New Power BI Desktop (fka Power BI Designer)

(A re-engineered tool with a new Visualizations engine)

Power BI Desktop is the tool that replaces the Power BI Designer –  in short, it’s the new and optimized version of the Power BI Designer that comes with new features, new integrations and even a completely new take when it comes to the Microsoft policies as they are going open source with their Visualization engine.

Here’s a quick blog post of all the new things that you’ll encounter in this new tool.

A completely rebranded tool

Yes! this looks and feels like the Power BI service that we see online – It even has the new black and yellow coloring all over the place as well as the new Power BI logo. Thanks to this, we now see a more unified representation of how the overall product looks like and how it has close parity to what the service offers.

New Data Sources Supported

The Power Query engine has also been improved and with it comes new Data Sources that were only available through the Power BI SaaS Content Packs.

More will be sure to come!

Direct – Live Connection with SSAS Tabular

If you have a SSAS Tabular Model, then you’ll love this. Your users can now take advantage of your Tabular Model using Power BI Desktop and then publishing those reports to the Service. The connection will remain LIVE! by installing the Analysis Services Connector on-premise.

Read more about the Analysis Services Connector here.

New Data & Relationships Tabs for Data Modeling

If you prefer to load the Data into the Power BI Desktop and then creating a Data Model with it, you can do so. Note that all data will be imported using Power Query so you can take advantage of this tool and shape the data however you want.

Once the data is loaded, 2 new tabs will become available to you.  The first one is the ‘Data’ Tab that you can see in the image below:

(Data Tab)

If you’ve ever used Power Pivot or Tabular then this will feel just like home to you. As you can see, you can add new columns, measures, categorize data, format data, search fields on the fields pane on the right, and more.

There’s also something really cool about this version and is that when you select a column you’ll get a bunch of info about that column and the data that resides in it. You can check the info in the info bar at the bottom of the window.

The other tab that you’ll see is the Relationships Tab that basically shows you a Diagram view of all the tables that you have in your Data Model. In here, you can take care of all your tables and hide the tables or hide the fields that you don’t need as well as taking care of the relationships.

(Relationships Tab)

Insert Text Box and Images

These features were available in Power View for Excel 2013 and SharePoint, but no in the Power BI Designer. They are now available in the Power BI Desktop.

(Image and Text box in Power BI Desktop)

New Open Source Visualizations Engine

This is the BIG news – Microsoft is going Open Source with their visualizations engine and using D3.JS (Basically a framework based on SVG, HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript) combined with their own framework to provide rich visuals.

You can visit the 3D.Js website here and also visit the Power BI GitHub to get more information on how to create your own visualizations using the framework.

You can find detail information about the new visuals available for the Power BI Desktop on the official Power BI site and request help or more information using the new Power BI Community site. I encourage you to try the new visuals as they are quite straight-forward and easy to try.

Here’s a big overview of the major benefits that you get with this new visualizations engine.

You now have more control over your visuals as well!

YES! finally you can change the color to your charts, add data labels, axis controls and more.

(use your own colors, add data labels or turn them off and much more!)

The true Power BI of Open Source: Create custom visuals

The true Power BI is that you can now create your own visualizations using the Framework provided by the Power BI team. Check out Power BI GitHub to get more information. Below we have a tweet that shows one of the visualizations that you can create using the new framework and how it’ll render on the web.

New Color Saturation (a type of Conditional Formatting)

We even have a completely new feature. This one is called Color Saturation and it basically gives you conditional formatting to some charts. It can be based on just 1 color, with color degradation from min to max, or multicolor of up to 3 colors (min, center and max).

They can all be controlled using the same measure that you used in the chart or a completely new measure. Here’s a couple of examples of this feature:

(color degradation with 3 colors)

(KPI Like color coded bars based on a measure)

New One-Click Publish to Power BI Online

As Microsoft tries to make everything easier and more accessible, they create a new one-click button where you can simply publish your Power BI Desktop file (and its reports) directly in the Service all in the comfort of your Power BI Desktop Client. In the past, you’d have to save your file with the .pbix extension, manually go into the website and then add the file to your OneDrive or directly to the Service as a local file.

(Button inside the Power BI Desktop)

(button that will be available in Excel 2016)

Improved Mobile Experience

Since Power BI will now run in a new viz engine, the native apps will be upgraded as well to support this new engine which should represent a better mobile experience. Here’s a quick gif of how the iPhone app currently supports these new visualizations.


Microsoft is making a huge move and to the best. Making their framework available to developers will sure pay-off since completely new visuals can be created upon demand and not limited to the set that the service or the tool provides out-of-the-box.

More improvements will be released during the coming months which puts Microsoft Partners and Power BI enthusiasts on a rapid learning curve to digest all this new content and be able to pass the message to clients and users. The good thing is that these are amazing new features and changes! some of them are game-changers that work on top of engines that we already know and love like Power Query and Power Pivot.

If you haven’t tried Power BI yet, be sure to check it out. It’s FREE!

Try Power BI for FREE!

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