Microsoft Invites Developers to Power BI's Expanded Playground

Microsoft adds new interactive experiences to the Playground tool, allowing developers to explore the features they can add to their Power BI-enabled apps without touching code.

Power BI

Microsoft is letting Power BI developers take the application's data visualizations out for a spin before they embed them into their applications.

Trial and error is an integral and formative part of every developer's journey. While experimentation can yield great results, businesses oftentimes prefer that those results arrive sooner rather than later.

With the interactive Playground tool, developers can test the business intelligence suite's embedded analytics capabilities and learn how to customize reports and dashboards for their users before they write a lick of code. The tool allows users to explore Power BI's APIs and instantly see how they function. A section devoted to documentation guides developers on adding visualizations to their applications.

Now, with the newly launched Showcase area, developers can go beyond the basics and evaluate Power BI's latest embedding features. Currently, two new interactive showcases are available.

The Dynamic Report Layout allows developers to learn about Power BI's custom layout API and create embedded views with select visualizations arranged into one to three columns. The Capture and Share Bookmarks showcase demonstrates how the bookmarks API can be used to dynamically create bookmarks that allow users to quickly return to insights they uncover using Power BI's filtering capabilities without retracing steps and sharing those insights with colleagues.

In both cases, Playground offers users links to related online documentation and sample code hosted on GitHub, which Microsoft snapped up for $7.5 billion in stock in June.

For organizations looking for added control over how their embedded Power BI dashboards are rendered in their applications, Microsoft has added the ability to include themes.

Like report themes, dashboard themes allow developers to tailor the experience to their needs, like carrying the colors used in a company's branding into their visualizations or switching the stock white background to a darker color. Users can select from Light, Dark and Color-blind friendly themes, or create their own.

JavaScript (JS) coders can offer their users more ways of exploring Power BI data with Slicers. Serving as a data filtering tool, slicers allow users to narrow the scope of a larger dataset for more granular or focused results.

"While the Filters API has been available in JS SDK, we now offer Slicers API to give developers full control on the interactivity and drilling capabilities for end users," blogged Nimrod Shalit, a Power BI program manager at Microsoft.

"The API allows you to get the slicer's current settings or apply a new filter on the slicer," he continued. "The API can be used at any time during the user's session, including upon report load." Although the API supports both native and custom slicers, developers hoping to work with custom slicers will have to wait a little longer while Microsoft rolls out the update during the next two weeks.

Also, developers who consult the documentation for Power BI REST APIs will have to adapt to the new way Microsoft is providing it.

In addition to a new online home, Shalit revealed that the new documentation is automatically generated from Swagger, which contains a resource list on each API. Although it may take some getting used to, the new approach gives developers the most up-to-date information available, he assured.

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 network of...