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Power BI Desktop update for May 2021
Part four of a six-part series of blogs

May's update to Power BI Desktop is a big one, encompassing new ways of viewing models, tables and fields, a new text box, smart narratives (to explain data) and a new anomaly detection feature (to explain exceptions).

  1. Power BI Desktop update for May 2021
  2. A new model view
  3. Standardised table and field lists across Power BI views
  4. New text boxes (this blog)
  5. Smart Narratives
  6. Automatic detection of anomalies

We've been creating our idiosyncratic monthly blogs on Power BI updates since November 2016, and also deliver online and classroom Power BI courses.

Posted by Andy Brown on 19 May 2021

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New text boxes

This feature wasn't announced separately in Microsoft's monthly update blog (instead the new text box was quietly introduced to support the new smart narratives feature).  Here's what Power BI text boxes now look like:

New text boxes

The text box menu has changed, and (as the rest of this page will show) you can now display dynamic values in text boxes too.

The most irritating feature of text boxes hasn't changed, sadly: to change the format of text, you still have to click and drag to select it (unlike in just about every other Microsoft application, it's not sufficient just to click on the edge of a text box to select its text).

Adding values to text boxes

Strangely, you can now ask Power BI to show dynamic values in a text box at a particular position:

Adding a value

Click on the Value button shown to display a new value.


You can then use a combination of field names, functions, guesswork and responding to prompts to build up a formula:

Total quantity sold

Here I want to show the total quantity sold for all regions.


Below I've formatted my number, and given it a name (Total sales):

New value

The new value I've created.

The result looks seamless:

Quantity bought text box

The resulting figure appears within the text in the text box.


Values are dynamic

When you add a value to a text box, you are actually inserting a dynamic formula:

Dynamic value

The total is now showing as 4,777 because you've clicked on the North region column in the chart.

If a card visual and a Q&A visual met in a night-club and ended up having a love-child, the new text box might be the result!

Reviewing (editing) values

You can show, edit and add to your list of values as follows:

Reviewing values

Click on the Review tab to look at the values displayed in a text box.


You can now click on any value to change its definition or appearance:

Changing a value

Here we're only showing one value for the text box.

Values are local to a text box: you can't refer to a value created for one text box in a different one.

Microsoft have invested a lot of money in making it possible to create formulae in Q&A visuals without writing any DAX, and have obviously decided to carry this functionality into a text box.  I think DAX programmers' jobs are still secure for now, though!

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