Microsoft’s Power BI service massive new update improves formatting and visualizations

Fans of Microsoft’s cloud-based business analytics service, Power BI, will find a happy little update in their stockings this Christmas. Microsoft recently released a rather significant update to Power BI that includes changes and improvements to Report Authoring features.

Specifically, the Power BI team claims improvements to Report Authoring capabilities in Power BI Desktop. The new changes to Report Authoring are also supported in the Power BI service for consumption whatever light editing might be done. Much of the improvements involve formatting options being added, along with a few new visualizations intended to improve usability.

  1. Format data labels per category series

We have added more options to allow full flexibility in formatting charts where multiple measures are displayed. With this update, it is possible to format each measure within the chart differently.

In order to achieve this, users can enable the “Show All” option within the Data Labels section of the Formatting pane for any given visual where two or more measures as used in the Values section. This allows users to specify formatting settings for each of the measures.

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  1. Change number of decimal places showed in visuals

Users can now customize the number of decimal places showed in visuals (i.e. Data Labels). This option is available in the Formatting pane, under the Data Labels section.

  1. Change text size in visuals

It is now possible to change the font size for text displayed in visualizations. This Text Size option is available in the Formatting pane.

  1. Ability to lay out visuals accurately (alignment, distribute, size, position)

In this update, we’re introducing a number of new features in Power BI Desktop to allow users to lay out visuals accurately. These new features are:

  • Alignment Options: It is now possible to align two or more visuals by using the new Alignment options (align to left, center, right, top, middle, bottom).
  • Distribute Options: In addition to controlling the alignment between two or more visuals, users can also distribute three or more visuals, vertically or horizontally. This will ensure there is the same space between the visuals selected.
  • Size & Position: The Formatting pane now includes the option to set the exact size (width, height) and position (X, Y) for each visual. These options are available under the General section for any given visual.

Other improvements include Format options being copied over from Format painter, and visualization enhancements such as the inclusion of a visual indicator on the table column headers, stacked area charts, hover-over tooltips for area and line charts, and reference line creations. With this being such a massive update to Power BI, the list of improvements goes on at length covering other items such as a new Preview Feature, improved data tables, an optimized Home ribbon layout, new data modeling, more options to control data connectivity and more.

The update is available now for current customers, and Microsoft is also encouraging users to sign up for Microsoft’s Data Insights Summit on March 22-23, to meet face to face with other Power BI users as well as one-on-one meetings with its engineering teams.

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What other improvements are you waiting for from Power BI?