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Power BI Desktop March 2019 Feature Summary

Headshot of article author Amanda Cofsky

This month we have a lot of exciting announcements. Two of our most requested features on UserVoice are releasing this month, heat maps and single select slicers. Additionally, we are making our complete facelift of the modeling view generally available. New DAX functions and improvements to existing features, such as buttons and the selection pane, round out this update.

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Here’s the complete list of March updates:




Custom visuals

Data connectivity

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


Single select slicer

The single select slicer option has been revamped to support radio buttons and allows one and only one filter selection. Additionally, for drop-down slicers, it closes the drop-down after selection, making the interaction much quicker for end users.

You can still use the previous behavior, where clicking a selection replaces the filter but they can Ctrl+click to multiselect, by turning on the Multi-select with CTRL option instead.

Watch the following video to learn more about single select slicer:

Heat map support for Bing maps

You can now enable a heat map formatting option for our circle Bing map visual. You’ll see an option to convert all the location dots on your map to a heat map layer through the formatting pane.

Once that option is turned on the map will automatically replace all the dots with the heat map layer.

If you don’t have anything in the Size field well bucket, the gradient is based on location density (how many dots are in that area). If you also have a measure in the Size bucket, the results are weighted by the measure’s value as well.

When you open the heat map formatting card, you’ll also see a lot of formatting control. You can set the radius and units for the radius to adjust the layer in addition to the colors used and their transparency.

While using the heat map layer, you won’t be  able to select individual points or see tooltips.

Watch the following video to learn more about heat maps:

Cross-highlight by axis labels

You can now use the axis category labels to cross-highlight, just like the data points in the visual. This is very useful when a category might be very small and hard to click.

Another use is if a category is broken out by another series in the legend. This lets you select all values with one click.

When you cross-highlight through the axis labels, the axis label is bolded.

Watch the following video to learn more about cross-highlighting on axis labels:

Default tooltip formatting

You can now format the default tooltip for each visual in your report. You can modify the tooltip colors, fonts and transparency, which you can find in the Tooltip card of the formatting pane.

To easily set these options across your whole report, you can control them as part of your theme. Here’s an example of the JSON for the tooltip section specifically:

               "visualTooltip": [{
                    "type": "Default",
                    "fontFamily": "Arial",
                    "fontSize": 11,
                    "valueFontColor": {"solid": {"color": "#5B3780"}},
                    "titleFontColor": {"solid": {"color": "#5289BF"}},
                    "transparency": 2,
                    "background": {"solid": {"color": "#FFE1F0"}}

Watch the following video to learn more about default tooltip formatting:

Static web URL support for buttons, shapes, and & images

You can now link a specific website through an image, shape or button. You can do this by selecting the Web URL option in the Type dropdown of the Action card of the formatting pane.

We will automatically take you to the URL when you click on the button (ctrl+click in edit mode). In the Power BI service, we will open a new tab for the site. The URL will need to be a valid URL starting with http:// or https://.

Watch the following video to learn more about static web URL support for buttons, shapes, & images:

Filter pane improvement

Based on customers feedback, we’ve simplified the options for report consumers. Consumers of reports can no longer delete a filter card in the filter pane. Instead, they now have a clear button, which ensures they don’t get into state they cannot fix themselves.

Watch the following video to learn more about the filter pane improvement:

Page alignment options

You can now choose to align your report pages to the top the view instead of the center through the global report settings.

The “Align the canvas to the top of the wallpaper” option is the default for new reports where users are using new filtering experiences.

Changing this setting will only apply to new reports going forward.

Watch the following video to learn more about page alignment:

Selection pane improvements

You can now double click an object in the selection pane to rename the title. If the title is off currently, you can still rename it through the selection pane to make it easier to identify different objects in the list.

You can also use shift+click, along with ctrl+click, to quickly and easily select many objects in the selection pane at once and adjust their visibility all together using the Show and Hide options at the top of the pane.

Watch the following video to learn more about the selection pane improvements:

Formatting updates for maps

Adjust map points to a smaller  size

If the default bubble size is too large for your tastes on the bubble Bing maps, you can now adjust the bubbles to a smaller size. Just slide the Size control under the Bubbles card to the left to reduce the size.

Map with smaller bubble size

Ability to add zoom buttons

This month we also added the ability to add zoom buttons to your map. Zoom buttons can make it easier to zoom in and out of the map, especially if you don’t have a mouse with a scroll  wheel on it. You can turn them on through the Zoom buttons toggle under the Map controls card.

Accessible visual interaction

You can now access data points on many of the built-in visuals using keyboard navigation. When a visual is in focus, pressing ctrl+right arrow will move focus inside the visual. Focus will now cycle between the plot area, categorical axis, and legend (if it exists) using the tab key. Press enter to select either the plot area or the legend and from there you can use:

  • Tab or arrow keys to navigate between data points or legend items
  • Enter or space to select and cross-highlight that data point
  • Ctrl + enter or ctrl + space to cross-highlight multiple data points
  • Ctrl + shift + c to clear all selection
  • Shift + F10 or the designated key on your keyboard to open the context menu to access options like Insights and Copy

Watch the following video to learn more about accessibility for visual interactions:


Q&A recommendations for improving results

The Q&A explorer dialog for reports now includes “Did you mean?” recommendations to help improve results. This includes terms that are misspelled or not understood by Q&A.

It will also surface what results are being shown when terms are ambiguous.

You can click on the suggestion to replace your current question with the suggestion.

Watch the following video to learn more about Q&A recommendations:

Show dates as a hierarchy now generally available

For each date column, we show each hierarchy level in the field list. The entire hierarchy, or a specific selection from the hierarchy can be used in visuals.

Watch the following video to learn more about showing date hierarchies in the field list:


New modelling view now generally available

We are excited to announce our new modelling view is now generally available. We’ve added a lot of improvements to the preview period based on your feedback. In case you haven’t been keeping up with the changes, some of the highlights of this new surface include:

  • Bulk editing of columns, measures, and tables.
  • Setting display folders on columns, measures, and hierarchies.
  • Dragging and dropping into display folders
  • Multiple diagram layouts

Watch the following video to learn more about the new modelling view:

New DAX Functions

You can now use either ContainsString or ContainsStringExact to get a Boolean value returned letting you know if a text field contains a specific string. ContainsStringExact is case sensitive. Another new function this month is DistinctCountNoBlank to return a SQL like distinct count where blank values aren’t counted.

We’ve also extended the LookupValue function to now take an optional last parameter to avoid raising an error. Lastly, we’ve also extended the All function so that using the All function without arguments will clear all filters in the filter context.

Intellisense support is also supported for all these functions except the All updates and the new DistinctCountNoBlank, both of which will come in our April release.

Custom visuals

New certified custom visuals setting in admin portal

We are giving IT admins more control over the usage of custom visuals in their organization. With this new admin control setting enabled, users can view and use reports containing certified custom visuals only. Uncertified visuals will not render.

Once the new setting: “Allow only certified custom visuals is enabled”, any report containing uncertified custom visuals in the report display an error message.

This setting doesn’t affect organizational visuals (visuals coming from the organizational store) as those are hand-picked and allowed by the admin. This setting only affects uncertified custom visuals from the Marketplace or private visuals that were uploaded using “Import from file”.

For this setting to also apply to Power BI Desktop, the admin will need to use Group Policy to enforce it.

Attribute Value
key Software\Policies\Microsoft\Power BI Desktop\
First value Name EnableCustomVisuals

A value of 1 (decimal) enables the use of custom visuals in Power BI Desktop, and a value of 0 (decimal) disables the use of custom visuals in Power BI Desktop.

Attribute Value
key Software\Policies\Microsoft\Power BI Desktop\
First value Name EnableUncertifiedVisuals

A value of 1 (decimal) enables the use of uncertified visuals in Power BI Desktop, and a value of 0 (decimal) disables the use of uncertified visuals in Power BI Desktop.

Craydec Regression Chart

The Craydec Regression Chart custom visual lets you plot your data on a scatter chart, without aggregating anything (unless you want to), add a linear regression to it, and then split it out by multiple categories as a small multiple. This visual also includes dynamic data loading, which ensures that it loads fast, and it can even handle 10,000+ rows of data with ease.

There’s a free version of this visual available to try out, but with a license you can:

  • Plot up to 30,000 data points
  • Add labels for small multiples
  • Assign custom colors & opacity for groups

You can download this visual from AppSource.

Watch the following video to learn more about the Craydec Regression Chart:

Power Slicer

The Power Slicer custom visual lets you add filter your report by different categories right on the report page, similar to the default Slicer visual, but with advanced layout and formatting support.

This visual supports:

  • A list, dropdown, hierarchy, and chiclet layout
  • Setting a dynamic default selection set using JavaScript, for ex. “(new Date()).getMonth()+1” to set the default selection to the current month
  • Control over the text and background colors for both the selected and unselected states

Find this visual on AppSource.

Watch the following video to learn more about the Power Slicer:

Data connectivity

PDF connector now supports tables spanning multiple pages (preview)

This month, we’ve added support for certain kinds of tables spanning multiple pages in the PDF Files connector preview.

Intelligent Plant’s Industrial App Store connector

Intelligent Plant’s Industrial App Store Connector enables Microsoft’s powerful analytics and visualizations to be applied to real time and historical process data. Seamlessly integrate plant and corporate data and share with any colleague on any device, enabling faster, better, real-time decision making. The Industrial App Store Power BI Connector connects to Intelligent Plant’s Industrial App Store, while all data remains securely and safely on premises. The plant data may be centralized in a corporate data lake or globally dispersed across many sites and historians. Either way, Industrial App Store Power BI Connector brings it all together and delivers to your fingertips.

Azure Cost Management connector

Azure Cost Management gives you easy access to your Azure cost and usage data. With it, you can make powerful and flexible reports to understand your spending, optimize your usage, and better administer your Azure deployment. This connector currently supports users on Microsoft Customer Agreement, with support for more on the way. This connector works in the Power BI Desktop currently and will light up in the Power BI service after the next Gateway release.

That’s all for this month! We hope that you enjoy these updates and all the updates of the past year. 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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