Microsoft Power BI Desktop Gains Linguistics Capabilities

Users can now import, export and edit linguistic schema YAML files that help Power BI's Q&A feature arrive at the right answers.

Power BI

The Q&A feature in Microsoft's Power BI allows users to find answers and gather insights by posing questions using plain language. It can come in handy, but Microsoft is betting that it can do a better job with some help in the linguistics department.

In the April update for Power BI Desktop, the client software used to create reports on the cloud-backed business intelligence and business analytics platform, Microsoft has added the ability to import and export linguistic schema files. This allow users to enhance Q&A's ability to find the desired answers by expressly linking certain grammatical elements to a corresponding column of data, stated Will Thompson, a Microsoft Power BI program manager, in an April 10 announcement.

"For instance, you state the columns that are the subject and the object of the verb. Q&A uses all this information together with any enhancements that you make to provide a better answer, auto completion, and summary of the questions," Thompson wrote.

While editing linguistic schema YAML files, Microsoft recommends that users include phrases to describe how a person would speak about the relationships between things using everyday terms, further refining Q&A's ability to give users the answers they seek. Adding the phrase "ages indicate how old customers are," for example, helps Power BI generate the right results when asked to create a list of the oldest customers, explained Thompson.

In April, Power BI Desktop users also gain the ability to integrate Q&A Explorer into their reports for a more tailored experience. After assigning a button, image or shape that triggers the Q&A Explorer dialog box, report authors can add suggested questions and set the feature to show entire report pages when users search for certain terms.

Organizations can now deploy and manage custom visualizations, allowing administrators to collect them into a repository and make them available to users. These visualizations show up next to the Power BI Visuals marketplace, and administrators have the option of updating them or disabling them completely.

Expanding Power BI's catalog of supported data services, Microsoft has released a connector for Dynamics 365 Business Central, formerly Dynamics 365 for Financials. The Adobe Analytics connector, fresh out of beta, allows users to gather and use data from the marketing analytics and reporting platform.

The SAP HANA connector has also been updated, enabling users to select a specific port on an SAP HANA server and solve some thorny issues.

Although users could add a port using the Server field in previous versions, skipping this step and using the default port could cause problems because the connector could not tell the difference between single- and multi-container SAP HANA servers. "With this feature enhancement, users can now specify what type of SAP HANA server they are connecting to and get an optimized port default for it, or alternatively select the Custom option to specify a different port number," blogged Amanda Cofsky, a program manager at Microsoft Power BI, solving this and other issues that may arise by not supplying the right port numbers.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of...