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Power BI April 2021 Feature Summary

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Welcome to the first Power BI feature summary of the Spring! In this update we have an exciting new preview for the Power Automate visual! Also, the ongoing previews (Small Multiples and DirectQuery for Power BI datasets and Azure Analysis Services) are getting some new features. Next to that, we are presenting huge improvements to the shapes in Power BI Desktop and we are introducing a new, easier, way to share reports. To top it off, enhancements to Sensitivity Labels provide for even better protection of your data.

Please join us for the Microsoft Business Application Summit (MBAS) on May 4! Register on the MBAS website.

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Here is the full list of April updates:




Data connectivity






Check out the video below for a summary:




Power Automate for Power BI

This month, we’re thrilled to announce that we have a new Power Automate visual! We often hear that end-users want to act on the insights they find when exploring a Power BI report. And many times, the action happens outside of the product (e.g. send a note, create a task, copy the data). Additionally, creators want built-in automation for their users but need to ensure that it’s within the context of the end-user’s selection. With this new Power Automate visual, end-users can run an automated flow all within a Power BI report. Furthermore, the executed flow can be data contextual, meaning that the Flow inputs can be dynamic based on the filters set by the end-user. With Power Automate for Power BI, your end-users can go from insights to action with the click of a button.

Read more in this blog post.

Small multiples: padding controls and combo chart support

This month, we’re introducing two additions to the small multiples preview feature: padding controls and support for the line and clustered/stacked column charts (combo charts). You’ll find padding controls in the grid layout card in the formatting pane underneath the gridline controls:

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Adjusting the grid padding slider will change the padding around your small multiples. The effects of this slider will vary automatically based on which pattern of gridlines you have selected. For example, the slider will not affect the padding along the outer edge of the small multiples grid unless you have the grid’s outside borders turned on.

For more granular control over the padding in the visual, turn on advanced padding options to replace the single grid padding slider with four new sliders: inner column padding, outer column padding, inner row padding, and outer row padding. Adjusting these sliders will always affect the padding between multiples in the same way, regardless of your choice in gridlines.

Additionally, combo charts now also support small multiples!

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One potential difference between this and non-small multiples combo charts is that here, we will never automatically merge the column and line chart axes. However, you can still merge them yourself using the “show secondary” option in the formatting pane.

Please also note that the “show as a table” context menu option for combo charts may not work in every situation, and that dynamic format strings currently won’t work in line chart data labels or tooltips. We’ve got fixes for both of these coming next release.

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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Before we dive into the details of the new and improved shapes, we want to give big thank you to Ethan Netz, the contributor that built this new shape component from scratch! This was Ethan’s first time developing as a contributor for Power BI, and we’re thrilled to say that he will be joining the team as a full-time developer. You’ll see more of his features in the coming releases.

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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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Invert axis and continuous axis sorting

This month, 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.

Next release, we will also be releasing similar functionality to reverse continuous fields in the primary axis. You will be able to sort continuous axes by ascending or descending, enabling use cases like showing the most recent data first.



DirectQuery for Power BI datasets and Azure Analysis Services


Connecting to a perspective

Thank you for giving your feedback on this feature! Based on your feedback, we’ve added the capability to connect to a perspective when making a DirectQuery connection an Azure Analysis Services model, assuming there is one available.

Read more about this feature in the original announcement.

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


New Connector: Bloomberg Data and Analytics

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We are excited to announce the release of the Bloomberg Data and Analytics Power Query connector in Power BI Desktop. Here is more about the connector from Bloomberg’s team: 

“We are happy to announce Bloomberg’s Data and Analytics connector this month! Bloomberg empowers capital markets professionals and their firms with the tools and data needed to successfully implement optimal investment portfolio strategies and to make quicker, more informed decisions. The Bloomberg Data and Analytics connector for Power BI brings Bloomberg’s best-in-class portfolio analytics to Power BI through Bloomberg’s PORT Enterprise reporting solution. Portfolio ex-ante risk, sophisticated performance attribution, and portfolio characteristics data (both absolute and relative to the benchmark) can be accessed via Power BI. Data can be accessed at the portfolio, security or group level, for one or more portfolios, either for a particular date or as a time-series.”


New Connector: SoftOne BI

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We are also excited to announce the release of the SoftOne BI Power Query connector in Power BI Desktop. Here is a summary from the SoftOne BI team:

“SoftOne BI is a comprehensive business intelligence service that enables Soft1 ERP and Atlantis ERP users to explore and analyze data more efficiently and make faster, more informed decisions, with insightful information.

SoftOne BI provides access to Soft1 ERP and Atlantis ERP data in a standardized, optimized format for reporting and analytics of several templatized scenarios such as sales, financial and CRM or completely custom scenarios. The SoftOne BI connector imports data from an Azure Data Lake (Gen 2) for both on-premises and Software as a Service (SaaS) installations, that has been uploaded via an ETL process from each customer’s ERP or CRM.

Combining SoftOne’s built-in powerful analytics, advanced predictive models, and machine learning technologies with the industry leading capabilities of Power BI, raw data is instantly transformed into easy-to-understand visualizations and real-time metrics across every department, subsidiary and location, powering up decision-making across any organization.”


Text/CSV By Example now generally available

We’re pleased to announce that “Text/CSV By Example” in Power Query is now Generally 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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Automatic Table Detection from Excel files now generally available

Excel is one of the most commonly used sources of data for reporting and analytics. Many will also say that Excel is the most popular database in the world!

A typical challenge with extracting data from Excel files is that the data very often is not formatted as tables so the task to “scrape” relevant data from an Excel spreadsheet can be extremely challenging and time consuming for users.

For the past 8 months, we have iterated on Preview feedback for our automatic table detection on top of Excel files and we are now extremely happy to declare this feature as Generally Available!

When using the Excel connector, this feature will automatically identify sections of each Excel spreadsheet to extract into a table and show them under a “Suggested Tables” group in the Navigator.

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Previously, unless data was formatted as Tables or Named Ranges in Excel, users had to scrape the relevant rows/columns with specific transforms (skip rows, remove columns, etc.) from worksheet objects (e.g. Sheet1 in the example below).

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Automatic Table Detection from JSON files now generally available

Similar to the previous feature for Excel automatic table detection, importing data from JSON files (or Web APIs) can be equally challenging for end users. Here is an example of JSON file with multiple levels of nested data.

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With the addition of Automatic Table Detection capabilities, when using the JSON connector Power Query will automatically apply transformation steps to flatten the JSON data into a table. Previously users had to flatten records/lists manually. This new feature also adds support for JSON lines (or newline-delimited JSON, where each line in the file is a JSON string).

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Easy report sharing via links

Around the end of this month, we’ll be releasing a new sharing experience to support sharing reports via links. Previously in the old experience, we supported sharing reports by granting direct access. For the new experience, reports can be shared via links in addition to direct access sharing.

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Currently, this new link sharing capability is available to reports only; however, we also upgraded the share and grant access dialog for dashboards, paginated reports, and datasets to match this new look. Check out the full section to learn more. And as always, we’d love to hear your feedback on this new sharing capability, and we plan to make continued improvements.

Copy or share links to a report

You can access this new experience by navigating to Share:

You’ll see this new Send link dialog that will allow you to copy the sharing link or share it via Outlook and Teams to people in your organization:

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Selecting Copy link will automatically generate and copy a shareable link to your clipboard:

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You can also choose to directly send the link to Specific people or groups. Just enter their name or email address, optionally type a message, and click Send.

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Once you’ve click Send, we’ll send the link via email to your recipients.

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Once your recipients receive the email, they can click Open this report and automatically get access to the report through the shareable link.

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Link settings

You can choose who your sharing link gives access to and what they can do with the report and associated data:

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People in your organization

This type of link can allow people in your organization to access the report. This link will not work for external users (including guest users). Use this link when you want to share with someone in your organization and are comfortable with them passing the link around to other people inside your organization, but when you want to ensure that the link won’t work for external users.

People with existing access

This type of link generates a URL to the report, but it does not give any access to the report. Use this if you just want to send a link to somebody who already has access.

Specific people

This type of link allows specific people or groups to access the report. If you select this option, enter the names or email addresses of the people you wish to share with. With this link type you can share to guest users in your organization’s Azure Active Directory (AAD), but you cannot share to external users who are not guests in your organization.


Links that give access to People in your organization or Specific people will always include at least read access. However, you can also specify if you want the link to include or exclude the following permissions as well:

  • Reshare permissions (included by default) – allows recipients to share the report
  • Build permissions (excluded by default) – allows recipients to build content with the data associated with the report

Links for People with existing access do not have any additional settings because these links do not give any access to the report.

Managing permissions

To manage permission and manage links that give access to the report, select the context menu (. . .) in the upper right of the sharing dialog, and then select Manage permissions:

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This will launch the management permissions pane where you can copy or modify existing links or grant users direct access. To modify a given link, click the context menu (. . .).

To grant users direct access to the report click the plus icon (+), enter their name or email address, optionally type a message, and click Grant access.

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For additional access management capabilities, select the Advanced option in the footer of the Manage permissions pane. This will navigate you to the management page where you can:

  • View, manage, and create Links
  • View and manage who has Direct access and grant people direct access
  • View and manage Pending access requests and invitations
  • View and manage Related content
  • Apply Filters or Search for specific links or people

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Tenant settings

We’ve also added a tenant setting for admins looking to disable creating shareable links to People in your organization. You can find this option in the Admin portal by navigating to Tenant settings > Export and sharing settings > Allow shareable links to grant access to all People in your organization:

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As with other tenant settings, you can enable sharing links to People in your organization for:

  • The entire organization
  • Specific security groups
  • Or Except specific security groups

If this setting is disabled for a user with share permissions to a report, that user will only be able to share the report via link to Specific people or People with existing access.

Improving the Create on top of published dataset experience

We’re aligning all the Power BI experiences that deals with datasets exploration and creation to use the new datasets hub experience.

When you create a new report in the service based on top of an existing dataset, you will now see the same datasets hub experience appears in a dialog.

You’ll see first in the list datasets that you recently viewed their associated report/dashboard, while still making sure endorsed datasets gets better ranking than non-endorsed ones. You can use the filters to see only datasets that you were recently viewed under ‘Recent’ tab or datasets that you’re the owner of under ‘My datasets’ tab.

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Coming up soon: aligning the Desktop experience to Get-data from Power BI datasets to use the datasets hub experience.

New capabilities in Deployment Pipelines

Last month, a few capabilities were added to deployment pipelines, including:

  • Paginated reports support
  • Data protection integration
  • Workspace members can now deploy and update datasets without being the owners
  • And more

To read about all the latest releases and get the details, read this blog post.

Enhancements to Sensitivity Labels


Sensitivity labels in Power BI embedded now generally available

Last year we announced public preview of sensitivity label support in embedded view. When you embed a visual, report, or dashboard that has a sensitivity label applied to it, the sensitivity label will be visible in the embedded view, and the label and its protection will persist when data is exported to Excel. Today we’re happy to announce that this capability is generally available.

For more information see Microsoft Information Protection sensitivity labels in Power BI – Power BI | Microsoft Docs

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Securing the full data journey from Azure to Office

To ensure that your data remains classified and secured across its data journey from Azure, through Power BI and all the way to Office, we’re happy to announce a preview of Power BI MIP label inheritance when importing data from Azure Synapse Analytics and Azure SQL Database.

Power BI datasets connecting to classified data in Azure Synapse Analytics or Azure SQL Database will inherit those labels such that data remains classified and secure when brought into Power BI and inherited when exported to Office. The result is secure, end-to-end sensitivity label inheritance and protection of your business data, from source to point of consumption.

For more information see this blog.


Admin API to Set and Remove labels in Power BI

To meet compliance requirements, organizations are often required to classify and label all sensitive data in Power BI. This task can be a challenge for tenants that have large volumes of data in Power BI. To make this task easier and more effective, we’re introducing new Power BI admin APIs for setting and removing sensitivity labels in Power BI. With these APIs, Power BI admins can easily and effectively apply sensitivity labels on large number of Power BI artifacts programmatically.

Read more in our documentation.



Microsoft Charticulator visual

We’re excited to announce a new custom visual in AppSource: the Microsoft Charticulator visual. Previously to use Charticulator, a user would flip between the web app at and Power BI. Now, users can create a wide range of custom chart designs right within Power BI using our brand-new Microsoft Charticulator custom visual. Check out the full blog post here.

New visuals

The new visuals of this month are:


Financial Reporting Matrix by Profitbase

Good financial statements are challenging to achieve in Power BI with built-in visuals. Profitbase’s Financial Reporting Matrix enables users to quickly create Excel-like financial statements and reports with tailormade formatting, calculations, expandable/collapsible rows and columns, and more.

We recently added expandible/collapsible columns, which are the #1 requested Power BI feature. This functionality has been used in Excel for years, and it’s finally possible in Power BI.

Main features:

  • Expand/collapse rows and columns
  • Fine-grained control of cell formatting
  • Custom columns and row subtotals
  • Conditional formatting
  • Custom calculations columns
  • Formatting and styling

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You can drill and summarize along both rows and columns. You can also group and summarize both vertically and horizontally, for example, by date or product categories, without using other programs, such as Excel. Collapsed columns will automatically be summarized – no configuration, modeling, or use of other program (e.g. Excel) is required.

The Financial Reporting Matrix for Power BI is available from AppSource.

Learn more:

Merged Bar Chart by Nova Silva

On the surface the Merged Bar Chart has a lot of similarities with small multiples. The key difference is the way these charts allow you to compare values. The Merged Bar Chart focusses on comparing multiple measures (like Player Value, Monthly Wage, Release clause, etc. in the example below) within one specific categorical variable (i.e. Soccer players).

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The small multiples focus on segmenting the bars by one or more categorical variables (here: Country of Birth).

If you want to compare a single variable over multiple categories, think small multiples. Looking for comparison of multiple independent measures? Go Merged Bar Chart.

Don’t hesitate and try the Merged Bar Chart 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.

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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.



API v3.6.0 is now available

We highly recommend you to update your visuals to the latest and greatest releases to enjoy the new functionalities, and improvements.
The API v3.6.0 is ready for you to update your visuals.


The new API supports empty-dataroles feature which allows to receive updates from Power BI without the need to bind any data.



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.

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 this month over on our community website. 

As always, keep voting on Ideas to help us determine what to build next.

We are looking forward to hearing from you!
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