Microsoft Power BI | September 2017 Update

Categories: Data & AI Product Updates
Tags: Microsoft Microsoft Power BI

Two major new features first previewed at the Microsoft Data Insights Summit three months ago finally make it into this month’s updates. Drillthrough and report insights are now available and there are a number of other updates to get to grips with, including a new chart type in the Ribbon chart.


Drillthrough is one of the more anticipated Power BI features and was originally demoed at the Data Insights Summit in June. You can use the feature in Power BI Desktop to create a page in a report focusing on a specific entity, whether that is a customer, supplier, product, location, manufacturer or anything else. You can then right-click on a relevant data point on other report pages and ‘drillthrough’ to the focused entity page.

To use this feature you simply make the drillthrough page with all the relevant visuals for that entity. If the drillthrough page relates to a given manufacturer, for example, you might include visuals for total sales, units shipped, sales by region etc. When complete, users can right-click a data point on your report that matches a field in drillthrough filters. A context menu will appear and the user can drillthrough to the entity page, filtered to show information related to the data point they right-clicked.

Report Insights

The new report insights feature, also demoed at the Data Insights Summit, is now available on preview and allows you to request insights for given points in bar or line charts. Specifically, you can click on a bar or a data point and ask for insights as to why it had increased or decreased compared to the point preceding it.

Power BI’s insights machine-learning algorithms will then populate a panel showing the factors that had the most effect. This flyout display will present a brief written summary and allow you to view the insight using a number of different chart types, including the new Ribbon chart.

You can use the insight purely for your own analysis in reading mode or you can add it to your report as a new type of visual. This can then be edited or formatted like any other report visual.

The New Ribbon Chart

For those of you who can’t get enough charts, the likes of the waterfall chart, scatter chart and stacked column chart are now joined by a new Ribbon chart. 

This is essentially a stacked column chart that is optimised for displaying changes in rank. The inner categories of each column are arranged according to their rank for the column and ribbons connect these inner categories, which can help you see at a glance how the rank changes across different columns.

Theming Preview Update

Report theming, which allowed you to easily colour a report to match a theme such as corporate branding, was first introduced in preview back in March. Now the feature has been extended to give you chart style control, allowing you to do things like set your fonts and turn data labels on or off for specific charts.

In conjunction with the colour themes, you can set your own default formats and, unless you want a particular report to deviate for some reason, you will hardly need to use the formatting pane again going forward.

Accessibility Improvements

Accessibility support for users requiring screen readers and/or keyboard shortcuts has now been extended. The first measure is an accessible chart data view that can be enabled with the keyboard shortcut Alt+Shift+F11. On the subject of keyboard shortcuts, you can now bring up a helper dialogue to let you know which shortcut does what by pressing the question mark key.

Other Reporting Updates

Elsewhere the sampling algorithm for scatter charts has been updated to provide a higher density, prioritising points that aren’t obscured by their neighbours. This high-density sampling can be switched off in formatting pane if you would rather retain the original view. You can also now style your chart gridlines, turning them on and off and changing details like colour and style.

New Community visuals

The September update also sees Power BI highlighting four new visuals from the community. These include a powerful Visio visual allowing you to turn Visio diagrams into Power BI visualisations, a Calendar by Tallan custom visual, the Enlighten Aquarium in which categories are represented by swimming fish and an advanced bubble chart called the Impact Bubble Chart.

Data Connectivity Updates

A new connector, which can be accessed from ‘Online Services’ in the ‘Get Data’ dialogue has been released for Azure Consumption Insights users. The Dynamics 365 for Financials connector has also been improved. Users can now use authentication based on the Azure Active Directory and enable auto-discovery of their Dynamics 365 for Financials endpoint.

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