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Power BI Report Server October 2020 Feature Summary

Headshot of article author Roseanne Levasseur

We are excited to bring you a new version of Power BI Report Server this month! With this update, we’re releasing an awesome set of features including the modern ribbon, slicer improvements, enhanced dataset metadata and more. Read on to get the full details of all the new additions.

After 10 years, support for Windows 7 ended on January 14, 2020. In line with this, we will be stopping support for Power BI Desktop on Windows 7 on Jan 31st 2021. After that, Power BI Desktop will only be supported on Windows 8 and newer. The January 2021 release of Power BI Desktop Optimized for Report Server will be supported as per the Modern Lifecycle Policy i.e. supported until the next release (currently scheduled for May 2021), after which it will only receive security updates until January 2022, after which support will stop.

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Here’s a complete list of the updates:




Data preparation




Modern ribbon

The modern ribbon is here! We’ll continue to make additions and add more features to the ribbon in the future. Please visit our documentation to learn more about the changes and benefits of the new ribbon.

Canvas watermarks

For new Power BI users, it can be difficult to know where to start. We have now added on-canvas watermarks to help guide new users taking their very first steps to get data, populate the fields pane, and drag and drop visuals.

Canvas watermark showing some options to add data to your report: import data from Excel, import data from SQL Server, Paste data into a blank table or Try a sample dataset.

Canvas watermark showing how to build visuals with your data

We have also added our very first sample dataset loaded directly into the Power BI Desktop! Now new users do not have to fish around to find a sample dataset to get started. By simply clicking on “try a sample dataset” from the canvas watermark new users can choose to follow along with our sample dataset tutorial or load the sample dataset directly to begin building visuals.

Canvas watermarks showing "try a sample dataset" selected.

Canvas watermark showing two ways to use sample data: take a tutorial online or experiment on your own.

Total labels for stacked visuals

You can now turn on total labels for your stacked bar/column, stacked area, and line and stacked column charts, allowing you to see the aggregates of your data at a glance:

If your chart has a field in the Legend (for stacked bar/column) or Column Series (for combo) field well, you can enable total labels in its card in the formatting pane:

You will also be able to format the text of the labels, show a background color around them (for example, to provide contrast with the visual background), adjust their transparency, and decide if you would like to sum the positive and negative values of your columns separately.

Added general visual option to maintain layer order

Typically, when you select an object on the canvas, it will be automatically brought to the front, above other overlapping visuals. Clicking away from it will return it to its original position. While this behavior is intended and necessary (for example, to allow access to header menus), sometimes you would like an object, like a shape or background image, to stay in the background even when you accidentally click on them while viewing a report.

Now you can set any visual to stay in place rather than being brought to front upon selection: just turn on the Maintain layer order toggle for that visual in the General card of the formatting pane.

Keep in mind this will adjust behavior for reading view only.

Gradient legend

You can now include a legend for data colors that have been conditionally formatted by color scale. This legend can help clarify the meaning of the colors in a visual to report viewers.

You can find the conditional formatting dialog in the Data colors card of the formatting pane.

Use this dialog to set a new rule to format your data along a color scale:

This will enable the Legend card in the formatting pane. You can enable the gradient legend by toggling it on, then format the legend as desired.

Keep in mind that you cannot both conditionally format your data colors and split your data using the Legend field well. This is because the Legend field well already colors your data by category.

The gradient legend feature is enabled for bar, column, and scatter charts:

  • Stacked bar chart
  • Stacked column chart
  • Clustered bar chart
  • Clustered column chart
  • 100% stacked bar chart
  • 100% stacked column chart
  • Scatter chart

Relative time filter

With emerging fast refresh scenarios, the ability to filter to a smaller window of time can be useful. So, this month, we’re very excited to announce a new type of filter: relative time filter. The relative time filter allows you to filter to a smaller window of time, such as last 1 hour or last 1 minute. When the filter is applied to the page/report level, all visuals under that level are synchronized to the same time range.

With this new filter type, you will have the option to filter based on Last, Next, or This time period for any datetime column in UTC:

You will be able to specify the time period to be in Minutes or Hours:

If you need to save real estate on the canvas, you can also create the relative time filter as a filter card in the filter pane:


To learn more about this feature, check out our documentation.


Slicer Improvements

With this release it includes several improvements:

  • New options for expand/collapse icons
  • Icons now scale with font size
  • Ability to customize indentation for child items
  • Ability to further customize slicer header text


New options for expand/collapse icons

Originally, you only had one option for the expand and collapse icons, which were chevrons:

While the chevron icon is still the default option, we’ve now added two new options:

  • Plus/minus

  • Caret

To find these options, select your hierarchical slicer and navigate to the Format pane > Items > Expand/collapse icon:

Icons now scale with font size

This next improvement is not just for hierarchical slicer but for all slicers: the icons in the slicer now scale with the font size.

Here’s an example showing that the icons have scaled to match the text sized, which has been increased to 16 pt:

Ability to customize indentation for child items

We’ve added the option for you to now customize the indentation for the child items in the hierarchy.

To find this setting, select your hierarchical slicer and navigate to the Format pane > Items > Stepped layout indentation.

Ability to further customize slicer header text
Now this month, based on your feedback, we’ve added the ability to further customize the slicer header text.

While this improvement can still be used for general slicer use cases, this capability will be mainly beneficial to hierarchical slicer scenarios. Let’s take a look at an example.

Here I have a hierarchical slicer, and you will notice that by default we make the title based on the field inputs:

Now, when you navigate to the format pane > Slicer header, you will see that the Title text of the header can be customized:

This can be especially helpful when you have several fields in your slicer, and you want to provide a shorter, custom header text (without turning off the slicer header and using visual title setting instead).


Mobile authoring enhancements 

In this release we are introducing an improved mobile layout authoring experience and additional mobile layout capabilities. As the Power BI mobile apps have increasingly been adopted by more and more organizations, we have received feedback asking for more capabilities and improvements for the mobile authoring experience. We hope that the enhancements introduced in this release will help you more easily build compelling, interactive reports optimized for mobile devices.

Here are the new experiences and capabilities that will help you build mobile-optimized reports:

  • New phone emulator
  • Updated visualization pane
  • Support for overlaid visuals
  • Bookmark available in the Mobile layout view
  • Turn off gridlines and snap to grid

New phone emulator 
One of the first things you may notice about the new experience is that the phone emulator or phone canvas has been revamped. A fine-grained grid gives you more flexibility in resizing and placing visuals, and a longer canvas allows you to add more visuals to your page.

Updated visualization pane 
You may also notice that the Visualizations pane has been improved too. Now, you can find your desired visual by looking for its name, and you can also easily differentiate between hidden and shown visuals.

Support for overlaid visuals 
Another improvement is that you can now place one visual on top of another. This lets you use the same design techniques used in the web layout for building interactive reports using bookmarks. You can also create beautiful reports by layering visuals over images.

Bookmark pane is now available in the Mobile layout view  
Starting with this release, when you are working on your mobile optimized layout using the Mobile view you can open the Bookmark pane and select a bookmark to see how it impacts the report in the mobile layout, without the need to go back to the web view.

New options: turn off gridlines and snap to grid 
We introduced a new option to remove the “Gridlines” from the canvas, so you can view the report without the square boxes – just like it will look on a real phone.

You can also remove the “Snap to grid” constraint when designing the mobile optimized layout. This will let you create a pixel perfect report, since you can place visuals anywhere on the canvas.

To start designing a mobile-optimized report, go to View > Mobile layout, and drag and drop your visuals onto the canvas. Start creating amazing mobile-optimized reports today and let us know what you think. We strive to continuously improve and enhance this area, and we greatly appreciate any feedback as to what you liked about the update and how you think we can improve it!


Line chart dot formatting options

This month, we have a new formatting update to line charts. Now, you can have different colored dots show up for categories across all of your series. This update can help you call out particular points in your line charts.

To turn this on, go to the Data colors tab in the formatting pane. In it, you should see all the categories in a series. There you can change the color that you want the dot to appear for each category.

If you want to remove the dots from your line chart, just click the Revert to default button. Note that in this release, this feature will show dots for your categories across all of your series. In the coming releases, we plan to extend this feature to allow for more control over choosing particular series.



Enhanced Dataset Metadata

In the past, only loadable queries generated in Power Query were mapped to the data model. Now all queries will be mapped to objects in the data model, and the Queries will be regenerated based off of the data model upon opening of that PBIX.

This backend update has helped unlock future features improvements and will continue to do so in the future. For example: For those of you who have tried exporting a PBIT and unzipping the file, you’ll now see the model in JSON and will no longer get errors about corrupted files.

Keep in mind that if you have an older PBIX that cannot be automatically updated for reasons such as unapplied changes, you’ll need to successfully upgrade your model before you can make any additional modeling changes.

In the October release of Power BI Report Server, we are enabling the ability to update connections for Power BI reports for DirectQuery and Refresh. Note that this is also a breaking change in how you could set this up in previous releases. To learn more, see Change data source connection strings in Power BI reports with PowerShell – Power BI Report Server

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.

Support for Excel financial functions

We have heard from many financial professionals that they want DAX to support Excel’s built-in financial functions. With this release, we are excited to announce that we have added 49 financial functions to DAX.
Almost all financial functions that you know and love from Excel are now available in DAX, in addition to XNPV and XIRR that we have added earlier. The functions have the same name and signature as their Excel counterparts, so if you have used the Financial functions in Excel, you should feel right at home. Together, these new financial functions make it easier to build financial reports and perform otherwise complex calculations in Power BI. Note that although these functions are available for all languages, the functions themselves will be in English only at this point.

Here’s the full list of financial functions:

  • FV
  • PMT
  • PV
  • RATE
  • PPMT
  • IPMT
  • NPER
  • RRI
  • DB
  • SLN
  • DDB
  • SYD
  • DISC
  • VDB

Model view enabled for live connect

The model view enabled for live connected sources is now available. In addition, we’ve added in a couple updates:

  • If you are connected to a multidimensional source or an older version of AS, relationship lines will be displayed. Keep in mind that column information will not be shown.
  • If you have display folders and are viewing a model with translated captions, your display folders will now show those caption names.

Updates to Model view

This month we’ve have several updates to the Model view based on your feedback. Here’s the full list of updates:

  • You can now resize the table containers from any side or corner.
  • We heard feedback that the dragging functionality made it too easy to accidentally create hierarchies, so that functionality has been removed. If you want to create a hierarchy, you can right-click to create a hierarchy.
  • Previously, hierarchy levels were sorted alphabetically in the model view. Now, this automatic alphabetical sorting has been omitted.
  • Some of you may have noticed previously that if you had a field with two colon characters or commas that a relationship arrow would not display or the diagram would gray out. This has been fixed.


Data Preparation

Automatic Table Detection from Excel files 

When using the Excel connector, this new 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. 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). To use this feature, please enable it in the settings dialog.

Automatic Table Detection from JSON files 

When using the JSON connector, the new feature will automatically flatten the JSON into 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). To use this feature, please enable it in the settings dialog

Global option to disable automatic type detection

When working against schema-less data sources (such as Files, Web Pages, etc.), Power Query will try to automatically detect column headers and types based on the data. For some time, it’s also been possible to disable automatic type detection as a “current file” option.

A very frequent customer request was to make this option also available globally so that advanced users can always disable type detection. With this month’s release, we’re introducing a new global option that allows users to disable automatic header and type detection against schema-less sources.

This new option can be found under the Options dialog (under Global > Data Load). It allows users to control whether header/type detection should be always enabled, always disabled or depend on the specific setting for the current file (available under Current File > Data Load).



Export data source to PBIDS in Power BI Desktop

Last October, we released a new file format, PBIDS, that allowed users to start from a file that already has a data source connection. This file type essentially streamlined the Get data experience, making it quicker for users to start building reports. Previously, you had to manually create these files in a notepad editor or using the file generator tool provided by Power BI Tips. Now in this release, you can now auto-generate these connection files from within Power BI Desktop.

You can find this setting by going to File > Options and settings > Data source settings:

Then you select the data source that you want to export as a PBIDS:

When you select Export PBIDS, we will automatically generate the PBIDS file which you can rename and save in your directory and share with others. Optionally, if you open the file in a text editor, you can modify the file further, including specifying the mode of connection in the file itself.

Before we jump to the next feature, we also want to recognize and thank Caroline Anderson for working on this feature in the summer as an intern!

Desktop splash screen dismiss

A small but delightful change, we have added the long awaited dismiss “X” to the Desktop splash screen. Now if you accidently launch Power BI Desktop you can close the application from the splash screen.

And that’s all for our October 2020 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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