Why Grouping Visuals is a Good Thing – Plus Other Power BI Updates

August’s update from Power BI warns that an important feature will migrate automatically unless manually acted on and there are some excellent features to play with including my personal favourite – grouping visuals.

Incidentally, one of the features introduced last month (Icons conditional formatting) has already received an update to improve usability. Icons can now be picked in sets to speed things up a little and ensure you’re not using a red circle with a random green traffic light.

So, what have we got this month?

First – A Warning on the Filter Pane

Tucked in the middle of this month’s set of Power BI updates is the note that the new filter pane which was made generally available last month will soon become the only filter pane in town.

The new filter pane allows report readers to gain more insights into your data without impeding on the visual impact of the report. The Power BI team have listened to feedback about the implementation of the new pane, but it’s not going to be an optional transition – it needs to happen now, or it needs to happen later. Your reports will auto-update if you’re not careful.

We’re fans of action at MSH, so we’d recommend tackling this update before it tackles you. You might already have opened your Power BI Desktop for the first time since the update and unchecked the box to turn on the new filter pane in existing reports. Don’t worry, it’s going to keep asking you until it’s happy with your response.

Why might you put it off? It’s normal to be a little concerned about how updates like these will affect your existing reports, especially if you just want to deal with importing some data in, getting some insights and disappearing off to get on with your job. However, this new filter pane isn’t going to cause any headaches and will look the same.

Our advice? Click the button and enjoy the new filter pane on your existing reports. You might even have fun with it.

To Group or Not to Group

Followers of the Microsoft Business Application Summit will already be familiar with this new feature as it was revealed there and garnered a little excitement amongst attendees. Keep that excitement in mind because there’s a lot of potential with grouping visuals.

To start with, if you’re wondering why you might even want to group visuals together, the answer is simple – it allows you to move visuals around, resize and scale them without having to move the individual elements piece by piece. If you’ve spent a lot of time designing a report with visuals and accompanying text boxes, for example, moving those elements around bit by bit is, at best, time-consuming and, at worse, downright painful. Being able to move those elements around and knowing they’ll appear exactly the same way when you’ve moved them can be a real blessing for someone altering a report.

This feature might sound vaguely familiar to MS Office alumni, and that’s because it mimics a feature that’s popular in PowerPoint. You can see why transferring a set of visuals in PowerPoint is an excellent idea, and that transfers neatly to Power BI.

Be Careful with Your Conditional Formatting

One thing that’s always good to see when a multi-faceted application like Power BI continue to update is that they continue to amend the failsafe instruments within the application. Case in point is their new conditional formatting warning notifications that alert you to any errors within your configurations.

This has come about due to the increase in options for conditional formatting across the Power BI interface. What this expansion means, of course, is that there are plenty of elements that could error if they’re not configured properly, so this timely update alerts you on a variety of measures:

• The data type doesn’t fit what the formatting expects – i.e. a string instead of a number.
• The measure used to implement conditional formatting was deleted.
• Unrecognised values returned.

In case you’re wondering, these warnings will only appear to report authors and editors rather than readers, so you can fix them without your audience knowing your formatting’s gone awry.

Finally – Facebook

Last up for this month is the Facebook Pages – Basic Analytics template app that allows users to get a detailed Facebook Page report without having to struggling with setting it up. The fact that Power BI have highlighted this – and have promised to point out more examples of template apps in the future – is a good thing as far as we’re concerned. After all, Power BI is user-led, but many of those users have to start somewhere. A simple Facebook Page analysis could be the catalyst to start a deep-dive into a business-altering Power BI experience.

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