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Posted by Andy Brown on 22 December 2020
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Power BI Desktop update - December 2020
This blog is about a preview feature. This was released into the release version of Power BI Desktop in July 2021 - you can see my updated blog (which supersedes this one) here.
So there is an official update this month, but the trouble is that there's nothing in it worth writing about! So I'm going to break my rule and blog about a feature just announced in preview instead - small multiples:
A strange name for an excellent feature - here I'm showing average price by region in a 3 x 3 grid, with each graph showing data for a different region.
Wonder if I'm the only person who remembers that this feature was part of the (otherwise awful) Power View add-in in Excel 2010 and 2013, before Microsoft mercifully killed it off?
Enabling small multiples
Since at the time of writing this feature is in preview, you'll need to enable it first. To do this, go into the Options menu:
From the Power BI Desktop File menu choose this option.
Then enable Small multiples:
Tick this box on the Preview features tab.
After doing this you'll need to restart Power BI to enable this new feature.
Creating a small multiples chart
To begin to create a small multiples chart, you'll first need to create a normal bar, column, line or area chart:
I've made this chart quite big, as I need to fit 3 mini-charts in each row and 3 in each column within this outline.
We want to show one chart per region, so drag the RegionName field into the new Small multiples area of the field well:
As soon as you have a field in the Small multiples section, Power BI will show charts in a two-dimensional grid, with one chart for each dimension value.
You should now say how many rows and columns you want:
Here we've gone for 3 rows and 3 columns, knowing that there are 9 regions in total (if there are more dimension values than rows/columns, Power BI will scroll bars).
Formatting each chart's title
The small multiple chart titles are shown below:
Each mini-chart has its own title.
You can format these using this card:
You can change the position, alignment, colour and font size of the small multiple titles, but that's about all.
The position can be either Top or Bottom. In retrospect I wish I'd positioned my mini-chart titles below each chart; I think they look better like that!
Sorting small multiples
By default my chart is showing the regions in alphabetical order (left to right and top to bottom), but I can change this:
There's a new sort option available from the visual header.
Visual interactions behave as you would like and expect them to. For example, you can click on a mini-chart title to filter by that dimension value:
If you click on the North region mini-chart, Power BI will filter other visuals to show only data for the selected region.
Alternatively, if you click on a category in a mini-chart Power BI will show only data for that category:
Here the mini-charts are showing data for the selected habitat (Land), as will all other interacting visuals on the same page.
Because this feature is still in preview it still has a number of limitations, my favourite of which is this one:
This raises so many questions!
Microsoft have published a road map of future improvements, so it seems likely that this exciting new feature will improve rapidly over the coming months, both before and after it emerges from preview.