Power BI Slicers 101: 6 Critical Aspects

on BI Tool, Power BI • March 10th, 2022 • Write for Hevo

Power BI Slicer FI

Power BI is a Business Intelligence (BI) tool offered by Microsoft that provides you with real-time high-level analytics, extensive modeling, and custom development. It has led the charge in making business analysis more efficient through services that are intuitive, interactive, and easy to use.

This article discusses the salient aspects of Power BI Slicers in detail such as the process of Adding Slicer in Power BI, importance, limitations, formatting, and converting it from one format to another seamlessly. The next section gives a brief introduction to Power BI before diving into Power BI Slicer facets.

Table of Contents

What is Power BI?

Power BI Slicer: Power BI logo
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Power BI is a Business Intelligence product from Microsoft. It allows users to look at data from many sources and build Reports and Dashboards. It can be used as a stand-alone desktop application or as a fully managed web service hosted in the cloud. While the Power BI Desktop is available for free, the Power BI Service is a subscription-based service that charges users based on how much they use it.

Microsoft has released Power BI Mobile for customers who want to keep an eye on their data while on the go. Power BI may also be used to add analytical tools to custom web apps. It’s compatible with the vast majority of Microsoft’s enterprise software.

Power BI takes advantage of the ability to connect to the most common databases outside of the Microsoft ecosystem and create simple, Interactive Dashboards from them.

Key Features of Power BI

Power BI has a large number of capabilities that set it apart from other BI applications. The following are some of these characteristics:

  • You may use a range of Graphical Elements to design your Dashboards. The Dashboards can be printed and shared.
  • In Power BI, you may filter your datasets to focus on smaller datasets first. This allows you to concentrate on certain data rather than the full dataset all at once.
  • Power BI can connect to most common databases outside of the Microsoft environment and produce easy, interactive dashboards from them.
  • It offers a huge selection of visually appealing Visualization Templates. You can create Reports and Dashboards to display your data using as simple or as complex visuals as you choose.
  • Power BI has a “Get Data” tool that lets you select from a range of data sources, including On-Premise, Cloud-Based, Unstructured, and Structured data, among others. New data sources are added every month.
  • Dashboards, Data Models, Datasets, Embedded Queries, and many other features are available in Power BI’s “Content Packs.” Instead of searching for the pieces separately, you can use the elements in the “Content Packs.”

What are Microsoft Power BI Slicers?

Simply put, Power BI Slicers are visual filters. Power BI reports are interactive, by default. Therefore, every visual on a report canvas will respond to a single click you make on a report and highlight the data relevant to whatever you clicked.

By leveraging a Power BI Slicer, your users can choose the type of data that they would like to see on the report and it gets reflected immediately. By choosing to use Power BI Slicers, you will be allotting portions of the page itself to supplementary visuals. Hence, you need to factor slicers into the visual design of your report canvas, since space on a page is limited.

What is the Need for Power BI Slicers?

Power BI Slicers also play a crucial role in generating customized reports or comparative charts. They can also come in handy while filtering the narrow portions of the datasets that are depicted in the form of other visualizations in a given report. Apart from this, here are a few more reasons why Power BI Slicers are pivotal for your operation:

  • View a focused report by placing the slicer right next to essential charts and graphs.
  • With Power BI Slicers, you can easily access all the frequently used and important filters by placing them on the report canvas.
  • You can also use Slicers to show hidden/ less-used / unwanted columns but keep them for the users if they want them for analysis.
  • Slicers can also be leveraged to look at all the currently applied filters on the report as opposed to going to the filters dropdown list.

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How to Create/Add a Slicer in Power BI Dashboards?

Here are the steps involved in the Power BI Add Slicer process:

  • Step 1: Open up the Power BI desktop to start this process. You can either create a new report on the empty canvas or open an existing report. Next, you need to select the Slicer icon from the Visualizations pane. This brings up an empty template of a Slicer on the Power BI editor.
Power BI Slicer: Creating a Slicer Step 1
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  • Step 2: You can then drag and drop a field from the Fields section to the Values column. (This has been depicted with a red arrow in the image mentioned below).
Power BI Slicer: Creating a Slicer Step 2
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As evident from the image, the field ‘District Managers’ has been added to the template. This will create a Slicer with a list of all the district managers in the repository.

Power BI Slicer: Creating a Slicer Step 2.2
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  • Step 3: You can even adjust the position and size of this slicer object by either placing it at a desirable spot in the canvas or pulling its corners. If you want to format the Slicer, you can click on the Paint Roller icon to get started. Formatting Slicers will be covered later in the article.

What are the Types for Slicers in Power BI?

Here are the types of Power BI Slicers you can use for your workflow:

Numeric Range Slicer

Similar to the Date Slicer, when you use a numeric field to generate a Slicer, a Numeric Range Slicer gets generated.

Power BI Slicer: Numeric Range Slicer
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This slicer will spread the range between the two, higher and lower extremes. You can drag the ends back and forth to place a range based on your need. All the other visuals on the report will be modified according to the range you decide on the Slicer bar.

Power BI Slicer: Reports Modified Based on Numeric Slicer
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Date Slicer or Date Range Slicer

You can generate a Date Slicer when a date field gets added as the slicer value. The Date Slicer consists of a sliding bar with two buttons on every end. You can slide these buttons backward or forward to modify your range. The range is set from the oldest to the newest value, by default.

Power BI Slicer: Date Range Slicer
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You can click on a specific date to obtain a calendar view of the date.

Power BI Slicer: Calendar View of Date
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You can also amend the type of Date Slicer from the dropdown menu. You can even select from the options such as Before, Between, List, Relative, Dropdown, and After. The type of Date Slicer you pick will depend on your use case.

Power BI Slicer: Type of Data Slicer
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Here is a snapshot that depicts the dropdown type of a Date Slicer:

Power BI Slicer: Data Slicer Drop Down
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Sync-based Slicer

If you have generated a Slicer on a single page of a report, you can synchronize the newly created slicer with the visuals of all the pages of that report. When you do so, every visual on a report will respond to the changes or selections made on the Slicer irrespective of its page.

To work with the Sync option, you first need to hover to the View tab. Next, click on the Sync Slicers option from there and check off the box as follows:

Power BI Slicer: Sync-based Slicer
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This opens up a new Sync Slicers pane on the right. This contains the names of the pages in the report. You can accordingly check off the boxes present in front of them. Once you’ve checked the boxes of the eye icon, you can easily make the Slicer visible on the respective pages. By checking the boxes in the refresh icon column, you can synchronize the effects of selections made in a Slicer on that page.

Power BI Slicer: Synchronize the Slicers
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Hierarchy Slicer

If you wish to filter multiple related fields in a single Slicer, you can build what is known as a Hierarchy Slicer. You can generate these slicers in either the Power BI Desktop on through the Power BI Service.

Power BI Slicer: Hierarchy Slicer
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When you try to add multiple fields to the Slicer, it depicts an arrow, by default, or chevron next to the items that can be easily expanded to display the items in the next level.

Power BI Slicer: Display items in Hierarchy Slicer
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When you choose one or more children for an item, you can see a semi-selected square for the top-level item as follows:

Power BI Slicer: Selecting Children of Top-level Item
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Resizable Slicer

With Responsive Slicers, you can resize them to fit any space within your report. Responsive Slicers allow you to resize them in different sizes and shapes, from vertical to horizontal to square, and the values within the Slicer rearrange themselves to align with your actions. 

In Power BI Service and Power BI Desktop, you can make Date Range Slicers and Horizontal Slicers responsive. Range/ Date Slicers also consist of improved touchpoints which makes it easier to modify with just a fingertip. You can make the Responsive Slicers as large or as small as you want. On top of this, these slicers can also resize automatically to fit well on the reports within the Power BI Service and within the Power BI Mobile apps.

Power BI Slicer: Resizable Slicer
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How to Format a Microsoft Power BI Slicer?

Power BI Slicers offer a vast multitude of formatting options, based on the Slicer type. By leveraging horizontal orientation, Item coloring, and responsive layout, you can generate tiles or buttons as opposed to standard list items, and make Slicer items resize to match different screen layouts and sizes. Here are the steps involved in formatting a Slicer:

  • Step 1: First, you need to select the District Manager slicer on any page, in the Visualizations pane, choose the Format icon to showcase the formatting controls.
Power BI Slicer: Formatting a Slicer Step 1
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  • Step 2: Next, you need to choose the dropdown arrows next to every category to depict and modify the options.
  • Step 3: Under the Format option, choose General, select a red color under the Outline Color, and then change the Outline Weight to 2. This setting allows you to change the thickness and color of the header and item underlines and outlines.
  • Step 4: For the Orientation, Vertical is selected by default. Choose Horizontal to generate a Slicer with horizontally arranged buttons or tiles, along with scroll arrows to access items that don’t align with the Slicer.
Power BI Slicer: Formatting a Slicer Step 4
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  • Step 5: Turn the Responsive Layout On to modify the arrangement and size of Slicer items based on the Slicer size and view screen. For the List Slicers, a responsive layout prevents the components from being cut off on small screens. It is available only in horizontal orientations.
Power BI Slicer: Formatting a Slicer Step 5
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  • Step 6: Under Y Position, X Position, Height, and Width, you need to set the Slicer size and position with great numeric precision, or resize and move the Slicer directly on the canvas. You can also experiment with various arrangements and sizes, and note how the responsive formatting gets modified accordingly. However, you can only avail of these options when you select horizontal orientations.
Power BI Slicer: Formatting a Slicer Step 6
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Bonus Step: Convert a Vertical Slicer into a Horizontal Slicer

Here are the steps you can follow to convert a vertical Power BI Slicer into a horizontal Power BI Slicer:

  • Step 1: First select the Slicer you wish to convert. Next, from the visualization pane, you can select the Format tab.
  • Step 2: Click on the General section for the orientation and choose the horizontal option present in it.
Power BI Slicer: Converting a Vertical Slicer to Horizontal Slicer Step 2
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  • Step 3: If you want to extend the Slicer to include more values, you can make the pane wider.
Power BI Slicer: Converting a Vertical Slicer to Horizontal Slicer Step 3
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  • Step 4: Under the orientation in the general section of the Format tab, you need to turn the Slide Responsive Preview on.

What are the Limitations of Power BI Slicers?

Here are a couple of limitations of using Slicers in Power BI:

  • Slicers in Power BI don’t offer support for input fields or drill-down.
  • You can only use Power BI Slicers in reports since they can’t be pinned to a dashboard.
  • Slicers in Power BI don’t allow for visual filters to be applied to the report you are working on currently either.
  • The data models you choose to import in Power BI and use with Slicers do not contain the timezone information.
  • Numeric Range Slicers do not handle aggregated values. Instead, Numeric Range Slicers filter data on a row level.
  • You can only use the Numeric Range Slicers in Power BI Desktop, they cannot be leveraged in Power BI Service.

Conclusion

This article discussed the various salient aspects of Power BI Slicers in great detail. This includes its importance, process of creation, understanding the types of slicers, converting a vertical slicer to a horizontal slicer, limitations, among many more insightful topics. It also gave a brief introduction to Power BI and its features before diving into the nuances of Slicers in Power BI.

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