October 26, 2023

Power BI Slicers vs. Filters: The Difference and When to Use Them

By Gavin Pedersen

In the journey to becoming a Power BI developer, most of us have asked ourselves, at some point, what the actual difference is between a slicer and a filter. The two may do the exact same thing. Most people use them to accomplish the same functionality, but understanding the subtle differences between their capabilities can help bring your dashboards to the next level.

In this blog, I’ll briefly define slicers and filters as well as describe when to use them appropriately. I’ll also provide an example of how to set them up in your dashboard.

What are Filters?

There’s no real secret to what a filter is, and it’s right in the name. Filters are a feature in Power BI that are designed to refine, or “filter,” the view on the dashboard determined by the selection made in the filter itself.  Filters are located in the Filters panel directly to the right of the canvas.

In general, there are three types of filters:

  • Visual level filters: filters that are applied only to the visual that is selected

  • Page level filters: filters that are applied to all visuals on the current sheet

  • Filters on all pages: filters that get applied to all visuals on every sheet in the workbook

Filters are useful for two distinct groups of people. First and foremost, end users can expand the filter panel to display the available filters and then filter the data accordingly.

Second, developers find filters to be helpful when they want to filter elements of the dashboard before sharing them with the end users.

Let’s explore the perspective of the developer in more detail with an example. 

Say you’re a developer building a sales dashboard and would like one of the sheets in the workbook to be filtered to just the US market. You can apply that filter to the necessary sheet and then either lock the filter from being edited or hide it together from the end user.

All you have to do is simply drag the field onto the filter panel, make the selection, and then click on the lock or the eye icon (or both). Locking the filter without hiding it will still allow the end user to see that the filter is applied; however, they won’t be able to edit it. 

Now, when you’ve shared the dashboard with the end user either in the workspace or a workspace app, the entire sheet will show just the US market, and they won’t be able to make any adjustments to that filter. If the use case calls for it, you could even hide the entire filter panel altogether using the same eye icon at the top.

How to Configure Filters

Configurations for filters are the same for each of the three types of filters. However, setting up the filter is slightly different depending on the data type of the field being filtered.

Filter types for string values

  • Basic filtering: select which values of the dimension to include or exclude from the full list of available values

  • Advanced filtering: filter based on custom string logic for the dimension (ex. “contains” or “does not contain”)

  • Top N: filter the dimension to the top (or bottom) value of N based on another field from the field list. N is a variable that you will specify.

Filter types for number values

  • The screenshot below displays the full list of customized logic that can be applied to a number value for the filter. Select any of these and then specify the variable to apply to the filter.

Filter types for date values

  • Advanced, Basic, and Top N filtering are available for date values

  • Relative date: filter based on a set variable relative to a specified date based on days, weeks, months, or years (ex. “Is in the last 30 days” or “Is in this year”)

  • Relative time: filter based on a set variable relative to a specified time based on hours or minutes (ex. “Is in the last 24 hours” or “Is in the next 60 minutes”)

What are Slicers?

A slicer is another way of effectively filtering data on the dashboard. Users select value(s) from a list by which to “slice” the data. One thing to keep in mind about slicers is that they are technically a type of visualization. 

Because they are a visualization, when a user interacts with a slicer, a DAX query will be triggered, potentially impacting the dashboard’s performance. Despite this drawback, users typically find slicers to be more user-friendly than a slicer simply because it’s generally more accessible.

How to Configure Slicers

Follow these steps to set up your slicer(s).

1. Select the Slicer visualization from the panel on the right.

2. Add the field from the field list to the newly created slicer (the example in the screenshot uses Category).

3. Setup the slicer as either a list, tile, or dropdown menu in the Slicer settings on the Visualization panel. Also, select if you want the slicer to be single-select (where users can only make one selection at a time) or multi-select with the ability to show a “Select all” option.

4. Make any other formatting changes using the Visual or General section of the Visualizations setting panel.


There is a time and a place for both slicers and filters. Filters offer more customization in terms of their capability to build logic, and developers may like them because they can hide premade selections from the end users. On the other hand, Slicers offers a user-friendly approach to making simple selections by which to filter your dashboard.

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