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And another one bites the dust… this month the Power BI team have only delivered the #1 most requested feature on the Power BI Ideas forum.  Synced slicers have arrived!  Now you can apply a user’s selected filter criteria throughout the entire report.

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Another new feature added was cross-filtering across multiple visuals. Ever found yourself in that situation when on a minute’s notice, you suddenly have the attention of the CEO. You have thirty seconds MAX to engage in a little data exploration.

They feed you a chain of 5 or 6 questions that only occur to them as you slice & segment your way through the first few layers of questions. Then suddenly you try to control + click that pie chart the CEO is pointing at and had to turn and say “uh I can’t click that, if I do we’ll lose our filters.” It wasn’t a deal breaker, but it was a buzzkill. Well, that’s been fixed too. Control + click pretty much does what you want it to now!

Between these two features, I’m sure you figured it was going to be great for preserving screen real estate. With no need to have duplicated slicers on every single page, we can free up 10-20% of the canvas on most of the reports for larger and more engaging visuals, right? I figured I would set up a home page with all the slicers there and I’d have MORE CANVAS! Well yes, I certainly did all of that and you will too, but it quickly becomes apparent that it’s not quite as simple as that.

 

If you tuned in last week, you’d have caught Reid’s post on SELECTEDVALUES that began with the ominous headline

Data Ambiguity…The Silent Report Killer.

With our newfound powers to minimize slicers, these are words worth tattooing across your forearm (right next to that powerpivotpro one). The techniques covered Reid’s post are going to be fundamental to report building going forward as we’ll discover today (this one and this one too). Go back and read it now…well not now, but in three minutes.

How to Use the Sync Slicers Functionality

Please click here to download the workbook to follow along.

First of all, how does it work? To work with Slicer syncing, you’ll first need to expose the Sync Slicers pane. To do this, go to the View menu and check the Sync Slicers box.

Selected Values Report

Slicer sync is only going to work with the actual built-in Slicer visualization. Syncing across pages does not yet work with any of the custom visual slicers like the Chiclet Slicer or the other visualizations like the column or pie visualizations.

Sync Slicers

Once you activate a slicer, you may see something like this if you had common slicers already existing on each page.

Sync slicers - control

The first column is the list of pages in my workbook.

The second column is the ‘sync’ column, and as none of these are checked, the slicers will continue to function independently of each other. If I check this, the slicers are essentially linked, and a change on one page occurs on the other.

The third column indicates whether the slicer is being displayed. As this was an existing report where I had a report category slicer on each page, it makes sense that all three are check. But I no longer need to keep these visible to the end user. So I can uncheck these. The slicer does need to physically exist on that page; it just doesn’t need to be visible.

As my first test, I went through and checked all of the sync checkboxes and sure enough, if I selected a product category on one page, that selection ‘stayed’ when I moved on to the next page. Four simple clicks!

 

 

One Page To Rule Them All

Buoyed with confidence, I jumped right into setting up a Home page where I just copied, pasted and reformatted all of the existing slicers. I have traditionally used the drop-down slicer a lot, usually, because it is efficient regarding preserving screen real estate when inactive, but with all this space, I went all out with lists, sliders, image slicers! If we wanted to get crazy, we might even want to increase the font size! Too crazy?

Filter Selection Page

See that large image slicer on the right-hand side? Those are our nine employees. This was a completely new slicer, however, and so when I selected this slicer and went to the Sync Slicers pane, it looked like this.

looked like this

While the Employee Name field had been used in Matrix visualizations on other pages, it had not been used in any Slicers. I wondered why then those other pages displayed the option to sync at all and weren’t grayed out. How could the slicer on my Control page sync with the other two pages, when I knew that no slicer for that field existed for those fields?

So I just went ahead and checked all three, then selected an Employee from the slicer.

 

Sync Slicers - Employees

And sure enough, the Company Report is showing the same sales figures as my control page!

Great – so it just works? Well yes and no. When I selected the sync button, it added a new slicer to the other two reports but left them hidden.

 

Company Report

If we make the new slicer visible either by clicking the eye icon in the Selection Pane or by going back to the Sync Slicers pane and checking the boxes in the last column, then we can see that Power BI has duplicated the original slicer onto the new page, formatting, position and all. I think you’ll agree that it is probably best left hidden in this case.

Company Report - A bit too busy

So now all that is left is to go through each one of the slicers on my home page and ensure all of the sync checkboxes are checked for all of the pages. Then I have universals slicers regardless of where I choose to display them.

Filter Selection Page - Team Rocket

Surely now with everything synced and a complete slicer page, I can get rid of those slicers on the report pages? Let’s hide those and make the most of all this extra space…

Company Report - Extra space

Goodbye slicers – hello ambiguity! The above chart looks crisp, but what am I looking at? The numbers changed… did another slicer sneak in somehow?

With slicers now absent from the report pages likely to become a more common occurrence, we should now always be asking – will it be clear to a user what they are looking at? If they get interrupted and have to come back to their data deep dive, how will they recalibrate?

It seems no coincidence that SELECTEDVALUE was introduced only a few months before all of the storytelling features began rolling out. DAX is still a huge part of using these features.

 

timeline

Every model using Slicer Sync should be using multiple SELECTEDVALUES or CONCATENATEX measures. So get comfortable with these DAX functions before implementing slicer sync….. or at least get used to using the Concatenated List of Values Quick Measure.

In the absence of visible slicers on every page, these slicer selections will need to be displayed somewhere on the page as Reid outlined last week. I’ve added mine down the left-hand side where the slicers used to be.

Employee Report - Current Selections

So this doesn’t seem like a huge enough win – I’ve only replaced the slicers themselves with a list of filter selections. But… I have centralized the slicer selections (sort of), so that is absolutely a real benefit regarding user experience. At least a user can be confident that they can make their selections and move on.

Bookmark Bill Banner Image

Not satisfied with this and a little weirded out by all these hidden slicers necessarily lurking beneath the surface of my report, I turned to Bookmark Bill for some advice.

He suggested that an alternative to creating a landing page would be just to simulate that landing page within every page, allowing the user to flip between a chart view and a filter selection view while remaining on the same sheet….. using, you guessed it bookmarks!

The slicers are already there on every page, albeit hidden, why not at least provide the option to use them?

1.  Add two icons to which we will bind the bookmarks – one for a charts view and one for slicer selection view.

 

Company Report - Bookmarks

2.  Go to View, and check the Bookmarks Pane checkbox if it is not already checked. Then add a bookmark and name it Chart View.

Bookmarks

3.  Go to View, and check the Selection Pane checkbox if it is not already checked. Turn off all of the elements that you do not want to display in Slicer View.

Turn off all elements

4.  Now make all the slicers visible, format and lay them out as you would want the Slicer View to appear. Now add another bookmark and call it  Slicer View. With the excess space, I have available I’ve even left a line chart on the to give the user the high-level overview of the results of what they are selecting.

Slicer View

5.  Now we have two bookmarked views that we need to bind to our two images.  Select the chart image, go to the Formatting pane on the right, then to the Link submenu and change the Link Type to Bookmark and the Bookmark to bind to the Chart View.  Repeat the same process for the Slicer image and the Slicer View, and there’s only one more thing to address.

Bookmark Bill was here

6. By default bookmarks are tied to a set of filter criteria, however, as of the December update, this can be turned off so that the universal slicer selections made by the user will remain. On the Bookmarks pane, click the ellipsis next to each of the two bookmarks and uncheck Data.

Uncheck Data

Now you have given the user base options. They can return to the Home page to change filter selections or just stay on the page they are on. Regardless of where they are making their selections in the report, their slicer selections should permeate uniformly.

I’m looking forward to seeing what our team and the Power BI community come up with to take advantage of these features while creatively tackling the challenge of potential data ambiguity.

There are obvious benefits to these latest changes, so, by all means, consolidate your slicers, but always beware the silent report killer…

Forget bending spoons with your mind – there’s no money in it.

It takes a special kind of mindset to “bend” data (and software!) to the human will.  As this article demonstrates, we at PowerPivotPro can twist Power BI into a pretzel if that’s what an organization needs. (A robust, trustworthy, industrial-strength pretzel of course).

The data-oriented challenges facing your business require BOTH a nimble toolset like Power BI AND a nimble mindset to go with it. And as Val Kilmer / Doc Holladay once said, we’re your huckleberry.

Connect with the Experts

 

Mat Herring

Mat is a US CPA and Australian Chartered Accountant with 15 years’ experience across global financial services giants and bootstrapping startups alike. During that period, the Microsoft Power Suite became the secret weapon that allowed Mat to transition from competent finance manager to cross-functional CFO. A real life example of the career empowerment that can take place when a bean counter gets hands on with the analytics.

This Post Has 13 Comments
  1. Great article, thanks for sharing. I’m already loving the new sync slicers funcionality and it just couldn’t come at a better time. But, I must say, I couldn’t see it working when I used my report in the PowerBI service. In the clud version of the report, the slicer won’t work and they will remain stubbornly unselected.

    ¿Have you experienced the same issue? or maybe this feature works only for the desktop version

    1. Hi David

      Impressive reaction time for you to be already utilizing this stuff 48 hours after release! Would love to hear more about how you are using it.

      It appears to be working for me both when I create the bookmarks directly in the Service or on the Desktop. Have not seen any issue yet. I will publish the workbook here shortly and that will be the true test I suppose.

      1. You are correct Mat, apparently it was an issue with the report I was using which was already on PowerBi. As soon as I tried it with a different report it worked seamlessly both in the desktop version and in the PowerBI flavor. I was very much after this feature so when I received the blog post with the update trying it out was the first thing I did. Awesome feature and awesome post.

        Thanks
        .

  2. Wow! Awesome post that answers the questions I had but hadn’t had a chance to figure out yet. One tip to add: in step 4 you show 10 slicers with the identical name Slicer. If you set the title for each slicer (turn it off, and then on again), the title for each slicer will be disambiguated.

    1. Absolutely right Fred! As I trumpeted the ambiguity issue, I was myself creating ambiguity! I get a new toy to play with and best practices go out the window! You are 100% correct, without renaming the slicers, managing the selection panel and the sync slicers function becomes a complete guessing game.

    1. Hi Frank,

      If you uncheck the data flag in the bookmarks pane, it ignore the slicer selections that you had at the time you created the bookmark. By ignoring the “bookmarked slicer choices”, the selections that you subseuqent make in either view are retained as you transition to the other view, though the visuals will change (if they are checked).

  3. Great post. Another feature with the Feb. release – marking custom date table. Yeah!!!! Time intelligent functions work for everyone.

  4. Does anyone know if the Sync Slicer capability has also been added to Power BI Report Server (on-premises) version/product? The two platforms are often out of sync in their functionality.

    1. Not yet. Power BI RS was last updated in Oct 2017 when Sync Slicer feature wasn’t even there. There is a new update coming sometime in March so hopefully it will have it.

  5. Hi all, I have a question I could do with some help on.

    I am producing a report for the sales team. There will obviously be lots of report pages to provide them insight.

    Most of the users are familiar with pivot tables. The might want to create a table of net sales quantity by product adhoc.

    Is there a functionality that allows a report user to make use of the Power BI data model to produce temporary report pages? I can only see this available for report owners.

    Power BI is ace, but it would seem odd to not let users have the flexibility to create their own report.

    Does some functionality exist that I perhaps don’t know about?

  6. Great post! This solution is exactly what I need for a group of clients I support with Power BI solutions.

    I’ve been dodging the need to become more fluent in DAX but am now making it part of my learning plan and have been working my way through courses with SQLBI.

    One thing I noticed as I was looking at the DAX codes in this example for the filter measures was that that some of them didn’t have the option for “multiple selection” in the code string. If you multi-selected in the control dashboard it doesn’t reflect that on the report pages. Being a total novice I wasn’t sure if there was some reason not to have that multiple as part of the DAX codes in this items and if I did inserted a multiple select option as was done in the other measures and things seemed to work I would’ve expected.

    As I said I’m only on my first steps in DAX so maybe I’m missing something. I am definitely planning in using these techniques with my clients and have also understood I need to get up to speed on SELECTVALUES.

    Thanks.

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