Timeline Storyteller custom visual for Power BI

Microsoft has recently introduced timeline storyteller for Power BI and you can read more about it here. If you have lots of events data, you can use it to visualize your data in a very fashionable way. Also I haven’t used the “Publish to web” feature to share any viz with general public so I decided to create a timeline story for soccer star Lionel Messi (you probably guessed by looking at my profile photo that I am a big fan of soccer.

If you haven’t used custom visual before, you have to add it to Power BI first. Click on either of 2 below buttons to add custom visual.  If you click the first one “From Store”, it will launch a new window and from there you can choose your interested custom visual and add it to your Power BI viz type panel. I think the second button “From File” will go eventually. A couple of months back, you have to go to Power BI’s custom visual page (now it’s been integrated into office store) to download custom visual and then use the “From File” button to add them. With this new “From Store” button, the Power BI team has made it simpler to add custom visual and you can do so without even leaving Power BI desktop.


Ok, enough said about custom visual. Strongly suggest you go to office store to have a look at what custom visual are there to help you better visualize your data.

Once you finish building your dashboard in Power BI desktop, you need to publish it to powerbi.com. Navigate to the relevant report page and go to “File” then choose “Publish to web”.


Then you will see below screen. The string in the second box is the code you need to embed in your html code.Capture2

Now you can head to below page to see my Lionel Messi’s timeline story.



More Ways to Add Date Dimension to your data model

This post is an extension from my last post about how to use Power Query M script to add a date dimension to your data model. you can read it here to learn more about why you need a separate date dimension table on top of the one generated internally by Power BI. This post I want to provide a couple of more options to add date table so you can pick one best suits your needs.

First option is you can use Calculated Table (to my knowledge this is only possible in Power BI desktop and you can’t create calculated table in Excel) to do this. Below is the DAX code to get you started and some sample data to show you how it looks like in Power BI desktop.

Calendar Table =
VAR Days = CALENDAR ( DATE ( 2015, 1, 1 ), TODAY() )
“Year”, YEAR ( [Date] ),
“Quarter”,SWITCH(MONTH ( [Date] ),1,”Q1″,2,”Q1″,3,”Q1″,4,”Q2″,5,”Q2″,6,”Q2″,7,”Q3″,8,”Q3″,9,”Q3″,”Q4″),
“Month Number”, MONTH ( [Date] ),
“Month”, FORMAT ( [Date], “mmmm” ),
“Year Month”, FORMAT ( [Date], “mmm yy” )


The second option, a better one is the recent contribution from Miguel Angel Escobar. Imagine if you can find a button in the “Get Data” page of Power BI desktop like below. Wow, that’s cool and very convenient.


You can find more about it from his blog post here. He gave you options to add a standard date table with both calendar and fiscal dates as well as a calendar table based on the 4-4-5, 4-5-4, and 5-4-4 patterns as shown in the above picture. Be sure to check out the comment area as well as you will find useful info from there too.

Power BI template with built in Date dimension

If you are serious about building Power BI solutions, you definitely need a Date dimension in your data model. Reza Rad had written a fantastic blog about why need this, you can find it here. Isn’t it good that you can have a template file that already has a built in Date table and you can use this as a starting point to build your data model. As you can see below, this table has all the dates from a starting date (defined by you) and up until yesterday. Plus it is dynamic so it will update as time goes by when you refresh your data model. I have built a Power BI template file so when you open it or import it you will have a built in Date table. You will find the download link at the end of this post.


If you open the query editor and go to Advanced Editor, you will see the underlining M code as below

//Create Date Dimension
(StartDate as date)=>
//Capture the date range from the parameters
StartDate = #date(Date.Year(StartDate), Date.Month(StartDate),
EndDate = Date.From(DateTime.LocalNow()),
//Get the number of dates that will be required for the table
GetDateCount = Duration.Days(EndDate – StartDate),
//Take the count of dates and turn it into a list of dates
GetDateList = List.Dates(StartDate, GetDateCount,
//Convert the list into a table
DateListToTable = Table.FromList(GetDateList,
Splitter.SplitByNothing(), {“Date”}, null, ExtraValues.Error),
//Create various date attributes from the date column
//Add Year Column
YearNumber = Table.AddColumn(DateListToTable, “Year”,
each Date.Year([Date])),
//Add Quarter Column
QuarterNumber = Table.AddColumn(YearNumber , “Quarter”,
each “Q” & Number.ToText(Date.QuarterOfYear([Date]))),
//Add Week Number Column
WeekNumber= Table.AddColumn(QuarterNumber , “Week Number”,
each Date.WeekOfYear([Date])),
//Add Month Number Column
MonthNumber = Table.AddColumn(WeekNumber, “Month Number”,
each Date.Month([Date])),
//Add Month Name Column
MonthName = Table.AddColumn(MonthNumber , “Month”,
each Date.ToText([Date],”MMMM”)),
//Add Day of Week Column
DayOfWeek = Table.AddColumn(MonthName , “Day of Week”,
each Date.ToText([Date],”dddd”))

The above M code creates a function and by invoking it after you specify a start date, you will get a nice date table for your data model. If you need additional columns such as fiscal year you can either amend the M code to add it or you can do so after loading this table into your model first. Entirely up to you.


You can download the Power BI template file here



Excel UNICHAR function is also in Power BI

Back in the old days I remember I had used Excel REPT function to hold a bar in a cell like the graph below (I can’t recall why I did this), but I am sure there is some great use of this trick out there. You can see the formula in the formula bar. You also need to set the font to Britannic Bold for this to work.

excel rept and unichar

Good news is now you can use the same trick in Power BI as well . Chris Webb has recently blogged about this. Go check it out.

The DAX Unichar() Function And How To Use It In Measures For Data Visualisation


2 great new features in Power BI April update (quick measures and add column by example)

Microsoft released Power BI April update a few days ago. I am very excited about 2 new features -quick measures and add column by example. These 2 new features are great for Power BI beginners because now you can add measures and custom columns without needing to know DAX and Power Query M language. Power BI will automatically create them for you. It’s also a great way of learning DAX and M by looking at the code generated by Power BI.

You can create a quick measure by selecting Quick measures from the field menu, either in the field of a chart or from the field list.


In the dialog, you can pick any of the 19 different calculations to perform on the selected measure. Depending on the calculation, you’ll have different required parameters you’ll need to fill in. You can also change the fields being used in the calculation using the field list on the right half of the dialog. Click below link for more detailed info on this feature.


The add column by example feature is really like Flash Fill introduced in Excel 2013. It works like by manually typing some sample values you want then Power BI will apply the same transformation rule to other rows of the same column. The more sample values you type the more accurate it will get. Watch below video for a complete run down of how it’s doing the magic.

P.S. Quick measure is a preview feature so you need to go to option menu to enable it

Click File menu in your ribbon and choose Options and Settings, click on Options to open Options dialog, then click Preview features to enable it

On prem hosting of Power BI reports

If you have been using Power BI and think about how you can host your report locally, good news is you will be able to do so very soon. Microsoft released technical preview for on premise hosting of power BI reports inside SSRS. Below link is the official guide from Microsoft on how you can actually do this. I won’t repeat here on the how’s, but I would like to call out a few things that might still confuse you.


1 It’s still beta version and the only supported data source for your Power BI reports at the moment is SQL server analysis service and you have to use direct query. That’s right, live connection to your SSAS cube (either multi dimensional or tabular) instead of loading data from cube to your Power BI data model. Microsoft is planning to add more data source in the future.

2 You may wonder why live connection? Because to make SSRS integrate with Power Query seamlessly is not an easy thing and Microsoft needs time to deliver this. So at the moment, only live connection to your cube.

3 Microsoft is targeting mid 2017 to release the GA and the licensing details won’t be available until close to that time. so sit tight and it’s coming.

Now without further ado, go try out the preview feature on your local server or VM.


Microsoft Custom Visual – Bullet Chart Can’t do exactly what I want

I have recently came across a problem like this. I would like to visually present some data shown in below table in a graph like the one below my bonus table where I can easily see what my bonus% value will be base on my sales number. In below bullet chart I can easily see that I will get 2.50% as my sales 499K falls in the fourth tier.

Data tier
Bonus Table


I have had a look at all available Power BI custom visuals at that time and thought that the bullet chart from Microsoft might be just what I need, so I gave it a short. After nearly an hour of playing around and trying different formatting options, I can’t seem to get what I want exactly.

bullet chart

Microsoft Bullet Chart

The problems lies in the chart itself. With this chart I can only have 5 color for my bonus% tier and I need 7. Note the last one -black color is for the bullet. So you have 5 color not 6. Also you don’t have control over your X-axis label, nor do you have control over the size of it. You cannot even make the bar wider. Anyway it can’t do exactly what I just needed.


Do I just give up and stop here? That’s a big NO for a data geek like me. So I tried below.I created a picture like below and you can do the same in any tools of your choice. I created mine in Excel. As you can see it already has the labels and color tier I need.


Insert this as a image onto you power bi canvas and then visualise your sales number in a normal bar chart. Finally move your bar chart on top of your inserted image, then you will see the bullet chart I showed your in the beginning of this post. If you don’t get what I showed you before, use below button to send your image to the back.

send to back

Finally, the normal bar chart let you fix your X-Axis label, that’s exactly what I need. Set end value at 2M, my bar chart will always be in proportion to the image underneath.


There you go. Hope this post can give you some idea of how thinking out of box can sometimes saves your day. If you know other ways or maybe better ways to do what I wanted, please share with me as I would like to learn from you as well.

Last but not least, I hope Microsoft can enhance it’s bullet chart custom visual, so it can better serve our needs.