by Ariel Netz, Group Program Manager in the Power BI Designer team

Last summer, we started our planning for the Power BI Designer, a BI desktop client tool designed to complement the Power BI SaaS offering we were already working on. As with any new project, comes lots of questions and ideas on how things will work, but a few base assumptions were made clear from the very beginning:

  • We want to build a single, unified experience that will combine all the capabilities of Power Query, Power Pivot & Power View. Historically, those tools were developed at different paces, using different technologies, each designed to stand in its own right. While each of the tools did exactly what they were set out to do, our users spoke loud and clear – they wanted to use them together and see a much better integration than what we delivered. Additionally our users provided feedback that they would like to see our tools evolving on regular and frequent cadence.  
  • At its core, we designed Power BI Designer to help users to visually explore data and author interactive reports and to complement Excel. Power BI Designer is available to download for free from www.powerbi.com and can be used as a standalone desktop companion
  • Like many other teams at Microsoft, we will be delivering on our vision over time and, in an incremental fashion, enabling our customers to try out the tools, provide feedback on our designs and basically, keeping us honest in “real time." 

The very next thing we did was to put together a team that is composed of experienced developers and designers who worked on these technologies before and asked them to build that single tool.

On Dec 18, 2014, we announced the preview of the Power BI service together with the Power BI Designer. That early build was our first showing. The Power BI Designer preview combined the capabilities of Power Query and a good portion of the Power View capabilities, but it did not show Power Pivot. I say “show” as behind the scenes the Power Pivot in-memory engine that glues it all together was there.

Since December, we have released updates to the Designer every month. Each of the updates included the usual bug fixing, performance optimizations and also included new capabilities. In the past couple of months, we worked on some smaller improvements that were designed to bring some of the Power Pivot modeling capabilities into the Power BI Designers. Some of those improvements include:

  • Automatic Model-level Relationship Detection.
  • Manual Relationship Creation
  • Show/Hide Data Model Fields.

However, those changes still didn’t show the direction we are heading into with the integration of Data Modeling capabilities into the Designer. There are many capabilities that make Power Pivot the best analytical engine of its kind but of all, there is one feature that is more recognized than others: DAX formulas. Anybody who has used Power Pivot before will attest that our integration work will never be complete without the addition of DAX formula authoring capabilities to the Designer. 

Today we are pleased to announce a series of enhancements to the Power BI Designer that demonstrate the direction we are heading with the Designer modeling capabilities:

  • Initial DAX Measures functionality with Intellisense
  • New DAX functions.
  • Data Types (unified across Model and Query.)
  • Model-level formatting.
  • Rename & Delete fields in Report view.
  • Updated Relationship Creation dialog

This April update is just another update amongst many more planned to come but it’s a special one as, for the first time, users will get to experience all the “Power” tools in a single tool – Power BI Designer. Much more is soon to come…

Click here for full details on “What’s New” in the Power BI Designer April update