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Power BI’s Latest Features and How to Use Them

Marcus Radue Marcus Radue  |  
Apr 14, 2020
[Updated 05/11/20]
In this regularly updated blog, Marcus Radue (Data Analytics Engineer) highlights key features from his monthly Power BI Office Hours webinar series so you know how to capitalize on Power BI’s latest enhancements.

Power BI Features (April 2020 Update)

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Pages Tab

Part of the new Power BI service that they’ve launched in the last six months is a pages tab at the top-left of your page report screen. Pulling that open shows your pages displayed like they would have been at the bottom of the screen. The ability to hide the pages pane gives you a little more screen to present in the Power BI service.

Whether you use the pages tab as a replacement for your report titles depends on your own personal preference as the report designer. I haven’t decided which I like most myself, but I encourage you to be consistent with whatever way you choose.

Filter Search

Sometimes within a report, you may have a dataset with many attributes a broader audience would want to explore. Instead of building those slicer visuals, you can now include slicers or filters in the filter pane. The search bar allows you to easily find what somebody may want to slice by. This offers a lot of user-friendly functionality. If you use it, remember that your users may not know it exists unless you guide them to the filters pane using tooltips or README pages.

Visual Header Updates

You can now include tooltips directly in the header. If you have the tooltip feature on, you'll see a question mark icon set up in the visual header and can tie it to a relevant tooltip. There is also a new copy icon. It lets you copy the visualization as an image from your Power BI report screen and paste it into another document like PowerPoint, Word, or OneNote. Finally, a personalized visualizations feature will be available in the visual header.

Rectangular lasso select across visuals

You can now select multiple objects simply by holding down and dragging your mouse across the screen - similar to what you would do in a program like PowerPoint. Previously, you had to manually hold down the CTRL key on your keyboard (you can still select multiple objects that way).

External Emails for Subscriptions

This feature was announced in February, but it recently went to general availability. Now external emails can receive Power BI subscriptions. This can be useful if you have customers outside of your organization who need to receive automated screenshots of Power BI reports you've created through subscriptions. You can now use their actual email address from their organization instead of having their account tied to an email or a domain account in your own Azure tenant. You have to enable this in your Power BI tenant settings. If you don’t have service admin rights, you’ll have to contact the individual who has those rights in your organization.

Lineage View Impact Analysis

Lineage view allows you to view the data source definition all the way to the dataset, and then eventually to the report or dashboards that those datasets and data sources feed into or supply. It was released 4-6 months ago, but the April release brought metrics that show the impact analysis for that dataset and report.

Previously, the metrics report would show you the number of clicks, views, and who viewed your objects in the Power BI workspace. They’ve now included that in this lineage view.

Coming up, when you republish a report after making dataset or report layout changes, it will show you this impact analysis upon republishing. You can quickly see which down-the-line objects you are affecting with that change. This can help you communicate to your end-users about the impact your report changes will have.

Relative Time Slicer

You are now able to pull in columns with a DateTime or Time formatted data type and select Relative Time as an option to format the standard slicer visual. Before this update, you were only able to do relative time filtering by date. To enable this feature, make sure to check this in your preview features menu.

Conditional Formatting for Totals/SubTotals in Matrices

With the April release you are now able to conditionally format total and sub-total rows in your matrix visualizations. This unlocks all those existing conditional formatting options (data bars, background colors, text colors, icons, and web URLs) for your total and subtotal rows.

Power BI Features (March 2020 Update)

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New Action Types for Buttons: Page Navigation and Drill-Through

Page navigation and drill-through are now enabled for buttons. The previous technique to create a navigation pane in your reports was through utilizing bookmarks. Being able to navigate report pages through buttons has sped up that process.
Drill-through requires a little more set-up and needs to be enabled on your report page. However, once it is set up you can utilize the existing drill-through functionality you would expect through buttons.

Multi-Column Sort in Tables

Before this feature, you had to create an expression to concatenate the columns you wanted to sort in order to get the visual to sort appropriately. Now they've enabled the multiple column sorting directly in table visualizations. Hold down Shift + Click on the column(s) you want sorted to achieve this.

Dual Axis for Line Chart

Previously, to create a dual axis in a line chart, you either had to dig into the custom visuals in the app source marketplace, or create your own custom visual through a tool like the charticulator. It is now enabled in the standard line chart visualization.

Filter Pane Search

The new filter pane has gone generally available (GA) and they've also added a search capability in the filter pane. This helps if you are unable to find a filter in that pane. This is similar to the search option you have within slicers or other visualizations.

Decomposition Tree Updates

These changes include updates to bar formatting and data bar length.

New DAX Function: COALESCE

For those of you out there familiar with T-SQL, COALESCE is a common function used in T-SQL to handle null like values or blank values. Null values in Power BI index are shown as blanks. COALESCE is a way to handle those values.

New Visualizations

  • Waterfall chart - xViz
  • ArcGIS Maps (Updates) - New connection options, generally available enterprise support, support for multiple reference layers and a new table of contents

Template Apps: Azure DevOps and TeamsPower

  • Azure DevOps dashboard - Data Maru
  • TeamsPower - Encamina

New Connectors

  • Hive LLAP
  • Cognite

Query Diagnostics Is Now Generally Available

In data preparation, the query diagnostics feature is now GA'd. Previously, that was in preview mode only. This is a great example of a feature with slow but steady release. When it was released earlier in preview mode, it was admin only, then they switched it to admins and non-admins, and now it's generally available. Therefore, it’s good to watch what is being previewed so you can get an advanced idea of what might become Generally Available in the future.

Enhanced Dataset Metadata (Preview)

Speaking of keeping an eye on interesting previews, there is a new enhanced dataset metadata preview available this month. In your Power BI Desktop files (PBIX files), you might have noticed that they were in a zip format. With this enhanced dataset metadata preview, Microsoft is changing the format of the data and how Power BI Desktop files are stored. What they're moving towards is a similar structure to a BIM file. Folks who use analysis services may be familiar with that format.

This change to Power BI Desktop files is really big news in terms of being able to have enterprise deployments and source control integration with tools like Git. It opens the door for features to be released that allow for those deployments and source control integration. You can turn that feature on in preview mode. Turning this feature on can allow for integration with third-party tools such as Tabular Editor.

XMLA Write Preview (Premium Only)

Previously, those with premium licensing only had the ability to read the XMLA endpoints. That was beneficial for extracting metadata from Power BI published reports, but now, what they've done is they've opened up the write capabilities.

This is a feature that's been a long time coming. If you are a premium license holder or your organization is using that, check out the XMLA Endpoint Write preview.

Power BI Features (February 2020 Update)

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Incremental Refresh Now Available with Pro License

Moving incremental refresh from Premium licensing into Pro is probably the most exciting feature from the February 2020 update, and it is one that has been requested for a long time.
The concept behind incremental refresh is to help your larger datasets and data models in Power BI refresh quicker. It does this by separating your historical data that may not change very often (or at all after the first load) and your newer (or most recent) data that's going to refresh on a more regular basis.
Typically, you apply an incremental refresh policy to fact tables or transaction type tables in your data model. For a full demo on how to set up incremental refresh on your data sets, check out the full Power BI Office Hours video from February 2020.
Incremental refresh is not a new feature within Power BI. However, before February 2020 it was only available to Premium licensing. This is now available within standard Power BI Pro licensing.

Hierarchical slicer preview

Your standard slicer within Power BI now accepts hierarchies. You can drill down to lower levels within your slicers. Previously, you had to go on to the marketplace or app source area to retrieve a custom visual that handled this drilldown. Now this is built into your standard slicer.

Ribbon Updates: Save Button and Profile Move

The look and feel of the top ribbon in Power BI has been changing a lot in the last couple of months, and February 2020 was no different. They've re-added the save icon, and you can find it next to the undo and re-do icons at the top of the Power BI dashboard in the title bar. They've also moved your profile picture and name in account settings up the new title bar. Previously, that information was all on the ribbon line below.
You can now press the Alt + Windows Key to access the new Keytips menu in the new ribbon experience.
power bi ribbon update
I feel like they’re going to be updating the ribbon more, so I would be prepared for additional changes. That said, I also recommend turning the new ribbon on because it adds new functionality.

New DAX Functions: FirstNonBlank Value and LastNonBlank Value

Some of you may be asking, “What's different between the new FirstNonBlank or LastNonBlank value functions and the FirstNonBlank and LastNonBlank functions that were already available?”
The previous DAX functions return the FirstNonBlank or LastNonBlank value within a column, while the new ones return the value within a measure. You can now pass in a column name that you want and then the measure you're evaluating for in that column. This is a straightforward enhancement, but it’s nice they've transitioned the filter context for that expression to measures (as opposed to just being able to use it for columns).

New Visualizations:

  • Funnel and pyramid chart - xViz​
  • OEE Dashboard - 3AG Systems
  • Organization chart - MAQ Software​
  • Individuals control chart​
  • Histogram​
  • PI VIZpack - PQ Systems​
  • Individuals and moving range control chart​
  • Multi-group individuals chart​
  • X-bar control chart​
  • X-bar and range control chart​
  • P-chart​ & U-chart
  • Zebra BI tables and charts​ (Updates)

New Connectors:

  • MicroStrategy (now GA​)
  • FHIR connector (now GA​)
  • Factset
  • TIBCO​
  • Jamf Pro
  • Asana

Non-Admin Support for Query Diagnostics

There was a release back in December 2019 to be able to run query diagnostics for your power queries, but it was only available if you had admin rights. Now you're able to switch that to non-admin. Both non-admin and admin accounts can run those query diagnostics.

Template Apps: Microsoft Usage Analytics, NFL Analytics, Acterys for QuickBooks, Xero & WorkflowMax

Probably the most notable out of the new template apps is the Microsoft 365 analytics option. If any of you reading this are Office 365 admins within your organization, I would highly recommend looking at that template app.

Power BI Features (January 2020 Update)

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Modernized Ribbon UI

With modernized icons, a change from black to grey, and a new filter option, the modern ribbon UI may take some time to get used to, but it offers plenty of new advantages. Some of these include a new way to see table tools, measure tools, column tools, and more. Check out past webinars for directions on turning on this feature and exploring all the new options.

Decomposition Tree Visual

November and December of 2019 saw complementary enhancements with a new standard decomposition tree visual with some useful formatting options like font changes.

Button Enhancements

You can now add conditional formatting to buttons and dynamically show messages or tooltips based on the measure selected.

New Connectors: Power Platform

Power BI regularly adds new connectors, but December 2019 saw the arrival of Power Platform Dataflows connector. Previously, data flows could only be connected via Power BI data flows. With the recent updates across the Power Platform, Microsoft now lets you also create data flows within your Power Apps interface.

New Connectors: Azure Data Lake Storage Gen2

Previously released as a premium feature, this connector is now generally available.

New Connectors: Other

  • LinkedIn Sales Navigator
  • Editing SAP variables (generally available)
  • Vena
  • SiteImprove
  • Product Insights
  • Web by Example
  • PostgreSQL now includes Npgsql provider

New AI functions released in Power Query (premium licensing only)

AI insights functions allow users to transform Machine Learning type data models directly in the Power Query editor. These AI functions are only available with Power BI premium licensing.

Template Apps: LinkedIn Sales Navigator

Template apps are out-of-the-box reports that simply require your credentials for the specified technology. Entering those will allow you to connect to reports available in the marketplace and the app source area within Power BI. LinkedIn Sales Navigator was added in November 2019.

Customized Theme Files and Custom Visualizations

Previously, theme files for Power BI had to be created using a third-party tool (like the theme generator by But now, those external resources aren’t needed because customized theme files can be created directly in the Power BI desktop.
I believe is the best feature that was released in the last two months. It takes the complication out of standardizing reports to match your organization’s branding. You can select your colors through RGB or hex value, and you can define the default text for your titles, headings, and other features.
Additionally, this release saw several new custom visualizations (which seems to be a trend). Third-party vendors are always trying to get their custom visualizations approved, and users now can personalize their visualization pane by adding custom visuals and removing standard visuals.

New KPI Formatting with KPI Visual

Previously, you couldn’t see date, access, and goal labels in the KPI visual. You were only able to see the metric being displayed for that time period. The date range for the selected time frame is now available.

More Data Available for Analyzing Insights

You're able to load more data when analyzing insights. For those of you taking advantage of that built-in machine learning, it allows you to load more data whether you're doing that within a report on a visualization, or you're using the “get quick insights” option when publishing a data set online to the service.

DAX Quarter Analysis

Those using DAX are now able to analyze by quarter. Previously with DAX, you were able to segment out in a date, year, month and day with those functions. Now they’ve added quarters so you can do more time parsing with that function.
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