Improve Data Analysis in Power BI with Slicers

Power BI Slicers are one of the most convenient tools for reducing data and improving focus and clarity for your reports.

But do you know all the different ways you can make slicers look and behave?  There are many ways to display and use Slicers.  These include:

  • Buttons
  • Dropdowns
  • Lists
  • Range Sliders
  • Timelines
  • Hierarchies

It’s time to break away from the default, out-of-the-box experience and start using slicers in interesting, more useful ways.

Let’s look at each of these methods of slicing data, showcase some of the more common customization options, and tips for synchronizing Slicers across report pages.

Your reports are about to become a whole lot better.

Button Slicers

Buttons are a great way to slice data, especially when using touchscreen devices, like tablets and cell phones.

The ease by which items can be selected and deselected makes this type of Slicer a fan favorite.

To create Button Slicers, begin by adding a Slicer visual to a report and populating the Field with the desired data model item.

To change this default format to Buttons, select Visualizations -> Format Visual -> Slicer Settings -> Options -> Style and change the current setting to Tile.

When resizing the Slicer, the buttons are responsive.  In other words, if you make the Slicer tall, the buttons are stacked atop one another.  If you make the Slicer wide, the buttons appear side-by-side.

By default, multiple buttons can be selected by holding the CTRL button.  If you want each button to act as a toggle (on or off when clicked), change the Selection option labeled “Multi-select with CTRL”.

If you want the user to be limited to selecting only a single button at any time, activate the Selection option labeled “Single Select”.

Other customization options include:

  • Display a heading
  • Background color
  • Border color
  • Button color
  • Button border color and thickness
  • All standard font controls

PRO TIP: When customizing the color of the unselected buttons, it can become unclear as to which are the selected versus unselected buttons.  It’s best to go with a color that is similar to the background color for unselected buttons.

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List & Hierarchy Slicers

List Slicers

The default style for Slicers is the List.

Like the Button style, the user can use the CTRL key to select multiple values.  This behavior can be reset to a toggle or as a single select as demonstrated with the Button style.

Excluding Items From a Slicer

If a Slicer contains an item that you wish not to be filtered, you can easily remove the items from the list without any fancy custom Measures.

Right-click the item in the slicer and select Exclude.

When hovering over the “Applied Filters” icon, the excluded field item will be listed so users don’t think something is unintentionally missing.

If you would rather not let the user know that an item has been removed, expand the Filters panel and locate the excluded item.  Click the “eye” icon so that it appears as an “eye-slash” icon.  This will make it appear as if all data is visible to the user.

To reinstate the excluded item, click the “X” next to the desired item.

Creating a Hierarchy Slicer

To create a Slicer that presents a hierarchy of data, it’s not necessary to create a hierarchy of data in the Data Model.  All that is needed is to add multiple fields to the Slicer’s logic.

The controls for expanding and collapsing the hierarchies as well as controlling the indentation depth are found in the Hierarchy options.

Dropdown Slicers

If space is a premium, or when using a single-select option, the Slicer can be made into a Dropdown list that minimizes once a selection has been made.

This option is located under Slicer Settings -> Options -> Style.

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Numeric (Range) Slicers

Range Slicers are useful when you need to filter your data based on a numeric range.

There are three options available when filtering by a range of numeric data:

  • Filter data that is greater than a set value
  • Filter data that is less than a set value
  • Filter data that are between two set values

For example, suppose we have a table showing the total sales for all products in our “Party” department.

We’d like to see total sales for products that are below a certain cost.

Adding a Slicer that uses the “Cost” field of our Product table, automatically presents a range slider.  This is because the field has been assigned a numeric data type.

The two circular handles allow us to set the range of costs to anywhere between the lowest and highest costs in the data model’s “Cost” field.

To change the range logic between the three previously mentioned behaviors, select the Range Slicer and navigate to the Slicer’s formatting controls and alter the Style option in the Slicer Settings section of controls.

Timeline (Range) Slicers

Like the Numeric Slicers, the Timeline Slicers allow you to filter a visual based on a selected range.

Date ranges can be set according to the following logical constructs:

  • Filter data that is greater than a set date
  • Filter data that is less than a set date
  • Filter data that are between two set dates
  • Filter data that is relative to a set date window
  • Filter data that is relative to a set time window

When adding a Slicer that uses a field set to a Date data type, the Slicer will default to a Range Slicer that provides the user with start date and end date options.

The user can adjust the start date and end date controls in the same way as the Numeric Range Slicer.

Calendar Picker controls are also available to make date selections easier.

To change the range logic between the previously mentioned behaviors, select the Date Range Slicer and navigate to the Slicer’s formatting controls and alter the Style option in the Slicer Settings section of controls.

One of the more interesting options, “Relative Date”, allows the user to define the ‘last/next/this’, ‘days/weeks/months/years’, and interval.

BONUS TIP: Synchronizing Slicers Between Report Pages

It’s not uncommon to want to make Slicer selections on one page, and have those selections carry over to another page.  This is a great time saver when developing a report as it eliminates the need for creating the same Slicer on multiple pages.

To edit the behavior of a Slicer across report pages, activate the Sync Slicers pane by selecting View (tab) -> Show Panes (group) -> Sync Slicers.

With a Slicer selected, this panel presents a list of all pages in the report.  Two control columns are presented for each report page: a “sync” control and a “visible” control.

Checking or unchecking a “sync” control for a specific page will enable/disable synchronization between the Slicer and copies of the Slicer on other pages.

Checking or unchecking a “visible” control for a specific page will show or hide the Slicer on other pages.

NOTE: Checking the “visible” box for a report page that does not contain the selected Slicer will automatically create the Slicer on the selected page.

Although copying and pasting a Slicer to another page places and sizes the Slicer exactly as the original Slicer, the pasted Slicer can be freely moved and resized without affecting the original Slicer.

You can have ‘invisible’ synced slicers but that can lead to confusion about the filters affecting the visuals on a page.  You can always look them up by hovering over the funnel icon in the corner of the visual, but this might not be intuitive to your end users.

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