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Power BI Desktop August 2019 Feature Summary

Headshot of article author Amanda Cofsky

Our August release has another hotly anticipated feature from the Microsoft Business Application Summit, grouping. Grouping in reports, similar to PowerPoint’s grouping, lets you easily organize groups of visuals to move and resize them as a set. This month’s release also has some updates to our newest features, such as an icon set picker for our newly added icons conditional formatting and measure support for key influencers.

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As a reminder, you’re now downloading a single .exe file that has all the languages wrapped into it. The old .msi installation is still available from the Download Center, but we’ll be deprecating that in September. If you’re automatically downloading it from there each month, you’ll need to update your scripts. If you want to know more about deploying Power BI Desktop remotely through scripts read our documentation.

Here’s the complete list of August updates:




Data connectivity

Template apps

For a summary of the major updates, you can watch the following video:


Grouping visuals

We are very happy to announce the release of one of the most exciting demos from the Microsoft Business Applications Summit, grouping. Grouping allows you to group visuals, shapes, textboxes, images, and buttons together on your report page just like you can do in PowerPoint. Once objects are grouped together, you’ll be able to move and resize them all together. This should make it a lot easier to work with reports with lots of objects layered on each page.

To group visuals, you can ctrl+click them and right click to select the group option.

Right-clicking a group will give you an option to ungroup them later.

Generally, by default, the behavior mimics PowerPoint exactly, such as:

  • Clicking on the empty space within the group will not select anything
  • Clicking on a visual within a group will select the entire group on first click and the individual visual on second click
  • Selecting a group and another object on the page and then selecting the Group option will create a nested group
  • Use the selection pane to hide everything in the group at once (and bookmark it if you)

There are a few ways we’ve extended the feature as well, including:

  • Use the selection pane to drag and drop objects in and out of groups
  • Selecting two groups and opening the context menu will give you an option to merge the groups into one group instead of nesting them
  • Using the formatting pane, you can add a background color to a group. If a group has a background, it now has “substance” so you can click on the background of the group to select it.

Groups, since they aren’t actual content on the report page, don’t affect the tab order of your report page. Grouping is also only supported on reports using our new modern header, so if you have an older report still using the previous header, upgrade it in the Options dialog to take advantage of this feature.

We have more plans for grouping the future as well. In a future update, we’ll add different modes to grouping that will change the way the visuals and the group’s container interact with each other. For example, you’ll eventually be able to create a group that scrolls.

Watch the following video to learn more about grouping:

Filter pane auto-update

Last month, we announced the general availability of our new filter pane, and now we are starting the process to transition current reports to the new pane as well. We obviously want to do this in a way that will minimize the impact on your current reports. With that in mind, this month, when you open Power BI Desktop for the first time, we’ll show you a filter pane auto-update dialog. Make sure to take advantage of this opportunity, as we will eventually auto-update all existing report to the new filter pane.

Through this dialog, you can opt into using the new filter pane experience. Once you do this, anytime you open an old report it will show the new filter pane automatically. If you save the report after opening it, the new pane will now persist, and once you publish the report again, it will show for you end users. If you’re not ready to upgrade a specific report, you can turn off the new pane through the report level settings in the options dialog.

If you’re not ready to switch to the new experience, you can close out the auto-update dialog or choose to opt out at this time. You’ll still see the old pane for your reports, but when you’re ready, you can opt in through the dialog the next time you open a report.

Icon style picker for Icons conditional formatting

Last month, we released a new form of conditional formatting, called Icons, that allows you to add icons next to values in your table or matrix based on custom business logic. This month we are improving the usability of this feature by adding an icon set picker to the dialog. This will give you a fast way to select a set of icons and rules to start with and then customize from there, which should save you some time manually selecting icons for each individual rule.

Watch the following video to learn more about icon styles:

Conditional formatting warnings

Over the last several months, we’ve expanded the number of places you can apply conditional formatting to include settings such as titles and font colors to name just a few. As we’ve mentioned before, our goal is to eventually support conditional formatting for most, if not all, formatting properties. Given how prevalent conditional formatting will become with all these changes, we also wanted to make it easy to see errors in your conditional formatting configuration.

Now, we’ll show a warning in the visual header and the formatting pane if one of the following cases is true:

  • The measure’s data type is not what the formatting property expects (e.g. the measure returns a number, but the property is a string)
  • The measure used to conditionally format was deleted
  • The measure returns an unrecognized value (ex. Rad instead of Red)

These warnings will only show up when editing a report, end users won’t see the warnings when viewing the report.

Watch the following video to learn more about conditional formatting warnings:


Key influencers improvements

Measure support

You can now use measures in the Analyze bucket of the key influencers visual. By default, we’ll evaluate the measure based on the fields you include in the Explain by bucket. There’s also a new Expand by bucket in the field well that can be used to refine the level that the measure in the analyze bucket is evaluated at. For example, if you want it to be evaluated over all your data, you can add an ID field to the Expand by bucket.

General availability

With measure support now added, we are very excited to announce the general availability of the key influencers visual. Thank you for all the feedback given during the preview period!

Watch the following video to learn more about the Key influencers visual improvements:


xViz visualization suite by Visual BI

Visual BI, the makers of the ValQ value driver tree visual, are releasing a suite of new visuals available in AppSource called xViz. These in-app purchase visuals are highly customizable and are completely free up until 2000 data points. After that, they have a licensing plan in place that gives you access to all visuals within the suite for one price.

Multiple axis chart

The first visual within the xViz suite is the multiple axis chart. This visual allows you to display up to five separate axis values, each with a unique visual type: column, column stacked, line, spline, area, area stacked or area spline.

To build out this visual, you’ll start by placing the categorical axis field in the Axis bucket. From there, you’ll place each measure you want to display in the value axis buckets. When you place several measures within the same value axis bucket, they’ll share the axis and if you place them in different buckets, they will each have either own unique axis.

From there, there are tons of customizations you can do in the formatting pane. You can customize the visual type using the Series Type card, mixing and matching to get the visual layout you’re looking for.

Some other unique options this visual has include:

  • Error bars, horizontal and vertical bands, and horizontal reference lines found in the Analytics card
  • A utility menu that allows end users on the Power BI service to export PNGs, lasso select, and zoom (This menu is only supported in the service, not Power BI Desktop).
  • Adding pattern fills using the Data Series Pattern card to improve accessibility of your visuals
  • Advanced formatting controls for each axis shown in the visual
  • Custom text and URL footer through the Miscellaneous card

You can click on the grid icon on the top right of the visual to flip to a table view of the data and filter the rows through a search bar.

You can also click on the pencil icon to open a conditional formatting menu which allows you to write complex conditional formatting rules to apply to any series in the visual. The rules will automatically show in the legend as well (this can be turned off in the formatting pane if needed).

The conditional formatting and either be based on rules or on a color scale.

By combining all these features together, you can create complex and robost visuals to show your data however you need.

Check out this visual on AppSource.

Watch the following video to learn more about the Multiple axis chart:

Marimekko chart

The Marimekko chart, the second xViz visual, lets you visualize categorical data over two scales, using both width and height, to show the relationship between them. You start off this visual with a categorical value you want to show on the value axis From there you can add a measure to define the height of each category and a different measure to set the width. You can also add a category to the legend to split the data further.

Since this visual is part of the xViz suite, it has the same great formatting options we’ve already covered for the Multi-axis chart, including the powerful conditional formatting options and advanced formatting control.

Download this visual from AppSource.

Watch the following video to learn more about the Marimekko chart:

Variance chart

The variance chart, the third visual in the xViz suite, allows you to easily compare multiple metrics, such as forecast versus budget, and see the variance between them. For this visual, you need to add your categorical field, such as time, to the Category bucket in the field well. From there you add the first value you want to compare in the Actual value bucket and the second to the Comparison value bucket. The visual will then show a comparison chart with both values, a variance chart, and a percent variance chart.

In addition to all the general formatting capabilities you get with all xViz visuals, such as conditional formatting, you also have a lot of controls specific to this visual type. For example, you can choose to customize which of these chart types you want to include in the visual and how much space they take up within the Chart Options card of the formatting pane.

You can switch the style of the variance percent chart between oval and square through the formatting pane as well.

You can even change the chart type used for the comparison chart.

You’ll find this visual on AppSource.

Watch the following video to learn more about the Variance chart:

Horizon chart

Lastly, the Horizon chart, which I covered last September, has been upgraded and integrated into the xViz suite.

Find this visual on AppSource.

Watch the following video to learn more about the Horizon chart:

Data connectivity

Support for SAP HANA HDI Containers

The SAP HANA connector has been enhanced in this month’s release to enable consumption of views under HANA Deployment Infrastructure (“HDI”) Containers.

Views within HDI Containers are seamlessly showed within the Navigator dialog when using the SAP HANA connector, allowing you to consume them with either Import or DirectQuery mode and operate over them just like with any other view within SAP HANA.

Edit SAP variables in Power BI service (preview)

When using SAP Business Warehouse or SAP HANA with DirectQuery, you can now allow end users to edit SAP variables in the Power BI service
for Premium workspaces.

Note: This is a preview feature that requires the new filter experience and an SSO-enabled gateway. For full details on setup requirements, check out the documentation.

Watch the following video to learn more about editing SAP variables:

PostgreSQL DirectQuery (beta)

Another connector enhancement this month provides DirectQuery support within the PostgreSQL connector, enabling you to build reports on top of their PostgreSQL databases without the need to import data.

When launching the PostgreSQL connector, you can now specify DirectQuery as your connectivity mode choice within the connector dialog.

MarkLogic connector now generally available

We’re glad to announce that the MarkLogic connector is now generally available. The MarkLogic connector can be found within the Database category in the Get Data dialog.

New Power Platform  category within Get Data

With this month’s release, we’re renaming the Power BI category under Get Data to Power Platform, and bringing the Common Data Service connector into this category, in addition to the Power BI datasets and Power BI dataflows connectors.

This change also lays the foundation for several other enhancements coming to Power BI that will leverage other Power Platform capabilities provided by PowerApps, Flow, and the Common Data Service. Stay tuned!

Template Apps

Facebook Pages – Basic Analysis

Template apps are a great way to provide Power BI users with installable, ready to use, actionable – quality applications. These templates contain reports, dashboards, and data models that can connect to the user’s data, creating immediate value and action.

We are going to start regularly sharing new or popular template apps in this blog, and first up is the Facebook Pages – Basic Analysis template app by DataChant, which provides marketing professionals the simplest way to analyze any Facebook page in Power BI without being the page administrator.

You can install the app right in the Power BI service and set its parameters to import data about up to four Facebook pages.

Once you complete the short set up flow, you’ll be given a dashboard and report that shows how each page performs over time based on their number of posts and shares. Even if you’re not a social media analyst, you can use this template app as a great demo tool to showcase Power BI capabilities. The dashboard and report are now yours, so you can customize and share as much as you want.

Microsoft partners can create their own template apps to publish in the marketplace. If you’re interested in this, be sure to check out our documentation to get started.

Download this app from AppSource.


That’s all for this month! We hope that you enjoy these updates for the month. Please continue sending us your feedback and don’t forget to vote for other features that you’d like to see in the Power BI Desktop. For any preview features, you can always give us your feedback in our active community. You can also download the .pbix file I used, and if you’re looking for a similar design for your reports, I was using the Microsoft layout from PowerBI.Tips.

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