As this year begins to really wind down it is good to see that the Microsoft machine also appears to be having a break.
I have no doubt that in 2016 it will be full steam ahead and back into the swing of things.
And before I could finish this blog post I checked if there was any news and low and behind there is a MASSIVE update for Power BI Desktop and the Power BI Service.
I won’t lie there are so many good and improved features that put down what you are doing and read below. It will sure make your week!
So let’s get into it!
Power BI Desktop – Monthly & Service Update
Wow there is a lot of information in the blog post from Microsoft.
I am not going to go into all the details, but I will go into what I find especially great improvements or additions.
The first section with regards to the Formatting Pane & Ribbon really does have some great features. What I like is that you can now change the text size, the number of decimal places and formatting of data labels per category or report or item.
I also like the fact that you can now align your charts, reports or whichever report item that you insert. I personally know that previously this took a lot of time and effort to get this working. As well as the format painter option which means you can apply the same formatting across the entire report. Which will not only save time, but in my opinion make the reports look even more polished and professional.
In the next section with regards to the Enhancements to Visualizations they have done a lot of work. From ensuring that the visual cues are easier to see and understand. As well as improving how the data labels are displayed so that the actual charts show more meaningful information.
I see that they have snuck in another Visual, which could be used in quite a few ways to show valuable information. As well as adding the tooltips which I have already seen and used in the Power BI Service, and something very similar in the mobile app. This does make interacting with the reports and looking at the right information a lot easier and quicker.
Next is the ability to create visuals based on R scripts. I already know that the SQL Server stack is getting a lot of praise for including this in their next release. And it is really great to see it making it into Power BI also. I have no doubt that this will get a whole lot of interest with regards to R. And by the looks of things they have made it really easy to get the R scripts and information into Power BI.
In the Data Modeling area, they have once again added a lot of functionality. I like that they have added the relationship view, which means that it makes it easier to navigate when you have a large set of tables with relationships.
I am sure that there will be a lot of people will be very happy to see that SSAS Multi-dimensional is getting some love. And that now after you enable the preview feature you can now use your Hierarchies in your Power BI report. This will go a long way to get report authors to very quickly create some amazing reports.
They have also sneaked in another two connectors. Namely Stripe Connector which is for manage their online payments. And Smartsheet Connector which will allow users understand how Smartsheets is being used in the ways of workspaces, sheets, top collaborators etc…
The Enter data, was something that I possibly had thought of in the past that would be useful. For instance, you might have some reference data that you know is not going to change. And before today you would have to put it into a CSV or a table to get the data into your model. Now you can quickly do a copy and paste and your data is there. What a fantastic thing to have at your fingertips!
I see that they have made more improvements with Direct Query, which is great to see, considering that if your underlying source system will be SQL Server 2016 in the future with Column Store Indexes or In-Memory tables, this gives you the ability to have near or real time data in your reports.
Those are the details which I think are really important and valuable.
Below is the entire list of updates:
Formatting Pane & Ribbon
- Format data labels per category series
- Change number of decimal places showed in visuals
- Change text size in visuals
- Ability to lay out visuals accurately: alignment, distribute, size, position (requires Power BI Desktop for authoring)
- Set styles across multiple visuals through Format Painter (requires Power BI Desktop for authoring)
Enhancements to Visualizations
- Visuals cue for sort state in Table visual
- New Visual: Stacked Area chart
- Smart tooltips for Area and Line charts on hover
- Ability to create Reference line/region for a Cartesian visual
- Improved data labels for pie and scatter chart
- R Visuals integration in Power BI Desktop (Preview Feature)
- Suggested table to table relationships when trying to create visuals involving two tables which are not related (Power BI Desktop only)
- Optimized “Home” ribbon layout in Power BI Desktop
Data Modeling (Power BI Desktop only)
- Zooming Slider
- Fit Zoom to Screen
- Reset Layout
- Ability to Zoom in using Ctrl-Mouse selection rectangle
Data Connectivity (requires Power BI Desktop for authoring)
- SSAS Multidimensional support – Hierarchies support (Preview Feature)
- Stripe Connector
- Smartsheet Connector
- “Enter Data”: Paste or enter data to create a table
- DirectQuery Improvements: Support for all data types of T-SQL and SAP HANA, resulting in Performance improvements.
- ODBC Connector: Support for selecting User/System DSNs
- CSV Connector: Ability to specify Column Delimiter in the Source dialog
You can find the Power BI Desktop Blog update here: More Power BI Feature Updates: Power BI Desktop December Update and new Power BI service features
Excel 2016 – Add-In for Machine Learning
It is great to see that they are putting some of the Machine Learning (ML) funcationality into Excel. Which as explained as per the blog post, means that you can then take this data and very easily do sentiment analysis on your data.
Which I know can provide some very insightful information.
They have also made it really easy and simple to use. And I can hopefully see myself using this in the near future.
You can get all the details here: General Availability of Free Excel Add-In for Azure ML
Power BI – Sankey Visual
Once again this is very good and insightful visual that has been created.
It appears that it is used primarily in the energy industry but I think that it could have quite a few other uses for all different types of data.
You can find out the details and how to get it from the following blog post: Visual Awesomeness Unlocked – Sankey diagram
Power BI – Community
This is a quick blog post to let people know that there are more and more Power BI community groups popping up all over the world.
I think that this will be a great way to find like-minded people. As well as to see what other amazing things people are doing in the Power BI space.
So I suggest that you either join or create a local group.
You can find more information about it here: Microsoft Power BI Community
Power BI – Office365Mon Content Pack
This is another great and insightful content pack.
To me when using the cloud services, you often do not have a clear visibility in terms of what has been happening with your actual service that you are receiving.
This content pack gives you all that information at your fingertips.
I also have to admit in my opinion that it is really great to see that Microsoft are making this information available. To me is shows that they know that they are not perfect and that at times things do go wrong. But hopefully not every often. And this gives you a way to see if or when something happened.
You can find details about the content pack here: Analyze your Office365Mon data in Power BI