by Amir Netz, Technical Fellow
So you thought Power BI Desktop shipping 44 features in September was big? Well, I have some news for you. October is bigger. Much bigger.
Today we are bringing the ability to use custom visuals to every single user of the Power BI service and Power BI Desktop. I believe this one new capability trumps all of the features released in September combined, and then some. Why? Because with custom visuals we are simply blowing past every limit of what is possible in data visualization and business intelligence.
And in one fell swoop, we’ve more than doubled the visualization options available to users of Power BI. And we’ll keep new ones coming. Every. Single. Week.
I’ll admit it. I am very excited… So deep breath. Here is exactly what we are introducing today:
- Custom visuals in the Power BI service and Desktop: The ability to upload and incorporate a custom visual, whether a broadly useful visual from our community gallery or a completely bespoke visual tailored for the needs of a single user, into the report and then share it with others. This is available in the Power BI service today, and in the Desktop next week.
- The Power BI visuals gallery: A community site (visuals.powerbi.com) that allows creators to upload new Power BI visuals and for users to browse, select and download those visuals.
- Power BI developer tools: With our developer tools every web developer can code, test and package new visuals directly in the Power BI service to be loaded to the gallery.
Our announcement today is the culmination of a journey that started in July when we announced our commitment to an open, standards-based approach to data visualization. Data visualization is simply too central to the user experience to limit your choices to the visuals your BI vendor is able to provide on their proprietary stack. In August, we put our source code where our mouth is by placing it on GitHub for everyone to freely use and to contribute if desired. We also do our active development on the same GitHub repository so anyone can stay on top of the work happening in our own codebase.
Last month we invited our community to show us what you can do with our code and your imagination. We introduced the Power BI developer tools “preview” and announced the Power BI Best Visual Contest for developers to compete to build the best original visualizations. We didn’t know what to expect, but we certainly hoped to see some interesting submissions. What actually transpired simply blew our minds. Within a span of four weeks the community built dozens of new visuals – many of them were ridiculously amazing.
The energy and the creativity of the Power BI community is simply mind boggling. Just look at the collection of visuals you created here. Within the span of four weeks, you created more new visuals than the whole Power BI team created over the last four years. By building atop internet standards and leveraging open source libraries like D3.js we made the creation of brand new visualizations so simple that some of you submitted more than one visual. Daniele Perilli and Fredrik Hedenstrom built three visualizations each within those four weeks. Un-flipping-believable.
The best way to understand what happened in the last few weeks is to hear it directly from the contestants in their own words:
As the submissions streamed in, the excitement grew in the community and Twitter was on fire. And not just Twitter – the comments section in the Power BI community site was getting filled with enthusiastic reactions mixed with clear demands that we bring all those visualizations into the product. And if you know the Power BI team, you know that we always listen to you, and we act fast and decisively.
With the release of the Power BI visual gallery, the ability to use the custom visuals in Power BI and the developer tools we’re breaking down all the traditional barriers.
Use any custom visual in Power BI
With today’s introduction of custom visuals in Power BI we enable every user to include custom visualizations in their reports, which can also be shared with others. Once included in the reports these new visuals behave exactly like the rest of the “native” visuals of Power BI. You can filter them, cross highlight and control their formatting. (Note that pinning of custom visuals to a dashboard is not supported in this release, but it’s coming soon.)
Discover the rich selection of community authored visuals in the Power BI visuals gallery
To make it easy to find these exciting new visuals, we are also introducing the Power BI visuals gallery, where you can download community creations with a couple of clicks and incorporate those into your report. As Will shows in this video doing so is trivially easy:
(I just love Will’s British accent).
Developer tools available to create custom visuals
The developer tools for power BI now include the ability to package visualizations into “.pbiviz” files that can be uploaded to the new gallery or incorporated directly into the reports.
See Sachin’s video here showing how easy it is for every developer to create a new Power BI visualization.
Custom visualizations are huge. In this one fell swoop we are more than doubling the collection of visuals available for every Power BI user, and this is just the beginning. Every week the gallery will grow. Every month new unbelievable creations will show up. The sky is not the limit. Only your imagination.
Today’s visual analytics solutions often need to go beyond proprietary common visuals to meet the needs presented by volume, variety, variability and speed of the data flow. With custom visuals in Power BI the game has just changed. Nothing is impossible. You can now view the data in any way you want, harnessing all of your creativity without any limits. This is the new world of Power BI.
We could not have done it without our loyal community. Your energy, excitement and imagination feed us, drive us and make us better. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.