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The July 2017 Power BI Desktop updates, including new table and matrix visuals
Part seven of a seven-part series of blogs

This is a bigger update than usual, with the highlight undoubtedly being the official roll-out of the much-trailed new table and matrix visuals.

  1. Updates to Power BI Desktop - July 2017
  2. New table and matrix visuals
  3. Renaming fields - at last!
  4. Incorporating custom visuals within Power BI Desktop
  5. Relative date slicers and filters
  6. Responsive visuals which adapt to your screen size
  7. Breakdown option in waterfall charts (this blog)

For a cumulative list of all of the updates to Power BI Desktop since November 2016 see this blog, or have a look at the Power BI courses that we run.

Posted by Andy Brown on 13 July 2017

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Breakdown option in waterfall charts

This is described as a new option for a waterfall chart, but IMHO it's a completely different chart type. 

The legacy waterfall chart

Consider the following waterfall chart:

Waterfall chart

This shows how the final total sales were reached, year by year (had there been any negative contributions - years in which sales fell - these would have appeared in red).

The breakdown feature allows you to see the composition of the increase or decrease in sales between each pair of years, as the following example shows.

Setting a breakdown option

Suppose that we want to see which region contributes the most to each inter-year increase in sales:

Adding a breakdown field

Drag the field whose contribution you want to show into the Breakdown area of the field well.


Here's what you get initially:

South-East region contribution

The highlighted bar shows the contribution of the South-East region to the total 2011-2012 sales increase.

What the chart above shows is that to get from the 2011 sales figure (7,192) to the 2012 sales figure (12,580) required the following contributions, listed in size order:

Region 2011 sales 2012 sales
South-East 1,678 3,334
All other regions 1,594 2,834
North-West 1,384 2,094
Yorkshire & Humberside 750 1,047
London 875 1,469
West Midlands 911 1,432

The South-East region figure for 2012 was 99.28% bigger than the same figure for 2011.

Power BI Desktop will pick out the 5 largest contributors for each inter-year gap (although often one of these will be "all other categories", which by default always appears in yellow).

Changing the number of categories shown

Showing the 5 biggest contributors in our chart made it quite wide.  You can change this number as follows:

Breakdown maximum

In the Breakdown category of the Formatting toolbar, change the maximum number of breakdown categories. 


Here's the start of the chart for the setting above:

Chart for 3 breakdowns

Power BI will always show one more category than the number you choose.


Is this a useful chart?  I have my doubts - it's a lot of information for a humble human to take in in one go!

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