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Power BI Desktop December 2018 Feature Summary

Headshot of article author Amanda Cofsky

December is a huge month for us in terms of accessibility. With this release, the entire product supports screen readers, keyboard navigation and high contrast for both report consumption and report creation. We are also previewing one of the most asked for features related to Q&A, support for live connect! We also have lots of smaller improvements across the product, such as customizable tooltips for buttons and a larger DAX formula bar.

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Here’s the complete list of December updates:




Custom visuals

Data connectivity

Data preparation


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


Smart guides for aligning objects on a page

You’ll now see smart alignment guides when moving objects on your report page, like you see in PowerPoint, to help you align everything on your page. You’ll see the smart guides any time you drag or resize something on your page. When you move an object near another one, it will snap into a position aligned with the other object.

Image of red snap lines appearing as you drag a pie chart around the report page.

If you decide you don’t want the smart guides, you can turn them off in the Report settings page of the Options dialog.

This feature started life as a project by one of our summer interns, Kishor Subedi. Thanks for helping, Kishor!

Photo of our intern, Kishor Subedi, who worked on smart alignment

Watch the following video to learn more about smart guides:

ArcGIS Maps for Power BI updates

Power BI, integrated with ArcGIS, delivers the world’s leading visual spatial analytics. ArcGIS Maps for Power BI offers enhanced mapping and analysis capabilities, demographic data, and compelling visualizations, and this month has several excited updates for this visual!

What’s new for all ArcGIS Maps for Power BI users

Find locations with similar attributes – The Find Similar tool is a powerful way to identify important locations in your data. You start by selecting one or more points of interest, or reference locations, defining up to five dimensions that you want to use in analysis, and then Find Similar will calculate the ten locations on your map that are most like the reference locations you defined. You can then use Infographics cards to learn more about the demographics around each of your results, create drive time areas to get a sense of what is within driving distance of each of these locations, or even use the Find Similar tool itself to filter your report and gain more insights. Most importantly, all the calculation is done locally on your machine, so you can be sure your confidential data remains protected.

Boundary Data for over 130 countries – The Location type tool allows you to create maps using standard administrative boundaries for over 130 countries. To improve the accuracy of your data analysis, we have made even more boundary data available. For example, you can now find boundary data for not only seven, but also eleven-digit SLA codes for Australia.

Better user interface – We understand that a little more space on the map can be very useful. You can now just hover over the selection tool icon to see the entire toolbar. What’s more, tabs in the side pane scroll so you can see the entire text easily.

More for our ArcGIS Maps for Power BI Plus users

Plus users get all the new features listed above and much more:

Infographic Data for over 130 countries – The ArcGIS Maps for Power BI Plus subscription unlocks access to a lot more Esri-curated geographic content. Now Plus users can access even more infographic data on income, expense, race, education, health and other demographics.

Pin maps with up to 5000 addresses – ArcGIS maps for Power BI lets you geocode up to 1,500 addresses per map, but with a Plus subscription you can do even more with your data and add up to 5,000 addresses to every map. Now Plus users can seamlessly pin maps with as many as 5000 addresses on dashboards.

Learn more about ArcGIS Maps for Power BI on Esri’s website and join the ArcGIS Maps for Power BI community to find answers to all your questions, share ideas and get latest updates. Start using ArcGIS Maps for Power BI today at no cost and enjoy all these new features!

Watch the following video to learn more about ArcGIS Maps for Power BI:

Fields list accessibility support

Our fields list pane is now fully accessible. You can navigate around the pane using just your keyboard and a screen reader and use the context menu to add fields to your report page.

The following keyboard shortcuts can be used in the fields list:

  • Move focus along the pane – Tab
  • Select a field – ENTER/SPACE
  • Collapse all tables – ALT+SHIFT+1
  • Expand all tables – ALT+SHIFT+9
  • Collapse a single table – Left arrow key
  • Expand a single table – Right arrow key
  • Open a context menu – SHIFT+F10 or context key

We’ve also added new options to the context menu to add the field to the report page, to the different filter buckets, and the drillthrough bucket. With these updates, all the panes are now fully accessible.

Watch the following video to learn more about fields list accessibility:

Set tab order for objects on a page

The default tab order for objects on a page is the creation order. However, you may have a specific order in mind for users to consume your report. If this is the case, you can now set your own custom tab order for the report page. To set the tab order, you can open the selection pane and switch the from the default Layer order to the Tab order.

You can drag and drop the fields to reorder the tab order.

View of the Tab Order section of the Selection Pane

Things that are currently hidden are also dimmed in this view, since things that are hidden are automatically skipped.

A view of the tab order pane showing the faded look for hidden visuals

You can also mark something that should be skipped in the tab order by hovering over the number and clicking the “Skip” icon. Once you mark something to be skipped, it will never be in the tab order, even if it is visible on the report. If you have a lot of shapes on your report for purely decorative reasons, it might be a good idea to skip them.

A view of a item in the tab order pane that has been skipped

Watch the following video to learn more about tab order control:

Tooltips for button visuals

If you’ve used the button visuals to add navigation, Q&A or information to your report, you might have wanted to customize the tooltip for the button. Some of our fans on twitter certainly did:

A tweet from Matt Allington (@ExceleratorBI) excited that Power BI was working on his idea for custom button tooltips

We love hearing feedback and when there are small changes like this our developers often jump at the chance to make an impact and improve the product for our users. To that end, you can now look in the Action card of any button visual and you’ll see a Tooltip option. This lets you put in text that’ll be used in place of the ‘CTRL + click here to follow link’ tooltip you see by default.

An image showing how to edit the tooltip text in the formatting pane under the Action card.

Watch the following video to learn more about tooltips for buttons:

Updated icons for “Visual interactions”

If you’ve used the ‘Visual Interactions’ feature to control whether selecting items in a visual cross-filters or cross-highlights other charts, you’ll notice we’ve made changes to the icons that are visible when in ‘Edit interactions’ mode:

Image showing the new icons for visual interaction setting

These should make it clearer whether the currently selected visual is filtering or highlighting other charts, particularly with last month’s preview of the new on-visual filter restatement.


Live connect support for Q&A (preview)

You can now use Q&A with live connect. All Q&A functionality, including Q&A to create visuals and the Q&A explorer will work for most live connect scenarios.

The only situations that Q&A will still be disabled are:

  • Live connecting to the Power BI service
  • Live connecting to a multidimensional AS on-prem
  • Live connecting to Analysis Services with versions earlier than SQL 2016 RTM V 13.0.1601.5 or a model with compatibility level less than 1103

This is a preview feature, so you’ll first need to turn it on in the Options dialog.

Watch the following video to learn more about Q&A support for Live connection:


DAX formula bar updates

The DAX formula bar has several updates this month. The first is that you can now zoom on the formula bar, using either ctrl +/- keys or the ctrl + mouse wheel. This is great if the font size is too small or you need to present the DAX to a large group.

A collapsed view of the DAX formula bar with a measure in it

The second update is that you can now use a much larger view of the DAX formula bar. When expanding the DAX editor, the formula bar new takes up almost the full height of the Power BI Desktop, instead of the static 11 lines that was used previously.

An expanded view of the DAX formula bar with a long measure

Watch the following video to learn more about the DAX formula bar updates:

Data view accessibility support

The data view is now fully accessible. You can navigate around areas of the data view using Ctrl+F6. The data grid region also supports table style navigation – arrow keys to move around, PgUp/PgDn support, Home/End and Ctrl+Home/Ctrl+End support. You can also trigger the context and filter menus with the keyboard. The data view also supports screen readers and high contrast.

Watch the following video to learn more about the accessibility for the data view:

Custom visuals

BIpm: Interactive directed flow graph

The BIpm: Interactive directed flow graph custom visual by Mohammad Reza Harati Nik shows an interactive direct flow graph. This visual is meant to help you better understand the process model of the data, especially for event logs.

A screenshot of the flow graph custom visual

You can download this custom visual from AppSource.

Watch the following video to learn more about the BIpm: Interactive directed flow graph custom visual:

Data connectivity

AtScale connector (Beta)

This month we’re introducing a new connector that enables you to connect to AtScale as a multidimensional source. This new connector, which we have developed in very close collaboration with AtScale, allows you to build Import and DirectQuery-based reports on top of AtScale’s data.

The new AtScale connector can be found under the Databases category within the Get Data dialog.

A view of the Get Data dialog showing AtScale cubes (beta) selected in the Database tab

Note that this connector is currently only available in Power BI Desktop. Support for it in the Power BI service is expected to become available in a few months. Stay tuned!

Oracle Essbase connector (Beta)

Another new data connector in this month’s release allows you to connect to Oracle Essbase and build Import reports.

The new Essbase connector can be found under the Databases category within the Get Data dialog.

A view of the Get Data dialog showing Essbase (beta) selected in the Database tab

Note that this connector is currently only available in Power BI Desktop. Support for it in the Power BI service is expected to become available in a few months. Support for Direct Query is also planned for a future release. Stay tuned!

Data preparation

Fuzzy merge – support for Top N best matches

A couple of months ago, we introduced a Public Preview of the new Fuzzy Matching capabilities within the Merge Queries transformation. We received lots of positive feedback and excitement around these capabilities.

Based on your suggestions, this month we’re enhancing this feature to provide support for returning the Best N Matches, allowing you to specify a maximum number of matches to return.

A view of the Merge dialog with the Fuzzy merge section expanded, showing the Maximum number of matches option available

We have additional capabilities planned (such as returning the Similarity Score for each match) in future releases, so please stay tuned and keep your feedback coming.

Watch the following video to learn more about the fuzzy merge improvements:


High contrast support for all panes and report footer

All the panes in Power BI Desktop, the page switcher, and their contents are compatible with high contrast modes.

A portion of the fields list pane shown with a high contrast theme turned on

Improved keyboard shortcuts dialog

For quite some time, you could press Shift+? to open a dialog listing several of the most used keyboard shortcuts for Power BI reports. Given all the accessibility work we’ve done recently in Power BI desktop, we decided it was time for this dialog to be revamped. So this month, you’ll see a completely new shortcut dialog with much more helpful information in it.

Image of the new and improved keyboard shortcuts dialog



You can also see the full list of shortcuts at the end of our Accessibility Doc.

That’s all for this month! The Power BI Desktop team would like to wish everyone a happy new year! When we come back in January, we will only release a new Power BI Desktop for Report Server update. We’ll start up our normal monthly Power BI Desktop updates in February.

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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