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Updates to Power BI Desktop - February 2022
Part two of a four-part series of blogs
The February update enables the big new formatting pane in Power BI by default, as well as introducing changes to mobile view and multi-row cards.
Microsoft have redesigned every single formatting card! I'll use this pie chart as an example to illustrate the changes (because after all, everyone loves a pie chart - don't they?):
A formatted pie chart.
When you click on a visual (or page), the format icon is above the visualisations palette, not below it:
When you click on the new formatting icon, the visualisations pane sensibly disappears, to give Power BI more room to display formatting cards.
The new formatting toolbar is still in preview, but is (allegedly) turned on by default - hence my reason for including it in this blog:
I say allegedly because on my version of Power BI for some reason I still had to tick the box shown in File -> Options and settings -> Options.
When you first go into Power BI after the new update is installed, you should see this card:
Again, I only saw this message after I manually enabled the preview feature.
I've summarised the main changes for the new formatting cards below, under different headings.
The new changes are excellent and well-thought-out, but spare a thought for the poor Wise Owl courseware author: almost every page of every one of our Power BI manuals (and almost every Power BI exercise too) will now need rewriting! We aim to get this done within a week or two of this new update coming out.
If you look at the formatting properties of our pie chart (or any other visual), they're divided into two parts:
|Specific to this visual||General for all visuals|
So every visual has got a title, background colour and border (hidden in the Effects category above), but only some visuals have legends, slices, detail labels and rotation.
This means that if you're looking for a visual's title, for example, it will always be on the General tab, making properties easier to find.
Formatting cards are divided into categories:
Here's what you see for our pie chart's legend, for example.
You can expand or collapse any category:
If you click on the arrow shown next to a pie chart's legend's Text subcategory card, you'll see its properties.
You can easily choose to show all of the categories for a visual (or subcategories for a category) by right-clicking:
Choosing this option would show all of the subcategories for the Legend card, but wouldn't affect any other cards.
Properties like fonts are easier to use than before:
You can see all of the font properties in theis card, without needing to click.
Also, on/off properties have been redesigned to take up less room:
I thought the old ones looked a bit nicer, but I can see that they took up more room.
If a card or property could exist, but would not be applicable for the current visual, it's often shown greyed out:
This visual could have small multiples, but for some reason you can't apply them as things stand.
Above all, there are no more double scrollbars!
When you expand an axis title, the scroll bar automatically extends to accommodate the new subcategory properties uncovered.
Using the tiny double scroll bars for axis titles required advanced mouse skills, and we are glad to see the back of them!
Microsoft have taken advantage of the introduction of a new formatting pane to redesign all of the formatting cards in Power BI (they were getting a bit unwieldy, having grown piecemeal over time as new features were rolled out). Here's one example for a page's format properties:
|Before ...||... and after|
This is typical: some things have been renamed and moved, while other properties are unaffected.
I've found that all of the changes made are sensible, and it doesn't take long at all to get used to the new formatting cards.
It's the little things ...
If you search for properties containing a given string of text, Power BI will highlight the characters that you searched for in yellow in any results.
It's now easier to choose which properties apply to which parts of a visual. Here are two examples:
|Button state||Data series|
The example on the left shows how you can choose which action button state you're formatting, while the one on the right shows how you can choose which data series you're formatting.
Microsoft are to be commended for taking a step back from the Power BI formatting cards, which were beginning to get messy and unwieldy, and redesigning them to be much easier to use. Just a shame we now have to change all our manuals and exercises!
Watch out for missing properties and cards. I've been using the preview version for a while and found two or three cases where it wasn't possible to do something because the necessary property hadn't been exposed. I suspect these problems will all have been ironed out now, but a few visuals (such as decomposition trees and the Power Automate visual) don't yet fully support the new formatting look-and-feel.
|Parts of this blog|
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