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Power BI Desktop December 2019 Feature Summary

Headshot of article author Sujata Narayana

This December update is packed with several new features! In preview, we have the new Customize theme dialog that allows you to tweak common theme settings without having to write or modify a JSON file! Additionally, we now allow you to export the current theme as a JSON so you can easily share, reuse, or make modifications to the JSON in an editor. Last month, we released the new decomposition tree, and this month, we are adding several new formatting options. With these additional formatting options, you can completely customize the tree to look the way you want and make it feel like part of your report. Check out the full blog to learn more about all the updates and enhancements this month.

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Here’s the complete list of December updates:



Data connectivity

We had originally announced that the below connector releases would be available by Friday, December 20th. Due to the holidays, there will be a delay until early January. They will be made available to all installs of December 2019 Power BI.  Apologies for any inconvenience.

Data Preparation

Template apps

Check out the following video for a summary and demos of the major updates: 


Customize current theme (preview)

This month, we have two exciting updates for theming. The first is that you can now customize the most common options of your current theme through a dialog in Power BI Desktop instead of needing to write or modify a JSON file.

After you’ve enabled the preview feature in the Options dialog, you can launch this new theming dialog by selecting the Customize current theme option in the theming dropdown.

Whether you are using one of the built-in themes or a custom one, this new theme dialog is pre-populated with the settings from your current theme. From here you can adjust any or all the settings you want and save it back to your report.

The settings that can be customized are divided into different categories, shown in the left tab navigation of the dialog. Under Name and colors, you’ll find:

The Text tab lets you customize all the major text classes, which were also introduced back in September.

The Visuals section lets you modify:

  • Backgrounds
  • Borders
  • The visual header formatting (it does not include on/off toggles for each icon)
  • Tooltip formatting

The Page settings include wallpaper and page background color and transparency, and lastly, the filter pane section include all the formatting options available to the filter pane itself and the applied and available filter cards.

The color picker for this dialog is also new and improved. In the new color picker you have a slider to change the color you want to use and then a large section you can drag within to pick the right hue of that color. You can also set the color using hexcode or RGB value.

Export current theme

The second theme related update is that you can now download the currently applied theme. If you have a downloaded or shared report with a theme that you really like, this is a great way to extract that theme file to reuse in your own reports. This option will also allow you to export the JSON for most of our built-in themes. The only exceptions to this are our “base” themes, Classic and Default, which other themes build upon when imported. You can find this option under the theming dropdown.

Setting a table column or matrix value as a custom URL

Tables and matrices get an update this month as well! We are introducing a new conditional formatting option that allows you set a table’s column or matrix’s value as a custom URL. You’ll find this new option under the conditional formatting card in the formatting pane.

Once you turn it on, you’ll be able to pick a field to use as the URL for the column.

Once you’ve picked the field and confirm the change, you’ll see the field values formatted as links in the table or matrix. If you hover over the link, you’ll see a tooltip showing the URL and clicking on it will open up the URL in a new tab.

An exciting aspect of this feature is it’s the first of two features this month that were done by a Power BI Contributor, James Dales. Contributors are members of the Power BI community that work in the Power BI code base to add new features of choice. Thank you, James, for contributing to Power BI!

KPI visual formatting settings

As part of his contributions to Power BI, James also added a ton of formatting options for the KPI visual. The KPI visual itself has been around for a while, but when compared to other Power BI visuals, the formatting options were a bit limited before.

With this month’s release, the new KPI formatting options include:

  • Indicator text formatting (font family, color, and alignment)
  • Trend axis transparency
  • Goal and distance text formatting (label text, font family, color, and size)
  • Distance text formatting (label text, positive direction, font family, color, and size)
  • Adding a date label with formatting (font family, color, and size)

Some of these new formatting options can also be conditionally formatted.

  • Indicator font color
  • Goal font color and Goal Distance font color
  • The good/bad/neutral status colors
  • Date font color

New decomposition tree formatting

We’ve updated our decomposition tree visual with many more formatting options this month. The new options include:

  • Category labels font family, size, and color
  • Data labels font family, size, color, display units, and decimal places precision
  • Level header title font family, size, and color
  • Show subtitles toggle
  • Subtitles font family
  • Level header background color
  • Data bars background color and width
  • Tree connector color

With all these additional formatting options, you can completely customize the tree to look the way you want and make it feel cohesive with your report.

Filter pane toggle button in the new ribbon

A small improvement to our new ribbon in Preview is a Filters toggle button in the view tab that allows you to toggle the filter pane on and off in Power BI Desktop. This feature is useful when you aren’t using the filter pane and need extra real estate. This addition aligns the filter pane with the on/off experience we have for other panes that can be opened and closed, such as the bookmarks pane. Keep in mind that this setting only impacts the viewing of the filter pane in Desktop. If you want to hide the filter pane for your end-users you will need to select the eye icon next to Filters.


Automatic page refresh for DirectQuery details (preview)

Back in October, we announced the support for automatic page refresh (APR for short) in preview. With this release we are adding a details section on each page to help you define the best refresh interval and monitor performance. To access this details menu, go to the Page refresh tab in the formatting pane and click on Show details. In the Service, it will show you if the feature is enabled in your premium capacity by the admin, the defined minimum interval, the actual refresh rate, and the last refresh.

Remember to give us feedback on APR and what you would like to see next.


Load more for Analyze insights

When running the Analyze feature to find insights in your data, such as Explain the increase, we only run the ML models for a period of time to show you insights in a timely manner. However, if there’s a lot of data to analyze, you can now choose to continue to run the analysis after the initial timeout.

You’ll be able to use the play button in the top right of the flyout to continue running the analysis. After each continuation, the insights shown will update to include the top 10 most relevant insights.

New DAX function: Quarter

This month, we have a new DAX function, Quarter. The Quarter function returns the quarter corresponding to a specified date.


Personalized visualization pane is now generally available

The ability to personalize the visualization pane is now generally available.  Some highlights of this feature include:

  • You can pin or unpin all types of visuals and personalize the visualization pane
  • You can see the personalization in the Power BI service as well
  • You can unpin default visuals and restore them using the Restore default visuals option

As a reminder, unpinned visuals in your report will show up below a dotted line and the pinned visuals above it. You can pin or unpin visuals just by opening the context menu and selecting the first option.

New xViz visuals

xViz has added four new visuals to their suite. As a reminder, xViz is a package of visuals with highly advanced formatting and configuration capabilities. You can use the basic capabilities for free or purchase a license that will give you access to all the visuals for one price.

Hierarchy tree

The hierarchy tree visual lets you display hierarchical data in a visually appealing tree view. This visual is similar in layout to our decomposition tree, but it allows you to compare two measures, such as budget and actual, and see the variance between them.

When your tree extends beyond the viewport, you have the ability to continuously pan with zoom control and even a mini-map to help you navigate. You can also search for nodes with the search box in the top right, which helps when the tree is quite large.

Optionally, for each child you can also see the number of nodes that haven’t been expanded out. You can conditionally format the nodes based on the values displayed in them, and you can even control the look and precision of the values with advanced number and semantic formatting. The connector lines, the font formatting, and background and node colors can also be controlled through the formatting pane.

Lastly, end-users can also change and rearrange the tree by using the context menu.

Download the visual from AppSource.

Bullet chart

The bullet chart visual is a variation of a bar chart that is similar to a gauge, by allowing you to analyze actual values against a series of qualitative bands and a comparison or goal value.

The three comparison bands can be configured to specific percentages or controlled through a field in your model. You can also give each band a name and color. Additionally, you can control the marker type and size.

There are also advanced formatting capabilities, such as number and semantic formatting, chart orientation, and axis orientation color and text formatting.

Download the visual from AppSource.

Parallel Coordinates

The parallel coordinates visual allows you to plot multivariate numerical data, enabling you to showcase multi-dimensional data and their relationships. An great example use case is if you want to compare different products in different stores based on multiple measures such as revenue or units sold.

This visual allows you to extensively customize the x-axis and y-axis. You can format the orientation, color, font size and family, and axis colors. It also has the same advanced number formatting and utility menu capabilities that all xViz visuals have.

Download the visual from AppSource.

Gantt chart

The Gantt chart visual is an extremely powerful tool for project managers that allows you to track deliverables, understand dependencies between tasks, spot missed deadlines, and see milestones.

For each task you can set:

  • Task Name
  • Actual start and end dates
  • Planned start and end dates
  • Progress
  • Connectors to show related tasks

This visual is also highly customizable. You can set the background and font color for the grid and headers. For the timeline, you can control each level separately, setting the fill and font color and font size. For milestones, you can set the fill and border color as well as the shape of the milestone. You can use number and semantic formatting for both the progress and ranking numbers and can even apply conditional formatting to the progress. You can turn on or off the zoom buttons, which allow you to more easily navigate long or complex projects.

You can also switch the gantt chart to a resource chart if you just want to understand the amount of work assigned to each of your resources.

Download the visual from AppSource.

New Zebra BI visuals

Zebra BI charts

The Zebra BI charts visual is one visual that can be many different charts! You’re able to pick between 12 different charts, including:

  • Waterfall
  • Variance
  • Column
  • Area
  • Line
  • Dot
  • Combo

Additionally, all of these can be visualized as small multiples.

This visual is highly customizable and very feature rich. Some of the highlights of the visual include:

  • Calculates absolute and relative variances
  • Calculates YoY growth rates
  • Advanced layouts for small multiples
  • Advanced filters such as Top/Bottom N
  • Difference highlights
  • Drill-down support
  • Axis breaks
  • Custom number formats
  • Works in Report Server & mobile apps
  • Fully responsive visual

Downloaded the visual from AppSource.

Zebra BI tables

The Zebra BI Tables visual is an incredibility flexible table and matrix visual that supports embedding stunning visuals with the rows. You’re able to show hierarchies with support for expanding and collapsing rows, reordering columns and more.

This visual is also highly customizable and includes the following features:

  • Automatic variance charts
  • Variance charts, waterfall charts, bar charts, lollipop charts within the rows
  • P&L calculations with subtotals
  • Flexible table or matrix layouts
  • 1-click sort by any column
  • Expand or collapse rows – unlimited levels
  • Reorder columns by dragging
  • Top N + others analysis
  • Hide or unhide columns
  • Column hierarchies
  • Custom number formats
  • Works in Report Server & mobile apps

Downloaded the visual from AppSource.

Drill Down Combo Bar PRO by ZoomCharts

Drill Down Combo Bar PRO is another addition to the ZoomCharts custom visuals suite and has all ZoomCharts signature features, such as interactive drill down, smooth animations, rich customization options, and full measure support. The Drill Down Combo Bar PRO puts a fresh spin on the traditional bar chart by enabling you to combine bars, lines, and areas. The visual offers multiple stacking and clustering options. Each series can be customized individually, and it is possible to add thresholds to visualize targets on top of actual data.

The key features are:

  • Multiple chart types – Combine bars with lines and areas
  • Many stacking and clustering configuration options
  • Multiple X-axes – Separate values with scale differences
  • Rich customization options – Customize each series separately (colors, outlines, column widths, fonts, value labels and more)
  • Static and dynamic thresholds – Set up to 4 thresholds to demonstrate targets or benchmarks
  • Touch-driven slicer – Filter the report page by using the visual itself (no need for external slicers)
  • On-chart interactions – Zoom, click and drag or drill down to explore and filter data
  • Mobile friendly – Use on touch and multi-touch devices

Some common use cases for the visual include:

  • Sales & Marketing – Monitoring sales results and campaign-by-campaign marketing metrics
  • Human Resources – Managing hiring, sick days, overtimes and efficiency ratios by department
  • Accounting and Finance – Compare financial performance by region, office or business line
  • Manufacturing – View production efficiencies and quality metrics by product line

Download the visual from AppSource.

Annotated Bar by Queryon

The Annotated Bar by Queryon visual lets you create various forms of bar charts, such as a stacked, clusted, or overlapping bar chart, and combine that with customizable labels to help your users notice to key data points. The labels can be formatted with control over the color, font family, size, and position. The visual also supports drilldown, which can be done by clicking on the bar or the label.

Download the visual from AppSource.

Tachometer 5 Ranges

The Tachometer 5 Ranges visual by Dimensional Strategies Inc. is a gauge visual that allows you to visualize your metric using 5 different ranges. Some of the customization options include changing the colors and labels, setting data driven or static range limits, and setting start and end values and angles.

Download the visual from AppSource.

ValQ licensing updates

We featured ValQ for Modern Digital Planning in our May 2019 Desktop update. Since then, ValQ has had several major enhancements bringing several new use cases beyond visualizations and what-if analysis. Recently, they have changed their pricing to introduce an affordable per user pricing model and freemium offering with generous data/node limits. Anyone interested in Budgeting, Forecasting, Simulations, What-If Analysis or Advanced Tree Visualization should try out ValQ. With the most recent ValQ 1.5 release, they have introduced comprehensive budgeting and forecasting solution with Azure SQL DB Synchronization for data storage as well. Stay tuned for more details in a future blog post.

Data connectivity

Azure Data Lake Storage Gen2 connector is now generally available

For the past few months, the Azure Data Lake Storage Gen2 connector was available as a Beta connector in Power BI Desktop. Today, we’re happy to announce that this connector is now supported for the Power BI Service refresh and has also reached General Availability. This connector can be found in the Azure category of the Get Data dialog.

Power Platform Dataflows connector

One of the greatest additions to the Power Platform over the last year has been Dataflows. Dataflows enable self-service data preparation and reusability of data for users across Power BI, Power Apps, and the rest of the Power Platform.

With this month’s release, we’re releasing a new Power Platform Dataflows connector that allows you to create reports in Power BI on top of Dataflows created from Power Apps environments. This new ability is designed for users who mainly work and develop inside Power Apps and have existing dataflows they would like to leverage inside Power BI. This connector can be found in the Power Platform category of the Get Data dialog.

PostgreSQL connector now includes the Npgsql provider

An update to the PostgreSQL connector is that it now includes the Npgsql provider. This means that with the out-of-box experience, you will no longer need to install Npgsql yourself. In addition, the Power BI Service now supports cloud-to-cloud refresh of PostgreSQL. If you want to continue using your Gateway (for firewall related reasons) you will be able to do so.

AtScale connector is now generally available

The AtScale connector is now generally available. We want to thank everyone who shared feedback while the connector was in Beta to help us get it to GA. This connector can be found in the Database category of the Get Data dialog.

Azure Time Series Insights connector

Azure Time Series Insights is an end-to-end platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offering used to collect, process, store, analyze, and query data (at Internet of Things scale) that is highly contextualized and optimized for time series. Time Series Insights now seamlessly integrates with Power BI, providing you with more powerful visualization and dashboarding capabilities over your streaming data, and allowing you to share insights and results across your organization.

Data Virtuality connector

The Data Virtuality Logical Data Warehouse, a high-performance data virtualization solution, allows you to leverage your existing data environment through instant data access, data centralization, automation, and data governance. This solution marries two distinct technologies to create an entirely new way to integrate data. The combination of data virtualization and next generation ETL enables an agile data infrastructure with high performance.  With the Data Virtuality Logical Data Warehouse you can connect to multiple data sources and query data by using SQL, regardless of the format of the source file. It enables you to integrate your data and create a central data logic that covers the business logic and the logical connections between the different systems.

Zucchetti HR Infinity connector

Zucchetti HR software supports the HR department in valuing talents, in improving the corporate environment and in reaching strategic goals: in fact, the unique database and its native integration guarantees the optimization of all administrative, management and HR analysis processes.

Data preparation

Updates to AI Insights functions

Last month, we released Azure ML, text analytics, and image tagging in Preview. There are two updates related to these features in the December release. First, when you connect to an Azure ML model, the columns in your table are automatically mapped to similarly named parameters in the Azure ML model. For example, if the model is expecting ‘Amount’, ‘Product type’, and ‘Tenure’, the columns in your table with these named are automatically selected from the dropdown lists. Secondly, some users might have experienced an issue with retrieving the text analytics and image tagging functions, even though you have a Premium capacity. This happened only for capacities where the admin had not made changes to the AI workload settings. This issue is fixed now.

Template apps

Omnichannel insights for Dynamics 365

We are very excited to announce Omnichannel Insights for Dynamics 365 supporting Chat, Bot, and SMS channels is now generally available. Omnichannel dashboard helps supervisors with insights on operational metrics across different channels, queues, bots, and agents. It also uses AI to provide in-depth sentiment analysis to help supervisors take actions to improve customer satisfaction. You can download it now from AppSource.

This template app has two dashboards and six visually rich report pages with filters for supervisors to get a summary on how their organization is engaging and connecting to their customers through Omnichannel for customer service.

The Omnichannel Sentiment Analysis dashboard, shown below, provides an overview of important KPIs and trends relative to the sentiment analysis of conversation offered.

With this release, you can download the Power BI reports and customize them to meet your organizational needs. To learn more about the Omnichannel template app and how to configure it for your organization, check out this Omnichannel Insights template app documentation.

Note: Omnichannel for Customer Service is a paid add-on to Dynamics 365 Customer Service apps that use the Unified Interface. It is available only when you purchase a subscription to Chat for Dynamics 365 Customer Service or Dynamics 365 for Digital Messaging. To learn more about Omnichannel, check out the Omnichannel documentation.

Customer Service Analytics for Dynamics 365

We are also very excited to announce that Customer Service Analytics for Dynamics 365 is now available. The Customer Service Analytics dashboard provides information about the historical operational metrics and KPIs to effectively manage contact centers. You can download this template app on AppSource.

With this release, you can also download the Power BI reports and customize them to your organizational needs. To learn more about Customer Service Analytics for Dynamics 365 template app and how to configure it for your organization, check out the documentation.

Microsoft Forms Pro for Customer Service

Microsoft Forms Pro is an enterprise survey capability that helps businesses obtain the feedback they need to make smarter decisions. It enables you to collect feedback using surveys and connect the survey response data with the business data to obtain meaningful insights.

If you are using Forms Pro to collect customer feedback after a case is resolved in Dynamics 365 Customer Service, you can automate the feedback collection and association of survey response data and case data using Power Automate. The Forms Pro survey response data with be stored in same Dynamics 365 organization along with your business data. The Forms Pro Customer Satisfaction app will enable you to get analytics combining survey data and case data. To connect to the Dynamics 365 Customer Service instance, you will need to provide the URL for your organization and the credentials for authentication.

This app template brings together the survey feedback and Dynamics 365 Customer Service data into a 3-page report to provide great out-of-box experience for customer service managers. The first page contains overview of the survey response data and provides metrics like NPS, NPS trend, word cloud of the customer verbatim phrases, and number of survey invites and responses. It also provides NPS distribution with respect to the different case parameters like location, case priority, case origin, case type and product.

The second page provides an agent-centric view of the satisfaction data. This page will help customer service managers to analyze an agent’s performance based on the survey responses. They can view how the customer service agents are performing and what feedback the customers are providing about them.

The third page provides customer-centric view of the satisfaction data, which shows the satisfaction rating trend for the customers and their feedback.

To learn more about this template app, check out the template documentation.

Download the app from AppSource.

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 December 2019 update! See you next year!

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