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What’s new in Power BI?

Microsoft took care that December release covers plenty of interesting features like sparklines, hybrid tables and more!

1. Try Sparklines! (Preview)

Microsoft listened to the voice of Power BI Community and announced release of Sparklines, one of popular feature requests. Sparklines are small charts inside a Table or Matrix assigned to each cell. Main purpose is to show trend in series of values, highlight minimum or maximum values, capture seasonality.

Fig. 1. Matrix sparklines

As Sparklines are a preview, first make sure that feature is turned on.

Fig. 2. Preview features box

To add Sparklines to Table or Matrix right click on one of Values fields and select Add a Sparkline.

Fig. 3. Formatting pane: Adding a sparkline

New window will appear. On y-axis you will see measure that you selected from Values. To add trend line you need to select x-axis value, to see trend over time select date column. After that click Create.

Fig. 4. Sparkline settings

To edit Sparklines settings you can right click on the field that appeared in Value’s context menu.

Fig. 5. Sparkline in Values Fields

In formatting pane in the Sparklines section you can modify or adjust properties according to your needs by selecting colors, adding markers or changing marker size.

Fig. 6. Formatting pane: Sparklines section.

Fig. 7. Matrix sparklines with max marker.

It is also possible to change the chart type.

Fig. 8. Chart type settings

Fig. 9. Matrix sparklines: column chart type

Currently up to five sparklines are supported by Power BI with 52 points per sparkline. Due to impact on performance, maximum number of columns in the matrix is also limited to 20. Sparklines are not supported in any on-prem SSAS. Microsoft promises that Sparklines will work with future SSAS releases.

2. High performance or real time data? Both! Thanks to Hybrid Tables in Power BI Premium (Preview).

Up until now, report developers had to decide between query performance and real-time analysis. On the one hand import mode provides the best performance but short intervals of refreshes miss the point. On the other hand DirectQuery mode allows to query in a real-time but it has negative impact on performance. After Incremental Refresh Microsoft took step further and combined the best assets of both modes and introduced Hybrid Tables in Power BI Premium. Now developers can take advantage of the performance of VertiPaq in-memory caches and use capabilities of DirectQuery at the same time. Hybrid Table is a table with import partition (or partitions) and additional partition in DirectQuery mode. If the DirectQuery partition is relatively small the query response will be efficient.

Tab. 1. Hybrid Table schema.

To configure an incremental refresh and real-time policy right click on the selected table and select ‘Incremental refresh’.

Fig. 10. Incremental refresh settings.

3. New sharing experience: Include my changes.

The Include my changes feature allows to share the report after any changes from the below list:

  • Filters (filter pane or URL filters)

  • Slicers

  • Personalize visuals

  • Cross-filtering or cross-highlighting

  • Drill down or drill up

  • Applied bookmark

  • Spotlight

To use that feature make sure that option Include my changes is selected while you are sharing the report.

Fig. 11. Include my changes setting.

December release gives us a taste of game changing concepts. Hybrid tables preview provides a real-time data and keeps performance at a high level at the same time. We are looking forward to having it as a fully fledged Power BI feature.

The full list of December features is available on Microsoft blog.

Zuzanna Krawczyk

Business Intelligence Consultant

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