Skip to main content

Power BI Desktop April 2020 Feature Summary

Headshot of article author Sujata Narayana

We have a ton of great updates this release! We’re excited to announce a new visual personalization feature to allow your end-users to explore and personalize visuals all within the consumption view of a report! Also this month, if you’re interested in fast refresh scenarios, you will find these new features very useful: change detection for page refresh and support for relative time filters in minutes and hours. On top of this, we are releasing several other features, including rectangular lasso select across visuals, conditional formatting for totals and subtotals, Direct Query support for AI visuals: decomposition tree and key influencers, several updates to Q&A, and more!

Check out the full blog to learn more about all the updates and enhancements.

Desktop Download button

Here’s the complete list the updates this month:




Template Apps

Data preparation

Data connectivity


Check out the following video for demos of the highlights:

Also, the  all-digital Microsoft Business Applications Summit 2020 is here! As part of the event, Arun Ulag posted a summary of the Power BI announcements including the Desktop release and the importance of driving a data culture for an organization. You can learn more about these announcements here.

Important update –

In light of the COVID-19 crisis, we have decided to give more flexibility by providing an additional month to move over to the modern filter experience before we automatically migrate all reports in Power BI Desktop and Power BI Service. So, if you have not upgraded any of your reports, you have one more month to update your reports so you can tweak or customize any of the filter pane formatting before your reports get auto-upgraded in May.


Personalize visuals (preview)

Many times, we hear that end-users are looking to gain more personalized insights through self-service exploration. Previously, the way end-users could explore and modify the properties of a visual is by being in the full-editing experience (which can be quite foreign or not an option to many end-users without edit access) or have the report author duplicate the visual, make the requested modifications, and save it as a report bookmark.
Now this month, you can empower your end-users to explore and personalize visuals all within the consumption view of a report.

Using this feature, your end-users can explore a visual in many ways:

  • Change the visualization type
  • Swap out a measure or dimension
  • Add or remove a legend
  • Compare two or more different measures
  • Change aggregations, etc.

Not only does this feature allow for new exploration capabilities, but it also includes ways for end-users to capture, share, and revert their changes:

  • Capture their changes
  • Share their changes
  • Reset all their changes to a report
  • Reset all their changes to a visual
  • Clear out their recent changes

Since this feature is in preview, you will need to first turn on the feature switch by going to File > Options and Settings > Options > Preview feature and make sure Personalize visuals is turned on:

After you turn on the preview switch, you will need to specifically enable it for the reports that you want end-users to be able to personalize visuals for.

To enable the feature on in Power BI Desktop, you will need to go to File > Options and Settings > Options > Report settings for the current file and make sure Personalize visuals (preview) is turned on.

When you enable this setting for a given report, all visuals in that report will have this experience on by default. If you want to customize which visuals have this experience, you can toggle on/off this setting per visual in the visual header section of the formatting pane:

Give it a try, and let us know what you think. We greatly appreciate any feedback in terms of what you liked about the feature and how we can improve it! If you want to learn more about this feature, check out the video demo or check out our blog post.

Change detection for page refresh (preview)

This month we are introducing a new option for automatic page refresh, so that your page refresh is based on change detection rather than a specific refresh interval. For frequent refresh scenarios, it can be very inefficient to continuously send all queries to the source, especially if the data has not even changed. For example, if you are monitoring tweets, these might come into your model very often or between longer periods of time. If you query the data source in a constant, frequent interval, it may result in unnecessary queries and expensive resource usage. A better approach is to have a lightweight query that runs in the background to check if data has changed and only refresh your entire report page if a change has been detected. Therefore, with this release, we are providing a new Change detection option to specify how we should query for changes to your Direct Query source, specifically which measure we should evaluate and how frequently we should check for changes to that measure.

To enable this feature, you will need to first turn on the Automatic Page Refresh preview switch in the Options dialog:

After you have turned on the preview switch, there are several ways to access this new capability: go to the modeling section in the ribbon and select change detection, right-click in the field list and select change detection for the same outcome, or go to the page formatting pane and select Add change detection in the page refresh section.

Authors have two options to create a change detection measure: they can choose one that is already in their model or they can create a new one based on common scenarios, such as latest date or count of rows. Finally, you will need to specify how frequently we should check for changes to that measure.

Once this is done in Desktop, you can publish the report to the Service. Change detection will only work if the report is published to a Premium workspace and the feature is enabled in the Premium capacity. Also, since admins can define the minimum interval allowed for change detection, Power BI will respect that minimum even if the author set up a more frequent interval to check for data changes.

To summarize, here are important considerations for this new capability:

  • Only DirectQuery sources are supported
  • You’re only allowed to specify one change detection measure per model
  • In Desktop, when you set up change detection, visuals won’t refresh. You will have to publish to the service for page refresh to work, which includes re-authenticating with the same credentials for refresh.
  • This is a premium only feature
  • Premium capacity admin must turn this on in the admin portal


And as always, if you have any feedback about automatic page refresh and change detection, we would love to hear from you.

Relative time filter (preview)

With emerging fast refresh scenarios, the need to filter to a smaller window of time becomes more and more requested. So, this month, we’re very excited to announce a new type of filter: relative time filter.
When the filter is applied to the page/report level, all visuals under that level are synchronized to the same time range.



Relative time filter is in preview, so you will need to make sure you turn it in the Options dialog:

You do not have to use the feature in conjunction with Automatic Page Refresh; however, many of your relative time scenarios will pair best with the automatic or change detection page refresh feature.

With this new filter type, you will have the option to filter based on Last, Next, or This time period for any datetime column in UTC:

You will be able to specify the time period to be in Minutes or Hours:

If you need to save real estate on the canvas, you can also create the relative time filter as a filter card in the filter pane:

Given that this is a preview feature, we greatly appreciate any feedback in terms of what you liked about the feature and how we can improve it!

Rectangular lasso select across visuals

You can now select your visuals and other report elements by clicking and dragging over the canvas to create a rectangular lasso. All visuals that are entirely encapsulated within the lasso will be selected. If you are holding down Ctrl or Shift (as you would multi-select by Ctrl + clicking individual visuals), further lassoing will add visual selections to the current multi-select. If a visual is already selected and is lassoed, it toggles off that selection. The lasso will not select single visuals within groups but can select groups by encapsulating the entire group.


Note: the canvas will not automatically scroll with your rectangular lasso  selection. This should only affect authors whose report pages are larger than the canvases on their screen.

Conditional formatting for totals and subtotals in table and matrix

This month, we’re delivering a highly requested feature: conditional formatting for totals and subtotals in tables and matrix.

You can now apply conditional formatting rules to your totals and subtotals in table and matrix visuals. You will be able to find this new option in the Apply to dropdown in the conditional formatting advanced controls dialog. This feature will work for setting background color, font color, icons, and web URL.

Keep in mind that you will have to manually set the thresholds or ranges for your conditional formatting rules, and that for matrices, Values will still refer to the lowest visible level of the matrix hierarchy.

This is something many of you have been asking for, and we understand that the capabilities we add today won’t cover all of your use cases. We’ve got more planned for this feature, but we hope our current solution addresses some of your more basic needs.
Please keep sending us feedback on this feature so that we can deliver what you need moving forward!

Customize theme dialog is now generally available

The new theme dialog is now generally available. Thank you for your feedback throughout the preview process. You can learn more in our report themes documentation. Below you will find the details for all the updates to the Customize theme dialog.

Custom theme section

If you customize a theme in the theme dialog, an icon will represent that custom theme in a separate section in the theme dialog. This icon will update whenever you customize your theme.  If you hover over the icon, a tooltip will show up that explains that the theme is a custom theme.  If you define a theme name, it will also show up in parentheses.

Keep in mind that the custom theme section currently holds a history of one theme, and if you customize a theme in the theme dialog, those changes will not be saved to your custom theme until you save your theme in the dialog.

Save current theme

Previously, there was an “Export current theme” option in the theme dropdown. This text has been updated to “Save current theme”.  You can use this option to save a theme in a JSON file.

Update base theme

If you’re using one of the older Power BI themes (Classic, City Park, Classroom, Color Blind Safe, Electric, High Contrast, Sunset, Twilight) you may have noticed that text formatting options were disabled.  Now, you can upgrade your base theme right in the report themes dialog to activate these text styling options.  Keep in mind that you need to save your theme.

Improved discoverability for conditional formatting

After we brought you conditional formatting for a wider array of objects (like visual titles and background colors), you’ve let us know that the menu to access that functionality was difficult to find. That’s why this month we’ll be updating the entry point into the conditional formatting dialog to make it more discoverable. Now, to access the dialog, simply click the fx button to the right of the object you would like to format.
For example, take a look at the visual title text option in the formatting pane:

Clicking the fx button will bring up the conditional formatting dialog. After applying a conditional formatting rule, the input field should now look like this:

Since the title text is no longer static, the input box has been replaced by a button taking you back into the conditional formatting dialog. The eraser button on the right clears the conditional formatting rules you have set on the object.


Direct Query support for AI visuals

We are excited to announced that two of our AI visuals will now work in Direct Query (DQ) mode:

  • Decomposition tree (preview)
  • Key influencers (preview)

There are a couple limitations to be mindful of:

  • DQ Query Parameters are not supported
  • Automatic page refresh is not supported

Decomposition tree now supports tooltips

A simple but useful update to the decomposition tree is that it now supports tooltips.
You can add additional measures to the Tooltips option in the field well and have them appear when users hover on the data bars in the tree.

Q&A updates

We’re excited to announce some new updates to Q&A:

  • You can now suggest your own questions to help your end-users
  • Teach Q&A now supports measure conditions
  • Q&A is now supported in Power BI datasets

Suggest questions

To get users of the Q&A visual started, Power BI automatically suggests some questions to start with. This month, we are adding the option to define your own questions to show up in the Q&A visual. In the new Suggest questions section in Q&A setup, you can create a list of questions to be shown in the Q&A visual. The questions will show up in Q&A in the same order as they have been created in.

Teach Q&A now supports measure conditions

With Teach Q&A, you can add definitions to make Q&A work better with your data model. For example, if you have a table with “customer” and “total spend” columns, you could define that “high-spending customers” are customers that spend more than $100. In the first release of Teach Q&A, you could only create definitions on columns. This month we are adding support for measure conditions. In the example above this means that if “total spend” is a measure, calculating the sum of all sales for one customer, you can use that to define “high-spending customer” in the Teach Q&A experience. You can also calculate the measure in the Q&A expression itself. For example, if “profitable customers” are customers with at least 20 orders in the order column, you can define customers with “count of orders > 20” as profitable.

Q&A is now supported on Power BI datasets

You can now use Q&A when connected to a Power BI dataset. When you are working on a PBIX file connected to a Power BI dataset, you can use add a Q&A visual to the canvas and ask questions. Currently, we only support direct usage of Q&A on Power BI datasets. Q&A setup and the linguistic schema options are not accessible.


Radar/Polar chart by xViz

The radar/polar chart (also known as radial chart, spider chart, web chart) by xViz is ideal for visualizing multivariate data similar to parallel coordinates chart. Radar charts are suited for showing outliers and commonality by comparing one or more categories across different variables. For example, comparing product performance across various metrics like the ease of use, aesthetics, and durability.

The xViz radar/ polar chart  delivers several important features  posted on Power BI Ideas, specifically around axis scaling, data labels customization and support for legends.

Key features:

  • 3-in-1 chart: choose between radar, polar and radial chart
  • 10+ series options: display line, column, area, stacked and stacked percentage charts
  • Advance data label customization with support for totals display in case of stacked radial chart
  • Axis customization: automatically or manually set the axis min and max value
  • Support for legend
  • Advance conditional formatting for visually highlighting outliers based on different rules
  • Number formatting options to customize values based on various business scenarios
  • Summary table: tabular view of data

Download the visual from AppSource or check out a sample report.

Comicgen by Gramener

Comicgen by Gramener adds comic characters whose emotion, pose, and angle can be controlled by data.

Users can show two or less KPI’s at a time. Each KPI can be visualized as emotion (e.g., happy or sad) and pose (e.g., Thumbs Up or Angry). You can choose to keep the visual emotion or pose or both static to your choice by selecting appropriate emotion and pose from the visual settings. Users can choose different comics; currently, it supports Dee and Dey. Check out the video tutorial below:

Download the visual from AppSource or check out a sample report.

Pareto by sio2Graphs

Visualize cause and frequency using a Pareto chart to understand the key drivers of a process.

Pareto charts are used to visualize the results or outcomes for any process in order to identify the specific factors driving or impeding an effective conclusion.

Download this visual from AppSource or check out a sample report.

Growth Rate Combo Chart by Djeeni

The Growth Rate Combo Chart by Djeeni is a powerful visual that displays the percentage difference between the consecutive category values, with the base for comparison being the category on the left. This visual is perfect to show metric growth rates over time:
Use cases:

  • Show percentage change between two or more categories
  • Show percentage change between two or more time periods

Key features:

  • Line or Column Chart
  • Choose two or more categories or time periods to see percent change
  • Deselect categories or time periods
  • Hide or show selection pane

Download this visual from AppSource or check out a sample report.

Smart Filter Pro by OKViz

Smart Filter Pro by OKViz is the premium version of Smart Filter. It provides a compact slicer that applies filters in many different ways, including autocomplete and incremental search in a dropdown list.

Key features:

  • Unlimited rows (the free version is limited the 30K rows)
  • Filter mode
  • Copy/paste of a list of items
  • Autocomplete
  • Performance boost
  • Dropdown list customization
  • Additional tooltips
  • Themes support
  • Enhanced observer mode
  • Hierarchy mode
  • Bookmarks support
  • Sync slicers

Autocomplete (Pro only)
With the autocomplete enabled, Smart Filter Pro works like a browser search bar, meaning when you start typing a few characters, the input box will autocomplete the word with the first result from underlying data.

Filter mode (Pro only)
Sometimes, working with huge datasets and loading all data in memory can be very expensive. In Smart Filter Pro you can use the Filter mode, which allows the querying of data by defining filter conditions. This way, there are no limits on which elements in the column to filter. You can write filters with a simple syntax and get instant results.

Query syntax
The Filter mode supports textual fields, dates, and numbers.
For each data type you can use specific operators such as less than (<)  or greater than (>) for numbers and dates, or quotation marks for strings. You can hover over the question mark icon (?) in the visual to see various examples of the query syntax.

Logical operators
You can also choose how to connect the keywords. Both AND and OR logical operators are available:

Copy/paste a list of items
You can paste a long list of items (like SKUs) in Smart Filter Pro in filter mode. This action applies the filter to the desired custom list in a very efficient way, giving instantaneous results also with hundreds of items pasted in the visual.

Download this visual from AppSource or check out a sample report.

New Visualization icons

You may have noticed that our visualization icons have a new look:

These new icons have a higher color contrast to improve accessibility, and they align with the icons that you may be familiar with in Excel.

You will see these new icons in both the Visualizations pane and in the Personalize visuals experience:

Template Apps

This month we have several new additions to our Power BI templates on AppSource. Save time by connecting your own data to a report that you can personalize and share.

Power Platform Center of Excellence (CoE) StartKit

The Power Platform CoE StartKit  provides a holistic view of the resource usage in your tenant, including environments, Power Apps apps, Power Automate flows, connectors, connection references, makers and audit logs.

Use cases:

  • Detect who are the star app makers and which departments have organically discovered Power Apps and Power Automate.
  • Dive deeper to see which resources (apps, flows) are using a specific connector. This can help you perform risk assessments or identify users who use premium features.
  • Analyze app usage by specifically tracking unique users and sessions of an app to identify spikes or popular apps.
  • Discover what connectors and flows are used heavily throughout the tenant
  • Identify business important components based on who they are shared with and how often they are used to ensure they receive the support needed.

How to connect your data:

Follow the instructions to set up the StartKit CoE and make the data available

  1. Click Connect
  2. Enter your Environment URL
  3. Choose OAuth2 for Authentication method and sign in.

Download this app from AppSource or check out the documentation.

Azure Cognitive Search is a cloud search service with built-in AI capabilities that enrich all types of information to easily identify and explore relevant content at scale. Azure Cognitive Search allows you to store operation logs and service metrics from your search service into an Azure Storage account. This Power BI template app specifically enables you to analyze those operation logs and metrics so that you can obtain better insights about your search service. The Power BI app provides detailed metrics about queries, indexing requests, operations, and more.

Download this app from AppSource or check out the documentation. Also, if you’re new to Azure Cognitive Search we recommend learning more about the service by reading their documentation.

COVID-19 Apps

We’re living in unprecedented times as the world faces the COVID-19 pandemic. As healthcare providers and local governments work to slow the spread of the virus and ultimately save lives, it’s critical that these organizations are equipped with accurate information in a timely manner. To help these organizations and individuals stay informed, several of our Power BI partners created template apps track of COVID-19 pandemic:

After you download them, you can use them as-is, personalize them or share them inside your organization. All the following template apps connect to anonymous data source; to learn more check out the video below:

COVID-19 US tracking
The Power BI team has created a solution that provides a report of COVID-19 metrics that local governments, organizations, or any Power BI user can use to publish up-to-date information to their communities or for themselves.
Download this app from AppSource.

COVID-19 daily cases
This COVID-19 report,  which was developed by Pragmatic Works, provides information on daily cases, recoveries, and death rates by country and state/province from the Center of Disease Control (CDC) and John Hopkins University.
Download this app from AppSource.

Analyze COVID-19 global cases
With DataChant’s latest template app, you can analyze COVID-19 global cases in a daily refreshed report, which includes advanced time intelligence measures to offset all countries by the number of estimated active cases per capita since the first day that 100 cases were reported. You can also hit the play icon to see the animated progression over the last 30 days.

Download this app from AppSource or learn more how to build your own.

Data preparation

Enhancements to Query Diagnostics

After the general availability release of Query Diagnostics  last month, we’re continuing to enhance it. This month we’re bringing you Query Diagnostics Options, which will allow you to configure your diagnostics and performance output for Query Diagnostics.
We’re adding a new button to the Tools tab in the Power Query Editor ribbon to let you configure Query Diagnostics.

When you click it, it will take you to the Diagnostics page in Options dialog, which will allow you to configure what kind of outputs you want when you run Query Diagnostics. This will help minimize the number of tables you have to clean up.

You’ll notice a new option there: Performance counters. Performance counters are a new output for Query Diagnostics. When you run performance counters, every half second Power Query will take a snapshot of resource utilization. This isn’t useful for very fast queries but can be helpful for queries that use up a lot more resources. Performance counters reuse the “Id” concept of Query diagnostics, as well as introducing a number of new columns.

  • Processor Time
  • Total Processor Time
  • IO Data Bytes per Second
  • Commit (Bytes)
  • Working Set (Bytes)

Data connectivity

CDM Folder view for Azure Data Lake Storage Gen2

We’re bring into beta the CDM Folder view for the Azure Data Lake Storage Gen2 connector. This will allow you to select if you want to view content in your data lake as CDM entities.

The folder in the lake will be considered a CDM Folder and brought into the Navigator view if it has at least one of the manifest files with the following name patterns:

  • *.manifest.cdm.json
  • model.json
  • odi.json

You can see below how a CDM folder might be represented in the Navigator.


New instructor-led training

This month, considering global health concerns due to COVID-19, we have changed the Dashboard in a Day (DIAD) program to accommodate online delivery. The events will be scheduled on Microsoft Teams instead of in person classrooms. Check out the Dashboard in a Day event center to learn more.

Additionally, there’s a brand-new Paginated Report in a Day instructor-led training as an addition to the online course that starts April 1st.
This new advanced training, which is focused on focused on Paginated report editor (Report Builder) and report server best practices, has a self-passed lab or instructor delivery version and is published in our training page for the instructors and students to download.

That’s all for this month! Please continue sending us your feedback and don’t forget to vote for other features that you’d like to see in Power BI Desktop. For any preview features, you can always give us your feedback in our active community forum. We hope that you enjoy the update!

Desktop Download button