Microsoft's Power BI Starts 2016 With Excel-Friendly Updates

Microsoft introduces more ways of working with Excel data along with new collaboration, alerting and printing capabilities.

business intelligence

Power BI is offering users returning from their holiday breaks several new data exploration features, courtesy of a set of new updates Microsoft issued for its cloud-based business intelligence software.

In the new year, user can export tile data—Power BI groups visualization and data points into a configurable tiled interface—into a .CSV file that can be used in Excel and other applications. Filtered visualizations will export the filtered versions of the underlying data when exported.

Building on the ability to pin Excel ranges into a Power BI dashboard, Microsoft has now enabled similar functionality for complete Excel charts. Other enhancements include formatting options for Excel-based tiles and editing Excel Reports using the spreadsheet client app, in addition to the company's browser-based Excel Online offering.

To improve collaboration, users can now add images and text directly onto their dashboards before sharing them. "You used to have to add the text or image to a report and then pin it to a dashboard. Now you can add an image or text box 'widget' directly to a dashboard," blogged the Microsoft Power BI team in a Jan. 6 posting. "This widget is a tile on a dashboard that exists on its own. It doesn't point to any report or dataset."

Shared dashboards now display a notification in the recipient's workspace. Power BI also displays the contact information of a shared or organizational dashboard's owner.

"To see the details about the owner of a shared dashboard or an organizational content pack, select the ellipsis (...) next to the shared dashboard in your navigation pane," instructed the Power BI team. "Selecting the email address of the owner will open up a blank email in your default email client."

Power BI tiles can now be set to display their refresh times. "Having the refresh time on a tile is important because it lets dashboard viewers know exactly how fresh the data is, and reassures them that the dashboard is still running," they said. Tiles also gain the tooltip functionality found in Power BI reports.

Microsoft is also making it easier to turn the pixels that make up Power BI visualizations into paper printouts.

Though tablets and smartphones have helped obviate the need to carry around stacks of physical business documents, Microsoft asserts that there's still a place for paper handouts, or at least a print to PDF option. "Over the holidays, we added the ability to print dashboards. With this feature, you can now print your creation to take to meetings, use as handouts for clients or stakeholders outside your organization, or print to pdf to attach to emails," stated the Power BI group.

A new content pack for Lithium Technologies' social customer experience platform now allows brand managers and online marketers to use Power BI now track their efforts. "The Lithium content pack for Power BI allows you to gain insight into key measures of community performance, such as messages posted, questions solved and your most active users," wrote Theresa Palmer, a Microsoft Power BI program manager, in an online overview of the new offering.

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...