could just go in, go through some basic filtering and remove it but with this new capability you can do some creative things and add new fields to only filter more specific values and removing N/A, or exclude multiple items from the grouping of your data.

2. Conditional Formatting – This feature is like some changes we have seen recently where we can dynamically change titles in things like visual level headers and have conditional formatting on various sections of the charts. They have expanded this where you can do conditional formatting on others places as well.

This seems to be an ongoing theme where they are giving us the capability to apply conditional formatting almost everywhere in the tool. This is great as we want options as report creators and we now have some conditional formatting options regarding the background of the visual as well as either the font or the background of the title.

Fill area for the Gauge visual as well as data and category labels for the card visual have also been added to the mix – basically anything in the formatting section that has an ellipsis, you can apply conditional formatting. Watch our demo of this feature to see in action how I created a rule for the background color in the format pane for my example. A nice way to make things more dynamic in your reports.

3. Visual Header Tooltip – To go along with the visual level headers, you can now have an additional tool tip or pop up in there. We’ve seen people come up with their own solution for this by maybe taking an image and layer it on top of a visual and then use a tool tip. This is now baked into headers as a feature.

Do note that this is only going to be available for the new modern visual headers which most people have seen if you’ve created a new visual in the past several months. But if you’re opening an older Power BI report, just know that you’ll need to go into the options and settings check off the box to use the modern headers. Once that’s on you can leverage this feature.

In my demo, I go into my report and into the formatting area and at the bottom is the option visual headers. Here we have all these elements for transparencies, colors, etc. that we can toggle on/off and these elements would be portrayed when users consume this on the service. The new option at the very bottom called ‘Visual header tooltip’ allows us to have a nice built in way to add instructions or information that will benefit the user which will come up when users hover over the “?” icon on our visual. You can also use report page tooltips with this option.

4. Tables and Matrices – Something else we’ve also seen requested is the ability within a matrix or a table to relabel the subtotals for the rows and/or columns. Maybe I want to go in and give it a specific identifier of what that total is. If you’re in a matrix and you’re adding in rows and columns you may have multiple representations of these total lines and all we had was ‘total’ at the top of the last column and along the bottom row, but now you can better define it and label the column and row fields however you like.

All you do is go under the subtotals section in visualizations and type a title in the ‘Row subtotal label’ and/or the ‘Column subtotal label’. Now you have the freedom to add some additional labeling, giving more clarity to your end users. You can also get more granular by removing the stepped feature and you can turn on the option to specify per column or row level.

5. Custom Visuals – Looking at one of the more popular custom visuals when it comes to filtering your data, the Hierarchy Slicer, they’ve made it so now Hierarchy Slicer will work within the context of a native Power BI feature, that being sync slicers.

To start off, be sure to go into the Power BI Marketplace and download the Hierarchy Slicer. Open that up in the visualization pane and go into the fields area and add in the usage case for this item, in my case I used the territory drill down. With the hierarchy slicer you can drill in and get deeper into the results. So, with our visual selected we can go into View and turn on sync slicers. Here I can add and sync with all pages or select specific pages.

Another point here, Devin often gets asked in training classes that as cool as custom visuals are, they only seem to apply for that project. So, if we work on a project and add a bunch of custom visuals and then create a new Power BI solution, all the custom visuals we added previously must be added again. Custom Visuals are saved as part of a Power BI report and not part of the application.

You could work around this with templates, but the new feature allows us to save custom visuals to the Power BI application. This is currently in preview, but you can now effectively pin your custom visuals, so it remains part of your desktop application. You’ll want to go under Options and Settings you’ll see the Personalized Visualization Pane in preview features to use this feature. It will require a restart of Power BI Desktop to take effect.

Once turned on, you’ll now see a dotted line under the visualization icons at the top of the pane. Anything below the line are the temporary visuals and anything above that is for your personalized Power BI desktop; simply choose to pin to the visualizations pane and that visual will move from below to above that dotted line and that custom visual is now there when you start a new Power BI report.

6. Key Influencers Visual – This is still in preview, but they continue to make a lot of new updates to this. One new thing is with connecting live to Power BI datasets becoming more popular, this was not supported previously but now it is. Row level security is also supported now as well.

7. Pixels vs Points – For those users who pay attention to every little detail, from a formatting perspective you may have noticed that in some instances and some elements Power BI uses pixels instead of points. If you have 8 pixels vs 8 points, they are similar but not the same. To those of you that this bothered you a bit, you’ll be happy to know that across over 90% of the product is now leveraging points (except for the text box and the new filter pane) and eventually the tool will be scaled exactly the same throughout.

8. General Availability – A couple things went GA this month; the Common Data Service connector and Azure Data Explorer connector.

9. IntelliSense update – They made some improvement to the M IntelliSense; instead of the capability being focused mainly on the advanced editor area, that capability has been scaled up to all the locations where you encounter them like custom column and the formula bar.

9. DAX – We also have a simple but important DAX change to tell you about and it all relates to conditional logic and zeros and blanks. In our demo we’ll look at a very simple piece of conditional logic from the data view. I have a simple table and looking at the values column I have 2 records with zeros and 2 records with blanks.

How it should work is if the values column is zero, mark it true and if it’s not a zero, mark it false. However, the blank rows are being treated the same as zeroes and marked as true when using the equal sign (=) operator, which may not be desired behavior.

But now we have a new operator which takes a more specific approach to zeros and blanks. By using a double equal (= =) operator the blank value rows are now marked as false; it recognizes a blank is not a zero. Again, a simple but important change.

10. Datasets – This last piece has to do with promoted vs certified datasets that are inside the Power BI Service (and not fully released as of this video). It’s specifically related to the Power BI dataset connector and when you’re going to use that connector, and it touches a little on the Power BI Service, as well as the Power BI Desktop.

As we see organizations rolling out more centralized datasets for the end users to consume, this is in the realm of governance. We may have a more focused IT group that are creating, sculpting and massaging these great datasets, then the consumers can take advantage and create awesome visualizations.

There’s a way now that we can use something called endorsements, so when users (within the organization) want to connect to a Power BI Dataset it will be indicated to them what datasets they have at their disposal along with markers to point out whether these datasets are promoted or certified. Certified is something still in preview and it requires the admin tenant to do this. On our demo I’ll walk you through how to leverage this, so take a look at that.

A pretty big month for updates and some very cool ones. Take a minute to tell us which ones you are most excited about in the comments section. Be sure to subscribe to our Power BI update videos, as well as our blogs to ensure you’re kept up to date.

We’ll be back next month with what’s new in Power BI for July – see you then! And if you’re new to Power BI and want to get training, our On-Demand Learning platform has 11 Power BI courses – how about starting with our FREE Dashboard in a Day course? Click the link below to get your FREE course today!

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Power BI Monthly Digest April 2019

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Welcome back to Power BI Monthly Digest for April! There’s quite a long list this month and some things I know you’ve been waiting on, so I think you’ll be excited about those. As always, be sure to check out the video included here for demos on the features I discuss here. So, let’s get to it!

1. Filters – We introduced the new filter experience in a prior video. There are some big additions and changes to filters this month. The main thing is that, as previously stated, Power BI’s goal was to have only one location for filters and now that’s the case. The filter pane that was under the Value section is gone.

The new filter experience (or pane) is right next to the Visualizations pane and you’ll now see a new Add Data Fields here. We can simply drag fields over from the Fields section to this Add Data Fields area. So, if you go over to Dates under Fields and drag over Calendar Year, for example, the same experience that we’re used to presents itself in the filter pane (with some slightly different naming conventions) but we can choose where we want this to be applied, either at the page level, report level or visual level.

You also can format the filter pane and filter cards under the Filter Pane in Visualizations where we can change background colors, text sizes and other options. We can go in and change these manually, but something that many in the community will appreciate, is the previously added theme file option, the filter pane is now included as part of the theme file feature. So, you can standardize this capability to be part of your theme file.

Another cool thing is we can right-click on any filter in the pane and rename it to make it more obvious of the filter that is being leveraged. And each visual in the new filter experience has a little filter icon that when users hover over it, it will give them the filter name you chose, thus making it more apparent.

Something else added is the ability to control whether your users can change those filters. This relates to filter type, so when we expand the filter option, you have that basic filtering (default) option or advanced filtering. But now you have the option to choose if you want your users to be able to change between those types by going into Report setting under Options and Settings and choosing that option.

2. Conditional Formatting – Do you sometimes wish you could make your report visuals dynamic in some way? Well, now you can in Power BI on titles of your report visuals, as well as conditional formatting on web URLs.

Let’s say we’re looking at a product number and we want to configure something that will create a URL for us and that takes us to an external site that has more info about it. Plus, it can be dynamic where every time you change a filter, on changes you select, it changes that URL so you can jump over to a website that may show a list of products or product details.

Because we build this with DAX and we can add calculated measures, there’s a lot you can do here. We show a specific example in our video but keep your mind open to your use cases as there are lots of cool things you can do with this.

Web action was introduced previously where you can click on something and make it launch a website – now you can make it a dynamic website by going to the Format Image section and select URL under Action and create a calculated measure. You then just need to right click the Web URL area and you will see an option for Conditional Formatting, just like everyone is used to.

With this if you were doing a report that included countries and you wanted to be able to link to Google Maps, you could build that so when you click on a specific country in a visual and select the icon you’ve set up with a conditional format, it would go out to Google Maps and right to that specific country you clicked on in the visual. (see our demo)

Just think of all the wild things you can do with this!

3. Query Editor – There have already been components of data profiling added and column distribution elements; they’ve made some enhancements to this so additional column profiling is available. Also new is whenever you do something in the Query Editor, it’s restricted to the first 1,000 rows, but now in column profiling they’ve made it so you can do that column profiling against the entire data set.

The column distribution features are available in preview and you can turn these on under the View menu. At the bottom on the page you’ll see column profiling with new features and statistics about your columns that you can review now. You’ll also see that you can select column profile on the entire data set in the drop down instead of the default of the first 1,000 rows.

It will take a bit longer but it will give you a better understanding about distribution of your data and statistics around your data plus other important info like: what you need to do from a transforming perspective or show you all the blanks and nulls, for instance. We’re still a bit limited visually when in the editor like how we’re creating our business rules and our applied steps, it will still only be in those first 1,000 rows.

Another new thing, great for new users, is when we’re inside the Power Query Editor, we can turn on the formula bar. Previously, we had the capability to hit advanced editor in the home ribbon and you’ll see the IntelliSense, but it was limited to that location. Now, if you go in and write some M right into that formula bar at the top of the editor, it now leverages IntelliSense that’s built right into that formula bar.

4. Drillthrough – This could be the most exciting new feature; a new weapon in our toolset in the digital storytelling realm. Everyone loves drilldowns which gives great capabilities to end users to navigate through visuals. Then drillthroughs were introduced to let us tie pages together within the same report.

Now, we’re excited to present drillthrough across reports! You can now have two people working on separate reports – maybe one is more high-level, less detailed and the other is more fine-grained with detail to the lower tier – we can set up the less detailed report so that when someone right-clicks on something, you have the option to have it present the name of a different more-detailed report (if both reports are in the same workspace).

You do need to set this up ahead of time so the report will have a drillthrough and it will be allowed to go across reports, and you’ll need to set it up from your source report to be able to go across reports as well.

It is a pretty simple process where you can select a field for the target report and drag it into the normal Drillthrough filter. After that you will see a toggle option to turn on Cross-Report. Finally, in the source report, you just need to go into the Report settings and allow it to see other reports inside the same workspace. To get a more detailed look about how this awesome new feature works and how to set it up, check out our demo on the video included here.

5. Key Influencers Visual – They’ve made some changes on this to make it a little easier to work with different types of data. You now have the option when you leverage the Key Influencers to do analysis over a continuous data set, so continuous numeric values. This is done with a toggle box which you can hit within the drop down in the Formatting area.

6. Q&A – Improvements have made it easier for Q&A to work with partial searches, part of a phrase or column name for example, so it will better pick up on those partial name searches to help you out with IntelliSense.

7. General Availability – Here are a few items that went into GA this month:

  • Python – Python integration is now generally available so you can do that in production.

 

  • PDF Connector – This was introduced in preview a few months ago and people were excited about – having another source option is always a great thing.
  • Workspaces – The new workspace experience is going to be GA. Basically, the interface has been inversed. Before when you hit create workspace, you would be creating a classic workspace and in the upper corner you had a bar to create a new workspace. Now when you hit create workspace, it will be creating a brand new one and if you want to create a classic one, you’ll see that option at the top.
  • Heat Map for Map Visual – Within the format options of the standard Map visual you will now find an option that says Heatmap. Simply toggle this option on and the map will change accordingly. There are some associated options you can also tinker with.
  • That’s it for April; lots of things I’m excited about, and I know many of you are too! To get the full release of what’s new for April, check out Power BI’s website. As always, let us know what you’re excited about or what you’d like to see added to Power BI in the comments section below or if you have any cool use cases of any new feature that we can share.Devin and I will be back next month with our favorite new features and enhancements for May! Be sure to subscribe to our blog and You Tube channel so you won’t miss a thing!

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Power BI Monthly Digest March 2019

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Welcome to our Power BI Digest for March where we discuss our favorite new features or updates within Power BI. As always, we do a brief demo of the features we discuss, so be sure to watch the video included here to see these in action!

We’ve got some enhancements on the data visualization side, a few new DAX functions on the modeling side and announcing some features that were in preview that are now generally available.

Let’s start with visualizations:

1. Slicers – This is an old favorite that’s perfect for giving us an option to apply a filter to our visuals. They’ve added a small aesthetic element to slicers around single selections. This new element is only available in the list or drop-down option for the slicer.

In our example I will bring in the slicer visual and use Calendar Year for the value. By default, it will use the range slicer option and then I can switch that to the list option, which is probably too plain and simple for most.

But I can go into the format area and under the selection controls we have the ‘Single select’ option, which has always been there. But here’s the difference, when I turn that on, the presentation will change; all my multi-select options go away and I now have a radial-button look and feel.

If we switched this to a drop down, we’ll get presented with the same radial button look.

2. Storytelling/Selection Pane – Oftentimes people get frustrated with the Selection Pane as you have a big list of all the objects that are in your report. Many times, these will have the same or very similar names, so it can be difficult to differentiate between them. This new feature comes from requests from the Power BI community.

Now, we can simply double-click on the item itself and can rename it which is effectively changing the Title option. If visuals already have a title, this will amend what is seen in the visual tile to our new title. For things like buttons, images, matrices or tables that don’t have a title by default, you won’t see any impact. But note that if you do make a change, it is changing the value for the title option.

When I open the selection pane, I have 3 items and if I add more objects, like a couple buttons for instance, regardless of the number of buttons or images I bring in, it will be listed as a button or image. So, how do you know what you need from a hiding and showing perspective?

With this new enhancement, I can just click on a button or image listed in the pane and change the title to clearly identify what each one is. If I want to change a table name, I can click on it in the pane, put in a new title and the title presented to the users will change.

The main point on this one is about hiding and showing report objects, so as we start to dive into digital storytelling, this will make that process easier, which is great!

3. Tool Tips – Tools tips have seen quite a bit of changes over time. This month they’ve updated the default tool tips (not the report page tool tips) where you have additional capability of formatting beyond what was there.

One of the nicest built in elements of Power BI is that users can hover over things you’ve put in visuals and get a tool tip. We’ve had great enhancements for formatting, backgrounds and wallpapers, among others, and now we have the ability of formatting the actual tool tip that presents itself.

When you hover over a tool tip, they have the traditional black background with a grey text for the item and a bolder white text for the value of it. All of that is now configurable.

Simply select the visual you want and under Format, go to the Tool Tip area. You’ll see added fields for the label and value color. We can also modify the background color, text size and font family. A nice way to enhance your visuals when using Tool Tips.

4. Actions – Just as you can make Actions that allow you to jump from one place to another in your reports, now you can use Actions to jump to a URL. We’ve always been able to jump to a Bookmark or Q&A with buttons or images. Now you can add a button for users to click on and it will take them to a website; this could take them to a page that defines what they’re looking at for instance.

To do this we turn on the Action section under Visualizations for either buttons or images. You will then see an option labeled Type and here you have the added choice of Web URL where you can put in an available URL. You can also add a title in the Tool Tip field under where you put the URL and that title will appear when users hover over it within the report, and of course once they click the image or button they will be taken to the URL.

5. Maps – Who doesn’t love maps? This enhancement to an old classic, the Map visual or often referred to as the Bubble or Bing Map. This is the globe icon under Visualizations, and this has a new option available in the formatting area.

In my example, I will use the Postal Code from my dataset to populate the Location option within the Field pane and the Map will visualize the points. When I go into the Format area, we now have a Heat Map which we can simply turn on and get that traditional presentation of a heat map showing areas of saturation in a more solid color.

You can also increase/decrease the radius to have more of an impact, as well as change the gradient stopping points where you can change the color and better see the focus.

6. Q&A – They’ve done some improvements to Q&A to make it function seamlessly for your end users, so they can get the best possible experience. What they’ve added are some underlying understanding of how we are typing in the box (known as utterance) for Q&A by taking ambiguity into account.

A while back they added the feature where we had the ability to add FAQs so that we could drive our users who may not know what questions to ask. Now, the Q&A area will give us two options saying: 1) did you mean…? Or 2) Showing results for…

So, depending on the degree of ambiguity input by a user on the terms they are leveraging, they’ll see one of those two messages to help them to potentially see the results they were expecting to find.

Be sure to take a look at my quick demo on the video here to see how this works.

Now a couple of updates on the modeling side:

7. Dates – This feature has been in preview for a long time and now it has gone GA. With this option we have the capability in which Power BI would create a default data hierarchy for us. It takes advantage of fields that are in data format and will create the year, quarter, month, and day values for you.

8. DAX – There are three new DAX features and two enhancements. Two relate to string value with the difference between them simply being case sensitive vs case insensitive. ContainsString is looking for a string value; you specify your search criteria and where you are going to search for it. It then returns a value of either True or False, and this function is case insensitive. ContainsStringExact essentially behaves the same except it is case sensitive.

There is some additional functionality in LookupValue function which is a new optional parameter which gives us the ability to set a value that would be returned should an error occur, so if an error is returned, what would we like it to be in lieu of that?

Another extension is for All Function. Now, if there are no arguments, it will clear all filters in the filter context. The value used within the All function can be a table or a column, but now you don’t need to put in any arguments if you would like to clear all the filters in the filter context.

The last new function here is DistinctCountNoBlank. This allows users to return a SQL like distinct count where blank values are not counted.

9. Modeling – The new updated Relationship view came out in preview in November and is now becoming generally available. Be sure to check out our November edition for a more detailed run down of this new relationship view.

Basically, from November to now when you turned on this Preview, you ended up having two relationship views and the idea was to eventually move over to a singular one. Well, that time is here.

This feature gives us some user enhancements to more easily move through some of those processes that we’d do when in the relationship view, such as multi-selecting columns. Now, we can multi-select across table and apply some sort of transformation to all selected columns.

Now, if we want to select of bunch of fields and add some data categorization or turn off default summarization for all of them at once, we can go in and do that. Check out my quick overview from the November blog to see what this new relationship view is capable of. We can do things like modifying synonyms, adding descriptors or display folders, and even selecting whether fields should be hidden or not and more.

Essentially, all your housekeeping elements can be done in one shot and in one place. This ability to multi-select fields across multiple tables and make changes is huge.

So that’s it for this month. I hope you take some time and check out these new changes and let us know what you like or what else you’d like to see in the comments below. Be sure to subscribe to our blog and You Tube channel, so you don’t miss these monthly updates. See you in April!

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Power BI Monthly Digest February 2019

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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

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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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