Microsoft Power BI is a leading data visualization tool on the market. Nevertheless, it is also worth remembering that Power BI is also a living organism, with new Power BI features added almost every month along with a Power BI update.
Microsoft releases Power BI feature updates monthly, announcing new features to the Power BI services, such as Power BI mobile, modeling, analytics, Power BI embedded playground, or Paginated reports.
By staying updated with the new features in Power BI, you empower yourself to create more effective and visually appealing business intelligence solutions with optimized datasets, state-of-the-art visualizations, and huge data analysis potential.
Therefore, it is worthwhile to keep up with the latest articles about Microsoft Power BI updates and check which ones can enhance your Power BI dashboards and reports. We have decided to look closer at these features and provide you with a condensed overview each quarter. You can find the first part of the latest Power BI Reporting, Modeling, and Analytics updates here.
Microsoft Fabric announcement
In fact, the big announcement of Microsoft Fabric overshadowed the second quarter of 2023. It was announced in May, and since then, this brand-new analytics solution with data connectivity, data modeling, and data visualization capabilities has been on everyone’s lips.
We have already covered the topic of Microsoft Fabric here. In this article, we will focus on other features that have been added to Power BI recently.
Let’s then check what May, June, and July brought into the Microsoft Power BI ecosystem when it comes to reporting, modeling, and developer features.
Power BI features update in Reporting
Smoothed and Leader Lines updated
Let’s start with one of the most recent Power BI updates when it comes to Power BI visualizations.
Smooth line types and smooth area charts are one of these recent Power BI reporting enhancements. They can give your visualizations a more polished and neat look.
To access this setting, you need to navigate to Lines > Shape > Line Type.
Apart from smooth lines, there also appeared leader lines, which you can add to line and area charts. They provide you with the ability to create visual data connectors between each data point and its corresponding label.
To access this feature, you should go to Data Labels > Options > Leader Lines.
Azure Maps visualizations
The Azure Maps visual has been in preview mode for more than a year, providing Power BI users with a demo experience of this new map visualization.
Recently, this Power BI feature was made generally available and enhanced with a selection of customization options to increase the usefulness of the Power BI map visualization we use today.
These enhancements include:
- Pie chart layers,
- Filled map layers.
In fact, in the latest Power BI feature summary, it was also announced that Azure Maps will be the single first-party map visual in Power BI. Consequently, in the future, they will fully deprecate the older map visual, so it is worthwhile to get to know this new feature as soon as possible.
There has also been an update to the style of all of the map tiles, including those in the Azure Map visual:
Measure-driven data labels in Power BI visualizations
Measure-driven data labels are another important Power BI update. This new update enables you to enhance your default data label settings with more meaningful values, using a chosen field or measure.
Matrix accessibility improvements
Matrix visual is a powerful Power BI data visualization. It allows you to organize large amounts of data in a easy-to-read format. What is more, it also enables to drill down into hierarchical data for more detailed insights, which can be useful in data analysis and business analytics.
Recently, there have been a few improvements to this data visualization to increase its usability and accessibility for all users, such as:
- Enhanced keyboard navigation with new keyboard shortcuts (for example, Page Up, Page Down, the full list),
- Two-toned focus online,
- Screen reader support for conditional formatting icons and data bars,
- Updated scrollbar style,
- Default browser tooltips removed for non-truncated values.
Setting query limits in Power BI Desktop
In the Power BI Service, there are different limits to the time a query can run and the amount of memory that a single query can use.
Nevertheless, in Power BI Desktop, such limits didn’t exist, which created ambiguity when certain visualizations worked in the Desktop but failed in the Service.
Microsoft has acted upon this by empowering report creators to set query limits in the Power BI Desktop as well and allowing them to match the limits from the Power BI Service.
As a default, your existing Power BI reports have “No query limits”. Nevertheless, new Power BI reports will have “Auto” limits. With the latter, Microsoft Power BI tries to identify where the model is hosted, and if it fails to detect it, it will choose Shared Capacity (the strictest option).
You can access these settings in File > Options. Once you choose a relevant capacity, you can see defined limits. You can also use the custom limits option (for example, if you set 0, it means there are no limits).
OneLake data hub in Power BI Desktop
The Power BI Desktop data hub serves as a central location for exploring and reusing data from different data sources. Along with the recent Fabric release, the data hub was rebranded to “OneLake data hub”.
It allows you to reuse existing Fabric items and create a new data model and report on top of them. It supports items such as:
- data warehouses,
- SQL endpoints,
- KQL databases (in the future).
Therefore, OneLake datahub serves as a gateway to your Fabric ecosystem (for example, data sources, datasets, reports, services, etc.).
Power BI reporting preview features
On-Object Interaction (Opt-In) demo experience
We have already written about On-Object Interaction in the previous condensed overview of Microsoft Power BI feature updates. Recently, Microsoft took a step further and upgraded this feature, in large part in response to users’ feedback.
The recent improvements to On-Object Interaction entail:
- adding all visual types to the visualization gallery along with custom visuals (there used to be only the primary ones, like bar charts or line charts). Apart from this, you can also change the type of data visualization when a specific visual is selected on the canvas. If no visual is selected, you can use it to add a new visual to the canvas,
- upgrading aggregations menu to facilitate switching between different ones,
- updating the drag-and-drop function to add new dimensions and automatic opening of the options menu when dragging a field into it,
- re-attaching the build menu as a pane directly from the On-Object Interaction button, from the view ribbon, or from the options menu:
- setting up and editing conditional formatting from the On-Object mini toolbars,
- customizing the Pane Switcher by adding a “+” button to allow you to quickly add new panes directly from the pane switcher instead of going to the View ribbon. The panel that opens also provides information about each pane and its main functions. Once you add specific panes, they are saved across reports,
- supporting tree map sub-selection.
Apart from these improvements, Microsoft has also fixed several issues Power BI users had reported. As a result:
- the overlapping of the on-object buttons on the formula bar was resolved,
- tooltip visible when opening the build menu no longer blocks the formatting on-object buttons,
- the selected type of visual is correctly reflected in the ribbon visual gallery as well,
- the mini-toolbar’s fill color icon now reflects conditional formatting gradients as well.
New card visual in Power BI
As for data visualizations in Power BI reports, there was also a new card visualization.
It is already in the core Power BI visual gallery and allows you to display multiple cards simply by dragging and dropping all fields and measures into the Data field.
In fact, the latest version of the new card visual is a refined card visual with a few new features when it comes to settings:
- shape customization (rounded rectangle, rectangle, or snipped tab),
- additional formatting for data labels and values, the possibility to modify the font transparency, display units with precision control, and set up a formatting to display blanks.
- possibility to add multiple cards and choose the cards layout (horizontal, vertical, or grid),
- ability to add images and accent bars,
- possibility to adjust tooltips and build a drill-through.
As you can see, the new card visual has numerous powerful features that can revolutionize the way we use cards in Power BI reports. With such a high level of customization, you can take simple card visuals to completely new heights and make them more useful to analyze data.
Seamless work in Power BI with files in SharePoint and OneDrive
There was also an announcement of a major preview that will facilitate working with Power BI with SharePoint and OneDrive.
This feature empowers you with opening, saving, and sharing your work in OneDrive and SharePoint document libraries and, as a result, can assist you with:
- File versioning,
- Collaborating with other users,
- Ensuring a backup version of a Power BI report in the cloud.
Once you enable the feature in the Power BI Desktop, you will be able to save your Power BI dashboards and reports in the OneDrive or SharePoint folders you have recently used, next to the local folders:
Once you choose the folder, you can save it immediately or choose the option to upload later.
Next, you can open your Power BI report directly from the OneDrive or SharePoint document libraries (this option will download the file locally).
Finally, you can share your work with other users by clicking the share button at the top right corner. You can get a shareable link or send it to the people who need it.
As you can see, sharing reports through OneDrive and SharePoint is a great way to collaborate for small teams. Nevertheless, for larger organizations, publishing and sharing through the Power BI Service is an easier and more secure option.
In fact, building a single source of truth with up-to-date, actionable insights in organizations is of utmost importance. It makes using the Power BI Service to publish and distribute reports essential, and this new capability is just a complementary element of the process.
It can be beneficial for teams that collaborate before releasing the official versions of reports to the Power BI Service. Or for organizations that are just starting out their data-driven journey.
Power BI features update in modeling
MATCHBY: new DAX function
The 2nd quarter didn’t bring numerous news stories when it comes to modeling and DAX functions, with one interesting exception.
In fact, a new member joined the pool of DAX functions – a brand-new MATCHBY. It can only be used within window functions, and it defines the columns used to determine how to match data and detect the current row.
In fact, MATCHBY addresses a few major challenges with DAX window functions:
- circular dependency errors in calculated columns,
- need for key columns in tables,
- performance issues engrained in joining operations by all columns.
MATCHBY takes into consideration only a subset of relevant columns from the relation. As a result, it efficiently reduces memory consumption and execution time, enforcing uniqueness at runtime.
To learn more about this function and see examples, you can navigate to the Microsoft documentation.
Relationship validation (Preview)
In the first overview of new Power BI features in 2023, we mentioned the option to edit data models in the Power BI Service. Lately, this feature has been expanded by adding relationship validation to the Power BI Service.
Consequently, it is now easier to create and modify relationships on the web. From now on, you can define the properties of your relationships in the Power BI Service, and the system will automatically validate them and offer appropriate choices for cardinality and cross-filter selections.
Power BI Developer features
Improving custom visuals with Keyboard Navigation
Being a Power BI developer, you know how important it is to create remarkable but also accessible custom visuals. To make it easier for you, a new keyboard navigation was added to facilitate people with disabilities taking advantage of your custom visuals and provide them with more options to interact with reports.
As a result, you can:
- Press “Esc” to move the focus from inside the visual container to allow users to easily exit the visual and move to another report element,
- Press “Enter” on the visual to get inside the visual and interact with it with the keyboard,
- Press “Tab” within the custom visual to navigate between the visual elements in a loop.
Therefore, by adding keyboard navigation to your custom visualizations in Power BI, you can enhance the accessibility and usability of your visualizations for all users.
Detecting filtered report states with custom visuals
There are scenarios in which it is crucial for custom visuals to detect whether there are any filters applied in your Power BI report. Microsoft has finally added this functionality to the custom visuals with the release of the 5.4 API.
The new functionality is allowed by the addition of a Boolean called “isDataFilterApplied” in the DataViewMetadata object, and, consequently, custom visuals can detect all the filters applied and adjust their behavior accordingly.
Boosting Custom Visual Performance: Tips from Microsoft
Aiming to improve the quality of your custom visualizations, Microsoft published an article focusing on different techniques and tips to increase their performance.
They identified and addressed the most common bottlenecks in the code, added improvements, and made them available for any visual update to API version 4.2 and onwards. Apart from this, it provided the best code practices and relevant techniques to enhance the performance of rendering custom visuals as well.
You can find a full article on this topic here, but let’s summarize it briefly with the key bullet points:
- Reducing plugin size,
- Using Power BI Performance Analyzer or the User Timing API to check the render time,
- Caching DOM nodes,
- Avoiding DOM manipulation,
- Reconsidering jQuery,
- Improving Canvas performance by, for example, avoiding unnecessary canvas state changes by rendering by color instead of position.
Power BI Developer Preview features
Power BI Desktop Developer Mode
Microsoft Power BI customers need enterprise Business Solutions that can scale to all users across large organizations. It depends on fostering team collaboration in an organization and automating deployment across development, test, and production environments to fulfill the needs of mission-critical BI systems.
To support businesses in the best way possible, Microsoft added the public previews of Power BI Desktop Developer Mode. They have used their heritage in enterprise BI and bringing Pro BI developer experiences right into Power BI Desktop.
As a result, Power BI Desktop provides you with a new way to author, collaborate, and save your projects. From now on, you can save your work as a Power BI Project (PBIP). Once your work is saved as a project, report and data model definitions are saved as individual plain text files in a simple, intuitive folder structure.
Power BI Desktop Developer Mode usage
If you are a Power BI developer, you can use this integration for:
- authoring reports and datasets metadata files in source-control-friendly formats,
- enabling multiple Power BI developer collaborations, tracking version history, and reverting to previous ones,
- building continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) workflows to enforce the quality gates prior to reaching production environments,
- enabling code review, automated testing, and automated building to validate the integrity of a deployment.
Once Power BI Desktop Developer, Fabric Git Integration, Azure DevOps, and Deployment Pipelines are combined, you, as a Power BI developer, have the ability to seamlessly synchronize your Power BI workspaces with Git repositories, ensuring consistency and facilitating CI/CD workflows.
Once you take advantage of GiT as a centralized repository for your developments, you have a single source of truth. As a result, this integration enables you to:
- start your report development process in Power BI Desktop,
- then, seamlessly transition to the Power BI Service,
- finally, return to Power BI Desktop, where every change is securely backed up and versioned by GiT.
The latest Power BI update in 2023, part 2 summary
All in all, despite the Fabric announcement, Microsoft also managed to improve a few Power BI capabilities as well. From now on, you get:
- new map experience with Azure Maps,
- play with improved On-Object Interaction when creating new data visualizations,
- try out new card visualizations for better data analysis and generating more insights,
- learn the brand-new DAX function MATCHBY,
- seamlessly work with SharePoint and Power BI,
- develop more user-friendly custom visuals,
and many more.
It is worthwhile to try out Power BI new features regularly and use them into your reports and dashboards.
As already mentioned, this is the first part of our second overview of new features in Power BI in 2023. We strongly encourage you to check out the second part on our blog with news about Power BI Service, Paginated Reports, Power BI Mobile, and Power BI embedded playground that will be published soon. In the blog post, we will be exploring embedding Power BI with new features, creating Power BI reports with Jupyter notebooks, and many more. Stay tuned!
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