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Power BI Report Server May 2021 Feature Summary

Headshot of article author Amanda Rivera

We’re excited to bring you a new version of Power BI Report Server this month! With this update, we have a ton of enhancements, including a new field list, new and improved shape options, and several visual formatting features.

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Here’s a complete list of the updates:




Data connectivity




New and improved shapes

We’re excited to announce that we’ve updated the shapes in Power BI to include a lot more shapes, more formatting options, new default styling, and the ability to upgrade any old shapes in your reports.

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New shapes available

Previously in the old shape experience, you could choose the following shapes from the ribbon:

  • Rectangle
  • Oval
  • Line
  • Isosceles Triangle
  • Arrow (up)

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Now in this release we’ve added a lot more shapes to choose from:

  • Rectangle
  • Rounded Rectangle
  • Tab: Single Corner Snipped
  • Tab: Top Corners Snipped
  • Tab: Single Corner Rounded
  • Tab: Top Corners Rounded
  • Oval
  • Pill
  • Isosceles Triangle
  • Right Triangle
  • Parallelogram
  • Trapezoid
  • Pentagon
  • Hexagon
  • Octagon
  • Heart
  • Speech bubble
  • Line
  • Arrow (left, right, up, down)
  • Arrow: Pentagon
  • Arrow: Chevron

You can add any of these new shapes from the ribbon by navigating to Insert > Shapes:

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New formatting options

In addition to new shapes, this release also includes new formatting options such as:

  • Text options

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  • Round edges for rounded corners

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  • Shape drop Shadow effects

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  • Shape Glow effects

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  • Shape rotation and Text rotation

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New default style

You may also notice that these shapes have a new default style for the fill color, outline color, and outline weight.


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The Fill color of new shapes will default to Theme color 1:


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The Outline color of the new shape will default to Theme color 1, 25% darker:


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Additionally, the Outline weight will default to 1 px:


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One more thing to note is that we’ve now maximized the size of the shape in the container for the new design. Here’s an example of the rectangle shape, and you will notice the old rectangle design has additional padding on the left and right side of the border:


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Note that after converting your rectangle shapes, you may want to make slight tweaks to the size of shape because the new shape design doesn’t have the additional padding that the old rectangle had.


Convert your old shapes

If you have existing shapes in your report, you can convert them to the new shape design by selecting the shape and clicking Convert in the Format shape pane. You can also Ctrl + click to select multiple shapes at once and convert them simultaneously.


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Once you click Convert, you’ll also have the option to Upgrade all shapes in this report, not just the selected shape(s):


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New field list

We are unifying the field lists across Data, Model and Report view. This change will create consistency for functionality and UI across views (where applicable) to address customer feedback and confusion.

Some of the consistency changes you will notice across views are:

  • Iconography
  • Search functionality
  • Context menu items
  • Similar drag-drop behavior
  • Tooltips
  • Accessibility improvements

We are aiming to improve Power BI Desktop usability with this change. This should have minimal impact on your typical data workflow.

Below is a ‘before-and-after’ comparison of the changes:

Old (Model View) New (Model View)
Icons and UI
Icons and UI - old model view Icons and UI - new model view
Context Menu – Field
Context Menu Field - old model view Context Menu Field - new model view
Context Menu – Table
Context Menu Table - old model view Context Menu Table - new model view
Tooltips - old model view Tooltips - new model view


Also, we have updated the icons for the field list. See our documentation for more information.

Old icon New icon Meaning
old folder icon new folder icon Folder in the Fields list
old numeric field icon new numeric field icon Numeric field: Numeric fields are aggregates that can be summed or averaged, for example. Aggregates are imported with the data and defined in the data model your report is based on. For more information, see Aggregates in Power BI reports.
old calculated column with a non-numeric data type icon new calculated column with a non-numeric data type icon Calculated column with a non-numeric data type: A new non-numeric column you create with a Data Analysis Expressions (DAX) formula that defines the column’s values. Read more about calculated columns.
old numeric calculated column icon new numeric calculated column icon Numeric calculated column: A new column you create with a Data Analysis Expressions (DAX) formula that defines the column’s values. Read more about calculated columns.
old measure icon new measure icon Measure: A measure has its own hard-coded formula. Report viewers cannot change the calculation, for example, if it is a sum, it can only be a sum. The values are not stored in a column. They are calculated on the fly, depending solely on their location in a visual. For more information, read Understanding measures.
old measure group icon new measure group icon Measure group
old KPI icon new KPI icon KPI: A visual cue that communicates the amount of progress made toward a measurable goal. Read more about Key Performance Indicator (KPI) visuals
old hierarchy icon new hierarchy icon Hierarchy of fields: Select the arrow to see the fields that make up the hierarchy. Watch this Power BI video on YouTube about Creating and working with hierarchies for more information.
old geo data icon new geo data icon Geo data: These location fields can be used to create map visualizations.
old identity field icon new identity field icon Identity field: Fields with this icon are unique fields, set to show all values, even if they have duplicates. For example, your data might have records for two different people named ‘Robin Smith’, and each will be treated as unique. They will not be summed.
old parameter icon new parameter icon Parameter: Set parameters to make parts of your reports and data models (such as a query filter, a data source reference, a measure definition, etc.) depend on one or more parameter values. See this Power BI blog post about query parameters for more information.
old calendar date field icon new calendar date field icon Calendar date field with a built-in date table
old calculated table icon new calculated table icon Calculated table: A table created with a Data Analysis Expressions (DAX) formula based on data already loaded into the model. These are best used for intermediate calculations and you want to store as part of the model.
old warning icon new warning icon Warning: A calculated field with an error. For example, the syntax of the DAX expression might be incorrect.
old group icon new group icon Group: Values in this column are based on grouping values from another column, by using the groups and bins feature. You can read how to Use grouping and binning.
new change detection measure icon Change detection measure: When you configure a page for automatic page refresh, you can configure a change detection measure that is queried to determine if the rest of a page’s visuals should be updated.


Search Bar

We’ve heard some feedback that sometimes it can be difficult to find the commands, files, or options you are looking for. Now, in Power BI Desktop, you can see a search bar just like you can in other Office products.


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When you click on the search bar, Power BI will suggest some actions for you to take based on the current state of your report.


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As you type in a keyword, the search results will update to show you buttons that are related to your search. You can click “Get help” and be directed to Microsoft documentation.


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If you have a visual or field selected, special tabs show up in the ribbon with buttons that apply to your selection. If you select a visual or field, those special ribbon buttons will be included in your ribbon search results as well. For example, the following image shows when a field has been selected, so the data type option shows up in the search box, and I can modify the data type of my selected field inside the search box results.


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Please note that this feature is only available in English (United States) right now.


Updated color picker

We have updated the color picker to make it easier to work with. The color swatches are more separated, so it is easier to find the color you need. In the ‘More colors’ screen you can now enter a RGB value in addition to a HEX value.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of the existing and updated experience:


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Smart guides for aligning objects are now available in the mobile layout view

Smart guides are now available in mobile layout view, just like in the regular web layout view. Smart guides help you align objects on your mobile report page. Any time you drag or resize objects, you’ll see the smart guides. In addition, when you move an object close to another one, it will snap into a position aligned with the other object.


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Invert axis and continuous axis sorting

We’re introducing a new capability in line, bar, column, area, and combo charts to invert the value axis. This allows you to reverse the direction in which the axis is rendered, with positive going down and negative going up. You can find the invert axis toggle in the associated value axis card in the formatting pane.


New filter operations: “is empty” and “is not empty”

We’ve now added two new filter operations for Text datatypes: is empty and is not empty.

You can find these new operations in the Filter pane in the Advanced filtering type:


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The operation is empty shows items when the value is an empty string (“”).

The operation is not empty shows items when the value is not an empty string (“”).


  • If you have text values that have only spaces (“   ”), these values are automatically converted to empty strings (“”).
  • If you’re wanting to filter out or filter to null values (no value), you’ll need to use the is not blank or is blank operation.




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





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 (&&).


CROSSFILTER supports many-to-many relationships

We have added support for many-to-many relationships to the CROSSFILTER function. The CrossFilterType parameter allows you to specify how you want the filter to flow. Previously you could choose Both, None or OneWay. For a many-to-many relationship, however, OneWay is not enough control as the filter could go either way. Therefore, we have added OneWay_LeftFiltersRight and OneWay_RightFiltersLeft to give you more control over the direction the filter flows in this scenario.


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Performance improvements to IF and SWITCH functions

A performance improvement has been made to SWITCH function with many branches and deeply nested IF functions to eliminate branches which are not selected by user filters or slicers earlier in the calculation pipeline. The DAX pattern for the branch conditions covered by the optimization is matching SELECTEDVALUE(column), VALUES(column), MIN(column), or MAX(column) to values of the column.


Data connectivity


Text/CSV By Example

We’re pleased to announce that “Text/CSV By Example” in Power Query is now available. This feature makes it extremely easy for users to extract data from Text or CSV files without having to think about the data transformations to apply, rather just providing a set of sample values to extract and let Power Query infer the transformations to achieve it.

When using the Text/CSV connector, users will see a new option to “Extract Table Using Examples” on the bottom-left corner of the file preview dialog.


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Upon clicking that new button, users will be taken into the “Extract Table Using Examples” experience allowing them to specify sample output values for the data they would like to extract from their Text/CSV file.


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Once users are done constructing that table, they can click Load/Transform to complete the Get Data flow. Notice how the resulting queries contain a detailed breakdown of all the steps that were inferred for the data extraction, which are just regular query steps that can be customized as needed.


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Certificate revocation check controls now available in Desktop interface

Last update, 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:


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


Simplifying collection of diagnostic information

We know that when you have reached out to our support teams you want to be helped as fast as possible. However, a lot of time is lost in collection diagnostic information that is needed to analyze the situation. This month, we are making it easier collect diagnostic information when working with our support teams. You should only use this option when asked to do so by our support team. They will give you clear instructions to follow which will also inform you exactly about which diagnostic information we collect.

You can find the new diagnostic information collection dialog in the Power BI Desktop Options under Global > Diagnostics. In order to capture the maximum amount of diagnostic information, select ‘Enable tracing’ and then press the ‘Collect diagnostic information’ button.


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This opens the Save diagnostics details dialog:


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You can learn more about the diagnostics collected using the links and choose where you want to save. After you click Save, a ZIP file will be created in the location you specified in the dialog. You can then verify which information is collected before you share it with our support team as per their instructions so they can analyze the situation as quickly as possible and get you the help you need.


And that’s all for our May 2021 release of Power BI Report Server! We hope that you enjoy these updates for this release. 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.

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