August saw some significant additions to the Power BI Desktop system. The most significant have come in response to widespread calls for certain features to be added. The following offers a brief rundown of the most important new features.
Composite models (preview)
Until now, it has not been possible to connect another data source in a single report once you have used DirectQuery to connect to one. You also couldn't include imported data. But with the new 'composite models' feature, this restriction has been removed, meaning a single report can seamlessly combine data from multiple DirectQuery sources and even mix the sources with imported data.
New flexible visual header with formatting options
There was a significant call for more ability to customise the visual's header so that it fits better with reports. The Power BI team listened, and completely revamped the visual header. The new visual header is actually detached from the visual, meaning its position can be adapted to fit the layout of the visual. The default position for the header will be inside the visual, lined up with the title.
You can now format the grey area outside the actual report page, so you can theme the report and achieve a more cohesive feel. The formatting options are similar to what the report pages have had - colour, transparency and the option to upload an image.
More visual and page control for theming (preview)
Until now, most visual properties could be themed but the visual's 'container' could not (things like title, border and background colour). The new update enables all visual properties to be formatted through theming.
Tooltips for table and matrix
Answering popular demand, the new update enables you to use both the standard and report page tooltips on the table and matrix visual. You can turn them on using the new tooltip card. You can also now turn tooltips off for visuals so that you can look at visuals without the tooltip hovering in front.
The all-important slicer can now be interacted with by keyboard and screen reader users. This will increase accessibility for report consumers, as it was previously not available to users who relied on a keyboard for navigation.
Improvements to formatting pane
Report authors spend a lot of time in the formatting pane, and it has finally been revamped to better accommodate the range of newer features. This style update makes it more intuitive and better presented.
Stepped line support for line and combo charts
The line in combo charts can now be changed to a stepped format from the Shapes toggle card. This will help with the presentation of charts. You can also turn off combo chart data labels for individual series, as requested by users.
The bottom line
There have also been several minor improvements in analytics and custom visuals, which will improve the user experience subtly but effectively. Power BU Desktop is one of the foremost pieces of software for building advanced queries, models and reports to visualise data. It is one of the most powerful tools for Business Intelligence professionals, and benefits from Microsoft's commitment to listening to the community and making the changes that are asked of them.