Power BI Update Herds Its Analytics Options

Microsoft gathers Power BI Desktop's analytics features into a handy new pane and adds new data connectors in the latest update.

Power BI

Instead of digging into menus in search of the right tools and options, Microsoft wants users of its Power BI Desktop software to explore their business data and unearth insights faster by grouping the application's analytics capabilities into a single, easy-to-find place.

"With this release, we have added a new analytics pane, which will be the new central location for all analytical features," wrote Microsoft Program Manager Amanda Cofsky in a blog post detailing the August 2016 Power BI Desktop update. "You can find this pane next to the formatting pane when you have a visual selected."

Microsoft is getting the ball rolling by transitioning some existing analytics features to the new pane and adding a new one. "With this first release we focused on adding dynamic reference lines and moved trend lines and reference lines to their new home in this pane, but you should expect to see more features in the coming months," added Cofsky.

The August update also includes several new features that enable new ways to view data in the Power BI's Report View. The Drill function now works on line charts in addition to bar charts, allowing users to explore hierarchical data. In line charts, the date axis now remains continuous by default as users move through the different layers of their data-based data.

The inline hierarchy feature is now generally available, announced Cofsky. Also new is the ability to change the order of fields in charts and tooltips, predefined matrix styles and new color formatting options for the KPI (key performance indicators) visual. Users now have the option to spin out a Merge or Append operation as a new query (versus a new step in a current query). An improved auto-recovery function for desktop files enables users to resume their unsaved work in case Power BI crashes.

Another month brings another handful of data connectors. Power BI can now use Snowflake cloud-native big data warehouse as a data source. Microsoft also added DirectQuery Support to the previously released Impala connector and enhanced its Web connector with a new preview mode that helps users hone in on tables within a webpage from which they want to import data. Finally, the SAP Business Warehouse (BW) connector has left the preview phase and is now generally available, Cofsky said.

For Surface Hub users, Microsoft this week announced a new presentation mode in the Power BI app that helps users make the most out of the digital whiteboard's expansive on-screen real estate. When entering this mode, the app displays a minimized menu to focus a viewer's attention to the data contained within a report.

"The new full screen view for reports clears all the background noise and focuses your audience's attention on the numbers," said Microsoft Power BI Program Manager Romi Koifman in an Aug. 25 announcement. "Once you enter this mode on your report, we'll hide all navigation and menu bars from the screen." The app also features a new action bar that appears on the sides of the screen and provides quick access to the Surface Hub's stylus-based digital inking capabilities.

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...