Power BI Heats Up Summer with their June Update

[fa icon="clock-o"] 6/23/17 11:52 AM [fa icon="user"] Jon Thompson [fa icon="folder-open'] Power BI

We admit we sound like a broken record lately, but this month’s Power BI update has got to be one of the biggest to date!  We encourage you to read about the latest features in their full release summary and if you have a half hour to spare it’s worthwhile to view their full demo.  We’ll break down the highlights for you here.

When it comes to new visual capabilities in reports, we are excited that data bars are now available!  These customizable bars are a quick and easy way to compare values in a table (consider it a marriage between a bar chart and a cell value). 

Here’s what they look like:

Power BI Data Bars.jpg

For line and area charts, you can now add custom formatting to show markers on each line.  This added functionality allows you to customize each line on a chart, add weight to your lines, or draw attention to only certain lines (especially helpful for making reports more accessible to our color-blind colleagues!).  You can also make marks on line, area, and combo charts. 

Additionally, Accessibility functionality has finally come to Power BI!  When consuming a report using an on-screen Accessibility App (such as Windows Narrator), consumers are able to navigate between report pages and visuals using common keyboard shortcuts.  The Narrator will provide the title along with key highlights of the visual chosen.

We’ve noticed that when the Power BI community talks, the Microsoft development team listens - closely.  One of the best new community-requested reporting features is the addition of horizontal image slicers.  We’ve had vertical image slicers for a long time, and now we can slice by horizontal image – whether it be an icon, logo, etc.  This allows for a much more visually engaging user experience.

 

Horizontal Image Slicer.jpg

 

Also in response to community requests, the Power BI team released Bing Map improvements with road and aerial map themes.  To better fit in with the color schemes of a report, grayscale and dark color options will be released later this month.  Additionally, Microsoft has made improvements to their sampling algorithm, improving the results on datasets which return more than 5,000 results in line and area charts. Microsoft likes this new ‘High Density” line sampling algorithm so much, it has gone straight to the default algorithm – enjoy!

The Power BI service connector now supports on-premises connections. What does that mean for you?  It’s now possible to make a Live Connection (i.e. Direct Query) to an on-premises data model (Tabular or Multi-dimensional) – which we are so glad about!  Additionally, push-streaming data sets (which is a larger streaming dataset - up to 16 MB) can now be created in the Power BI Service by enabling Historic Data Analysis.  This means it’s easier than ever to create real-time visuals with historic analysis.  Yes!  

We saved the most important update for last.  In May, the development team announced the Data Connectors SDK Preview.  Developers can now create their own data connectors and plug it into Power BI.  This, dear readers, is monumental.  With this update, you can seamlessly enable this feature directly into PBI Desktop (support for Power BI Service and Gateway is on the radar screen, but not ready yet). The development team is especially interested to hear feedback, understand issues, and filter new requests so they can improve this functionality.

A good start to summer for Power BI!

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Jon Thompson

Written by Jon Thompson