April 27, 2021

Power BI’s Latest Features and How to Use Them

Post by: Marcus Radue

[Updated 8/2/21]

In this regularly updated blog, Marcus Radue (Solution Architect) highlights key features from his monthly Power BI Office Hours webinar series so you know how to capitalize on Power BI’s latest enhancements to help your organization make the most of data analytics.

Power BI Features (July 2021 Update) 

The highlights of the July desktop release include the introduction of streaming dataflows in the Power BI service and new functionality to the scanner admin API. Most of the Power BI desktop updates involved several previously released features moving from preview to generally available. 

Features Moved from Preview to Generally Available 

  • Small Multiples visual 
  • Sensitivity labels in Power BI desktop 
  • New model view 

Streaming Dataflows 

In my opinion, the most exciting feature of the July release is streaming dataflows in the Power BI service. This feature brings another option to integrate near-real time data into your Power BI reports. 


To create a streaming dataflow, you must have a premium or premium per user dedicated workspace.  

You must also have either an Azure Event Hub or Azure IoT resource configured to source the streaming dataflow. 

Click here to read more about the new steaming dataflows feature. 

Conditional Formatting for More Properties 

You can now find the “fx” button – signaling conditional formatting – next to the following properties in your Power BI visuals:

  • Data label colors 
  • Total label colors 
  • Legend text colors 
  • Axis start and end 
  • Axis title, gridline, and label colors 
  • Funnel visual percent bar label colors 
  • Funnel visual category axis color 
  • Multi-row card title text, data label colors, and category label colors 
  • Gauge visual axis colors, including start, minimum, and maximum 
  • Slicer slider and header font colors 

Security updates 

The following security updates have been made regarding sensitivity label application in Power BI desktop: 

  • Republish a PBIX with the option to not override the destination sensitivity label 
  • Inherit sensitivity labels from Excel files when importing into Power BI desktop 
  • Set a mandatory label policy from the Power BI admin portal 
  • Publish a custom help link for sensitivity label support 

Scanner API Enhancements 

End-users of the Power BI admin scanner API can now view dataset tables, columns, measures, DAX expressions, and mashup queries as part of the scanner API output. 

New Visualizations 

  • Charticulator (custom visual version 1.0.5)​ 
  • Multiple Sparklines​ 
  • Acterys Reporting​
  • PureViz Infographic – from PowerPoint to Power BI​ 
  • Dynamic radial bar chart by JTA​ 
  • Drill Down Waterfall PRO​ 
  • Control Chart XmR by Nova Silva 

New and Updated Connectors 

  • Amazon Athena (new connector) 
  • Databricks (updated connector) 
  • Dremio (updated connector) 
  • MariaDB (updated connector) 

To read about the entire July feature release click here

Power BI Features (June 2021 Update)

Paginated Reports Visual (Preview)

The highlight in the June desktop release is the new Paginated reports visual. This visual is currently in preview mode and requires a premium dedicated workspace either through premium per user, premium sku, or embedded sku licensing.

To set up a paginated report visual, you first need a published paginated report in a premium dedicated workspace.

Next, add the paginated report visual and the fields from your dataset that you will link to your report parameters.

After that, you will connect your published paginated report to the visual and configure the parameters to the selected fields from your dataset.

Finally, add slicers or other visuals to dynamically change your parameter values and run your paginated report.

You can read more about the paginated report visual feature here.

Power BI Service Updates

Some additional feature highlights from this month are in the Power BI service.

Dataset Discoverability

Workspace admins or members will now be able to endorse a dataset and by doing so make it available to their organization through the dataset hub.

Request Access to Datasets

Building off the dataset discoverability feature, users will now be able to request access to a dataset, similar to requesting access to a sharepoint site or teams channel.

API Enhancements

There were several improvements to the Power BI API that will make it easier to automate deployment pipelines and manage your dataflows in deployment pipelines.

  • Automate deployments with new APIs and PowerShell samples (Preview)
  • Manage Dataflows in deployment pipelines (Preview)
  • Admin APIs for deployment pipelines

New Visualizations

  • Drill Down Combo Bar PRO by ZoomCharts
  • Dumbbell Bar Chart by Nova Silva
  • graphomate bubbles 2021.2
  • Zebra BI Tables 5.0
  • Zebra BI Charts 5.0

New and Updated Connectors

  • Assemble Views (new connector)
  • BQE Core (new connector)
  • SumTotal (new connector)
  • Adobe Analytics (updated connector)
  • Anaplan (updated connector)
  • Azure Databricks (updated connector)
  • Cognite Data Fusion (updated connector)
  • Dynamics 365 Business Central (updated connector)
  • FactSet Analytics (updated connector)
  • Google BigQuery (updated connector)
  • Starburst Enterprise (updated connector)
  • Vessel Insight (updated connector)
  • Workplace Analytics (updated connector)
  • Snowflake (updated connector)
  • Azure Consumption Insights (connector deprecated)

Power BI Features (May 2021 Update)

Modern Visual Tooltips (Preview)

In my opinion, this is the most impactful new feature from the May update. Instead of right-clicking on your visual to open the tooltip, the tips become available simply by hovering over your data points in those visuals. You are then able to see your tool-tip or navigate to the drill-through pages you have set up. You can also change the styling and formatting of the tooltip pane in the customize theme pane in Power BI desktop.

Currently, drill actions are not available in the modern tooltip for the following scenarios:

  • Report page tooltips
  • AppSource visuals (Custom visuals)
  • Matrix visuals
  • Line charts
  • Area charts
  • Stacked area charts
  • Decomposition tree

Features Now Generally Available:

  • Small multiples – Now on by default
  • New field list in the model view
  • Smart narratives
  • Anomaly detection

Support for Removing the Sensitivity Label in Desktop

For those organizations taking advantage of M365 sensitivity labels, you can now edit those in Power BI Desktop. Previously, you could apply them to your Power BI Desktop files, but you couldn’t remove them once they had been applied. Now they’ve added the functionality of removing them, so you don’t always have to do that through the online service.

Q&A Now Supports DirectQuery for Power BI Datasets and Azure Analysis Services

Organizations taking advantage of the Machine Learning Q&A visual and data modeling feature can now use it with DirectQuery connections.

New Visualizations

  • ADWISE roadmap v2.0​
  • Bubble chart by Akvelon​
  • Cycle Plot by Nova Silva​
  • Drill Down Donut PRO by ZoomCharts​
  • Drill Down Map PRO by ZoomCharts​
  • Drill Down Pie PRO by ZoomCharts​
  • graphomate charts 2021.2​
  • graphomate matrix 2021.2

New and Updated Connectors

  • New Connector: EQuIS​
  • Connector Update: Automation Anywhere​
  • Connector Update: Vena​
  • Connector Update: Azure Databricks​
  • Connector Update: Amazon Redshift​
  • Connector Update: Vertica​
  • Connector Deprecation: Microsoft Graph Security

Quick Create Reports From A SharePoint List

This feature lets you quickly create reports from a SharePoint list view on a SharePoint site. It works similarly to how you can use the “Get quick insights” feature against a Power BI dataset. It will make creating reports from SharePoint data much easier.

Additional announcements about new features and roadmap enhancements were announced in the Microsoft Business Applications Summit rather than in the Power BI update. Keep watching our blogs to get updates and insights related to those new features in the future.

Power BI Features (April 2021 Update)

Power Automate for Power BI (preview)

This is an excellent feature release that incorporates more of the Power platform directly within Power BI. If you have built Power Apps and integrated them with your Power BI datasets, now you can integrate the flows you make with Power Automate. Doing so will turn your flows into a button on your report that users can click to trigger the actions you have defined in that flow.

This new visual is only in preview mode right now and needs to be imported from the AppSource store.

Read more about this announcement of this new visualization here.

power bi power automate

Small Multiples Enhancements (preview)

Some additional formatting options have been released in preview for small multiples. It now supports padding controls and is enabled in the combo chart visualization.

power bi small multiples enhancements

New and Improved Shapes

PowerPoint continues to be more integrated into Power BI Desktop. Microsoft has released new shape designs that you can create and use to format your page layout backgrounds within Power BI Desktop.

Invert Access and Continuous Access Sorting

You can now invert your value axis on Power BI line, bar, column, area, and combo chart visuals.

DAX Enhancements: Many-to-Many and IF and SWITCH Function Improvements

CROSSFILTER now supports many-to-many relationships, and there have been performance improvements to IF and SWITCH functions. You may see performance improvements in certain situations when using those DAX functions.

New Visualizations and Connectors

Microsoft Charticulator Visual – Previously, this was a third-party tool that you had to use outside of Power BI Desktop. Now you can download it from the AppSource store and integrate it directly into Power BI Desktop as a custom visual. This tool lets you create custom visualizations that are not in AppSource, are not in your standard visualization menu, and still don’t require any code in the background. You can use Python or R scripts to create custom visuals and import those into your reports, but the Charticulator visual gives you a drag and drop interface to create them.

  • Cycle Plot
  • Graphomate Charts
  • accoPLANNING
  • LegendMap
  • Financial Reporting Matrix – Profitbase
  • Merged Bar Chart – Nova Silva
  • Bloomberg Data connector
  • SoftOne BI connector
  • Text/CSV By Example (generally available)
  • Automatic Table Detection from Excel files (generally available)
  • Automatic Table Detection from JSON files (generally available)

Easy Report Sharing via Links

If you are using other Microsoft 365 applications, then you may be familiar with the sharing options for files where you can select the security and type of link you want to create. That functionality is now available for Power BI Desktop files. Previously, you could only grant direct access to your reports. Now reports can be shared via links in addition to direct access sharing.

Deployment Pipelines

There are some new capabilities available for deployment pipelines – specifically around paginated reports and data protection labels. You can read more about the new deployment pipeline support here.

Enhancements to Sensitivity Labels

Microsoft has updated where sensitivity labels are included in Power BI. Now you can manage those labels and pull that metadata out using the Power BI admin API. Embedded sensitivity labels in Power BI are now generally available. You can now secure the full data journey from Azure to Office. Also included is an Admin API to Set and Remove labels in Power BI.

You can read about the full April feature release here.

Power BI Features (March 2021 Update)

Advanced Data Selection in Azure Maps Visual

There is a new selection control option available for the Azure maps visual. Report consumers will now have four ways to interact with data on the map.

  • Range selection
  • Radial
  • Polygon
  • Radial and box

X axis constant line for line charts

There is now an option to add a X axis constant line in the analytics pane. This option will only show for continuous type data.

DAX function updates

There is a new DAX function IF.EAGER(). This function behaves similar to the IF() function but may have a difference performance based on how it is evaluated in the performance engine.

Calculate filters are now easier to use. You can now include multiple filter conditions from the same table without needing to explicitly write two or more filter statements.

New visualizations and connectors

  • SMART KPI List by Nova Silva
  • Comparison Chart
  • Combo Bar PRO Visual
  • Kerberos-based SSO for Denodo

Windows 7 depreciation

Power BI desktop has stopped supporting Windows 7 as of January 31st, 2021. It is now only supported with Windows 8.1 or newer.

External tools menu is generally available

The external tools integration is now generally available. Read here for a list of fully supported operations.

You can read about the full March feature release here.

Power BI Features (February 2021 Update)

DirectQuery and Creating Composite Models for Power BI Datasets and Azure Analysis Services (preview)

You can now delete your DirectQuery connections to Power BI datasets and Azure Analysis Services. You can do this by navigating to the Data Source settings in the Transform data button on your home ribbon.

Search Bar

There is now a global search bar available in Power BI desktop. This search bar adds common functionality seen in other O365 applications and includes suggested actions and recent files in the dropdown menu.

power bi search bar results

Color Picker

The color picker has been updated to include RGB values in addition to HEX values when choosing colors.

New Visualizations and Connectors

  • Shielded HTML Viewer by Nova Silva
  • Zebra BI Tables (version 4.5)
  • Zebra BI Charts (version 4.5)
  • ValQ 2.0 Released with Connected and Collaborative Planning Features
  • Drill Down Combo PRO by ZoomCharts
  • New Teams Analytics Connector
  • Snowflake: Support for Custom Roles
  • Parquet Files: Connector Available in Power BI Desktop
  • Hive LLAP: Support for Windows Authentication
  • Salesforce: API Update
  • SAP HANA and BW: New Documentation

You can read about the full February feature release here.

Power BI Features (January 2021 Update)

There was not a Power BI desktop release for January.

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