Power BI Desktop gets October update - here's all that's new

Microsoft's update last month for Power BI Desktop brought new default themes, performance improvements for multi-dimensional and DirectQuery models, and plenty more. Later in the same month, the tech giant released a new version for Power BI on-premises data gateway, bringing it more in line with the changes introduced to the desktop version.

Now, Microsoft has unveiled a feature summary for the October update to Power BI Desktop. The highlights this month include automatic page refreshing for DirectQuery, a complete Q&A revamp, general availability for some new connectors, and the introduction of Query Diagnostics. There are also a bunch of other updates having to do with new visuals, a new file format, and performance improvements.

The complete list of new features below offers an overview of all that is new this month:

  • Reporting
    • Automatic page refresh for DirectQuery (preview)
  • Analytics
    • The new Q&A visual
    • Improved user experience for Q&A
      • Improved drop-down control
      • Red/Blue underlines
      • Improved visual results
    • Natural Language improvements for Q&A
      • Integration with office/Bing thesaurus
      • Support for measure tables & better handling of table names and ambiguity
      • Row label and synonyms support inside Modelling pane
    • Q&A tooling (Preview)
      • Review questions
      • Teach Q&A
      • Review all changes made
    • Support for SSAS and Azure AS including RLS
  • Visualizations
    • PowerApps visual is now included by default
    • New xViz visuals
      • Hierarchical Variance Table
      • Linear Gauge
      • Tag Cloud
  • Data connectivity
    • Sagra Emigo connector generally available
    • Azure Cost Management connector updated
    • New Workplace Analytics connector
  • Data Preparation
    • Query diagnostics
    • Data profiling enhancements
  • Template Apps
    • Project Web App
  • Other
    • New file format: .pbids
    • Performance improvements for modeling operations

For those interested in checking out some of the major new features in a bit more detail, the video below has been provided:

Microsoft has also continued its tradition of recommending recently released template apps, a process that began with the August update for the desktop variant of the service. Last month, the featured one was "Google Analytics report". This month, the Power BI team has highlighted Microsoft's own "Project Web App" which focuses on the visualization of reports. Built using the Project Web App data connector, the report model particularly targets project, portfolio, and resource managers. It contains 13 report pages for this purpose, supporting various management needs. You can download the template app here, and install it directly in the Power BI service, setting its parameters to your PWA website URL.

As far as performance improvements to Power BI Desktop are concerned, the Analysis Service engine has been enhanced to speed up modeling operations - which include the adding of measures, creating of relationship operations, and more -, as long as certain conditions are met. Up to 20x performance improvements have been noted during testing, though of course, the actual improvements may significantly vary based on the type of model and operations being performed.

You can download the latest version of Power BI Desktop here, and vote for more features you would like to see for the desktop variant of the data analytics service here.

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