Power BI Format Options: Order! Order!

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Navigating the Power BI visual format options is similar to shopping at a grocery store that’s not your usual store, but which is part of the same chain. When the store layout is different, you end up losing time trying to track down items that would have been easily found in “your” store.

For example, pretend that you shop at Power BI, and your usual store is in the Stacked Bar Chart village. In your usual store, you regularly buy items for X-Axis located in aisle 3 and Data Colors located in aisle 5.


When you travel to the Power BI store in Stacked Column Chart one town over, you find that items for Data Colors still appear in aisle 5, but items for X-Axis appear in aisle 2 instead of 3. That’s not too bad because the aisles are close together, so moving one aisle over might not be a big deal.


After that, however, you travel to the store in Line Chart, and you have to spend some serious time re-orienting yourself because Data Colors is now aisle 2 while X-Axis is aisle 4.


X-Axis and Data Colors are always present for Cartesian charts, but there are some options such as Trend Line that may or may not be available depending on the type of visual and the data. For these temporary options, the re-positioning is even more disorienting. For a consistent set of fields, Trend Line may appear in the sixth position for the Clustered Column Chart, the third position for the Line Chart, the seventh position for the Line and Clustered Column Chart, and so on…

What controls this behavior? Why are all of these options jumping around? In Power BI, the Format options are defined on a per-visual basis, and the code for each visual’s capabilities are inconsistent.

Looking at the capabilities code for Line Chart as it exists on July 22, for example, objects progress from:

  • legend
  • dataPoint
  • trend
  • scalarKey (*cough cough*)
  • categoryAxis
  • valueAxis
  • y1AxisReferenceLine
  • labels
  • plotArea

This mirrors the sequence in the Format area for Line Chart with:

  • Legend
  • Data colors
  • Trend Line
  • X-Axis
  • Y-Axis
  • Reference Line
  • Data labels
  • Plot Area


Contrast that sequence with the capabilities code for another visual with Trend Line such as the Line and Clustered Column Chart. In this case and in many others, visuals have this code in a completely different order, and that ordering directly reflects in the user interface.

Here’s one advantage to having open-source visuals (among many others). Apparently all that it would take to bring some consistency to Power BI would be a kind volunteer to fork the GitHub repo, do some re-arranging, and submit a Pull Request.


Power BI Format Options.png

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