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Power BI March 2021 Feature Summary

Headshot of article author Jeroen ter Heerdt

This month, we are continuing our work on the ongoing previews of DirectQuery for Power BI datasets and Azure Analysis Services, Small Multiples, and the Model View UI. Also, we are making it easier to specify filters in the DAX CALCULATE function. On the Service side, when you click on a dataset in the workspace list view you will be taken to our new dataset details page, which includes information about when the report was last refreshed as well as actions such as creating a new report.

Of course, there is much more, so read on!

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Here is the full list of March updates:




Data connectivity



Template Apps



Check out the video below for a summary:



DirectQuery for Power BI datasets and Azure Analysis Services (preview)

Thank you for giving your feedback on this feature! Based on your feedback, we’ve added some more capabilities that will be synced between a remote source and the local model that you’ve created in Power BI Desktop. Now, display folders and sort by column properties are set in a remote source will be synced with your local model. Read about this feature more in the original announcement.

Advanced Data Selection in Azure Maps Visual

The Azure Maps Visual in Power BI provides multiple visualization types (bubbles, 3D bar chart, real-time traffic etc.,) that make it easy to visualize your business data on a Map and observe how different parameters change across locations. In this post, we are happy to announce the release of new selection features that make it even easier to explore location data in Power BI.

Selection control

A new selection control option is available in the tool bar located on top right of the Azure Map Visual. Users will now have four new methods to select and interact with data on the Map.

Range selection

Use the range selection method to select all data that is within a specified driving distance or driving time from a specified location. This method is especially useful to visualize the catchment area of a retail store.


Radial selection

Click on the ‘Circle’ icon in the selection control bar to activate the radial selection mode. Next click at a desired point on the Map canvas and drag mouse to desired radius. A circular region centered at the selection point highlights all locations within the radial. Click again to complete the selection. Only selected points remain active on the Map canvas. To cancel selection, click anywhere on the Map.

Polygon selection

For a fine grain control of what data to select, use the polygon selection. With the mouse-key pressed down, drag and draw any freeform shape to select data lying within the shape. To close the shape, just double click on the Map. Without keeping the mouse-key pressed down, you can click anywhere on the Map to specify vertices of a polygon boundary and select data within the boundary.

Radial and Box selection

The radial and box selection method provide ability to select on the Map using a circle or rectangle drawn on the Map canvas.

The new selection control is enabled by default. To turn on/ off the selection control, edit the Azure Map Visual, go to “Format” tab in the control panel. Locate the section titled “Map Settings”, expand it and make sure the “Selection Control” toggle option is set to true (slide the control to right).

Color Picker Updates

Thanks for your feedback on last month’s release! Based on that feedback, this month, we’ve changed the color picker to prioritize popping up on the right side, so that less of it overlaps with the report canvas. We also released a bugfix for users who could not use ESC to close the color picker. We’ve put other new color picker functionality on our backlog, so please continue to provide feedback to help us understand your needs and prioritize solutions!

Updates to new Field List (preview)

We appreciate all the feedback from last month’s release on the new field list. We have tightened the padding, added the context menu back when all the tables are hidden, brought back the yellow indicator when reordering fields in the field wells, and fixed icon discrepancies just to name a few! We will continue chipping away at these small fixes and as always we look forward to your continued feedback to help improve our preview features to make then GA ready!

Word-wrap in Small Multiples titles (preview)

Continuing our work on the small multiples preview feature, we’ve added word wrap to small multiple titles! Now, you can ensure your longer titles aren’t truncated if they run beyond the width of the small multiple column.

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Keep in mind that we will allocate space for the longest category name in all of your small multiples to ensure the plot areas align properly. As a result, if some of your small multiple titles are much longer than others, turning on word wrap may leave extra whitespace under the shorter titles. We encourage you to consider the trade-off between the space reserved for plot areas and titles when considering word wrap.

To learn more about what else we have planned for small multiples, check out the announcement blog post. And please continue to send us feedback on the feature through the feedback survey here. We’re actively iterating on our planned feature work based on your feedback, so make your voice heard!

Updates to background settings on Small Multiples (preview)

This month, we are also updating the small multiples background color and background transparency formatting settings to include new default values. While the previous default value for background color was automatically inherited from page background and the default transparency was 100% (totally transparent), the new defaults will instead be “no fill” and 0% (totally opaque), respectively. This change will allow you to see immediate changes in your small multiples background colors without your having to change the transparency setting.

However, this change in defaults will also affect existing reports:

  • if you have previously adjusted transparency without changing the small multiples background color, the previous (default) color will have become “no fill” — meaning you will no longer see a background color on your small multiples grid.
  • if you have previously changed the small multiples background color without changing transparency, the previous transparency (100%) will now become 0% — meaning you will now see your background color applied to the small multiples grid.

Changing your color and transparency settings away from the new defaults will avoid this behavior.



X axis constant line for line charts


We now support adding a X axis constant line in line charts for continuous type data.

Machine generated alternative text: Revenue across time 6K 4K 2K Jan 2019 Mar 2019 May 2019 Jul 2019 Purchasing Date sep 2019 Nov 2019


You can create this line by selecting ‘Add’ on the ‘X axis constant line’ from Analytics icon from the Visualizations section. The value can be date time or numeric value depending your data. You can configure all sorts of options for your line from its Color, Transparency percentage, Line style, Position, Data Label just like the existing Y axis constant line.


Machine generated alternative text: A X-Axis Constant Line X-Axis Constant Line I H. Add Value x Line color Transparency 50 % Line soj'le Dashed Position In front Data label Off O Revert to default


This constant line is used in visuals in the Anomalies pane to indicate the date time of the anomalies in the series.



Machine generated alternative text: 'Promo Code' is Yes 62 % Revenue for Promo Code Yes was unusually high, which may have lifted the Revenue total. Revenue Jan 2019 Add to report Revenue for Yes Jul 2019



Model View UI (preview)

Thank you for your continued feedback on this feature. Based on your comments and input, we’ve made some changes to how relationships look in your model diagram. 

The cardinalities are now shown at the end points of a relationship and the direction of the relationship is shown at the center. These icons have also been increased in size to be more readable. 

Limited relationships UI

In the image of the new relationships look, you may have also noticed that an icon was added:

This icon indicates a limited relationship and easily allows you to identify them in your model. Limited relationships are relationships between different source groups. You can learn more about limited relationships and their special behavior at our documentation.

Error icons tooltips

When you are in live connect mode, errors on measures will display an error icon in the fields list and in the model diagram. When you hover over the icon, a tooltip will display more information about the error on that measure.


We are introducing a new function to DAX: IF.EAGER. This function has the same behavior as the existing IF function, but the performance may differ due to differences in how the function is evaluated by the engine: IF.EAGER uses eager evaluation, where the two branch expressions (second and third parameter) are evaluated regardless of the condition (first parameter) being true or false. In contrast, IF uses strict evaluation, meaning it only executes one of the two branch expressions, depending on the condition being true or false.

Using IF.EAGER (and thus eager evaluation) has performance benefits specifically when the same calculation needs to be evaluated for both the branch and condition expressions. Please take a look at the following example.

SalesEager := IF ( [Total Sales] > [Last Month Sales], [Total Sales], [Last Month Sales]-[Total Sales] )

In the example above, the [Total Sales] measure is evaluated in the condition expression, as well as the branch expressions. Additionally, the [Last Month Sales] measure is evaluated both in the condition expression as well as in the second branch expression. This means that Power BI will evaluate [Total Sales] three times when using the IF function, because it is included in both branch expressions and when the expression is False, [Last Month Sales] will get evaluated twice.

However, switching to IF.EAGER would mean that the branch expressions get evaluated regardless so the Power BI engine will evaluate [Total Sales] and [Last Month Sales] only once as it can reuse the evaluations for the condition expression. Note that this does not mean that you should always be using IF.EAGER instead of IF going forward. We recommend using IF, unless you have this specific situation or have performance issues.

Calculate filters are easier to use

We have added extra flexibility in specifying multiple filters when working with the CALCULATE function. As an example, let’s say we need to calculate the sales amount for products that are either red or are part of our line for women (style indicator ‘W’). You already have a measure [Sales Amount] which is defined as: Sales Amount := SUM(Sales[SalesAmount]). You might be tempted to try the following:

SalesRedW := CALCULATE(Sales[Sales Amount], Product[Color] = "Red" || Product[Style] = "W")

Unfortunately this would not work:

In order to make this work, you had to add an explicit table filter, like in the following example:

SalesRedW := CALCULATE(Sales[Sales Amount], FILTER( ALL( 'Product'[Color], 'Product'[Style]), 'Product'[Color]="Red" || 'Product'[Style]="W"))

However, starting with this release, the first syntax you tried works. This is now perfectly valid DAX and will work without error messages:

SalesRedW := CALCULATE(Sales[Sales Amount], Product[Color] = "Red" || Product[Style] = "W")

This makes it easier to build calculations that require multiple filters and complex combinations of conditions, such as OR (||) and AND (&&).

Data connectivity


Kerberos-based SSO for Denodo

This update provides users an easier way to publish Power BI reports to the service that connect to Denodo using DirectQuery leveraging Kerberos-based single sign-on via the on-premises data gateway.

Certified Connectors

New certified connector: Kognitwin

We are releasing one new certified connector, Kognitwin, allowing users to connect to Kognitwin Energy by Kongsberg for advanced digitalization and analytics.

Updated certified connectors

We are also releasing updates to the following nine certified connectors:

  • Exasol
  • Automation Anywhere
  • Zoho Creator
  • e-Way CRM
  • IntelligentPlant
  • Data Virtuality
  • Vena
  • FactSet
  • MariaDB




Featured content on Home Updates

Featured content on your Home page now includes metadata as to who featured the artifact. Additionally, endorsed content can also be Featured in the same workflow. Head over to the docs page to learn more about these updates.

Screenshot of the Power BI Home page Featured content section.

View dataset details from workspace list view

You can now open the dataset details page from the workspace content list view.

When clicking on a dataset in the workspace content list view, the dataset details page is opened to provide meaningful information and quick actions:

  • Information about the dataset including last refresh time
  • List of reports that are built on top of the dataset (just reports that you have access to will be shown here)
  • Usage metrics for the last 30 days, including how many users and report opens were there for the last 30 days, not including today.
  • Quick actions: View lineage, create a report and Analyze in Excel
  • Create from template – if there is a template report defined for this dataset, you can quickly create a report from this template.

Please note that this feature is only available in the New workspaces. Read our document to learn how to upgrade from a classic workspace to a new workspace.

Filter apps gallery to view only endorsed apps

When getting a new app from the apps gallery you can choose to filter the gallery to view only certified and promoted apps. These apps were set by their owner as trusted. Learn more about how to endorse an app.



New visuals

This month we have one new visual: Multi Card KPIs.

SMART KPI List by Nova Silva

One important goal of any well designed dashboard is to inform its readers by creating one overview of all KPI’s. This requires a compact and effective way to display them all together. The SMART KPI List is created specifically for this purpose.

Why do we name it SMART? Because this visual allows everyone to create an overview of their KPI’s that is:

  • Specific: the red-dot highlights the KPI’s that need immediate attention;
  • Measurable: A value alone is a weak indicator of performance. A sparkline shows the trend to determine if you are moving towards your goal;
  • Achievable: By comparing each result with a target you can determine if your KPI has met expectations;
  • Relevant: Within the sparkline you can add a bandwidth of acceptable results which helps the user to identify “normal” and “abnormal” results in the past;
  • Time-bound: The sparkline adds the required historic context to each indicator to enrich the indicators signals;

Don’t hesitate and try the SMART KPI List now on your own data by downloading it from the AppSource. All features are available for free to evaluate this visual within Power BI Desktop.

Questions or remarks? Visit us at:

Comparison Chart

Have you ever had the need to visually compare the development of figures, like “sales“ or “order volume“ with an index? With the Comparison Chart you can visualize e.g. the development of the gross domestic product of the top 5 countries in Europe compared to the world. Or your top five products compared to the growth of all products in your company. If you have access to market data you can compare the development of your sales with the sales in the market.

When using Power BI’s default line chart you have to decide beforehand which products you want to visualize (via the “legend” or via measures for each product). The Comparison Chart offers you the freedom to select your top five products dynamically and visualize the index information on a second axis with a lot of formatting options.

Find this visual in AppSource. Learn more.

Combo Bar PRO Visual

Combo Bar PRO Visual by ZoomCharts lets you combine bars, vertical lines and vertical areas in one visual in any combination. Designed for fast, efficient and exciting data exploration with single touch/click drill down and drill up functionality.

Among the main features for the Combo Bar PRO Visual by ZoomCharts, you will find: On-chart interactions – click, pan, zoom-in/out to explore multiple drill-down levels; Multiple chart types – choose between bar, line and area chart for each series; Stacking and clustering – stack or cluster series, chose between series specific or cumulative(total) values; Static and dynamic thresholds – set up to 3 thresholds to demonstrate targets or benchmarks; Full customization – customize X and Y axes, legends, stacks, tooltip, fill settings, outlines; Multi-touch device friendly – get equal experience on any device and many more.

Find this visual in AppSource.

Editor’s picks

The new Editor’s picks visuals of the month are:

The Editor’s picks can be found in the in-product AppSource in Power BI Desktop and service under Editor’s picks category.

Template Apps


Download PBIX files for installed template apps

Template apps have just become a one-stop-shop for distributing Power BI dataset, reports, and dashboards outside the organization!
Starting from the end of February, as a template app publisher you can allow Power BI Pro users to download a PBIX file directly from your template app once they’ve installed it! All you have to do is turn on the download PBIX feature on the Control tab when you’re creating your template app. Learn more.

When PBIX download has been enabled for a template app, Power BI Pro users will be able to download the PBIX file from the report or template app workspace:

Analyze Popular Stocks with Power BI

We are very excited to announce a new template app to get you hooked on Power BI!
The Analyze Popular Stocks with Power BI app shows you multiple KPIs to start your analytics journey in Power BI. Use it to track end-of-day quotes as well as weekly, monthly, or yearly trends for popular stocks and ETFs. See Power BI in action with tracking of stock highs and lows, moving averages, sector-wise distribution, Bollinger bands, and even performance comparisons for popular stocks over time!


The Analyze Popular Stocks with Power BI app is brought to you by the Power BI team and is available on AppSource – we’ve made sure the app can pull refreshed, end-of-day stock data without any additional subscriptions. Getting stock data requires a Power BI Pro license. If you don’t have Power BI Pro, give it a try with the free Power BI Pro Trial!

Learn more about the app’s functionality in our documentation.

Facebook Ads Overview Report – by

We are also very excited to announce the first Facebook Ads template app for Power BI. The Facebook Ads Overview Report helps advertisers and marketers connect Power BI to the Facebook Ads Insights API.

The app contains a connector, and to get started all you need is access to a Facebook Ads account. As with other templates, this template app offers automatic data refresh, and you can set a date range to get historical data.

The app has two visually rich report pages which allow you to gain insights about Campaigns and Ad Sets.

A variety of breakdowns is available and includes breakdowns by country, age, gender, objective, device, publisher, etc. You will also find metrics about cost, CPM, impressions, clicks, and much more.

To get started

  1. Connect your Facebook Ads Data here. Take note of the API key that you get.
  2. Select at least one Facebook Ads account from the dropdown
  3. Install the Facebook Ads Overview Report Power BI Template App
  4. Enter the API key you got in Step 1
  5. On the next screen click Sign In

Your data will load. This may take a minute or two depending on the size of your data.

Get the Facebook Ads Overview Report template app from AppSource.



The new Power BI embedded analytics playground

The new Power BI Embedded Analytics playground was recently announced. It allows developers to get hands-on coding experience in our developer sandbox using samples or their own reports. Developers can discover and interact with client APIs and see instant results. Additionally, you can check out our interactive feature showcases to get inspiration on how to apply the latest features to your applications.

Developers and Product Managers can learn about the latest Power BI embedded analytics capabilities including tutorials and documentation. You can explore the new playground here.

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Power BI Embedded Generation 2 (preview)

The 2nd generation of Power BI Embedded, referred to as Embedded Gen 2, became available recently for Azure subscribers to use during the preview period.

Embedded Gen 2 offers enhanced performance, greater scale, lower entry level for paginated report and AI workloads, instant scaling and without downtime, and improved metrics, that allow developers to auto-scale up and down, by scripting or using Azure Alerts rules. Read more

Power BI embedded analytics new Contoso demo

The new Power BI embedded analytics Contoso sales demo was recently introduced to customers and partners, allowing you to explore a data-driven application with customized dashboard views built on Power BI embedded analytics. Learn how a Microsoft Dataverse database with Row Level Security (RLS) ensures each user sees only the data they have access to, see APIs in action including exporting, custom action buttons, writeback, and Service Principal-based authentication, and most importantly, browse the open-source code behind the demo via GitHub and customize with your own data.

To get started, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Contoso Sales Demo application.
  2. Select Salesperson.
  3. Select Enter in demo mode.

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New Client API documentation

The new Client APIs documentation is now available. Check out all the new articles explaining how to use the client APIs of Power BI embedded analytics and how to get started with embedding Power BI artifacts. Included are references for all our client libraries: powerbi-client, powerbi-models, and powerbi-report-authoring.



Windows 7 Deprecation

If you’re a Windows 7 user, it’s important to note that Power BI Desktop stopped supporting Windows 7 on January 31st, 2021. Power BI Desktop is now only supported on Windows 8.1 or newer versions of Windows, and as always for only the newest release of Power BI Desktop.

Certificate revocation check controls now available in Desktop interface

Last month, we introduced changes to the certificate revocation check to give you more fine-grained control over what is accepted as a valid certificate. This month, we are adding controls in the Power BI Desktop Options. You can find these options in Options > Global > Security:

Learn more about this fine-grained control, read our documentation.

External Tools integration in Desktop generally available

With the March release of Power BI Desktop, we are happy to announce General Availability (GA) of external tools integration. You can leverage a wide range of additional semantic modeling features, DAX query/expression optimization and authoring utilities, and application lifecycle management (ALM) capabilities in Power BI Desktop by using ALM Toolkit, Tabular Editor, DAX Studio, Metadata Translator, and many more open-source tools. Along with GA, we are also announcing the following additional enhancements.

  • Support for dynamic format strings
  • Metadata translation
  • Object-level security (OLS).

For a full list of supported operations see

Power BI instructor led training – Advanced Data Modeling and data shaping

Jeroen (Jay) ter Heerdt from Power BI product team, Yana Berkovich and from the Power BI content team and Alex Powers Senior Technical Specialist at Microsoft will be hosting an 8-hour training delivered over two days (4 hours each) as well as answering your live questions during the sessions! This fantastic team will walk us through Power BI capabilities to enhance the data model and help shape your data for business users.
In two sessions, we will explore how to connect to your data and make all the preparations prior to the data visualization stage.
We will explore together how to clean and shape your data, working in the query editor to be able to answer future business questions using the improved data set. We will create a data model together, explaining tables and relationships.
During the session we will discuss the impact of the choices we make on performance and visualizations as well as enabling our end users to make data driven decisions based on the Power BI report. After loading the data and model into our blank canvas, we will create columns & measures, discussing the differences and available options to get more values from your existing data. We will have knowledge checks and assignments during the training.

The training will be divided into two parts:

  • Wednesday 24th March, 2021 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM PST
  • Thursday 25th March 2021 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM PST

Read more and sign up here.

Desktop change log

Many of you have noticed frequent updates to Power BI Desktop being published outside of the regular monthly cycle. These updates mostly provide fixes to issues found with that month’s release, which will be carried forward into the next month’s release. However, we have not been very clear as to what fixes are included. Therefore, we are pleased to announce the Power BI Desktop change log so now you can see exactly what fixes are part of what update. If you download the installer from you’ll have to manually download each update. If you get Power BI Desktop through the Store – which we recommend – you’ll be delivered these updates automatically.

That is all for this month! Please continue sending us your feedback and do not forget to vote for other features that you would like to see in Power BI! We hope that you enjoy the update! If you installed Power BI Desktop from the Microsoft Store, please leave us a review.

Also, don’t forget to vote on your favorite feature over on our community website. We are looking forward to hearing from you!
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